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Period dramas and historical accuracy: “Mad Men”

by Florence Largillière

As the first part of the last season of Mad Men comes to an end, it seemed a good opportunity to reflect on my interest for period dramas and historical fictions. For an historian, watching period TV shows and films can sometimes be irritating. Even though I know that they are not academic works and that they do not necessarily aim to perfectly depict history, I more than once find myself grumbling at my screen (yes, I am looking at you, Downton Abbey!). However, from Boardwalk Empire to Ripper Street via, obviously, Mad Men, there are many quality period dramas which, while taking a few liberties with the stories of existing individuals, give the essence of what life looked like for a certain population at a certain time.

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Cultural Memory and the Finnish Civil War

by Tiia Sahrakorpi

“Why are Finnish people constantly discussing World War II?” The Second World War is brought up by many elderly Finns in interviews concerning Russia’s actions today in relation to Finland. World War II still forms an important part of Finnish cultural memory and self-identification. However, the Finnish Civil War of 1918 does not have a part in the national narrative that I have heard from my own family. Why didn’t my family discuss it more openly, I contemplated recently. As a historian, I wondered: what impact does this narrative have on Finnish society?

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HHhH by Laurent Binet (English Translation by Sam Taylor, 2012)

By Emily Ward

In the beginning of his historical novel, Laurent Binet warns the reader with a quote from Osip Mandelstam, “Once again, the writer stains the tree of History with his thoughts”. Yet, despite commencing his book with this ominous forewarning, Binet leaps straight into the fray to attempt to combine the composition of a novel with the approach of historical writing. And (in my opinion) he succeeds with style. Read more

Five Do’s and Don’ts for Using Digital Newspapers

By Nathaniel Zelinsky

Nathaniel Zelinsky is an MPhil student in Historical Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Digitized newspaper databases are an increasingly popular resource for young students of history. It is easy to understand their appeal to the “Google” generation: from the comfort of your own bedroom, you can access countless primary sources without going to a library. I personally use a lot of digitized newspapers in my MPhil thesis on Second World War propaganda. Unfortunately, I think too many professors, especially older ones, often point their students to newspaper databases without much practical advice.

This post contains my top five “do’s” and “don’ts” for first time users of digitized newspapers. This advice might be especially helpful for undergraduates or even high school students. Read more

The Media in History and History in the Media, 20th-21st March 2014 (Part 2)

by Alex Campsie

Alex Campsie is a PhD student in modern British political and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge.

The first half of the conference (read Part 1 here), stylishly opened by Professor David Reynolds and the able presenters of panel one, raised a number of important questions for further discussion. What are the media processes which enable cultural formation and the diffusion of information? Who can claim to control the means of cultural production? In what ways have instruments of the media been used and abused throughout history? And how our modes of communicating with each other changed across the centuries?

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The Media in History and History in the Media Conference, 20th-21st March 2014 (Part 1)

by Alex Campsie

Alex Campsie is a PhD student in modern British political and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge.

Last month saw Cambridge host an inaugural ‘European Graduate Conference’ on the broad theme of ‘History and the Media’. Like its sister event (entitled ‘History and the Law’), the project was generously funded by the History Faculty with the very worthy aim of bringing together young researchers from across Europe to discuss their work. Our natty palindromic title hoped to attract both discussions of the role the media has played within history, and meditations on how new medias may be impacting our contemporary practice of the discipline.

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