The Importance of Archives – Preserving the Past and Contextualising the Present

Finnish National Archives

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

Historian Jo Tollebeek once wrote that increasing “scientification” of history at the end of the nineteenth century produced a new kind of archival-fantasy: a belief that all relevant documents from the past could be gathered. Nowadays it is vital to comprehend and take into account the diversity of an archive. Every archive is bound not only to its history and context but also the demands of the current era. At the end of the day, an archive is in of itself an intellectual problem and a cultural artefact to be studied. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis has also made the important point that, even though the world of archives has encountered many changes, the most important aspect is still the same: when you read documents in an archive you have a physical link to the past in front of you that connects you to people long dead and strengthens the researchers attempt to tell about the past as honestly as possible.1

Read more

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?

Read more

How to Survive in the Jungle of Academia? Top Tips for University Freshers

Student on university campus

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

Starting your first week of university can undoubtedly feel daunting. When I think back to my first week at the University of Helsinki, I remember feeling overwhelmed by this strange new world I had thrown myself into. For many students, starting university means starting an entirely new chapter in their lives. Like me, you might not know anyone from your faculty, and you might be living in a completely unfamiliar city as well. University also requires an entirely different level of independence than your previous scholarly pursuits; there’s no one looking over your shoulder to make sure your work gets done on time – you and you alone are responsible for your studies. In this blog post I will detail a few tips and tricks I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my university studies and provide some general advice on how to make the most of university!

Read more

From Yellow Journalism to Internet Echo Chambers – Exploring the History of “Fake News”

Editorial cartoon by Leon Barritt, 1898. Newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst dressed as the Yellow Kid (a popular cartoon character of the day), each pushing against opposite sides of a pillar of wooden blocks that spells WAR

│By Juha Hemanus, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

We’ve all heard references to “fake news” and “alternative truths,” particularly in recent years. There have also been more in-depth analyses of the “post-truth time” and the “end of truth”. Examining the motives of those who generate “fake news” stories – and the motives of those who claim that a story is fake – is fascinating. This intriguing phenomenon also has an interesting past, with countless examples of “fake news” throughout history. Indeed, a previous ambassador at the University of Helsinki, Pauli, explained that fake news has had alternative names in history, such as “erroneous reporting”. In this blog post, I will look a little further into history to consider questions such as: Where did the fake news phenomenon come from? Under what circumstances was it born? What is it intended for and what has been accomplished by false claims about actual events?

Read more

History Lecturer uses Gale Primary Sources to Research Spanish National Pride

Lady with pig and joints of ham

│By Pauli Kettunen, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

As I have previously emphasised here on The Gale Review, students have much to gain from using primary source archives. And not just for minor assignments – in this post Lily Deans from the University of Birmingham explained how she used Gale Primary Sources in her final-year dissertation. Developing on this, I now want to spotlight how Gale Primary Sources is extensively used by our lecturers as well – it really is bona fide research material! In this post, I interview Alejandro Gómez del Moral, Ph.D., a University Lecturer of Economic and Social History at the University of Helsinki.  He is using Gale Primary Sources in his current research project and was willing to share his thoughts with me. Due to the pandemic, we had our discussion on a video call, and Gómez del Moral was quick to mention how glad he was that these digital sources are still available for his research while many physical locations are closed.

Read more

A Peep into Finnish War History with Gale Primary Sources

Montage of newspaper articles about Finland War History

│by Lotta Vuorio, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

The current circumstances caused by the global pandemic have highlighted the importance of digital primary sources. In Helsinki, the university library has (in large part) physically shut its doors, but luckily there is a great deal of primary source material available in, for example, the digital collections of the National Library of Finland, and the Helsinki University Library also offers students and staff numerous digital collections which include several Gale Primary Sources archives. Gale Primary Sources is a treasure trove where one can find sources for various types of research.

One might initially think Gale Primary Sources is most suitable for research focusing on Great Britain or America, since the collections seem mostly focused on those areas. However, I wanted to find out if the platform could also be helpful when studying Finnish history! What I found, in short, was a highly interesting peephole into Finnish War History before the Second World War. I have not specialised in Finnish nor War History in my own research, but I was curious to examine coverage of Finland, and Helsinki especially. So, let’s see the results of my brief exploration!

Read more

“When is a Woman…?” Exploring Cultural Expectations of Women Advocated in Historical Newspapers

Montage of snippets from newspapers considering "when is a woman...?"

by Lotta Vuorio, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki

When I was preparing to deliver my first presentation as a Gale Ambassador, I ran into an interesting article called “When Woman is Not Graceful” in Gale’s Nineteenth Century Collections Online. The article was published in a newspaper called The Christian Recorder in 1895, and it portrays some of the “conditions under which she (a woman) manages to look absurd” – at least in the opinion of the anonymous writer. The article appears as an opinion piece by Graphic London and it expresses outspokenly all the descriptions connected to the stereotype of women who move clumsily. It says, “Few women can enter a carriage, mount the steps of a coach or hurry into a hansom gracefully, while the spectacle of a woman getting into a boat is far from pleasing”.  The vast petticoats common in the nineteenth century and their effects on the ability of women to move are mentioned and criticised, and the writer finishes his piece by indicating the true form of grace: “A woman is only really graceful when she is at rest, lolling in a carriage or sitting in a drawing room or else dancing, when she has the genius for it.” I wanted to find this article again and began searching the Gale Primary Sources database. In doing so I came across many more newspaper articles with a heading that begins “When is a Woman…”. As I browsed through them I became intrigued, curious about the way articles in different newspapers described what was acceptable and admired in the appearance and behaviour of women. Below are some of the most fascinating examples I found.

Read more

Surprises in the History of Men’s Euro Football

"Football Euro 2004." Times, 23 June 2004

│ by Lotta Vuorio, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki │

From a sport seen as unfit for physical education and women, to a sport for everyone – regardless of gender, class or nationality. That sport is football, and as the last rounds of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers are being played 14th – 19th of November, it seemed an apt time to share with you what Gale Primary Sources has to offer when it comes to the history of football and the European Championship.

Read more

Why Use Primary Sources?

archive shelves

│by Pauli Kettunen, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

Is the picture above what comes to mind when you think of an archive? Do you believe that, to find any useful information, you must spend weeks between the shelves without seeing daylight?! If so, I have good news for you – Gale Primary Sources has updated archival research to the twenty first century! You no longer have to plough through library catalogues or rummage in endless boxes to find material relevant to your research – you can do so in seconds by running a text search, just like when googling.

Read more