The Wacky World of Early Modern Patents

Harrison, Charles. "Farmers! Protect your Crops by Using 'Bink's Patent Futurist Scarecrow. ' Specially Designed by an Eminent Cubist. No Bird Has Ever Been Known to Go within Three Fields of It." Punch, July 17, 1918, 33. Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992

│By Ellen Grace Lesser, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

The famous wizarding twins Fred and George Weasley first introduced patents to me, explaining them to be the legal right granted to an inventor to prevent others from copying their invention. State Papers Online taught me that patents can be more than that: they are the official and legal conferring of a right or a title of any kind to anyone for a set period of time. In practice, this means that as long as a right or a title is temporarily conferred to a named entity (whether that be an individual person or a company) the right is a patent. It was interesting to discover that patents do not necessarily have to apply to inventions. While looking into the State Papers Online archive, I discovered many other kinds of patents as well as patents for inventions. From the contents of the patents to the physicality of the documents, I will share with you three of the patents I found in the archives and why each is interesting in a different way.

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Cultural Appropriation or Swiftian Satire? Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado

“The Mikado.” Illustrated London News, 4 Apr. 1885

| by Masaki Morisawa, Senior Product Manager, Library Reference, Tokyo |

Last year, an American high school student’s twitter account flamed up when she posted prom pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam, or Chinese dress. Some Asian Americans accused her, who is not of Chinese descent, of cultural appropriation. “My culture is NOT your [expletive] prom dress,” wrote one particularly upset commenter. Others, including many Asians living in Asia, defended her actions and dismissed such criticism as irrelevant.

While “cultural appropriation” is a fairly recent term, similar debates have arisen in the past where the borrowing of “exotic” elements from foreign cultures have been criticised as offensive or disrespectful. One such example is Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Mikado, a work that is often hailed as the duo’s masterpiece, yet at times has stirred controversy due to its use of Japanese costume and settings. In this post I would like to take a look at the history of Mikado performances and the controversies surrounding them.

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Escaping from Communist East Germany

│ By Stefanie Meinken, Gale Field Sales Executive, South-West Germany & Switzerland │

This year, 2019, is a year of anniversaries in twentieth-century German history. Not only is the Federal Republic of Germany celebrating its 70th birthday, former East Germany – officially known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) –– was also founded 70 years ago, on 7th October 1949. The latter anniversary might spark divergent emotions; the period of the GDR’s existence is often seen as a time of suppression and uncertainty. The end of this period also has a significant anniversary this year: it is 30 years since the fall of the Berlin wall on 9th November 1989.

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Turbulent Times: A look back on the European Community Membership Referendum of 1975

"European Community." Times, 7 Oct. 1975, p. IV+. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 27 Jan. 2019

By James Garbett, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter
I’m a third-year English student at the University of Exeter. I’m a huge fan of all things film, theatre and journalism, whilst also continuing to examine the changing forms of masculinity within Gender Studies. When not attempting to play drums, you can find me interviewing various individuals of the music and film world and working for the student newspaper, radio and television station.

As the situation regarding Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union continues to unfold, it’s intriguing to glance back several decades, to when Britain had just entered the European Economic Community in 1973 under the Conservative government. The question poised to the public in 1975 – whether or not to withdraw – was the first national referendum ever held throughout the entire United Kingdom. It’s fascinating to note the parallels between these two distinctive times in British history using Gale Primary Sources such as The Times and The Daily Mail archives.

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