Heritage & Creativity

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Trump began his presidency with a fairly traditional American approach to relations with East Asia – but then came his erratic decision in March to meet with Kim Jong-un. US Modern History specialist Mara Oliva explores the US-East Asian geopolitical situation over the past few months in a recent post for The Conversation.

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), supports parliamentarians by providing concise up-do-date reviews on topics that are likely to be debated in parliament in the coming months. POST, which also covers the social sciences, has put out an open call for academic researchers to contribute to policy reviews on a range of topics.  Find out which topics will be covered and submit your research evidence to help inform parliamentary debate.

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Millions of Zimbabweans watched their new president Emmerson Mnangagwa deliver his inauguration speech on Sunday 26 August, and outline the plans for his ‘Second Republic’. Dr Heike Schmidt, Associate Professor of Modern African History, was watching closely to identify some of the problems with his proposals, and ponder just what hope there is for a truly democratic Zimbabwe under his rule.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa

As expected, the inauguration of Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa was regulated by protocol.

Much attention was given, as always, to the military. Yet the pageantry and the speeches were an intriguing performance of power that sets the president and the party that has ruled the country since its independence in 1980, ZANU-PF, on a path that promises both continuity and change that will affect every Zimbabwean. Read the rest of this entry »

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As ZANU-PF celebrate election victory in Zimbabwe once again, Modern African Historian Dr Heike Schmidt says there was never any doubt over the outcome, despite the opposition’s legal challenge to the election results.

According to reports from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, the government started preparations for the presidential inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa hours before the Constitutional Court read its verdict on the opposition’s challenge to the August 2018 presidential election results.

That the court ruled in favour of Mnangagwa rather than to declare the elections flawed and to call for new elections within sixty days comes as no surprise to a nation that since 1980 has known only one ruling party, ZANU-PF.

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Reading’s Professor Rosa Freedman and Professor Aoife O’Donoghue of Durham University consider the legacy of the late former UN Secretary-General  in a new post for The Conversation.

The passing of Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been met with tributes from all around the world. His home country, Ghana, declared a week of national mourning.

Annan rose through the ranks of the UN to become the first black African to head the organisation, and his many achievements are rightly being celebrated. Under his tenure, human rights and development were put at the forefront of all UN work, ensuring that the organisation focused on all people in all parts of our global society. Courageously, he was also the first UN Secretary-General to recognise and condemn the UN’s disproportionate focus on Israel as a human rights violator compared to many other similar or worse offenders.

It is also right to remember that on his watch, the UN’s reputation was tarnished by two of its worst stains. He was head of UN peacekeeping at the time when genocides were perpetrated in Rwanda and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia while UN peacekeepers stood by and did nothing, and he was in charge of the UN during the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq.

But as a whole, Annan’s life and work will nonetheless be celebrated for a long time to come.

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Today Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court is hearing an opposition petition seeking to overturn the presidential election result. In a post for The Conversation published yesterday, Professor Heike Schmidt looked at the state of Zimbabwe ahead of the ruling – and concludes that it is under too little pressure to change.

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Theatre audiences are used to being told to put their phones away when they arrive for a show, but a new performance led by the University of Reading encourages precisely the opposite. User Not Found embraces technology to create an interactive experience to explore the future of social media – and it’s currently taking Edinburgh by storm. Professor Lib Taylor, Principal Investigator of the project, reveals more.

What happens to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, our email, our music, photos and videos when we die?  In a digital age, who is responsible for our internet legacy?

One of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Festival is User Not Found, a performance by the theatre company Dante or Die and involving the University of Reading, which addresses exactly this issue.

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A new website that catalogues punk memorabilia from the 70s and 80s is set to become the UKs largest digital archive of punk ephemera. It’s the latest development from Professor Matt Worley’s research exploring the relationship between youth cultures, politics and social change. Find out how you can contribute to the online archive.

Punk in the East is a digital collection of original punk photographs, gig ticket, posters, clothing and ephemera from Norwich, Norfolk and across East Anglia. As content continues to come in it is fast becoming the largest digital UK punk archive.

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90 years ago this week, Nancy Astor, the first female British MP to take her seat, held a garden party at Cliveden House to celebrate the passing of the Act of Parliament that granted equal voting rights for men and women. Rachel Newton has been delving into the University’s Astor archive and tells us what she’s discovered.

This summer, I have a research internship working with Dr Jacqui Turner on the undergraduate research opportunities programme (UROP) within the Department of History and in collaboration with Special Collections here at the University of Reading.

We are preparing a digital exhibition curating archive material to tell the story of the political career and legacy of Nancy Astor, the first sitting female MP in Britain. While I was researching, I came across some fascinating documents relating to a garden party that Astor held at her riverside country home, Cliveden House, almost exactly 90 years ago.

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The NHS turns 70 this year, giving us the chance to appreciate the fact it is there to turn to whenever we get ill. But what did people do before the NHS and the luxury of modern medicine? University of Reading historian Dr Hannah Newton reveals her findings from studying diaries and letters written by Early Modern families who faced serious diseases armed with little more than their faith.

Cancer survival has doubled over the last 40 years, and death rates from stroke have halved since 1990. These positive trends are reflected in the upsurge of survivor stories in social media, where individuals broadcast their experiences of illness and recovery, and describe how the close shave with death has changed their outlook on life. ‘I don’t let little things get on top of me as much anymore’, reflects Keith Hubbard, a musician from Merseyside, 14 years after treatment for prostate cancer.

Misery to Mirth, by Dr Hannah Newton, was published in June 2018

We might assume that this is a recent phenomenon. In more distant times, when epidemics were rife and medicines ineffective, it would seem likely that death was the only possible disease outcome. However, a foray into the diaries and letters of seventeenth-century patients and their families reveals a happier history. My new book, Misery to Mirth, shows that getting better was a widely reported occurrence at this time, and one which gave rise to emotionally-charged outpourings comparable to those produced today.

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