Empire and Globalism

Industries, disco and diplomacy in Malaysia, 1980
06 April 2022

Foreign Office Files for South East Asia: Foundations of Economic Growth and Industrialisation, 1967-1980 - the latest addition to Adam Matthew Digital’s Archives Direct platform – features a broad selection of documents from the National Archives, UK relating to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. This collection can be used to chart substantial economic development across the region, and it’s no surprise that many files record visits made by monarchs, presidents, ministers and diplomats to all manner of enterprises – occasionally with some surprising details and asides.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot: Bermuda and the American Revolution
05 November 2021

“The Powder magazine, which in the dead of night of the 14th August was broke into […] the doors most audaciously and daringly forced open, at the great risk of their being blown up”. So wrote George James Bruere on the 17th August 1775 in his role the Governor of Bermuda at the height of the American War of Independence.

Enmity on board the Friendship: A tale of mutiny from Colonial Caribbean
13 September 2021

All my life, I have been drawn to stories of the sea. My grandfather’s bookshelf was lined with maritime histories, and I followed his lead to the best of my ability with bedtime tales of Captain Pugwash. My parents were scuba divers too, and a holiday wasn’t worth having if fifty per cent of it wasn’t spent in the water. It’s little wonder, then, that Colonial Caribbean captures my imagination the way it does – so many of the narratives in this vast and fascinating collection lead, in one way or another, to the ocean.

The Explorations of William Watts McNair
04 August 2021

Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan, 1834-1922: From Silk Road to Soviet Rule - the latest addition to Adam Matthew Digital’s Archives Direct platform - showcases a wealth of documents from the National Archives, UK relating to the “Great Game”, a struggle between the British and Russian Empires for political influence, territory, and trade in the region. Filed in one of the volumes digitised for this collection is a report concerning William Watts McNair's ‘Explorations in part of Eastern Afghanistan and Kafiristan', an exhaustive record of travels undertaken in 1883.

Isabella Bird: Explorer or Exploiter
14 July 2021

This guest blog was written by Edward Armston-Sheret, a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway’s Department of Geography. As part of the collaboration between the Royal Historical Society and Adam Matthew Digital, Ed, and a number of other early career researchers, were awarded a twelve-month subscription to Adam Matthew Digital’s collections of digital primary sources. Ed used Nineteenth Century Literary Society to access the material on Isabella Bird, such as the letters mentioned in the blog below:

Isabella Bird is remembered as a pioneering woman traveller. She went to and through every continent except Antarctica and wrote best-selling books on her journeys. Bird was also one of the first women admitted to the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in 1892. Studying her life and travels can draw attention to the often ignored role of women within Victorian geography. But there is a danger of ignoring the people who made her journeys possible.

'Of whiche londes & jles I schall speke more pleynly here after': The travels of Sir John Mandeville
28 May 2021

As covid restrictions are eased and thoughts turn, at least here in Britain, to travelling abroad, my own thoughts have turned to our digital collection Medieval Travel Writing, and to a mysterious globetrotter, or yarn-spinner, or both, about whom so much is contested that even his existence is a matter of debate – Sir John Mandeville.

“…the slumbering past”: Revisiting Franklin’s Lost Expedition
16 April 2021

Re-watching the excellent drama series The Terror, recently shown on BBC2, has inspired me to scour through Adam Matthew’s Age of Exploration resource once again for material on Arctic exploration and, in particular, on Franklin’s Lost Expedition of 1845. As I browsed through journals, drawings, maps, reports, personal correspondence, newspaper clippings and other treasures digitised from across the world, the following sources – all of which reveal parts of the lost expedition’s long and continuing narrative – particularly stood out...

Horses, mules, a buffalo and a King
10 November 2020

The fourth module of East India Company, Correspondence: Early Voyages, Formation and Conflict, released this week, showcases a vast quantity of archival material from Series E of the India Office Records held at the British Library. Documents relating developments in not only South Asia, but also Venice, Persia, Syria, China, Japan, Madagascar, Singapore and modern-day Indonesia (among other places) all feature. And alongside great developments in global history, we can also trace the stories of individuals whose paths crossed with those of the Company – mariners, traders, diplomats, soldiers, clerks and political operators.

Those magnificent men in their soaring machines? Early aviation in The Mechanical Engineer
17 April 2020

Published by the Scientific Publishing Company, Manchester, between 1897 and 1917, The Mechanical Engineer is a remarkable publication. Digitised for Business, Economic and Labour History, the latest of Adam Matthew’s Research Source resources, this weekly paper provided its readers with news on the latest developments in a wide range of industries, often accompanied by detailed technical drawings. One of the great developments of this era was the advent of powered flight, and the paper's coverage of pioneer aviators is truly fascinating.

27 March 2020

This month we are celebrating both Women’s History Month and Mothering Sunday here in the UK. In honour of these celebrations, I have decided to write this week’s Editor’s Choice Blog about Sojourner Truth, an African American abolitionist, women’s rights activist and brave and devoted mother, who defied the odds to become reunited with her son.

Defending the Enemy: John Adams and the Boston Massacre of 1770
28 February 2020

Next week marks the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, one of the key milestones on the road to the American Revolution.On the evening of 5th March 1770, in a snowy Boston, eight British soldiers led by Captain Thomas Preston confronted a crowd of Bostonians, who had gathered to protest outside the Custom House.

Meet Me at the Fair: A Christmas Controversy
20 December 2019

At Adam Matthew headquarters, the annual debate over what constitutes a Christmas film has been raging. Does it have to be Christmas throughout the narrative? Does Christmas have to be integral to the plot? Does Die Hard count? Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 musical Meet Me in St Louis is a personal favourite, but one that I have struggled to convince my Editorial colleagues is a bone fide Christmas classic, taking place as it does throughout a whole year, but featuring Judy Garland’s iconic and undeniable rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'.

Hope and Empire Building: Prester John and the Mongols
29 November 2019

Prester John, the fictional Asian Christian ruler, dwelt within the western medieval psyche for centuries and features heavily in Medieval Travel Writing. He is the subject of numerous letters and as an artistic subject of the period. How, when there was so little physical evidence for his existence, did his legend persist?

From the Great Exhibition to London Design Festival
20 September 2019

This week sees the opening of London Design Festival, an annual event ‘held to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world and as the gateway to the international creative community.’

From the Mayflower to Massachusetts Bay: Colonial America V
06 September 2019

On September 6th, 1620, a group of pilgrims left Plymouth aboard a ship called the Mayflower, bound for a new life in what was then the British colonies of America. Almost 400 years on from one of the most well-known events from America’s colonial beginnings, it feels fitting that, here at Adam Matthew, work on our long-running Colonial America resource has finally reached its conclusion with the publication of Module V: Growth, Trade and Development.

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