The Mystics of Environmental History and Ethnobotonical Research

Gradina Botanica, Bucharest

By Ayanda Netshisaulu, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg|

Let me set the scene. Right at the beginning of my postgraduate career, starry eyed and interested in gender history, I was offered the opportunity to join a group of students from the University of Johannesburg and Western Sydney University for a two-week programme in the Kruger National Park in north-eastern South Africa. The programme mostly consisted of Zoology students who understood the importance of land gradients and wild animal feeding patterns. As a Humanities student I felt a bit out of place but I wasn’t particularly bothered considering I was enjoying the safari and learning about rhino’s territorial marking patterns!

It was during this trip, however, that I learned that historical narratives can be extracted from anything. We had been discussing land gradients – which to this day I don’t completely understand – when my History professor asked me: “gradients and the science aside, Ayanda what did you get from what was just said now?” What did I get? I was still trying to get my Humanities brain to catch up to the science of it all! How could I “get” anything? He then went on to explain how, for a historian, there is a story in everything. A historian would be asking themselves questions about past land use, about past peoples and about how they would have navigated this land. How did societies of the past know, for example, to burn the grass to allow for the fresh regrowth that would attract game? Whilst initially I had never felt so out of place, it was during this trip that I fell in love with the historical narratives of the environmental past.

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Indentured Indian Workers and Anti-Colonial Resistance in the British Empire

South Asian workers preparing rice in Jamaica, 1895

│By Dr Lucy Dow, Gale Content Researcher│

Please be aware that this blog post contains language that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion.

On May 30, 1845 the first ship carrying indentured Indian immigrants arrived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad from Kolkata (Calcutta). This day is now commemorated in Trinidad as “Indian Arrival Day”. In this article I will use Gale Primary Sources to explore the history of Indian indenture and the South Asian community in the Caribbean, and elsewhere. In doing so, I will highlight how Gale Primary Sources can be used to better understand the role of the British Empire in moving people around the globe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the inter-connectedness of anti-colonial movements across the British Empire.

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From Yellow Journalism to Internet Echo Chambers – Exploring the History of “Fake News”

Editorial cartoon by Leon Barritt, 1898. Newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst dressed as the Yellow Kid (a popular cartoon character of the day), each pushing against opposite sides of a pillar of wooden blocks that spells WAR

│By Juha Hemanus, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

We’ve all heard references to “fake news” and “alternative truths,” particularly in recent years. There have also been more in-depth analyses of the “post-truth time” and the “end of truth”. Examining the motives of those who generate “fake news” stories – and the motives of those who claim that a story is fake – is fascinating. This intriguing phenomenon also has an interesting past, with countless examples of “fake news” throughout history. Indeed, a previous ambassador at the University of Helsinki, Pauli, explained that fake news has had alternative names in history, such as “erroneous reporting”. In this blog post, I will look a little further into history to consider questions such as: Where did the fake news phenomenon come from? Under what circumstances was it born? What is it intended for and what has been accomplished by false claims about actual events?

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Sun Yat-sen and the Kwangtung–Kwangsi Conflicts in the 1920s

A historic map of southern China, plus four images of individuals whose images are found throughout this blog post

│By Emery Pan, Gale Editor in Beijing│

A land plagued with poverty and political instability, China in the early twentieth century experienced the most drastic changes that had ever taken place in the country. This blog post explores this turbulent period in the history of China using primary sources from numerous Gale archives, including the China and the Modern World series.

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How The Gale Digital Scholar Lab Made Digital Humanities Less Daunting

visualisation produced using the Topic Proportion tool

│By Jagyoseni Mandal, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

The global pandemic that hit us last year and continues to affect numerous aspects of life has made research particularly difficult. I can say this from personal experience, as I have had to study for more than a term at my home in India, where I am stuck because of COVID, rather than studying at my university in Oxford. This situation risked affecting both my mental health and my studies; I felt I was running out of both time and resources for my research. But discovering the Gale Digital Scholar Lab has been a revelation, opening up a whole new area of potential research to me, and it is accessible entirely remotely. In this post I am going to share how the Gale Digital Scholar Lab made Digital Humanities accessible to me; how the various tools in helped me in my research and led me to discover more topics around my area of interest.

