Plans, Charts, Images and Drawings: Eighteenth Century Collections Online as a Source of Visual Information Transmission

│By Sirkku Ruokkeinen, University of Turku, Finland│

In 1786, the Scottish economist William Playfair (1759–1823) published the Commercial and Political Atlas, reporting on the trade balance between England and continental Europe, West Indies, and North America. The work included something never before seen in print: line and bar charts. These statistical tools, although familiar to many of us now, are in fact quite complex devices and necessitate some understanding of their structure for a successful reading. So how were Playfair’s eighteenth century readers able to understand them?

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Uncovering a History of Disabilities: Disabilities in Society, Seventeenth to Twentieth Century

│By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor

Disability studies is a growing field in academia that examines disability as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon.  Seeing how far we have come as a society in terms of equal rights for people with disabilities is heartening, yet how has disability been viewed both historically and contemporarily?

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Concepts of ‘the Nation’ in Britain and Beyond

│By Jess Briony Hodgson, Gale Ambassador at the University of Sheffield│

Britain has always had a complex identity historically speaking – from Alfred the Great and the nature of medieval kingdoms, through to the fallout from Brexit, the way in which Britons conceptualise their nation and nationality has always been changing – and this makes primary source work all the more interesting.

When using primary sources such as those found in Gale’s digital archives, one main challenge is removing our own understandings of ‘the nation’ from the equation, so we can properly analyse the information and make accurate interpretations and comparisons. One space in which we can see a microcosm of all these changes is print media, particularly newspapers, which will have (for the most part) aimed to capture readers’ opinions and concerns, highlighting the changes in concepts such as the nation.

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Using Literary Sources to Research Late Nineteenth-Century British Feminism

│By Lucy McCormick, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham│

Using literary sources – such as newspapers, journals, pamphlets, and periodicals – to research feminism in late nineteenth-century Britain is a valuable way to enrich historical scholarship. Regarded as intellectually inferior to their male counterparts, women’s voices had long been deemed unimportant and thus excluded from mainstream media. However, by the second half of the nineteenth century, the intensification of debates pertaining to the ‘Woman Question’ rendered women not merely objects, but also participants, in arguments about the rightful role of women in British society.

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ECCO’ing through the Ages: Exploring Reception with Gale’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online

Reception Reader showing reuses of Shaftesbury’s A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm; overlaps with Astell’s An Enquiry After Wit highlighted by a red box.

│By David Rosson, Doctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki│

A big-picture goal for the Computational History research group at the University of Helsinki is to develop methods for studying how ideas spread during the Age of Enlightenment. This was a time period marked by notable thinkers and burgeoning ideas about reason, science, human nature, the state, and society as a system operating on certain principles. These ideas have profoundly shaped the modern world we live in today and in many ways still bear influence on current affairs.

An indispensable resource for studying historical discourse in this period is Gale’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), which covers a considerable portion of books published in Britain between 1700 and 1800. Our research group has been working with the datasets and building research infrastructure on top of Gale’s primary sources for more than a decade. One of the latest examples of our researcher-oriented tools is a web interface, Reception Reader, that helps with the tasks of exploring text reuse patterns in ECCO documents.1

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How are Female Protagonists Presented in Erotic Literature?

Montage of images from this post of erotic literature

│By Grace Pashley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham│

Erotic literature and the representation of human sexuality has been around for thousands of years, whether that be the erotic lyric poems of Sappho of Lesbos or the highly commercialised Fifty Shades of Grey. Embracing one’s sexuality and authentically representing human experience has been and continues to be a contentious topic in the modern day. The Private Case from the British Library, one of the collections in Gale’s Sex and Sexuality, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century archive, brings to light erotic printed books which were previously deemed too deviant and morally corrupt to be available to the general public in the British Museum Library. Whilst The Private Case from the British Library is now a historical collection which is no longer updated, this historical archive provides readers with an insight into the realities of sexuality, desire and contemporary attitudes around sex at the time that these books were produced.

Despite the benefits of uncovering the perceived, or potentially true, realities of intimacy in a period when sexual desire was condemned and criminalised, we must remember that much of the erotic literature is written by men for men. The representation of women in erotic literature is often limited as women are objectified by the male gaze, and not able to voice their own thoughts about their sexual encounters. Whilst objectified, women are still represented as individuals who enjoy sexual encounters, but usually only in service of men, and have little to no agency in these sexual encounters. Yet, whilst it’s important to recognise the male gaze and its impact on how women and their sexual desire is portrayed, The Private Case from the British Library is able to provide researchers with an unabashedly revealing depiction of human sexuality.

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How Slave Narratives Give Voice to the Enslaved

Slave narratives header

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

A source often overlooked in the study of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans is slave narratives. They are crucial to the work of decolonising the history of slavery because they allow us to remove the emphasis on those in power and give agency to enslaved persons. Gale’s Archives Unbound gives us access to many of these slave narratives, from the well-known stories of Olaudah Equiano and Harriet Jacobs to less well-known narratives of Martha Griffith Browne and Noah Davis.

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Early Modern Medicine: Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Obstetrics: midwife assisting in a birth, Original woodcut image from E. Roeslin, Rosengarten, 1513,Wellcome Collection

│By Georgia Winrow, Gale Ambassador at Lancaster University│

Whilst we may think of how diseases such as the bubonic plague, typhoid or tuberculosis were discussed when studying medicine in early modern Europe, we often do not consider how significantly understandings of sexual and reproductive health developed during this period. The specialism of women’s health in particular was firmly established in these years, with the publication of manuals and treaties to direct physicians and midwives in their practice. Indeed, whilst the early modern period saw practitioners drawing upon the work of ancient authorities, it was also a period of innovation, particularly within science and medicine.

Gale’s Sex and Sexuality, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century collection is truly interdisciplinary and includes materials that would support academic fields as varied as Sociology, Law and Theology. For scholars investigating the History of Medicine, the most significant materials within this collection which can be used to explore the emergence of a comprehensive, gendered understanding of early modern medicine are arguably the medical enquiries, manuals and pamphlets.

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How Gale Primary Sources Helped Me with My Dissertation – and Can Help You Too!

Women on laptop

│By Lily Deans, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham│

Writing a dissertation is undoubtedly daunting, no matter how competent or confident you may feel by the time you proudly hand in the 12,000-word masterpiece! Just like writing a good essay, it is not just your own opinion that gets you the marks, but the opinions of others – and the way you use these opinions to either substantiate or contradict what you have said. So, naturally, the wider, more varied and unique the sources are that you use, the better awareness you will show of the existing discourse, and thus the more convincing your argument will be. “Ah yes,” I hear you say, “but where can I find these unique sources?” Well, with Gale Primary Sources, of course! This blog will show briefly the quantity and variety of sources I have found in Gale’s archives as I have been researching and writing my dissertation.

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Introducing ‘Women’s Studies Archive: Voice and Vision’

"The Latest Paris Fashions." Myra's Journal, 1 Apr. 1889. Women's Studies Archive

│By Rachel Holt, Gale Primary Sources Acquisitions Editor

Rachel Holt is an Acquisitions Editor at Gale, working on the Gale Primary Sources portfolio. Managing the Women’s Studies Archive series, Rachel works closely with source libraries and other archival institutions around the world and tracks academic trends in Women’s and Gender Studies to ascertain which primary sources are required. In this blog post she answers the following questions about the new module, Voice and Vision:
  • What is in this new archive?
  • Why did Gale digitise these particular collections?
  • Why have we called the new instalment Voice and Vision?
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