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Studying Political Satire: Introduction to "The Egyptian Red Book"

Module by: David Getman, Paula Sanders. E-mail the authors

Summary: An introduction and table of contents that describes and provides access to the different learning modules in the Egyptian Red Book course. The course itself is a virtual research project that centers on the nineteenth-century political satire "The Egyptian Red Book," which is part of the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA). The course introduces methods of historical research and resources available from research libraries.

Figure 1
Figure 1 (erb1.png)

Introduction

The "Egyptian Red Book" is a collection of nineteenth-century British political cartoons and a serious criticism of the Liberal Government led by Prime Minister Gladstone in London in the 1880's. It tells the sad story of the demise of General Charles "Chinese" Gordon at the hands of the Mahdi of Sudan in the winter of 1885. It also offers a unique perspective on the media's perspective on the British Government at the end of the nineteenth century. This module uses "The Egyptian Red Book" as a case study to introduce a variety of library resources and research strategies, which are laid out in the list of questions that follows this introduction. We hope to show that many of the questions historians come to ask originate or are refined during the research process itself. This project is a guided exploration of the research process that will enhance your knowledge of the tools of the trade and your ability to advance your own projects productively.

TIMEA

The "Egyptian Red Book" is one of many artifacts and texts that have been digitized and published online by TIMEA. TIMEA (Travelers In the Middle East Archive) is a digital archive of narratives documenting travel to the Middle East published between the eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, along with images and interactive GIS maps. This course contributes to the project by organizing a virtual research project around the digitized text of the "Egyptian Red Book". The electronic text and images of the book in the digital archive can be used to demonstrate the practical application of certain research methods.

The following are specific versions of the basic questions typically asked at the beginning of many research projects. They are also the titles of several modules that demonstrate how to conduct research. Select any of the questions you see to be taken to a short description of the content and aims of the modules they represent. While you are browsing the descriptions, select any of the links in the paragraphs to be taken directly to that section of the module you are reading about.

What is a "Red Book"? How to categorize your work in relation to others.

Who are these guys? How to identify the unnamed historical figures in the cartoons.

What is the whole story? How to get to the historical events behind the political criticism.

What are microfiche, microfilm, and microcards?

How do I study the political context by accessing and using the British Parliamentary Papers?

Other questions addressed in specific modules

The following list of questions are addressed through examples contained in any one of the modules related to this project. If one of the questions below interests you, select it and you will be taken directly to the location in one of our modules that seeks to answer it.

How do I access online reference resources?

How do I find periodicals and call them up from storage?

How do I construct a balanced bibliography for a specific subject?

How do I follow a historical event in newspapers?

What is a Red Book?

In What is a "Red Book"? we look at the work we are researching in comparison with other, similar works. To do this we first categorize the work. We begin with an introduction to online reference tools including Dictionary.com and The Oxford English Dictionary, as well as Library of Congress Subject Headings, WorldCat , and the online library catalog . Then we begin gathering similar works for comparison with the Red Book. We guide you through locating periodicals in the stacks and also show you how to call periodicals up from storage, if necessary. We then guide you through a comparison of the work you are researching to similar works in order to better understand its intended purpose, audience and impact on publication.

Identifying the Characters in the Egyptian Red Book

In Identifying the Characters in the Egyptian Red Book we begin with the unidentified faces in the cartoons and we search for their names and other biographical information by combining the resources we discover along the way. We begin by looking for related material in other works by the same publisher, which we sort by their subject headings. Once we have accumulated enough information from our sources, we then search for the biographies of the characters in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . This module highlights the importance of using your resources in concert to bring to light information that would be impossible to glean from one source alone.

Getting the Whole Story from the Egyptian Red Book

In Getting the Whole Story from the Egyptian Red Book, we search for different angles on the story the Red Book aims to tell. We begin by introducing a sketch of the historical events that we have gathered from reliable sources. Then we begin excavating the story from the Red Book, but only the minimum amount of information we need to find other works on the subject. Once we have the information we need, namely the important key words necessary to call up related material in a catalog search, we can begin looking for different perspectives on it in other works. Having found a number of related works, we then guide you through the building a balanced bibliography. We then follow the events described from day to day in archived editions of the London Times. Finally we establish the context of the quotes we find in the Red Book by locating them in the minutes of the British Parliamentary Debates.

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