Category Archives: American Culture

Posts to do with American culture, places, and history excluding WW2 history

An American Peculiarity

A subject which often arises when I chat with friends here in the UK is how curious it is that most Americans know not just their ethnic background, but are able to quantify it readily. This seems to be a byproduct of the waves of immigration which had different groups arriving in the US at different times meaning that groups tended to be segregated at first, think of the famous stereotypes of the signs “Irish need not apply” for example. This reluctance of the older immigrant groups to welcome new ones seems to have created points in time where families would look back at when they themselves first came to the American continent.

Since new waves of immigrants continued to come from around the world, and still do, this retrospection of one’s family’s or one’s own origins kept being reinforced. A further factor which emphasizes the ratio of an American’s ethnic makeup is that new immigrants often settled in like communities. For example, in my home state of North Dakota the groups which immigrated are largely Swedish, Norwegian, and German. These groups ended up settled in towns largely equidistant along the train line with immigrants from Germany getting off on one stop, those from Norway getting off at the next, and Swedes getting off at the next. This created very tight-knit communities which, until the age of large-scale agriculture and the interstate system remained largely closed.

It was often quite the scandal if a woman from one town married a man from another, such as happened with my great-grandparents who were Swedish and Norwegian respectively. This further emphasized where origins were from creating a third pressure to remember.

But, there can be practical reasoning behind this sectioning off of one’s person as well. In this I mean that there are some groups of individuals where membership offers either monetary or societal rewards such as with certain Native American tribes. While it would be a grave mistake to simplify the greater impact of membership to these groups it can be beneficial in certain specific areas, especially where there are casinos which offer a redistribution of wealth throughout the community. In these cases, to try and prevent abuse of these income sources inclusion in the tribe is sometimes strictly limited to members who can prove a certain percentage of heritage within that group.

All of these various forces result in the ability of many Americans to calculate exactly where their ancestors came from, and in some cases the precise time of their arrival as well. This boils down to the peculiar ability to site ones own ethnic heritage very precisely, in my case 50% German, 25% Norwegian, and 25% Swedish. A fact that to me is just basic knowledge but to many of my British and European friends is often surprising and puzzling.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this as curious and interesting as I have come to.


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Filed under Uncategorized, American Culture, American History

Spring 2019 Lecture Series

Spring 2019 Lecture Series - Poster-page-001

The 2AD Memorial Library’s Spring 2019 Lecture Series spotlights the multifaceted nature of studying the United States and World War II. The series features a range of scholars from different disciplines as they discuss the changing face of American culture and our understanding of our own history.

All talks will take place at the Millennium Library on Thursday evenings at 7PM. To book tickets email, find us on Eventbrite, or phone us on 01603 774747.


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“The current period of Nazi frightfulness”: Cinemagoing in the Blitz (25 April)

A night at the pictures often offers the prospect of escape, but was that possible under the threat of enemy bombers? This talk will discuss what happened to British cinemas and British cinemagoers during the Blitz.

Richard Farmer is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at the University of East Anglia.


The only photograph of the Buddy Bolden Band, c. 1903-05, with Bolden standing next to bassist cropped

Jazz and Disability (2 May)

This talk explores how early jazz reception thought of the new music and dance as disabled and even disabling. It also considers the musical careers of key jazz musicians with disabilities, inviting us to think of jazz as an enabling musical practice.

George McKay is a Professor Media Studies at the University of East Anglia and Humanities Research Council Fellow for its Connected Communities programme.


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Of Mice and Krazy Kats: The History and Art of American Comics (9 May)

This talk will provide an in-depth examination of the complex history of American comics from early newspaper strips to contemporary graphic novels, including the birth of superheroes, WWII propaganda comics, controversial 1950s horror comics, and contemporary graphic novels.

Frederik Byrn Køhlert is a Lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia.


America Meredith, London Calling cropped

Indigenous London and Beyond: Native Travellers at the Heart of Empire (16 May)

The stories of Indigenous travellers, willing or otherwise, from territories that became Canada, the US, New Zealand, and Australia show the ways in which London and Britain have for centuries been bound up in the Indigenous experience.

Coll Thrush is a Professor of History and Associate Faculty in Critical Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia. He is also the International Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Britain.


