One winner (best adapted screenplay) in the 2023 Oscars is Women talking, a film adaptation of the novel by the Canadian author Miriam Toews, a fictional response to real events that took place in a Mennonite community in Bolivia. When I first heard about this it prompted me to look into the history of the Mennonites. I was fascinated by the numerous moves groups of them had made during the last 500 years. This blog post will look at some of the main migrations during that time and also consider the Mennonites’ Low German dialect, Plautdietsch, which they have preserved across the world. The UL has a huge number of resources, both print and online, on the Mennonites, showing that their beliefs, culture and language are of great interest to researchers.
Menno Simons, picture by Rijksmuseum via Wikimedia Commons
The name Mennonite was used to refer to Dutch Anabaptists (there were others in Switzerland and Germany) and was derived from Menno Simons, a Catholic priest who turned away from Catholicism and became a leader of the Anabaptist movement in the Low Countries during the time of the Reformation (Anabaptist simply means “one who is baptised again”, referring to the belief that baptism of infants was wrong and that only adults who could knowingly profess their faith should be baptised). Mennonites in the Netherlands were regarded as heretics and were suppressed and persecuted not just by the prevailing Catholics but also by other Protestants. Continue reading →
The one-year project Spanish chapbooks 1700-1900 in CUDL: dating ephemeral literature, made possible by a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant (CHRG) with the support of Cambridge Digital Humanities, has come to an end (see our earlier blog post on the project here).
Cambridge University Libraries just started a one-month trial of RetroNews, a database from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which provides access to about 2000 (primarily French) newspaper titles published between 1631 and 1950. Part of its content is available only by subscription, in contrast to the BnF’s freely accessible material on its digital library Gallica (only 150 of the 2000 RetroNews titles are also available on Gallica).
The subscription to RetroNews offers advanced access to the digitised periodicals and advanced search functions, in particular the option to download results in pdf or text format. It should also be possible to extract search results in csv or xls format; and to request the extraction of text and metadata of a specific search. RetroNews provides access to 4000 items of new editorial content produced by academics and journalists, including articles, interviews, videos, and podcasts / readings of the newspaper pieces by professional actors. Continue reading →
The idea for this blog post came to me in 2021 when I read a review of an engaging new book, Charlie English’s The gallery of miracles and madness (e-Legal Deposit) in which I first learnt of Hans Prinzhorn’s Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (S400:05.b.9.337). This groundbreaking book analysed the artwork of disturbed psychiatric patients, with just over half of it devoted to detailed descriptions of ten artists, given pseudonyms to protect the reputation of their families. The book was first published 100 years ago in 1922; the University Library copy is a reprint from 1923, demonstrating the book’s popularity. In his The Discovery of the art of the insane (9000.b.1564) John MacGregor describes Prinzhorn’s work as “an unequaled contribution to the study of the art of the mentally ill.”
Cover and title page of our 1923 edition (click on image to see enlarged): Prinzhorn demanded of his publisher that the cover be black with a runic font
Cambridge University Library subscribes to many large literary and historical databases: their sources are mainly in English, but they also contain foreign language material. Gale Primary Sources, which encompasses 26 thematic databases, contains lots of resources in French, as well as other languages. They can be accessed on your device anywhere within the University, and from home with the University of Cambridge VPN.
The database “Archives unbound” is particularly interesting for its primary historical material. It covers “topics” such as African Studies; British and European History; Business and Economic History; Cultural Studies; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Law, Politics, and Radical Studies; Middle Eastern Studies; Religious Studies, as well as many others. Continue reading →