Using Primary Sources to Study Gun Control

Studying gun control

|By Rachel Holt, Gale Primary Sources Acquisitions Editor|

This week (July 2022), US President Joe Biden was heckled by the father of a mass shooting victim during a White House event celebrating the passage of a federal gun safety law. This comes in the wake of the mass shooting that killed nineteen children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. But how did we get here?

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Etiquette and Advice, 1631-1969 – Good Manners as Prescribed by “Polite Society”

Etiquette and Advice from Archives Unbound

|By Phil Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources|

Gale’s Archives Unbound collection Etiquette and Advice, 1631-1969 is a fascinating digital archive of material from Winterthur Museum and Library in Delaware. A collection of 429 British and American etiquette books and rare print ephemera, it allows us to explore the question, “who gets to decide what behaviours are ‘good’ or ‘polite’?” The materials span from the seventeenth to twentieth century, offering tidbits on everything from table manners to travelling, conversation to courtship, home furnishing to hospitality. Author Dena Attar observes, in the face of fears about the “decay of modern manners and the instability of society, [etiquette] writers often described their books as necessary correctives for wider social problems.”1 This collection will therefore interest not only book historians, but also social historians, literary critics, cultural studies scholars, feminists, and other lifelong students of transatlantic history.

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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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Classified Before the Fall of Saigon: Exploring U.S. Declassified Documents Online

Classified Before the Fall of Saigon

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

On August 30, 2021, the United States Armed Forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. History rarely repeats, but it does rhyme. The fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the following airlift of allied personnel out of the city reminded me keenly of the Fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, to the North Vietnamese on May 30, 1975. The parallels between the ends of these armed conflicts seem endless and the images of desperate Afghans crowding the Kabul airport bring with them a sense of déjà vu. In this blog post I will showcase the usefulness of Gale’s US Declassified Documents Online archive and examine the trail of breadcrumbs left by declassified US documents dated shortly before the Fall of Saigon, during the Vietnam War. What was the US government focusing on? Who was President Gerald Ford writing to? What kinds of reports and memos were landing on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s desk?

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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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Rediscovering China and the World in the Nineteenth Century

Anson Burlingame and relevant handwritten letters

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

US–China relations have been somewhat strained in recent years – a situation that may not be easily resolved by Joe Biden’s administration. This difficult period in the history of American and Chinese relations started when the US raised tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering China to impose retaliatory tariffs on US products. This trade conflict later escalated into a confrontation on many fronts, including technology. Many people have been racking their brains about how to ease the tensions. We can draw inspiration from the past by examining interesting historical records which show positive diplomatic relations between the two nations. Many such records are included in Gale’s digital archive collection China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part 1, 1815-1881.

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