How State Papers Online Can Support an Undergraduate History Dissertation

Person viewing State Papers Online with a laptop
State Papers Online is migrating to a much improved platform. In light of this, Ellie Brosnan, a third-year undergraduate student at Durham University with an interest in medieval history and particularly political developments throughout Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, has taken a look at what this archive has to offer students writing a dissertation in medieval and early modern history! To do so, Ellie used the new, updated version of State Papers Online.

Users will be able to preview the beta version of State Papers Online on the new platform from August 1, 2022. For more information about the beta experience, check out this blog post by Gale Primary Sources Product Manager Megan Sullivan.

│By Ellie Brosnan, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

State Papers Online is a digitised collection containing British government papers from throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It offers access to a range of different materials, from official documentation and legislation to more informal correspondence between key political actors of this period. This resource is split into three main collections that all host different materials related to the issue of early modern British government. The focus of this blog post is exploring how State Papers Online can be utilised for an undergraduate dissertation investigating the changes to early modern politics over the course of these centuries.

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Lesser-Known Narratives and Everyday Histories in Archives Unbound

Archives Unbound screenshot

│By Ellie Brosnan, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

Studying archival material has been one of the most fascinating aspects of my History degree so far. Local libraries often host regional collections which provide a fascinating avenue into engaging with local histories, and being a student at Durham University in the north-east of England has allowed me to engage with primary sources from this area. During my time at university, for example, I have been lucky enough to see letters from servants at Durham castle from centuries past. Archives hold all manner of sources and uncovering new information is always rewarding, both physically and digitally. Delving into Gale’s online resources has also illustrated how digital archives can offer as much, if not more, compared to their traditional physical counterparts.

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The Gale Primary Sources Learning Centers – A Student’s Perspective

Gale Learning Center

│By Ellie Brosnan, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

Primary sources are central to a range of academic disciplines but particularly History where the need to engage independently and deeply with archival material grows as students progress through their course. I remember well the way we were introduced to History and the concept of primary sources at school, making our own mocked-up documents. Emulating figures from the past, we wrote on tea-stained paper, imagining how past individuals might have felt about the events of their time. This was great fun but, as one progresses through the education system and moves on to analysing real historical documents, our engagement with History must become increasingly sophisticated and, by university-level, the quantity and complexity of the primary sources with which we must engage can become overwhelming. Plus, the breadth of questions we must ask – who wrote the source and why – on top of the broader context in which it was created, is a lot to recognise, understand and consider. This is where Gale’s Learning Centers come in! Released in October 2021, they help students get to grips with a primary source archive. Currently included in twelve of the Gale Primary Sources archives, they will later be available in all Gale archives.

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Disentangling Fact from Opinion in Academic Articles

Magnifying glass over laptop keyboard

│By Rhiannon Green, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham│

As a university student myself, I know first-hand how important it is to read critically when writing academic essays. One reason we must read critically is because academic articles are constructed from both fact and opinion, and it is necessary to differentiate between the two when using them in our own arguments. This is especially true for articles within the discipline of History which are frequently written with more than one agenda in mind; whilst they do seek to inform the reader on a particular historical topic, and include historical information to this end, it is often used in a way that presents and defends the author’s own opinion on that particular topic. Debates around women’s rights, for example, have seen academics use various arguments and angles over the years, and whilst there are undoubtedly “facts” which are relevant to the debate, historians have often used the facts to present their own angle or argument. In this blog post I will use the resources in Gale OneFile –  a component of Gale Reference Complete and home to a vast array of academic articles – to demonstrate the importance of disentangling fact and opinion in academia.

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How Gale Literature Provided Vital Support for My Dissertation

Academic Library Book shelves

│By Rhiannon Green, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham│

The thought of researching and writing a dissertation is often a daunting prospect for any student, yet this is even more relevant for those studying in the Covid-19 era. As an English Literature student, I am heavily reliant on my university library, so when lockdown meant I was stuck at home nearly 300 miles away, I thought it would be impossible to get any work done – let alone start the research process for my dissertation. Closed libraries and remote learning have left many students clueless as to how to obtain relevant resources, yet this is where the Gale Reference Complete package comes in handy, with Gale Literature being especially useful for my own research and learning.

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‘Little Sure Shot of the Wild West’ – The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley takes a shot in front of a crowd.

│By Eloise Sinclair, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

In July 1889, Mr. Russell Harrison, the son of US President Benjamin Harrison, visited Buffalo Bill’s Wild West encampment. He was welcomed with a spectacular breakfast of “clam chowder, baked beans with a flavor of savory pork, corn bread, custard pie and ice cream”. After which, he was taken for “a ride in the famous Deadwood Coach,” and gifted with a 5-cent piece. This was no ordinary 5-cent coin – a hole had been pierced through its centre by one of Annie Oakley’s bullets. I first learned about the celebrated sharpshooter Annie Oakley and the role she played in providing the West with an identity during a trip to the National Cowgirl Museum in Texas, a visit which left me eager to learn more. By using Gale Reference Complete, a package of digital resources available at Durham, I was able to explore a range of documents detailing her life and legacy.

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Liverpool’s Chinatown

Liverpool's Chinatown grand archway

by Constance Lam, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham

Constructed in 2000, the Liverpool Chinese Arch remains an important landmark of Liverpool’s Chinatown. Standing at 13.5 metres high, this arch is the largest Chinese archway in Europe thus far, the impressive height reflecting the fact that Liverpool is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. On the twentieth year since the construction of the Chinese Arch, this blog post will look back on the rich history of Liverpool’s Chinatown.

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Liberating, Stultifying or Provocative: Mary Quant’s Miniskirt

Mary Quant

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

Mary Quant’s miniskirt of 1966 not only transformed the look of London’s youth but, according to Jonathan Aitken in a 1967 article in The Sunday Telegraph, inspired the “swinging revolution, the sexual revolution, the restaurant and night-club revolution”. The newspaper archives in Gale Primary Sources are particularly valuable for assessing the effect of Quant’s designs on the fashion industry and British culture, revealing the range of contemporary responses and reactions to this iconic item of clothing.

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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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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.

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