Top 10 Tips for Teaching with Primary Sources

Portrait of the author as a young lecturer teaching eighteenth-century literary culture to students at the Tate through the work of William Hogarth.

│By Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

Academics know that there is nothing more joyful or frustrating than working with primary sources. Imparting the ability to locate, appreciate, understand, and interrogate primary materials onto students is central to our roles as educators. But achieving this in the classroom isn’t always easy – especially when you’re also trying to teach through a pandemic! Drawing on my own experience of teaching in higher education, this blog post offers ten top tips on how to teach with primary sources.

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L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France – A Student’s Perspective

|By Rob Youngs do Patrocinio, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

Gale’s rich and exciting archive collection L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque national de France, which is part of Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender series, holds an impressive assortment of approximately 2400 printed works, published mostly in French. Enfer quite literally translates into English as “hell”. The name is remarkable and has certainly contributed to the collection’s historical infamy. When it was opened, the collection was classified and unavailable to the wider public due to its obscene and outlandish nature, and the perceived vulgarity of the content – but perhaps unsurprisingly this only roused interest and curiosity in the collection! Students of today will undoubtedly be equally curious to explore this historically “out of bounds” collection.

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Moving from Undergraduate to Postgraduate Study: Using Digital Archives More Proficiently

From Undergraduate to postgraduate

│By Mo Clarke, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

Moving from undergraduate to postgraduate study can be challenging. Students are expected to undertake more original research at postgraduate level, contributing to ideas within their field rather than simply explaining them. For history students like myself, engaging with primary sources is particularly important.

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How Gale’s Archives Supported My Thesis on the Politics of Contraception in South Africa, 1970s–80s

Contraception plus archive article images

│By Nonkoliso Andiswa Tshiki, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg│

Having to complete my Honours research paper in the era of Covid-19 left myself and many other students feeling stranded so far as to how to obtain valuable and relevant academic resources. Access to digitised resources quickly became vital to one’s success in academia and I am happy that I came across Gale Primary Sources when I did because they contributed greatly to the completion of my thesis. This blog will show how I utilised Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender, and Women’s Studies Archive collections to explore my thesis topic – the Media and Technologies of Contraception in South Africa between the 1970s and 1980s.

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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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Tracing the Legacy of William Blake with British Literary Manuscripts Online

| By James Carney, Gale Ambassador at King’s College London |

William Blake is widely considered one of Britain’s finest artists of all time. From painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to writers of the Irish Literary Revival, Blake’s influence permeates the artistic tradition. Therefore, it can come as a surprise to many that Blake’s work passed largely unrecognised during his lifetime. It is only posthumously that his legacy as we know it today has developed. This can be extensively explored using Gale’s British Literary Manuscripts Online: c. 1660-1900 archive.

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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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Classified Before the Fall of Saigon: Exploring U.S. Declassified Documents Online

Classified Before the Fall of Saigon

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

On August 30, 2021, the United States Armed Forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. History rarely repeats, but it does rhyme. The fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the following airlift of allied personnel out of the city reminded me keenly of the Fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, to the North Vietnamese on May 30, 1975. The parallels between the ends of these armed conflicts seem endless and the images of desperate Afghans crowding the Kabul airport bring with them a sense of déjà vu. In this blog post I will showcase the usefulness of Gale’s US Declassified Documents Online archive and examine the trail of breadcrumbs left by declassified US documents dated shortly before the Fall of Saigon, during the Vietnam War. What was the US government focusing on? Who was President Gerald Ford writing to? What kinds of reports and memos were landing on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s desk?

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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 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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