World History


Jallianwala Bagh: A Landmark in the Struggle for Freedom

In February 2013, British Prime Minster David Cameron laid a wreath in Amritsar, India, the site of a bloody crackdown by British troops against pro-independence protesters in 1919. The British attack left more than 1,000 Indian civilians dead. At the recent wreath-laying ceremony, Cameron wrote in the visitors’ book:

 

This was a deeply shameful event in British history—one that Winston Churchill rightly described at that time as ‘monstrous’. We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering, we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world.

Known today as the “Amritsar Massacre,” the violent crackdown is widely viewed by historians as a key turning point towards India’s eventual independence from ruling Britain. This pivotal event is covered extensively in the native Indian and British Raj newspapers found in South Asian Newspapers, 1864-1922, a module in the digital World Newspaper Archive created in partnership between Readex and the Center for Research Libraries.

Jallianwala Bagh: A Landmark in the Struggle for Freedom

“Traveling Where the Air Is Like Wine”: The American Story of a White Buddhist Monk

One of the pleasures of using America’s Historical Newspapers is the ability to come across remarkable yet little known individuals like Theos Bernard. This Arizona native and Columbia University student went to India and Tibet in the 1930s to learn Tantric Yoga. 

The earliest newspaper article found to mention him begins:

"Across a gale-swept pass, 18,000 feet high in the Himalayas' perpetual snows, an Arizonian is struggling to bring out on the backs of yaks and 100 mules what he believes to be one of the world’s most precious cargoes.”

“Traveling Where the Air Is Like Wine”: The American Story of a White Buddhist Monk

Afro-Americana Imprints—Now available for institutional trial

The digital edition of one of the world's preeminent collections for African American studies is now available for institutional trial. Created from the Library Company of Philadephia’s acclaimed Afro-Americana Collection—an accumulation that began with Benjamin Franklin and steadily increased throughout its entire history—this unique online resource will provide researchers with more than 12,000 printed works. These books, pamphlets, and broadsides, including many lesser-known imprints, hold a matchless record of African American history, literature, and culture. This long-awaited collection spans nearly 400 years, from the early 16th to the early 20th centuries. Critically important subjects covered include the discovery and exploitation of Africa by the West; the rise of slavery in the New World along with the growth and success of abolitionist movements; the development of racial thought and racism; descriptions of African American life throughout the Americas; slavery and race in fiction and drama; and many others.
Afro-Americana Imprints—Now available for institutional trial

Slavery in Brazil: A Few Examples from Historical Newspapers

According to purehistory.org, Brazil was one of the world’s largest importers of African slaves, obtaining approximately one-third of the slaves taken from Africa during the Atlantic slave trade. It is estimated that more than three million Africans were sent to Brazil as slaves, a far higher number than were imported into North America.¹ As the number of Africans forced to farm cotton and sugar plantations grew from the 16th to the 19th century, the Brazilian economy became highly dependent on slave labor. Even after obtaining independence from Portugal in 1822, Brazil resisted the U.K.-led anti-slavery movement.²
Slavery in Brazil: A Few Examples from Historical Newspapers

Hitler’s Secret Mistress

Eva Braun (1912-1945)

In his recent review of Heike Görtemaker’s new book Eva Braun: Life with Hitler (New York Review of Books, Vol. 59, No. 7, Apr. 26, 2012), British historian Antony Beevor writes:
Although the American press had strong inklings of Hitler’s relationship with Eva Braun as early as May 1939, in Germany only Hitler’s intimate circle knew of her existence. (p. 26)

Springfield Daily Republican (Dec. 31, 1937). Source: American Newspaper Archives.

Hitler’s Secret Mistress

Freedom of Movement: The Shocking Life of Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan (May 27, 1877 - September 14, 1927). Image from America's Historical Newspapers

Isadora Duncan was dance-struck as a young child in San Francisco. By the time she was six, she was teaching neighborhood children how to move like ocean waves. The strict rules of ballet and conventions of the music hall never held her interest. Indeed, throughout her life as a dancer and teacher, she rebelled against the forms and costumes of traditional dance, preferring movements based on nature and emotion. In 1895, still a teenager, she moved to Chicago and joined the Augustin Daly Company, touring from the Midwest to New York to London. While in London, she also danced solo performances at society events.

Freedom of Movement: The Shocking Life of Isadora Duncan

Hoochie Coochie: The Lure of the Forbidden Belly Dance in Victorian America

“It was downright indecent.  I saw women go out after the creatures had begun what they call their dance.  I did not stay it through. I just couldn’t.”1

(A woman’s indignant account of her visit to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893)

From America's Historical Newspapers

Danse du ventre, oriental dance, the hoochie coochie, coochie coochie, muscle dance, or better known to us as belly dance, was almost unknown in the United States until 1893 when brightly colored dancers dressed in exotic garb from the Middle East appeared at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Their dancing both fascinated and scandalized Victorians.  The Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, commemorated the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World.  It was the first world’s fair with an area of amusements set aside from exhibitions.  This area was known as the Midway Plaisance.  One of the most popular attractions on the Midway was “A Street in Cairo,” where the dancers performed.  Over 27 million people attended the Exposition during its six-month run.2 "The Streets of Cairo” was one of its more memorable attractions for many visitors, as well as one of its most controversial. Victorian visitors often viewed the dancers, now identified from the published descriptions of their costumes as gypsy ghawazi from Egypt3, with a mixture of fascination, amusement and moralistic revulsion:

Hoochie Coochie: The Lure of the Forbidden Belly Dance in Victorian America

Surviving the Titanic: The Stories Behind the Story

No novelist would dare to picture such an array of beautiful climatic conditions—the rosy dawn, the morning star, the moon on the horizon, the sea stretching in level beauty to the skyline—and on this sea to place an ice-field like the Arctic regions and icebergs in numbers everywhere—white and turning pink and deadly cold,—and near them, rowing round the icebergs to avoid them, little boats coming suddenly out of the mid-ocean, with passengers rescued from the most wonderful ship the world has known. 

—Lawrence Beesley, The Loss of the S.S. Titanic (June 1912)

The Titanic. Source: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

Surviving the Titanic: The Stories Behind the Story

Just published — The Readex Report: April 2012

In our latest issue: The exonerated executioner of a Native American sorceress; profiling a polymathic chess master; using a local newspaper archive to uncover an American city's past; and unremembered inhumanity that sparked a world war.
Murder! Or the Remarkable Trial of Tommy Jemmy, 19th-Century Seneca Witch-Hunter and Defender of Indian Sovereignty By Matthew Dennis, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon I never read murder and mayhem stories in the newspaper.  Such sensationalist accounts have been a mainstay of the U.S. popular press since it was invented in the early American republic, and they remain a prominent feature today.  But the tawdry details of homicidal doings, breathlessly recounted, hold little appeal for me.  And yet a few years ago one such story caught my eye and drew me in, sending me on my own investigative journey. (read article)
Just published — The Readex Report: April 2012

Location, location, location!

Nothing says “home” quite like a map of Alaska and adjacent lands shown as Russian and British territory—with annotations in French! 

“Map showing Russian territory of Alaska and coastline of western Canada. Alaskan Boundary Tribunal” (1903). Source: U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Readex

Location, location, location!

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