The Art of Making Fireworks: a children’s guide

As we go into a second national lockdown and organised Bonfire Night displays across the country have been cancelled, I decided to have a look through the archives for any pretty images of fireworks or happy recollections of past celebrations. It was going to be light-hearted and cheerful post, but the collections here never fail …

Family and Local History

A University library and archive is not the first port of call for many family historians. Manuscripts & Special Collections has more resources than some, and you don’t need to be staff or student at the University to come and use them. Normally we would have a stall at the Local History & Archaeology Festival …

Victory in Europe Day

Today is Victory in Europe Day, marking the 75th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allies in World War II. Adolf Hitler had committed suicide on 30 April once it became clear that Germany’s military forces were on the brink of collapse. He was succeeded by Karl Dönitz, formerly the Supreme Commander of …

To the Moon! Descriptions of Lunar Travel in the Special Collections

In 1947 a University College Nottingham student wrote an article for student newspaper The Gongster called “Operation Lunar, or, Why go to the Moon?”.  The lunar voyage is imagined as a perilous affair with little hope of the intrepid explorer returning alive, due to cosmic ray intensity, the unknown effects of zero-gravity on the body, …

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

World Rabies Day takes place each year on September 28, the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur. Better known for developing the pasteurisation process, he was also involved with developing the first efficacious rabies vaccine. It’s not a disease that many people in the UK have reason to give much thought to, but roughly …

Remembering Hans

Today, 4 August, marks the 143rd anniversary of the death of Hans Christian Andersen, the prolific Danish author best remembered for his fairy stories, including The Little Mermaid, The Little Match Girl and The Ugly Duckling. Andersen was born in 1805, the only child of poor and uneducated parents who told him the family rumour …

Happy Birthday, NHS!

On 5th July 1948 the Secretary for Health Aneurin Bevan officially launched an ambitious new service: the National Health Service. At its core were three principles: That it meet the needs of everyone That it be free at the point of delivery That it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay At the …

Mum’s gone to Iceland

Famous for its harsh landscapes and heroic sagas, Iceland was a source of endless fascination for 19th century travellers. Many were sent on geological, botanical or other scientific expeditions. Ida Pfeiffer was different. Born in Vienna in 1797, she was bitten by the travel bug aged 5 when she accompanied her parents to Palestine and Egypt. Her father …

Smallpox

It has wiped out armies, killed Kings and Pharaohs, and devastated civilisations for at least 3000 (and possibly up to 10,000) years, yet the first written records mentioning smallpox only date back to 4th century China. Trade links and the expansion of empires probably brought the disease to Europe in the 7th century, and Europeans …

Scary Tales

In the words of her own grand-niece Rosalind Constable, Favell Lee Mortimer wrote “one of the most outspokenly sadistic children’s books ever written” [New Yorker, 1950 – subscription required], yet she topped the Victorian best-seller lists and was well-regarded as an educational author. Today is the 139th anniversary of her death, and the book referred …