Working for a US-based company like Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, it is hard to escape the fanfare of nationwide ‘federal holidays’. Far more interesting – and, seemingly, more commonplace – than the various ‘bank holidays’ we have here in the UK, the US recognises eight official federal holidays. Yet when I noticed that Columbus Day was pencilled in on my email calendar for 10th October 2016, I was surprised to learn that it was not, in fact, considered one of those eight holidays. In 2013, just 24 states observed the holiday. A mark of the re-evaluation of Columbus’s influence upon America and, for many, the effects upon indigenous ways of life, Columbus Day is today a far more contested occasion than it once might have been. With January marking 524 years since Columbus was granted the funds to finally embark upon his first voyage, I was spurred to delve into Gale’s digital archival collections to see if I could detect a change in mood towards Columbus Day observance.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the East End of London was terrorised by a series of gruesome murders at the hands of the notorious ‘Jack the Ripper’. Ripper’s true identity was never discovered, and even though nearly 125 years have passed since his last attack his name still sends a shiver down the spine.
In August 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Highland army embarked on its journey across Scotland, marking the onset of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Determined to restore the Stuart monarchy to the throne, and severe the Union of 1707 which bound Scotland to Britain, the Prince led his Jacobite followers into battles across Scotland and the North of England. Replete with themes of individual heroism, and of the struggle of the few against the tyranny of the establishment, it is little wonder that the story of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ has come to acquire mythical status. 270 years on from what was effectively the beginning of the end of the Jacobite cause, I couldn’t resist delving into some of the original documents from our State Papers Online: Eighteenth Century resource, which gives us some clues as to why the rising – and the figure at its head – has become so romanticised.