Studying Colonialism in Complementary Archives: Nineteenth Century Collections Online and Decolonization

│By Louis Venter, Gale Ambassador at the University of the Free State│

If you ask any seasoned historian what makes historical research unique, they will emphasise the crucial role of primary sources, which define and distinguish history from other forms of academic writing. In an ever-digitising world, historians can now access digital scans of genuine archival material from anywhere, eliminating the need to travel to distant archives, and making research more efficient.

Bringing together primary sources from multiple archives can enhance one’s research, and Gale Primary Sources offers two key complementary digital archives that can be used in tandem to study colonialism – Nineteenth Century Collections Online: Europe and Africa, Colonialism and Culture and Decolonization: Politics and Independence in Former Colonial and Commonwealth Territories.

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Celebrating South Africa’s Independence “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”

│By Carolyn Beckford, Gale Product Trainer│

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent South African anti-apartheid activist and Nobel laureate, coined the phrase “Rainbow Nation” to describe his country.  South Africa is home to a wide range of ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups, including indigenous African tribes, Afrikaans and English-speaking communities, and people of Indian and Asian descent. This post will explore the country’s complicated history and its journey to independence.

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New Environmental History Archive: Colonial Policy and Global Development, 1896-1993

│By Clem Delany, Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources│

What does Environmental History mean to you?

On sitting down to write a brief explanation of what environmental history is, I have spent the last twenty minutes staring into space thinking about Pando. Pando is, as I’m sure the sophisticated and well-travelled audience of this blog will know, the largest and heaviest living organism on earth. Pando covers 100 acres and is around 10,000 years old. That means that when Pando first began its long, slow life, there were woolly mammoth and sabre-toothed cats still living, although increasingly finding their parties a little light on company.

Pando is a tree. It is a quaking aspen in Utah; in appearance it is over 45,000 individual quaking aspens, but below ground it has a single root system. Each ‘tree’ is a clone of its neighbours, a stem of one single organism. And it is on my mind because I am trying to think of a pithy way to describe environmental history, an area of study where many different disciplines and topics meet, connected at their roots as different expressions of one phenomenon: human interaction with the natural world.

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The Warrior Queen: Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi

│By Carolyn Beckford, Gale Product Trainer│

For Women’s History Month, I wanted to highlight a woman that many of us have probably not heard of before. Sure, we know about Cleopatra, the Dahomey Warriors, Boudica, Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Joan of Arc, and maybe even Njinga, but have you ever heard of Rani Lakshmibai?

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Concepts of ‘the Nation’ in Britain and Beyond

│By Jess Briony Hodgson, Gale Ambassador at the University of Sheffield│

Britain has always had a complex identity historically speaking – from Alfred the Great and the nature of medieval kingdoms, through to the fallout from Brexit, the way in which Britons conceptualise their nation and nationality has always been changing – and this makes primary source work all the more interesting.

When using primary sources such as those found in Gale’s digital archives, one main challenge is removing our own understandings of ‘the nation’ from the equation, so we can properly analyse the information and make accurate interpretations and comparisons. One space in which we can see a microcosm of all these changes is print media, particularly newspapers, which will have (for the most part) aimed to capture readers’ opinions and concerns, highlighting the changes in concepts such as the nation.

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The Sinking of the Titanic and its Cultural and Economic Impact

│By Yasmin Metto, Gale Ambassador at the University of Queen Mary│

The Titanic is one of the most famous and prolific ships in the world, inspiring adventures to the depths of where it sunk as well as creating a legacy that has lasted generations. Unfortunately, this can shroud the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic, which was almost as devastating as the event itself. The sinking of the Titanic marked a multitude of impacts, especially culturally and economically. By using Gale Primary Sources to explore the cultural and economic effects of the Titanic sinking, it becomes evident that all of society was affected by the event.

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Using Gale Historical Newspapers to Highlight Marginalised Voices in Journalism 

│By Amelia Jean-Marie Meade, Gale Ambassador at the University College London│

Journalism, like many other fields of work, is broadly based around the investigation of a conflict or event, its documentation, and its analysis. It can take several forms including video, radio, and written. But what distinguishes journalistic writing from other writing styles is that it is specifically intended for public reception and consumption. Therefore, the term journalism is often associated with large-scale news and popular media outlets like national newspapers and broadcasting channels. Whilst this narrative is somewhat reflective of the field, it is also slightly misleading. This is because it does not properly account for non-traditional forms of journalism or the historically marginalised groups who make and have made interesting journalistic contributions. This blogpost will illuminate some examples using the Gale Historical Newspapers collection with the intention of challenging stereotypical notions of what journalism is and who can do journalism.

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Researching the History of Shanghai Between the 1830s and 1950s

|By Liping Yang, Senior Manager, Academic Publishing, Gale|

November 2023 marks the 180th anniversary of Shanghai being opened to foreign trade in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Nanjing and the Treaty of the Bogue, which were signed after the First Opium War between China and Britain.

Coincidentally, in the same month, Gale Primary Sources rolled out a thematic digital archive that features the history of Shanghai. Titled China and the Modern World: Records of Shanghai and the International Settlement, 1836–1955, this new archive provides an extraordinary primary source collection vital to understanding and researching the social, political, and economic history of the Anglo-America-dominated yet highly globalised International Settlement in Shanghai, as well as the history of modern China.

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Exploring the State Papers Online Colonial module about Singapore, East Malaysia, and Brunei

|By Julia de Mowbray, Publisher at Gale |

September 2023 marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Lee Kuan Yew (1923—2015), the founder of the People’s Action Party, Prime Minister of Singapore between 1959 and 1990, and a Member of the Singapore Parliament until his death in 2015. This month also sees the launch of State Papers Online Colonial: Asia, Part II: Singapore, East Malaysia and Brunei, the digitisation of the British Colonial Office files documenting the Colonial Office’s activities in these territories until independence. The coincidence is poignant as Lee Kuan Yew founded the People’s Action Party to fight for independence from colonial rule, and led Singapore first to independence from the British, then from Malaysia, and on to an envied economic and social success story.

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Decolonisation in the British Empire in Asia: The Malayan Emergency and Singapore

│By Dr Lucy Dow, Gale Content Researcher│

The recently published State Papers Online Colonial: Asia, Part I: Far East, Hong Kong, and Wei-Hai-Wei spans over four hundred years of British Colonial Office files, from the 1550s to 1970s. Britain’s colonial rule in Asia took various forms through the period and within different territories, with varying degrees of control, from local autonomy apart from defence and foreign relations, to full British administration. While some local people benefited from their involvement with the British, many colonised peoples suffered and resented colonial rule. This resentment led to resistance to British colonial authority, in various ways and to differing extents from territory to territory.

In the twentieth century, and particularly following the complete failure of the British to protect the local communities from Japanese invasion during the Second World War, the cumulative effect of this resistance, combined with other geopolitical factors, led to the rapid reduction in the size of British Empire, as former colonies secured their independence in what is now referred to as the period of decolonisation. The primary sources in this online archive document this change in the political landscape of Asia and Britain, as explored in the examples below.

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