Decolonising the Literary Curriculum: A Close Examination of Derek Walcott’s Omeros

Skyline of Cape Town, South Africa

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

Decolonisation refers to the process of attempting to undo the social, political, economic and cultural effects of imperialism on former colonies. Having just completed my undergraduate degree in English and Classical Literature at King’s College London, I have come to appreciate language and the written arts as potent mediums to contemplate, respond to and even resist the weight of colonial history.

My dissertation on Derek Walcott’s 1990 postmodern epic Omeros most thoroughly illustrated to me the nuances and creative potential of colonial victims to negotiate their present and historical standing in response to imperial agents. My exploration of this theme in Walcott’s work was particularly interesting as he ostensibly views colonisation as continuous, from nineteenth-century British and French empires to modern American capitalism, as the same force underlies both processes for the benefit of the typically white aristocracy, eclipsing native identity and homogenising Caribbean culture to artificiality.

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Writing Sensitive Personal Histories

Sensitive documents

│By Jade Burnett, Gale Ambassador at the University of Sheffield│

Throughout this academic year I have been working on an MA dissertation on the marriages of members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). In working on this dissertation, I have tried to piece together the personal lives of people who existed largely in the political sphere. While this work is hugely interesting and deeply fulfilling academically, it can also be very tricky, with the writing of personal histories bringing up a range of difficulties surrounding how academics can seek to sensitively piece together the intimate lives of individuals. I hope that this blog post can offer readers some tips and tricks on how to approach writing these histories. 

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Using Gale Historical Newspapers to Explore the Representation of Coastal Wreckers

The Wreckers, 1791 by George Morland

|By Ellen Boucher, Gale Ambassador at the University of Bristol|

One of my History modules this year, Outlaws, focused on the robbers, bandits and smugglers on the outskirts of society. For my final presentation for the module, I chose to study maritime wreckers using Gale’s Historical Newspapers, to explore how Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn, published in 1936, fitted into a changing narrative surrounding wreckers. ‘Wreckers’ was the name for those who would strip grounded or wrecked ships of valuable contents. Originally, they have been portrayed as dangerous criminals, in marked difference to other pirates and thieves we studied during this module, whose history has often been romanticised. Instead, wreckers, who were typically opportunists who saw themselves as having a right to the bounty from ships, were portrayed as dangerous and murderous criminals who would purposefully lure ships to wreck. This is the type of wrecker Daphne du Maurier presents in her antagonist, Joss Merlyn, a cruel and violent criminal.

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How Might a Cultural History Scholar Use State Papers Online: The Stuart and Cumberland Papers?

Stuart and Cumberland

|By Rose O’Connor, Gale Ambassador at Maynooth University|

The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle document the lives of the exiled Stuarts, from the Glorious Revolution in 1688 to the death of the last Stuart heir, Henry Benedict, Cardinal Duke of York in 1807. The Jacobite movement was the struggle, conducted through military and diplomatic means, by the exiled Stuarts and their supporters to regain the English throne. The Stuart and Cumberland Papers archive contains a wide variety of sources on this period of history. From the daily operations of the Stuart government in exile to the details of failed rebellions, there is plenty of material here to assist a political or military historian wishing to investigate eighteenth-century politics in Europe. However, this blog post is going to show you how the sources are also of great use to cultural historians. By reading the same sources, but noticing different details, this is a great way to help with your own essay writing. Let me show you some examples.

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Examining the Emergence of Gothic Literature in the Early Nineteenth Century

Gothic castle shrouded in mist

│By Holly Kybett Smith, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth│

The late eighteenth century was a turbulent time for those in power. Across Europe, monarchies were clinging to their authority by threads: the American Revolution saw British imperial rule challenged, and in France, Louis XVI was unseated from his throne, putting an end to the Ancien Régime. Simultaneously, as the French people rebelled against their absolute monarch at home, the Haitian Revolution saw self-liberated slaves free themselves from French colonial rule. Everything, everywhere, was in flux. With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that the spirit of the era formed the crucible for the birth of the Gothic literary genre.