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How Gale Literature Provided Vital Support for My Dissertation

Academic Library Book shelves

│By Rhiannon Green, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham│

The thought of researching and writing a dissertation is often a daunting prospect for any student, yet this is even more relevant for those studying in the Covid-19 era. As an English Literature student, I am heavily reliant on my university library, so when lockdown meant I was stuck at home nearly 300 miles away, I thought it would be impossible to get any work done – let alone start the research process for my dissertation. Closed libraries and remote learning have left many students clueless as to how to obtain relevant resources, yet this is where the Gale Reference Complete package comes in handy, with Gale Literature being especially useful for my own research and learning.

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The Impact of the Pandemic on Students at the University of Johannesburg

│By Ayanda Netshisaulu, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg│

In March 2020, in what seemed to be little more than a blink of an eye, students at the University of Johannesburg were thrust into the world of online learning. First years, Honours, Master’s and even PhD students were left stranded in a rapidly changing world. With our trusted archives closed as a result of the South African lockdown, some students felt they were left with no option but to make do with secondary sources – but a historian without an archive is like an artist without paints. Luckily, Gale had opened an art supplies store in the University of Johannesburg!

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The University Experience – Before, During and After the Pandemic

Empty Lecture theatre

│By Juha Hemanus, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki

Many within the university community have faced significant challenges as a result of the pandemic. As a student myself, I’m aware that new difficulties have arisen, be it access to resources or the more isolating study experience. If university is to continue being a productive and stimulating experience for all students it is vital to consider, understand and question how learning practices have changed, what the impacts have been, and what can be done to help students and teachers in the future.

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Exploring Twentieth-Century Art and Social History in Erotica from L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

Montage of images from blog post, of images from L'Enfer collection

By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources

Please be aware that this blog post contains content that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion.

Enfer is a French word that translates to Inferno or Hell, and according to some religions, Hell is the place of punishment for the wicked, the damned, the morally corrupt, once death has befallen them. It is thus only fitting that books considered “contrary to public morality” should end up in Enfer. Aside from its literal meaning of Hell, Enfer is the shelf mark of the restricted books collection at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). A shelf mark is simply a notation or classification on a book showing its place in a library. In the 1830s, a time when the BnF was opening to a wider audience, the institution began to assign the Enfer classification to books considered to be obscene works. Whether the books were locked away because they truly were reprehensible, or merely to protect them from those who would proscribe or destroy them, it is to our benefit today as they have been preserved for our study.

On the subject of study, Enfer provides us with many opportunities to explore art and social history in a wide variety of imaginative works. While some of the books simply offer flights of fancy, erotic fantasies to titillate and arouse, many of the works in Enfer offer social commentary and criticism. After exploring the fantastic imagery in texts from the seventeenth to nineteenth century, I was intrigued to continue my search and explore how imagery developed in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, when authors and artists were often at the forefront of the social and cultural movements of their time.

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Exploring Early Modern Erotica and Social History in L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

L'Enfer Imagery - Part 1 post montage

│By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources│

Please be aware that this blog post contains content that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion.

Back when Playboy, “an American men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazine”, was still publishing, the usual comment from anyone observed purchasing an issue from the newsstand was, “I just get it for the articles.” In the case of my latest research foray into L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque national de France, I really was just looking for the pictures.

As so often happens in research, we travel down one path, only to encounter interesting intersections. I started out studying the evolution of beauty and body standards in erotic art through the centuries. Along the way, I became equally as interested in the books themselves. The histories of the lives of some of the authors and artists was intriguing. The motivations and movements behind the books they wrote were fascinating. The themes and agendas written into the texts were engrossing. There are a wealth of topics to explore once you slip beneath the covers of the books and plumb the depths of Enfer.

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