Dr Julia Irwin (USF) and Dr Marc-William Palen (Exeter)
The pandemic has raised important questions and challenges for historical research in both domestic and international archives, which graduate students of history feel particularly keenly. Stemming from this, we held an intensive one-week research workshop May 24-28 designed to assist graduate students at USF and Exeter in overcoming pandemic-related obstacles to archival research.
Participants joined in virtually from Austria, Italy, Germany, Exeter, and Tampa, FL. In addition to learning digital research strategies, this workshop provided students with an opportunity to participate in a virtual global exchange and to learn from renowned experts in their fields. At the end of the week, students who completed this workshop came away knowing: about the existence of many digital archives they can use for their research; how to think critically about these archives and their creation; how to navigate both online and in-person archives; and about the politics associated with funding and preserving the past. In consultation with Drs Irwin and Palen, students also developed concrete individualized research plans for their MA theses and PhD dissertations.
This workshop was supported by generous funding from USF World, the USF History Department, and Exeter’s College of Humanities and Global Partnerships.
Participants and Speakers
Convenors: Dr Julia Irwin (USF) and Dr Marc-William Palen (Exeter)
USF Graduate Student Participants: Patrick Horan; Tamala Malerk; Scott Miller; Alexander Obermueller; Sophia Paschero; Paula Peck; Doug Ponticos; Alaina Scapicchio; Ashley Wessel
Exeter Graduate Student Participants: Ken Clayton; Maria Teresa Marangoni; Iona Ramsay; Marlen von Reith
Speakers: Dr Richard Ward (Exeter); Dr Stacey Hynd (Exeter); Dr Darcie Fontaine (USF); Dr Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill, UK); Dr Matthew Connelly (Columbia University, NYC); Richard Immerman (Temple University, Philadelphia)
A good omen for the new year? It’s a pleasure to see that our post from late last year exploring a wonderful new digital map collection at Cornell Library was recently featured by Mimi Kirk over at the Atlantic‘s City Lab. Here’s a preview, in case you missed it:
When PJ Mode began to purchase old maps in the 1980s, he set out to amass a typical collection of world maps. But along the way, his attention turned to unusual maps that dealers weren’t sure how to categorize—those that attempted to persuade rather than convey geographic information.
“Most collectors looked down their noses at these maps because they didn’t technically consider them maps,” Mode says. “But they were fun and they were inexpensive, and over the years I became more interested in them than the old world maps.”
The interest has culminated in a collection of more than 800 “persuasive maps,” as they are now called, which can be found in digital form through Cornell University’s library. Mode has sorted them into themes, from imperialism to religion to slavery, many with meticulous notes about their history and meaning. One of the oldest, from a 1506 Italian manuscript, gives an overview of hell, while more recent acquisitions include a facetious 2012 New Yorker cover of the Second Avenue subway line.
Marc-William Palen, a University of Exeter history professor and author of The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade, recently came across the collection. “I got lost in it for days,” he says. Palen, who specializes in British and American imperialism, was particularly taken with an 1888 map depicting the trade policy platforms of the year’s presidential candidates, Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland and Republican Benjamin Harrison. While Cleveland and his party supported free trade, the Republicans’ platform was deeply protectionist.
In case you missed it (I was tweeting about it A LOT last week), Cornell Library’s Digital Collections have just made available an amazing archive – the PJ Mode Collection – consisting of around 800 political maps that should be on the radar of anyone working on imperial and global history. They. Are. Awesome.
Here’s a sampling.
‘The Whole Story in a Nutshell!’ (1888) – Here’s one of my favorites for a lot of reasons. To give it some context, the so-called Great Debate of 1888 (that year’s presidential election) was centered around the future of US trade policy. The GOP was staunchly protectionist and Anglophobic at this time, and they feared the perceived influence of ‘Free Trade England’ on US politics. British free traders (in particular London’s Cobden Club, featured on the bottom left), were the main targets of paranoid Republican protectionist propaganda. Democratic President Grover Cleveland only added to the conspiracy theories when he filled his cabinet and advisors with US members of the Cobden Club. The pro-Harrison map does a vivid job of illustrating the GOP’s economic nationalism in contrast to Democratic free trade. For more on this, my book, The ‘Conspiracy’ of Free Trade, explores the conspiratorial reception of British free-trade ideas in Gilded Age America.
What value do film culture sources have for historians of imperial history and how do we locate them? Readers of this forum (or at least those based in the UK) are likely to be familiar with the AHRC Colonial Film project but many key sources for the study of imperial film remain obscure to those outside film studies circles.
Media History Digital Library is perhaps the most useful resource for considering the culture of world cinema-going in the colonial era. Building on the resources of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a host of other collections, this site offers a range of film magazines from across the world as well as key pieces of government legislation.
It is that time of year again. The semester begins; students scramble to find digital archives for research papers; supervisors seek to steer them in the right direction. In contrast to a decade ago, online archival options are now overwhelming. To help wade through the sea of digital archives, over the past couple of years we have offered some suggestions for digital research in imperial and global history, included below. Any other new digital archives that those researching topics in imperial and global history might find useful? Continue reading “Digital Research Tips for Dissertations in Imperial & Global History”→
David Thackeray, Marc Palen and Richard Toye University of Exeter
As 3rd-year students scramble to finish their dissertations and as 2nd-year students begin formulating topics for their own, it’s worth noting the dramatic expansion in the availability of sources for the study of modern British and British imperial history in recent years.
Many of these sources are free to use. However, it is often hard to keep track of what materials are now available. What follows is a short guide (which is by no means comprehensive) but gives an introduction to some of the most important sources and may be of particular use to students planning dissertations, as well as other researchers. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the ‘comments’ section.
Mass Observation was a social investigation organisation set up in the 1930s that produced a range of social surveys about British life until its disbandment in the late 1940s. This website provides online access to a range of data held in the Mass Observation archive at the University of Sussex and is invaluable for social historians. Dr. Lucy Robinson has also produced the excellent Observing the 80s website, which holds material compiled following the modern revival of Mass Observation, as well as oral history recordings from the British Library.
Among the most frustrating experiences of my PhD were days spent scouring local newspapers at the ramshackle (and now closed) British Library Newspaper Reading Room at Colindale, and the inexplicably dark microfilm room at Cambridge University Library. Spending a few weeks working at the latter in the winter would provide good training for life at an Antarctic research base. With these experiences in mind I have been surprised at how large a part newspapers have played in my current research on the history of British trade identities in the UK and wider Empire/Commonwealth.
Recent years have seen a worldwide explosion in access to digitised newspapers, which obviously opens up a range of exciting new opportunities to researchers in imperial and global history. Having never previously conducted research in Australian archives, I was able to access thousands of articles from the National Library of Australia from the comfort of my home, significantly shaping both my post-doctoral funding application and the issues I was to explore in the archive itself. Yet the ever-growing range of newspaper material available also offers significant challenges to how we do research and train our students. Continue reading “The Global Challenges of Digital Newspapers”→