The Importance of Archives – Preserving the Past and Contextualising the Present

Finnish National Archives

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

Historian Jo Tollebeek once wrote that increasing “scientification” of history at the end of the nineteenth century produced a new kind of archival-fantasy: a belief that all relevant documents from the past could be gathered. Nowadays it is vital to comprehend and take into account the diversity of an archive. Every archive is bound not only to its history and context but also the demands of the current era. At the end of the day, an archive is in of itself an intellectual problem and a cultural artefact to be studied. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis has also made the important point that, even though the world of archives has encountered many changes, the most important aspect is still the same: when you read documents in an archive you have a physical link to the past in front of you that connects you to people long dead and strengthens the researchers attempt to tell about the past as honestly as possible.1

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The COVID Impact: New Modes of Presenting Your PhD Research During a Pandemic

Man in over-ear headphones on laptop

|By Meg Ison, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth|

In this blog post I will discuss the impact of the pandemic on the PhD experience, and focus on how and why online conferences and blog posts have become new and extremely effective ways for PhD students to disseminate their research.

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Free Speech in a “Post-Truth” Era – The Value of Digital Archives

| By James Carney, Gale Ambassador at King’s College London |

As a literature student, I have studied the power of language for myriad and varying purposes in a range of historical contexts. My studies have exposed me to the fact that language is inherently political – the way in which we construct verbal expression can reflect and compound the powerful forces that command us like hierarchies, social structures, identities or even biases. An example that comes to mind is the profound racism in the name given to South America’s most notable sea – the Caribbean. Popularised by the cartographer Thomas Jeffreys, the word finds roots in the Spanish word for cannibal (carib), and is a name which conquistadors enforced on the natives of this region. The political nature of language is clear from this example – in line with the constructed ‘civilising’ mission of imperialism, language came to reflect prevailing perceptions of the Spanish conquerors in relation to their (problematically) ‘savage’ subjects.

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Pride and Protest: LGBT+ Disability Activism in the US, 1985-1995

Disabled activists

│By Mo Clarke, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

Disabled. A word many find uncomfortable. Indeed, it seems much of society still assumes that to be disabled is to be broken, but while it is true that many people with disabilities experience ableism and insufficient support, resources and facilities, activists have long fought against the presumption that to be disabled is inherently bad. Rather than a curse or insult, their disability is a part of their identity and a source of pride. Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender reveal that disability rights have also been a focus for another minority group in the United States: the LGBT+ community. In the 1980s and 1990s LGBT+ activists made great strides towards improving the lives of disabled people.

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African Hairstyles – The “Dreaded” Colonial Legacy

Black person looking at book shelf

│By Nonkoliso Andiswa Tshiki, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa│

My primary school had very strict rules regulating how the African students’ hair should look when we were at school. Hair extensions, for instance, were prohibited. Students were only allowed to have natural hair hairstyles which were deemed neat, such as cornrows. We were particularly prohibited from having dreadlocks; disobeying this rule resulted in expulsion. I am aware that many other school authorities in the rural areas in South Africa forced students to cut their hair so short throughout their schooling career they were effectively bald.

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Unearthing and Decolonising the Rasta Voice

Rasta Voice

| By Robert Youngs do Patrocinio, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

This post will focus on raising awareness of the Rasta struggle to practise their religion, principally using Gale’s Archives Unbound collections, an extensive database of primary sources included in Gale Reference Complete that many university students such as myself can utilise when conducting all types of research. It currently comprises 382 collections (more are added each year), and includes a compelling collection titled: Rastafari Ephemeral Publications from the Written Rastafari Archives Project. The Rastafarianism movement can be traced back to its beginnings in 1930s Jamaica and its strong connections with the coronation of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (1930) who remains a principal figure in the Rastafarian religion. As the political cartoon below illustrates, the Rasta faith is rooted in an ideology which believes that Africa is paramount to black individuals obtaining freedom and escaping their physical, spiritual, emotional and historical oppression and struggle against slavery. As a religious belief system, I think that it is important to become mindful of Rastafari traditions and invest time in accessing elements of this culture, due to the significance of its relationship to the black experience and post-slavery trauma.

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PhDing in a Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Research and Teaching

Observations concerning the Plague

│By Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

As an archival scholar trying to write a PhD thesis in a pandemic, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on my working life. The closure of archives, museums, and libraries during the lockdowns prevented me and many others from accessing essential primary resources needed for doctoral research. And without physical access to exciting objects, manuscripts, and printed items to help bring texts alive, inspiring undergraduate students whilst teaching them over Microsoft Teams became equally difficult. With COVID cases once again climbing, we are far from being free of the pandemic. But how can we try to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education and research? And what will the long-term impacts of the pandemic be?

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Chatham House Online Archive and International Law

United Nations Security Council, New York

|By Dominic Powell, recent graduate in Law with French Law from the University of Birmingham|

Providing publications and archives from the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House Online Archive is a highly valuable resource for students of International Law. With over 6,000 publications on international law, comprising research, analysis, speeches and reports, the archive covers an extensive list of topics. Whether your interests lie in international relations, politics or human rights, or you are looking into more specific areas such as democracy, fascism or transportation, there are publications for you!

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Simla, McMahon, and the Origins of Sino-Indian Border Disputes

McMahon Line

|By Liping Yang, Publishing Manager, Digital Archive and eReference, Gale Asia|

From May 2020 to February 2021, Chinese and Indian border troops engaged in melee, face-offs, and skirmishes along the Sino-Indian border near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the Tibet Autonomous Region, as well as near the border between Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous Region. This series of disputes has resulted in numerous casualties, attracting worldwide attention in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such border disputes are nothing new. Three years prior to this in June 2017, the troops of the two countries had a border standoff in Doklam, a strategic location near a trijunction border area involving China, India, and Bhutan. Actually, China and India even went to war between October–November 1962 over their disputed Himalayan border.

Many of these border disputes and clashes can be attributed to the controversial McMahon Line. What is this line? And how did it come about? We can find some illuminating historical records on this in China and the Modern World: Diplomacy and Political Secrets, 1868-1950, a collection of rare historical materials selected from the India Office Records now held at the British Library.

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Franco Stevens and the History of Curve Magazine

Covers of Curve Magazine

|By Jen Rainin, Co-Founder of The Curve Foundation| Franco Stevens arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, in the late-1980s, looking to immerse herself in the lesbian community she knew existed there. Certain that the Castro’s A Different Light bookstore would carry a magazine that would connect her to San Francisco’s vibrant lesbian scene, … Read more