What Is the Meaning of Christmas? Celebrating the 25th December Around the World in History

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

The longed-for Christmas break ultimately meant one thing for me as an undergraduate student reading French and History at the University of Portsmouth: January deadlines. Bah humbug! This time last year, as a student studying for an MSc in Social Research methods at the University of Southampton, the festive period was just a short break from terrifying lectures on statistical equations and mind-boggling sociological theory. Now I am a PhD student without looming French grammar tests or the self-imposed pressure to become a Master of Science. (You can read about how myself and social research methods are coming to terms with our differences here). Consequently, I am looking forward to a stress-free build up to the 25th December for the first time in years! Despite my newly found freedom, I am no less academically curious over the festive period. As such, I have enjoyed spending time this vacation delving into the Santa’s grotto that is Gale Primary Sources – overflowing with exciting archives, it is undoubtedly a treasure trove for researchers – to find out how Christmas has been celebrated around the world in history.

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“That’s How an RBMK Reactor Explodes…Lies” – Understanding the Climax of HBO’s Mini-Series “Chernobyl” with Gale Primary Sources

A helicopter sprays a decontamination liquid nearby the Chernobyl reactor in 1986. (Chernobyl, Ukraine, 13 June 1986), Historical collections of the Chernobyl accident from the Ukrainian Society for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (USFCRFC).

| By Harry Walker, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham |

Being Harry Walker wasn’t easy in the Spring of 2019. Alongside sitting university exams, my blood pressure was raised hurling abuse at knights, dragons and zombies on a television screen. Was I playing World of War Craft? No, I was watching the final series of Game of Thrones. Whether you loved it or hated it, it cannot be denied that the medieval fantasy was all that anyone was talking about. Perhaps this is why the excellent HBO mini-series Chernobyl slipped under most people’s radar. Chernobyl is a wonderfully written, beautifully acted masterpiece which tells the story of the terrible nuclear accident which occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the USSR in 1986. Amongst other qualities, the show has been widely praised for its historical accuracy. In this blog post I will be using Gale Primary Sources to see whether the praise stands up to examination.

Read more“That’s How an RBMK Reactor Explodes…Lies” – Understanding the Climax of HBO’s Mini-Series “Chernobyl” with Gale Primary Sources

Gangster’s Paradise: Exploring British Media Coverage of American Organised Crime

│by Matthew Trenholm, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

Everyone loves a villain. From Robin Hood to the Peaky Blinders, criminality has long captured the imagination of the British public, with the misdeeds of the real outlaws often swept under the rug. (For an engaging piece about the historical accuracy of the TV show Peaky Blinders, check out this blog post by my fellow Gale Ambassador, Emily Priest – it’s great!) American organised crime enjoyed a “golden era” in the 1920s after Prohibition was introduced in 1919. Bootlegging became a big industry in the US as the economy boomed and cultural norms changed. Contemporaries in Britain loved to hear stories of the criminals taking on the law, and this is reflected in the upsurge in coverage of such criminals in the British press.

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Remembering Rosa: When One Word Sparked a Civil Rights Movement

Rosa Parks on the bus, Reid, Tim. "America pays its respects to the mother of civil rights movement." Times, 26 Oct. 2005

| By Emily Priest, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth |

On December 1st, 64 years ago, one simple word sparked a civil rights movement we will never forget: “No”. So began one woman’s fight against oppression in America, and her name was Rosa Parks. A tired seamstress on her way home from work, Rosa unknowingly became “the mother of the civil rights movement” by refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Using Gale’s Historic Newspapers, and other digital archives, it is possible to travel back to this moment and, through the lens of primary sources, fully appreciate the bravery of her protest and the impact of the waves it sent out across America. On this important anniversary in human history, let’s take a moment to remember Rosa, celebrate her achievements and reflect on our past, in hope of a better future.

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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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Trials, Tribunals and Tribulation: Witch-Hunts Through the Ages

│ by Eloise Sinclair, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham │

For many of us, the term ‘witch-hunt’ conjures up images of spell books, familiars and haggard old women being hauled from their homes by angry mobs. Although scenes such as these took place in numerous witch-hunts, they are not their defining feature. Using the Term Frequency tool in Gale Primary Sources reveals that the number of documents containing the term ‘witch’ peaked at the end of the nineteenth century and rose rapidly again in the second half of the twentieth century. ‘Witch-hunt’ similarly came to be used more frequently in the last sixty years. This demonstrates that these two terms are not solely linked to the persecution of magical witches; instead they have, over the centuries, taken on a different meaning. This article uses Gale Primary Sources to explore what constituted a witch and how witches were dealt with in different eras and political climates.

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Atmospheric but Not Accurate – Five Ways ‘Peaky Blinders’ Stretched the Truth

Peaky Blinders newspaper images

│By Emily Priest, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth│

Since 2013, Peaky Blinders stormed the UK television charts. Five seasons and a well-deserved BAFTA later, the series continues to intrigue, outrage and fascinate viewers with its gritty, unflinching depiction of Birmingham gangs – the once very real “Peaky Blinders” gang in particular.

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Discovering FDR through Gale Primary Sources

FDR

│By Tom English, Gale Field Sales Executive – North UK │

I recently enjoyed reading three excellent books on Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), 32nd President of the United States: Jean Edward Smith’s single-volume biography, FDR, which provides an excellent overview of his life and presidency; David B. Woolner’s The Last 100 Days: FDR at War and at Peace, which gives an incisive and detailed account of the final days of his life, including negotiations with Stalin and Churchill at Yalta and his fight to the end to build international institutions to prevent future wars; and Susan Dunn’s A Blueprint for War: FDR and the Hundred Days that Mobilized America, which tells the story of how FDR outmanoeuvred those who opposed America’s support for Britain and Russia in WWII. 

Having thoroughly enjoyed the secondary sources on FDR, I thought that I’d delve into Gale Primary Sources to see what’s there…

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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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Was the Space Race worth it?

“The astronauts practicing in an Apollo capsule, identical to the one in which they died. From left: Chaffee, White, Grissom.” "Death . . ." Sunday Times, 29 Jan. 1967, p. 11. The Sunday Times Digital Archive

│ By Kyle Sheldrake, Marketing Manager – Insights and Development│

As we approach fifty years since man first set foot on the moon, it feels like a good time to reflect on attitudes and opinions in the lead up to one of humanity’s greatest scientific achievements. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to think that the space race was always seen positively, receiving unanimous public support and the unity of the scientific community, but this was not necessarily the case.

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