THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

What's on the mind of Team America?

Introduction

Find out more about our Americas Studies collections on the Americas blog, written by our curatorial team and guest posts from the Eccles Centre writers in residence. Our collections cover both North and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Read more

01 May 2015

Off the Wall Fridays

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1280px-The_Globe_kittens_(HS85-10-13446-3)

Above: the Globe kittens, from our 2012 Picturing Canada work [BL: HS85/10/13446]

The end of the week will see something a little different on the Team Americas blog from now on. We've got a whole heap of digital content that rarely sees the light of day because we've not had a chance to do further research on it yet so as of now we're posting it for your enjoyment and interest. There won't be much interpretation from us but expect something quirky and often amusing to get you talking about the Library's Americas and Australasian collections.

With that in mind, today we bring you kittens with books - enjoy!

[PJH]

30 April 2015

From the Collections: US Historical Newspapers

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Americansml      Federalsml      Vermontsml
Above: three of the Library's early American papers, as noted on our resource page.

This third and final blog about American newspapers will focus on the Library’s holdings of historical titles – both digital and microfilm.   

DIGITAL RESOURCES:

The Library currently subscribes to a couple of fantastic databases (listed below) which offer access to hundreds of newspaper titles from the late seventeenth to the twentieth century. Also listed is a Library of Congress resource for newspapers published between 1836 and 1922, and one that focuses upon coverage of the performing arts in the colonies:

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998

This database provides fully searchable facsimiles of approximately 270 historically significant African American newspapers from more than 35 states. It offers a unique record of life in the Antebellum South, the growth of the Black church, the Jim Crow Era, the Great Migration to northern cities, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement, political and economic empowerment and more. Remote access is available for registered Reader Pass holders.

Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876

Offering more than 350,000 fully searchable facsimile issues of more 700 newspaper titles published in 23 states and Washington DC, this database provides an unparalleled record of daily life in hundreds of diverse American communities. Searches automatically extend to African American Newspapers, 1827-1998 and Caribbean Newspapers, Series I, 1718-1876. Remote access is available for registered Reader Pass holders.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

This Library of Congress resource is freely available on the Internet and offers millions of digitized newspaper pages for the period 1836–1922. Also available on this site is the U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690–present which enables users to identify both which titles exits for a specific time and place and the libraries (in the United States) that hold them. 

The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers, 1690-1783

Available both on CD-ROM in the Newsroom and on the Internet.

Microfiche

Above: non-digital resources [photo by PJH]

MICROFILM RESOURCES: GENERAL

The Library’s microfilm holdings of early American newspapers are extensive and can be found via our main catalogue, Explore. They include eighteenth and nineteenth century regional papers, such as The Boston Gazette (1719-1798), The New York Mercury (1752-1783); ethnic newspapers, including The Jewish Messenger (1857-1902) and The Irish World (1870-1950); political papers, such as Socialist Call (1935-1962); and special interest papers, such as the US Armed Forces’ Stars and Stripes (1942-1945). Please note that most of these titles can be found in the Early American Newspapers database listed above.

MICROFILM RESOURCES: THE TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE NEWS CLIPPINGS FILE

This microfilm set (shelf-mark: M.A.410) consists of 252 reels of press cuttings and other materials relating to people of colour in the United States, Africa and elsewhere which were collected by the Tuskegee Institute between 1899 and 1966. The clippings were compiled from more than 300 major American national dailies, African-American newspapers, magazines, religious and social publications and non-US newspapers. All items are listed in The Tuskegee Institute News Clippings File: Reel Notes, a hard-copy volume shelved in the Newsroom.

INDEXES

The New York Times Index, 1863-1905, is included in the database 19th Century Masterfile and a printed version of the index from 1851 is available in the Newsroom. The New York Daily Tribune Index, 1875-1906, is also included in 19th Century Masterfile and a printed version of the subject index, 1875-1881, is available in the Newsroom. 

See our other blog posts on historical newspapers:

1. Americas News Dailies and Weeklies

2. Slavery in America: newspapers and travellers' reports

[JP]

29 April 2015

Magna Carta's Americas Adventure

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Us-bill-of-rights-magna-carta-british-library-law-legacy-liberty (cr Clare Kendall)

Above: The Delaware copy of the US Bill of Rights being installed in Magna Carta [photo by Clare Kendall]

Those of you who have visited the Magna Carta exhibition already will note the attention given to how the document influenced the development of global legal frameworks, perhaps most notably in the US. As a result, this document has not just had a profound effect upon the development of the UK but on the growth of many other states around the world.

Indeed, the effect of Magna Carta not just on the US but the Americas more broadly is worth noting. One of the aims of the Magna Carta was to strengthen traditional English customs against the tyranny of King John, the most notable being the right to Habeas Corpus (essentially, protection against illegal detention). The mutually beneficial relationship between Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus (which is not just legal but also rhetorical - a powerful imaginative force) was used to great effect in the protection of former slaves who had made it to England from the Caribbean in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano (portrait)

Above: frontispiece from Equiano's 'Interesting Narrative' [BL: 1489.g.50] 

One particularly famous example is recounted by Olaudah Equiano in his 'Interesting Narrative' [BL: 1489.g.50]. Here a man named John Annis is protected from the machinations of a St. Kitts trader by the granting of Habeas Corpus and, while not all received Annis' protection, the law was an important part of maintaining the freedom of those formerly enslaved who made it to London.

In Canada the Magna Carta has, perhaps, had structural legal impacts on a par with the US (without the revolution). The early governor John Graves Simcoe arrived in Canada with a strong belief in Magna Carta and the possibility of founding an ideal colony in Upper Canada. From Fort York Simcoe set up some of Canada's earliest democratic structures and also attempted to ban slavery in the colony. You can find out more about Simcoe at the British Library as we hold various manuscript papers and illustrations belonging to him and his family.

After the Seven Years War the Royal Proclamation of 1763 sought to extend Magna Carta-like protections to the First Peoples of North America. The Proclamation enfranchised right to land and secured other legal freedoms in the face of settler encroachment but also sowed dissent among colonists and was a significant contributor to the subsequent rebellion. However, the Proclamation is, arguably, still legally valid in Canada and remains an important link between many First Peoples communities and the British Crown. For many Canadians the Magna Carta is also still relevant as it directly informed the 1982 'Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms'. This, in turn, has been argued to resemble how a common law charter would look if it were drawn up today.

BL shop (Magna Carta)

Above: goodies in the BL shop - note the baseballs [photo by PJH]

For all of this the most profound global example of the influence of Magna Carta remains its role in the US. Whether it's the writings of men such as William Penn, the invocation of the Magna Carta by the Founding Fathers or the famous visit of the document to the New York World's Fair in 1939 (all of which are detailed in the exhibition), the gathering at Runnymede looms large in American history. The Eccles Centre will be hosting a discussion about the link between Magna Carta and the U.S. on 1st June and it promises to be an enlightening addition to the exhibition, which runs until 1st September. You can also see the continuing relationship between Magna Carta and the U.S. in our shop - my favourites are the Declaration of Independence baseballs...

[PJH]