When discussing the Gothic in academic circles, we tend to ascribe the origins of the genre to one particular work: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1764. This is because Walpole himself described his tale as “Gothic” – the first noted use of this term to describe a piece of literature, as opposed to an architectural style. But one novel does not make a genre, and as the eighteenth century marched into the nineteenth, Gothic literature grew to encompass new components, stretching itself into the shape we recognise today. For more information on the Gothic as it evolved into contemporary horror, take a look at this blog post by my fellow Gale Ambassador, India Marriott.

In this blog post, meanwhile, I’m going to examine the emergence of early Gothic literature as it began to appear at the start of the nineteenth century – and explore how we can study this using Gale Primary Sources.

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Emancipating a Continent: Studying the Americas Through The Region’s Liberators

American continent

|By Lola Hylander, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

Four years ago, when I began studying History and Politics of the Americas at University College London, I had little prior knowledge about the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. I’d studied History A-Level in the UK, but the syllabus focused mainly on European revolutions. My knowledge of Latin America and the Caribbean was limited to the perspective of Europe. For example, I had studied Napoleon III’s attempt to colonise Mexico, but from the perspective of France.

Joining the Institute of the Americas was, therefore, a big adjustment. I had to free myself from the Eurocentric framework I had developed in school. Using primary sources helped me familiarise myself with the region, and students of the region should check out Gale’s Archives of Latin American and Caribbean History, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century database to do so. I found some engaging sources in the Latin American and Iberian Biographies collection on three of the most significant liberators of Latin America and the Caribbean, and these men’s stories can teach us useful lessons about studying the Americas.

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The Historical Context Behind Projections of the ‘Dangerous Drag Queen’ by the Far Right

LGBTQ protest header

Disclaimer: This blog post is written by an undergraduate student. Becca uses materials from Gale’s Political Extremism and Radicalism: Far-Right Groups in America archive which contains visual and textual material representing various historical viewpoints related to race, gender, sexuality, terrorism, and other subjects, including terminology and concepts that may be considered offensive by modern standards. … Read more

Using Archives Unbound to Explore the Agency of the Oppressed

Montage of images from this blog post

│By Phoebe Sleeman, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│ As a historian, I have become increasingly aware of the power of archives to silence and oppress. Over the last few decades historians have been seeking to work against the grain of the traditional archive to uncover the agency of the oppressed, and some feminist historians have … Read more

An Overview of the Romantic Period using The Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1817)

|By India Marriott, Gale Ambassador at the University of Nottingham|

The Romantic period describes an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that emerged throughout Europe at the close of the eighteenth century and moving into the nineteenth century. The Romantic period came as a response to the preceding ‘Age of Enlightenment’, moving away from rational individualism towards a more ‘romantic’ view of the world. Furthermore, many critics have pinpointed the Romantic period as a direct result of the ideals of the French Revolution that emerged at this time, allowing for further revolt against the aristocratic social and political norms of the Enlightenment era.

Romanticism places significance on imagination, emotion, freedom, and individualisation, in addition to suspicion of science and industrialisation post-Enlightenment. Furthermore, Romanticism places an importance on the power of nature and the natural world, which resulted in the creation of the concept of the Sublime, which I will explore further within this article.

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Taking Your Master’s Dissertation to the Next Level: Using Gale Digital Scholar Lab for Research

Gale Egyptology sentiment analysis

│By Tamar Atkinson, Gale Ambassador at the University of Liverpool│

Primary sources can be a great resource for Master’s dissertation research, providing a deeper understanding of history. Whilst they make handy supportive evidence to back up the points you want to make in an assessment, is there a way to take them further? Within Gale Digital Scholar Lab, you can find a whole range of data-mining visualisation tools and other resources that can allow you to bring elements of Digital Humanities methodologies into your research, through an easy, step-by-step process. This can add great insights to any work!

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