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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The History of Extradition in Hong Kong

Victoria City, Hong Kong, circa 1920.

|By Winnie Fok, Assistant Editor, Gale Asia|

In February 2019, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government proposed a bill regarding extradition, to establish a mechanism for the transfer of fugitives to Mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau, which are currently excluded in the existing laws. The bill sparked fears over a potential loss of freedom and deterioration of the business climate in Hong Kong. As a result, protests erupted over the next few months, and lasted till early 2020. Extradition has a long and complex history in Hong Kong, owing in no small part to its colonial background. China and the Modern World: Hong Kong, Britain and China 1841–1951, a collection of rare historical materials from the British Colonial Office records, sheds light on this fascinating subject.

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How can pandemic literature help us reflect on the virus and a post-Covid future?

Cinema sign: "The World is temporarily closed"

│By Lily Cratchley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham|

‘No more diving into pools of chlorinated water…no more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in the upright and locked position…’ 1

If someone had told me last February that in a year’s time, I would be attending 9am lectures in pyjama bottoms, wearing a mask every time I popped to the corner shop for a much-needed bottle of wine, and would be reduced to “tiers” instead of “tears” during winter exam season, then I would have thought them crazy. However, that pretty much sums up my experience of online learning in my final year of university!

In a second year Dystopian Literature module at the University of Birmingham, I studied Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven. The novel, set twenty years after a global pandemic, depicts a post-apocalyptic world, which wiped out ninety percent of the world’s population. Despite Mandel’s heavily dramatized content, her writing somewhat prepared me for the long term impacts this current pandemic might potentially cause.

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