The Editor's Choice

Welcome to the blog of the editorial team at Adam Matthew Digital. Here we will bring you snippets from the fascinating collections we have the privilege of handling on a daily basis, as well as posts about our travels to various archives and conferences across the world.

Also featured are special guest blogs by leading academics on their personal collection highlights. Please subscribe to recieve new blog posts direct to your inbox.

The Rector of Stiffkey: Life as a sideshow
16 December 2015

In 1960 the anthropologist Tom Harrisson returned from Borneo to Blackpool, where 23 years earlier he had directed survey work for Mass Observation. His stay was recorded in the MO book Britain Revisited, which took a shapshot of contemporary British life and compared it to what the ‘mass observers’ had seen and heard in 1937. Much in post-war Blackpool, Harrisson found, was as it had been, but the entertainments on the seafront had changed.

Robert E. Lee’s condolence letter to his son Rooney, 1864: A Special Guest Blog by Sandra Trenholm
16 December 2015

In this beautifully written letter, Confederate general Robert E. Lee attempts to console his son William Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee on the loss of his wife. The letter demonstrates the emotion that Lee felt for his family and offers a glimpse of the strength that carried Lee through the war. His faith in God, his empathy for others’ misfortunes, and his belief in the Confederate cause, all granted Lee the fortitude he needed to endure the war. One can see all of these attributes in this single, short missive.

‘My Dear Old Basil’: Letters from a Shell-Shocked Soldier
04 December 2015

The 4th December marks the anniversary of the publication of a paper entitled ‘The Repression of War Experience’, presented to the Royal School of Medicine in 1917 by W. H. Rivers. Rivers was a psychiatrist and neurologist, mostly known for his work with soldiers suffering from shell-shock, both during and following World War I. His paper advocated the best course of treatment for sufferers of shell-shock was for them to face their painful memories, rather than adopting an ‘ostrich-like policy of attempting to banish them from the mind.’

Mother Goose – The Evolution of a Classic Christmas Pantomime
03 December 2015
This winter season, many of us will head off to the theatre to find some festive cheer at a Christmas pantomime. Looking for some Christmas cheer myself, I was delighted to come across a copy of, ‘Harlequin and Mother Goose; or, The Golden Egg, Airs, Chorusses, &c., in’ whilst working on our upcoming project Eighteenth Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage. This pantomime by Thomas Dibdin and Charles Farley was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre on Boxing Day, 26th December, 1806. It was a huge success, running for ninety two nights and has long since become a quintessential Christmas classic.
The perils of ‘Christmas Cookery’
02 December 2015
With the Christmas tree arriving later this week and Secret Santa getting well under way in the Adam Matthew office it seems a fitting time to share a little a snippet of festive fun that I stumbled across recently exploring our London Low Life collection. Whilst Paul Pry’s 1838 text, Oddities of London Life may be considered in many ways archetypal of the satirical social commentaries of the 19th century lower classes that run throughout this collection, William Heath’s highly amusing account of a “Christmas Cookery” is a personal highlight that I felt both too amusing and aptly named to not share.
Mark Twain's Benevolence
26 November 2015
With the 180th anniversary of his birth approaching, it might be an apt time to present a different side to the acerbic wit we associate with one of America’s best-loved writers through a letter that can be found in American History, 1493-1945: From the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. It is also a letter which alludes to the United States’ post-American Civil War racial settlement and the legacy of that conflict.
An Alternative View of Thanksgiving
24 November 2015

Alongside turkey lies other Thanksgiving traditions that many Americans hold dear which are distinctly products of the “New World,” such as cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and our brand of football, each of which have impressively old historical roots in their own rights. It is a day in which we are all meant to reflect on the bountiful supplies of food and material wealth of our nation.

20 November 2015

Before the close of the Nuremberg trials in October 1946, the Mass Observation team sent out a number of directives asking the public’s opinion on the trials of the Nazi war criminals. The primary response was that they were a waste of time, a waste of tax payer’s money and the verdict a foregone conclusion. The thought process was that these men were guilty, and would be found so, and that the simplest, and cheapest option, would have been to shoot them on the spot (though some had some more brutal ideas).

Walt and the world's fair: dreaming up a Disney delight
13 November 2015

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts are known the world over for exciting children and adults alike, providing a backdrop for new technology, unparalleled entertainment and constant innovation. Sounds familiar? Ever since the Great Exhibition in 1851, world’s fairs have inspired others, and in the twentieth century the marriage of Walt Disney’s mind to the splendor of the fairs was to prove a winning combination.

Armistice Day 1937: a special Guest Blog by Fiona Courage
10 November 2015

I cannot buy a poppy, for I have not got a penny. Not so rich. 11 o’clock, what an unearthly silence. My thoughts are upon my little children in school, their heads will be bowed in reverence to our beloved dead. It is all very sad for the relatives of the fallen, for it seems a pity to keep on reopening an old wound, causing a heartache. I don’t think any body really wishes to remember the war and its horrors. I am thinking about my child’s wet feet, hoping that her leaking shoe will not soak her foot. Wet feet mean bronchitis for her, unless I can stop it with my favourite medicine.

AJEX: British Jewry and Wartime Commemoration
06 November 2015

At the stroke of 11am this Sunday, individuals across Britain, including present day soldiers, veterans and their families, will observe a minute silence to remember the sacrifices of members of the British armed forces and of civilians in times of war. Among them will be members of AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, which, as its name suggests, is made up of British-Jewish men and women who once served in the British Armed Forces. With a current membership of approximately 4,000 people, AJEX has a long and interesting history spanning over ninety years.

Secrets, Spies and the Spectre of Scandal
30 October 2015

New details emerged last week of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, two civil servants who acted as Soviet spies from the 1930s up until their defection to Moscow in 1951. The reaction to their flight behind the Iron Curtain can be traced in documents from the National Archives in Adam Matthew’s Confidential Print: North America resource.

The Haunted Swing: something wicked this way rotates...
28 October 2015

With Halloween only days away it’s once again time to dust off the face paints, shine-up the vampire fangs and artistically destroy a pumpkin. To get into the “horror” of things, I began delving through some of our resources to find something suitably ghoulish from the vestiges of history. My search lead me unexpectedly to a photogravure of an amusement ride called the 'The Haunted Swing' within a souvenir album from San Francisco’s California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894.

The Kill or the Cure: how trade and science changed perceptions of medicinal drugs
26 October 2015

Before the advances in science and trade networks during the nineteenth century, our ancestors, in their isolated communities, had to make sense of the natural world through trial and error. Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900 documents how physicians used their traditional knowledge of plants and human anatomy to treat ailments, and how they gradually incorporated new ideas and techniques into their cures as science and increased global interaction expanded their understanding.

ATALM and the Revitalisation of Indigenous Languages
22 October 2015

On a recent research trip I was lucky enough to attend the International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums held by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM). Situated in Washington DC this year and hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the conference was an opportunity for library, museum and archival staff, together with individuals and groups from a number of different fields, to discuss and share experiences in an important effort to develop and refine goals for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations and communities.

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