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Exploring the Jitterbug – The Dance That Divided Britain in the 1940s

In the 1940s the jitterbug, a type of swing dancing that was pioneered by African American communities in New York during the early twentieth century, took the United Kingdom by storm. The energetic dance, which featured elements of the jive, the charleston, and other swing dances, divided Britain, with it being embraced by those who flocked to dancehalls up and down the country, whilst others viewed it as a morally dangerous American import. In this special blog, using newspapers from

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‘Pluck, Tenacity and Inspired Guidance’ – Exploring the Birth of the Paralympic Games

The first Paralympics took place in Rome in 1960. But this was not the beginning of competitive sport for people with disabilities; indeed, the origins of the Paralympics can partly be traced to the aftermath of the Second World War and the work undertaken at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Archers at Stoke Mandeville Hospital | The Sphere | 21 August 1948 And nor was it the culmination of such work; the Paralympics in Rome were only open to those with mobility or

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In Between Dances – Understanding Flappers & 1920s Youth Culture

Not only did the flapper turn on its head traditional notions of femininity – she was arguably the first incarnation of youth culture in Britain and beyond. She was a good time girl, she drank, she smoked, she drove, she partied, she wore the latest outrageous fashions, she came home late – and in doing so, she preempted the youth culture movements of later decades. A study by Domergue | The Tatler | 3 June 1925 In this special blog, we explore

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A Look at the History of Dance Halls – Wedding Bells and Questionable Morals

By 1953 the dance hall was the second biggest entertainment industry after cinema, with an estimated 200 million visitors per year. It was thought that up to 70% of couples met on the dance floor. Today, the dance hall is consigned to history, but for many from the 1920s through to the 1970s it was a weekly fixture, representing an escape from the monotony of daily life. In this special blog we take a look at the colourful story of

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Dance in the Second World War – An Extravagance of Determination and Hope

‘It is not proposed to make total war total misery,’ said the Home Secretary Herbert Morrison in 1942, as he announced in the House of Commons that dancing was not to be included in the ‘recreations that are to be restricted to prevent interference with the war effort.’ Indeed, for many, dance was synonymous with their experiences of life in the Second World War. American GIs brought over with them new and exciting dance styles, and dancing itself was a

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Artistry and Mystery in Charles Dance’s Family Tree

We thought we would have to wait until the autumn for the return of our favourite television series, but Who Do You Think You Are? is already back on our screens!  The first episode of the new season featured Game of Thrones actor Charles Dance.  The episode featured some startling revelations regarding Charles’ father, and a history of artistry in the family.  The episode was a great illustration of how careful research can gently peel away the layers mystery that

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Celebrating Princess Kouka and Her Forgotten Film Legacy

In the late 1930s a newcomer made her way onto British cinema screens: Princess Kouka. From Sudan, Princess Kouka, born Tahia Ibrahim Belal, had been spotted by film producer Walter Futter, who was determined for her to appear in his next film. Using newspapers from the time, we uncover the legacy of this largely forgotten film star, who travelled to Britain and impressed audiences across the country. ‘A Notable Newcomer’ On 18 December 1936 London’s Daily News reported on the

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The Jazz Age Queen Who Made Britain Her Home

American-born jazz age superstar Adelaide Hall (1901-1993) was a Black music legend, who from 1938 onwards made Britain her home. She went on to have a long and successful career in the UK. In this very special blog, as part of Black History Month on The Archive, we will celebrate this jazz age queen who came to Britain and entertained thousands of people via her stage and radio performances, using newspapers taken from our Archive. A Star Is Born To

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Hot Off The Press – New Titles This Week

This week we’re celebrating the history of cinema with the arrival of a brand new title, Glasgow’s Scottish Cinema, alongside 96,538 brand new pages. Meanwhile, from Ballymena to Bolton, from Belfast to Brighton, from Derry to Downham Market, we’ve updated 22 of our existing titles from across the United Kingdom, Ireland and beyond. So read on to discover more about all of our new and updated titles of the week, and also to learn about the marriage of Hollywood’s first

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Exploring the ‘Dancing Anthropologist’ Katherine Dunham’s Visits to the UK

Born in 1909 in Chicago, ‘dancing anthropologist’ Katherine Dunham was known as the ‘matriarch and queen mother of Black dance.’ Her father was a descendant of enslaved West Africans and Madagascans, whilst her mother hailed from Canada. A multitalented artist, academic and activist, for many years Katherine Dunham ran the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only self-supporting African-American dance troupe in the mid-twentieth century. It was during this time that Dunham toured the United Kingdom, and in this special blog,

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