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American Apocalypse: 21st Century Climate Change Fiction (23 May)

This talk considers how the apocalyptic dangers of climate change are being addressed by American fiction. Climate change fiction, or ‘cli-fi’, offers us a way to assess, understand, and address the phenomenon of global warming and the impact of humans on their environment.

Rebecca Tillett is a Senior Lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia.


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A Heroic Mass Shooter? The Politics of Netflix’s The Punisher (30 May)

Due to his unyielding methods of exacting violent justice, much has been discussed about the Punisher. What is the place of Marvel’s controversial antihero within today’s politics? How has his new Netflix series been received in the Trump era?

Miriam Kent is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at the University of East Anglia.

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Filed under American Culture, American History, American Politics, Memorial Library, Public Events, World War 2

A Taste of Home

Moving to the UK I knew to expect many things to be different from home. Even though we share the same language cultures vary so much even within a country that moving between them would undoubtedly compound the effect. However, I was still surprised to learn that many of my new friends in the UK had never even heard of Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies, an American staple. I know biscuits and cookies were different but to be confronted by the knowledge that certain types of cookies were actually unheard of was jarring.

And so, due to this I have decided to spread the good word of the most delicious and gooey chocolate chip cookies created by humanity. The Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe (adjusted for UK measures)!

2 1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour

3/4 cup Granulated Sugar

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

225g butter

1 tsp Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

2 Large Eggs

1 packet of chocolate chips (we use dark chocolate for a richer flavor)

1 cup Chopped Nuts (optional)


In a bowl combine the sugars and butter until mixture is mostly smooth (more mixing makes a more cakelike cookie)

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

Mix eggs and vanilla extract into the butter/sugar mixture.

Slowly mixing the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until combined.

Using a spoon mix the chocolate chips into the batter until evenly distributed.

On a baking sheet scoop out balls of approximately 2 tbsp size. If you want taller rounder cookies you can chill the day after you scoop it.

Bake at 190C for 9-11 minutes. We prefer more underdone cookies so we tend towards the 9 minute mark.

Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Eat all the cookies in one glorious feast!


I hope you enjoy! I know I always do.


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Filed under American Culture, american food, Uncategorized

FORGOTTEN HOLLYWOOD: None Shall Escape (1944)


Columbia Pictures

How did we ever forget None Shall Escape? How did we ever allow ourselves to forget? The lack of recognizable stars or a big-name director certainly played a factor in its gradual erasure from cinematic history. But even so, there are moments within the film that would never leave a viewer’s memory. Certain shots. Certain looks. Certain words.

This 1944 film opens by imagining a trial in the near future where Nazi war criminals would be held accountable. One of defendants is Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox). Through testimonials and flashbacks, we learn this man’s sadly familiar story of radicalisation. He had felt impotent after Germany lost WWI and after his love for a Polish woman goes unreciprocated. He looks for people to blame, and with the help of other young angry men he finds them.

If this film is remembered for anything, it is for one specific scene, where Grimm is loading Jewish prisoners onto a train. They are restless, so he orders a local rabbi (Richard Hale) to say some words and calm them down. The rabbi speaks, quickly, knowing that his time is short. The righteous resentment he’s been harbouring for years, even from before the rise of Nazism, is palpable. He calls on his people to offer one last moment of resistance, and they are all cut down by gunfire. The screenplay was written by men who fled Nazi Germany and who would be blacklisted in Hollywood during the Red Scare.


Richard Hale as Rabbi David Levin │ Columbia Pictures

The film ends with a judge addressing the viewer, saying that only they can decide this man’s fate. However, the preceding shot sticks far more vividly in my mind. When given an opportunity to defend himself, Grimm denounces the court as illegitimate and promises that his side had suffered only a small defeat in a much bigger war. Fascism would rise again. His final words (not those of the judge) ring out in the decades following this film’s release. As men like Grimm, those who care more for winning than for empathy, who feel entitled to respect rather than try to earn it, who are angry and target someone else, continue to emerge and seek power.

If you want to learn more about artists who fled the rise of fascism, be sure to check out Windfall of Musicians: Hitler’s Emigres and Exiles in Southern California (Dorothy Lamb Crawford, 2009) from the 2AD Memorial Library. Also, if you want to learn more about the actual trial of Nazi war criminals, be sure to check out The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History (Hilary Camille Earl, 2010) from the Millennium Library.


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Filed under American Culture, Uncategorized, World War 2