Popular Culture, History and the Internet

I’ve just come across the Toons at War website – a rather good blog that deals with the output of the Disney Studios during the Second World War. It’s an example of one of the most useful kinds of website – somewhere you can go to learn about the little things of the past that live in the nooks and crannies overlooked by big history. Another one I’d recommend is the Whirligig TV site, a scrapbook of fifties television with plenty for the social historian to think about.

Is there a guide to sites like these? I mostly come across them by accident, when idly googling. Lately I’ve become aware of their possible transience. One of my favourite websites, the Sexton Blake archive that was at www.sextonblake.co.uk has now disappeared. This site was a monumental work of scholarship, detailing the exploits of the great detective from the 1890s through the twentieth century. Anyone interested in popular literature would have benefited from it. It certainly gave me several leads to look at when considering the representation of soldiers in fiction. And now it has disappeared.


I don’t know what has happened. Has its assiduous compiler died, or fallen ill? Has he just failed to pay his bill to his webspace provider? And what has happened to his painstaking research, and his scans of thousands of magazine covers? Are they sitting useless on a hard disk somewhere, unused and unenjoyed? Or have they even been wiped? (It only takes a keystroke, or maybe a mechanical glitch, and a decade’s work becomes unusable, unless it’s backed up.)

Maybe libraries should take an interest, offering to keep backups of websites that have a genuine historical or other interest, and making sure that the archive remains readable when technology moves on. (How much of the history of the 1980s is trapped inside those old 5¼ inch floppy disks that none of us use any more?)

If anyone knows what happened to the Sexton Blake archive, do let me know. I miss it. it contained pictures like this.




  1. Paul H
    Posted July 11, 2007 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Some content is retrievable via the WayBack machine – but cases like this show up its limitiations – no photos and PDFs retained, it would seem. (eg http://web.archive.org/web/20061206013447/http://www.sextonblake.co.uk/). Have you tried emailing the author? Webspace is so cheap now, would be a real shame if this was the block.

  2. Posted July 11, 2007 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks very much for that suggestion. I’ve tried the link, and it gives access to the fascinating story summaries, though not to the cover art.

  3. Posted August 21, 2007 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I just thought I would let you know that Mark Hodder’s Sexton Blake site is intact and back online.

    You’re blog is quite impressive, as well.

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