The Wrath of Mountains: Explaining Volcanic Eruptions from the Late Eighteenth Century to the Modern Day

“The Straits of Sunda: Terrible Volcanic Eruption.” Illustrated London News, 8 Sept. 1883, p. 229. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003

By Amelie Bonney, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford

On December 9, 2019, the deadly volcanic eruption of Mount Whakaari in New Zealand sparked new discussions over risk assessment in volcanic regions. While sudden volcanic eruptions make it difficult for scientists to assess risks in such areas, the belief that eruptions can be predicted thanks to science also leads to increasingly hazardous activities such as tourism in dangerous volcanic regions. How and why have humans become so intrepid when it comes to volcanoes?

The Gale Primary Sources archives provide not only newspaper articles but also a range of valuable monographs and visual sources, ranging from drawings to photographs, which allow us to investigate how our understanding and perception of volcanic eruptions has changed over the last few centuries. The sources demonstrate that the scientific community’s investigations led to the emergence of new understandings of dangerous volcanic eruptions from the late eighteenth century onwards. Paradoxically, scientific explanations of volcanic eruptions created a heightened sense of danger but also led to an increase in risk-taking behaviour.

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Are We Obsessed with Serial Killers?

Newspaper advert for a book: What makes a serial killer?

│By Chloe Villalon, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway│

In the last decade, television series such as Dexter, Mindhunter and Bates Motel have encountered overwhelming success. Based on true events or completely fictional, the narratives are told from the investigators’ or killer’s perspective. The public is not only interested in the gory, bloody aspect of serial killing cases but the science behind understanding and catching serial killers. Many such programmes try to answer the key question: Why do serial killers kill? Using Gale Primary Sources and its many research tools, I will use this blog post to explore the topic of serial killers, considering questions such as: where does the term “serial killer” come from and what does it mean? And what is the role of the media in serial killing cases?

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Heroic Hedgehogs – The Hedgehog in Popular Culture

Hedgehog in a cup

│by Constance Lam, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham University│

The twenty first century marks the return of the hedgehog: from the recent February 14th release of Sonic the Hedgehog, to the rise of hedgehog cafés throughout Japan and Hong Kong, it seems hedgehogs are resurfacing in popular culture.

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“When is a Woman…?” Exploring Cultural Expectations of Women Advocated in Historical Newspapers

Montage of snippets from newspapers considering "when is a woman...?"

by Lotta Vuorio, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki

When I was preparing to deliver my first presentation as a Gale Ambassador, I ran into an interesting article called “When Woman is Not Graceful” in Gale’s Nineteenth Century Collections Online. The article was published in a newspaper called The Christian Recorder in 1895, and it portrays some of the “conditions under which she (a woman) manages to look absurd” – at least in the opinion of the anonymous writer. The article appears as an opinion piece by Graphic London and it expresses outspokenly all the descriptions connected to the stereotype of women who move clumsily. It says, “Few women can enter a carriage, mount the steps of a coach or hurry into a hansom gracefully, while the spectacle of a woman getting into a boat is far from pleasing”.  The vast petticoats common in the nineteenth century and their effects on the ability of women to move are mentioned and criticised, and the writer finishes his piece by indicating the true form of grace: “A woman is only really graceful when she is at rest, lolling in a carriage or sitting in a drawing room or else dancing, when she has the genius for it.” I wanted to find this article again and began searching the Gale Primary Sources database. In doing so I came across many more newspaper articles with a heading that begins “When is a Woman…”. As I browsed through them I became intrigued, curious about the way articles in different newspapers described what was acceptable and admired in the appearance and behaviour of women. Below are some of the most fascinating examples I found.

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“Even the Sacramental Cup Was Not Exempt from Adulteration” – The Hazards of Drinking an Old Bottle of Claret

│By Amelie Bonney, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

Have you recently enjoyed a special, vintage bottle of wine to celebrate the New Year with your family or friends? You might be surprised to learn that such celebrations might have been quite dangerous during the nineteenth century. Expecting the crimson-coloured beverage to enrapture their senses and coat their tongue in luscious flavours of dried blackberry, leather and tobacco, wine aficionados were often far from suspecting that this elixir could easily turn out to be a cheap, dyed, falsified drink, or worse – deadly poison. In an age where strict regulations exist to control food and beverage adulteration, such hazardous dyes are no longer used, but delving into Gale’s Historic Newspapers allows us to better understand how such dangerous adulteration was allowed to occur during the nineteenth century.

