The Wrath of Mountains: Explaining Volcanic Eruptions from the Late Eighteenth Century to the Modern Day

“The Straits of Sunda: Terrible Volcanic Eruption.” Illustrated London News, 8 Sept. 1883, p. 229. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003

By Amelie Bonney, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford

On December 9, 2019, the deadly volcanic eruption of Mount Whakaari in New Zealand sparked new discussions over risk assessment in volcanic regions. While sudden volcanic eruptions make it difficult for scientists to assess risks in such areas, the belief that eruptions can be predicted thanks to science also leads to increasingly hazardous activities such as tourism in dangerous volcanic regions. How and why have humans become so intrepid when it comes to volcanoes?

The Gale Primary Sources archives provide not only newspaper articles but also a range of valuable monographs and visual sources, ranging from drawings to photographs, which allow us to investigate how our understanding and perception of volcanic eruptions has changed over the last few centuries. The sources demonstrate that the scientific community’s investigations led to the emergence of new understandings of dangerous volcanic eruptions from the late eighteenth century onwards. Paradoxically, scientific explanations of volcanic eruptions created a heightened sense of danger but also led to an increase in risk-taking behaviour.

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“Even the Sacramental Cup Was Not Exempt from Adulteration” – The Hazards of Drinking an Old Bottle of Claret

│By Amelie Bonney, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

Have you recently enjoyed a special, vintage bottle of wine to celebrate the New Year with your family or friends? You might be surprised to learn that such celebrations might have been quite dangerous during the nineteenth century. Expecting the crimson-coloured beverage to enrapture their senses and coat their tongue in luscious flavours of dried blackberry, leather and tobacco, wine aficionados were often far from suspecting that this elixir could easily turn out to be a cheap, dyed, falsified drink, or worse – deadly poison. In an age where strict regulations exist to control food and beverage adulteration, such hazardous dyes are no longer used, but delving into Gale’s Historic Newspapers allows us to better understand how such dangerous adulteration was allowed to occur during the nineteenth century.

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Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld – A Great Arctic Explorer of the Nineteenth Century

By Pauli Kettunen, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki
I am a second-year student in a programme ambitiously titled ‘Society and Change’ – there is not enough space to describe it here, if you had started wondering! At the university, my main interests are in Political History, in addition to all the other things concerning the History of Civil Society. In my free time I like cooking, reading, exercising, complaining about politics, and gaming. My latest addiction is reading science fiction by Alastair Reynolds.

One hundred and forty years ago, the world was speculating about the survival of a significant arctic exploration party. One can read, for example this article in The Western Daily Press, one of the periodicals included in Gale’s British Library Newspapers. With Professor Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld leading the expedition, the steamer Vega had departed on August 27th, 1878 for the Northeast Passage, the shipping route to the Pacific Ocean along the Arctic Ocean coasts of Norway and Russia. As radio technology had not yet been developed, there were no means for the press to get in touch with Nordenskiöld and his crew. In the reporter’s words, “More than seven and a-half months have…now elapsed and nothing more has been heard of him.” Nevertheless, the newspaper firmly believed that the expedition would be safe, possibly having stopped to spend the winter at “the sheltered bay of Kulynchinska.” Without faster means to confirm this, organisations that had invested in Nordenskiöld’s expedition, or were otherwise interested in the Northeast Passage, were planning to send out search parties to look for the Vega.

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Double, double, toil and trouble Witchcraft methodology in nineteenth-century Britain and the U.S.

│By André Buller, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth │

Ideas of sorcery, witchcraft and incantations have persisted in intriguing me throughout my years of study. The ways in which the supernatural arose and manifested alongside historical events has always fascinated me, and consequently I’ve found myself studying subjects that considered the mystical in both the literary and historical units of my degree. The topics I’ve studied in these classes have ranged as widely as manifestations of the supernatural have in the past. One week I’d study the seventeenth century, witch-hunts of Salem and the pursuits of Matthew Hopkins, but by the next week be focusing on the rise of Occultism.

Read moreDouble, double, toil and trouble Witchcraft methodology in nineteenth-century Britain and the U.S.

Valentine’s Day for the Broken Hearted

By Maya Thomas, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford

The weather is cold and grey, but the shops are ablaze with red hearts, sparkly roses and giant teddy bears holding signs reading “I love you”: Valentine’s Day is upon us yet again. Whether you love or hate this centuries-old festival, it cannot be denied that the love it celebrates certainly deserves a day of its own. After all, from Helen of Troy to Tinder, the literary-minded (read: soppy) historian might argue that love, with all its greatness and tragedy, has inspired the culture, art and even politics that have propelled our human story onward.

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The road to American Independence

By Carolyn Beckford, Gale Product Trainer
Carolyn joined Gale in 2015 after working in US higher education. She likes working for Gale because it’s an opportunity to stay connected to higher education and support faculty and students with quality research content. When not visiting university libraries or delving into the Gale archives, she likes playing tennis and visiting historic English castles and estates.

Every July 4th I send holiday greetings to my friends and family in the USA and they always say, “same to you”. I remind them that July 4th isn’t a holiday in the UK. As an educator, I relish the opportunity to highlight and explain why American Independence is not celebrated with euphoria in the UK as it is in America.

We can see from the map below, found in Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers, that the territory under British rule was once immense and spanned the globe, leading to the well-known quote that Britain had “the empire on which the sun never sets.” The British colonisation of the Americas began in 1607 and before long, colonies had been established throughout the Americas.

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‘The Very Latest Craze’ Slumming Parties in the Late-Nineteenth Century

By Megan Murphy, Gale Ambassador at the University of Liverpool
I’m a third year History student at the University of Liverpool, a Gale Student Ambassador, and a self-proclaimed Jane Austen fanatic. As a modern historian, my main research interests revolve around the development of Victorian cities – particularly the crime and deviance that took place within them. Outside of my studies, in the rare time I spend without my head in a nineteenth-century newspaper, I specialise in binge-watching Louis Theroux documentaries.

During the mid-nineteenth century, slums in the world’s largest metropolises (namely London and New York) became a site of continuous fascination. From Henry Mayhew’s famous ‘Labour and the Poor’ series in The Morning Chronicle, to Jacob Riis’ book length study ‘How the Other Half Live’, social commentators in both Britain and the US were captivating the minds of middle class society with their investigations into the living conditions of the urban poor. Yet what is perhaps most interesting about this fascination is the social phenomenon of ‘slumming parties’ which resulted. This phenomenon was readily reported on within the pages of both the British and US press, which I have been able to investigate through the British Library Newspapers and Nineteenth Century US Newspapers archives inside of Gale Primary Sources.

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The Top Ten Most Random Articles Found, Using Gale Primary Sources

By Tiria Barnes

I am currently a third-year History student at the University of Liverpool, hoping to graduate with an extensive knowledge of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and good quality banter. When I’m not in the library plugging Gale’s amazing resources, I am usually in a hipster independent coffee shop sipping on a cheeky chai latte. Some of my passions include Jesus, street dance, and charity shops.

For this contribution to The Gale Review, I challenged myself to find the 10 most random sources I could in Gale Primary Sources. Armed with a cup of tea and the potential for banter I began to search, hoping to find some gems. I can safely say I was not disappointed!

Read moreThe Top Ten Most Random Articles Found, Using Gale Primary Sources