21 12, 2012
  • CLEVER DETECTIVES - The Dart The Birmingham Pictorial (Birmingham, England), Friday, May 11, 1894

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Repeat Prescription

By |December 21st, 2012|blog, History|0 Comments

It's been a record breaking year for British sport. Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, Andy Murray triumphed at the U.S. Open, our Olympians earned an impressive stack of gold medals, and ex-footballer Gary Linekar celebrated his 18th year as the face of Walkers crisps. It's a remarkable achievement. Speaking to Digital Spy back in March, the former England striker confidently proclaimed that he was responsible for spearheading "quite comfortably the longest-running celebrity-endorsed campaign" in advertising history. He's not even close. An advert has recently been doing the rounds in which Sherlock Holmes endorses the miraculous healing powers of Beechams Pills. It's not the great detective's finest hour. Shorn of his deductive powers by a troublesome head cold, Holmes only regains his crime-solving abilities thanks to a timely dose of Beechams Ultra All In One. Conan Doyle must be spinning in his grave. Holmes is rather vulnerable to this sort of treatment. The copyright on his adventures expired in 1980, leaving him open to all imaginable abuses and adaptations. However, it turns out that Beechams' relationship with Sherlock pre-dates this landmark by quite some distance. Way back in 1893, the following advert began to appear in British papers: Watson loses [...]

18 12, 2012
  • Reading The Times

The Pleasures of Print

By |December 18th, 2012|blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Something's wrong with me. As a self-styled Digital Victorianist I'm supposed to prefer pixels over print. I get my news online, my books on an e-reader, and for the last five years I've been preaching the gospel of digital history to anybody who'll listen. I rarely put pen to paper (as anybody who's received a barely legible Christmas card from me this year will attest). In fact, I can't remember the last time I spent a whole day without looking at a computer. I am, in short, a dyed-in-the-wool screen junkie. Or at least that's what I thought. Lately I've been flirting with the dark side. A few weeks ago the good people at Historic Newspapers sent me a handsomely packaged selection of old periodicals. The first paper to catch my eye was a reprint of the London edition of The National Police Gazette from 26 May 1897. It's a delightfully salacious paper filled with saucy illustrations of Victorian girls showing off their ankles, strapping boxers flexing their biceps, and the occasional portrait of a racehorse. The most outrageous material appears in the adverts at the back of the paper. A notice for 'Mrs Rose's Famous Female Mixture' offers to [...]

16 12, 2012


By |December 16th, 2012|blog, Uncategorized|3 Comments

Peter Jackson spent somewhere in the region of $150 million dollars on the first instalment of his Hobbit trilogy. My first foray into film making comes in slightly under his budget. Last weekend, I had a go at converting one of my favourite old conference papers to video. The aim was to enter one of the BBC's recent academic talent competitions, but my finished entry stretched so far over the prescribed 2 minute limit that I've almost certainly disqualified myself. I got a bit carried away. On Saturday morning I started with a webcam and a basic script; by Sunday evening my home office had been converted into a makeshift film studio. A sizeable chunk of Jackson's cash was spent on high tech CGI facilities, but it turns out that similar effects can be achieved with some sheets of green paper, a roll of sellotape, and a pair of Primark trouser hangers. Who needs a tripod when you've got an unsteady pile of overdue library books? The biggest saving, of course, comes from casting somebody who already looks a bit like Gollum. You can view the result below. A full-length, twenty minute, epic version of the Skedaddle story should hit [...]