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More Than a Storm in a Teacup – The Fight for Women’s Suffrage in the Tearoom

Suffragette protest ends with a cup of tea

| By Constance Lam, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham |

No matter the situation, and no matter the company, it is an unspoken rule in the UK that a cup of tea (and likely several more cups) will always be poured and sipped! Despite the ubiquity of tea-drinking, I would argue the consumer base of tearooms and cafés is distinctly female-dominated. This begs the question: why is the act of drinking tea so closely associated with women when it is in reality a universal habit in the UK? I’m also curious to explore how tearooms and tea-drinking featured in one of the most significant women’s rights movements in the UK to date – the fight for women’s suffrage.

Read moreMore Than a Storm in a Teacup – The Fight for Women’s Suffrage in the Tearoom

Cultural Appropriation or Swiftian Satire? Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado

“The Mikado.” Illustrated London News, 4 Apr. 1885

| by Masaki Morisawa, Senior Product Manager, Library Reference, Tokyo |

Last year, an American high school student’s twitter account flamed up when she posted prom pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam, or Chinese dress. Some Asian Americans accused her, who is not of Chinese descent, of cultural appropriation. “My culture is NOT your [expletive] prom dress,” wrote one particularly upset commenter. Others, including many Asians living in Asia, defended her actions and dismissed such criticism as irrelevant.

While “cultural appropriation” is a fairly recent term, similar debates have arisen in the past where the borrowing of “exotic” elements from foreign cultures have been criticised as offensive or disrespectful. One such example is Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Mikado, a work that is often hailed as the duo’s masterpiece, yet at times has stirred controversy due to its use of Japanese costume and settings. In this post I would like to take a look at the history of Mikado performances and the controversies surrounding them.

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Surprises in the History of Men’s Euro Football

"Football Euro 2004." Times, 23 June 2004

│ by Lotta Vuorio, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki │

From a sport seen as unfit for physical education and women, to a sport for everyone – regardless of gender, class or nationality. That sport is football, and as the last rounds of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers are being played 14th – 19th of November, it seemed an apt time to share with you what Gale Primary Sources has to offer when it comes to the history of football and the European Championship.

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The Peterloo Massacre, August 1819

Reform. Libel. -- Sedition. -- Treason. -- Persecution. 1819, January - 1820, November. Radical Politics and the Working Man in England: Part One: Sets 7-11, 13-32, and 34-46 Set 40; Vol 1. British Library. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CREORT076326165/GDCS?u=webdemo&sid=GDCS&xid=c5017dd3

│By Clem Delany, Associate Acquisitions Editor│

Two hundred years ago, on 16th August 1819, at least seventeen people died at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, during a peaceful protest calling for the reform of parliamentary representation.

This year, the two hundred-year anniversary, has been marked in the UK by a wealth of newspaper articles covering ‘a tragic event of minor historical significance that happens to accord with a Marxist version of Britain’s past’ 1 (The Times) or ‘the bloodiest event on English soil in the nineteenth century’ 2 (The Daily Mail). The BBC, from its new headquarters in Manchester, produced ten radio programmes and performances to mark the anniversary. You can buy a Peterloo mug or a Peterloo tea towel, and around Manchester live music, poetry readings, open-air karaoke and other family-friendly events took place over the weekend.

I dug through the Gale archives to see how the event was represented at the time, and at its centennial in 1919.

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The Evolution of Women’s Football

Rowbottom, Mike. “When Ladies of Preston ruled the world.” Independent, 27 Feb. 1997, p. 26. The Independent Digital Archive

│By Rachel Holt, Acquisitions Editor │

As the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup drew to a close and tens of thousands of fans lined the streets of New York to greet the United States’ World Cup-winning team, we decided to look at the history of women’s football. Using Gale Primary Sources we tracked the evolution of women’s involvement in the beautiful game up to this year’s Women’s World Cup which, capturing the public’s imagination, saw an all-time high in viewing figures.

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