THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

Introduction

Find out about social sciences at the British Library including collections, events and research. This blog includes contributions from curators and guest posts by academics, students and practitioners. Read more

29 October 2014

Autumn/Winter Events

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Robert Davies, Engagement Support for Social Sciences gives an update on some forthcoming events and conferences to be held at the library.

Our ‘autumn/winter season’ starts on the evening of the 26th November with the first in our new series of public discussions ‘Enduring Ideas’ which aims to explore some of the key concepts which underpin society.

Professor Matthew Flinders, University of Sheffield and author of Defending Politics, will discuss ‘Enduring Ideas: The Problem with Democracy’.  During the evening Professor Flinders will ask and address many questions: does the apparent shift from healthy scepticism to corrosive cynicism have more to do with our unrealistic expectations of politics than a failure of democratic politics; do the problems with democracy – if they exist – tell us more about a failure on the part of the public to understand politics rather than a failure of politicians to understand us; or maybe the problem with democracy is not that it is in short supply but that we have too much of it? He will go on to suggest new ways of thinking about politics to ensure not the death but the life of democracy.

As always we hope our audience will feel free to support, question or challenge the speaker during the question and answer session.  Tickets are selling quickly, so why not reserve a place now via our ‘What’s on’ pages.

Why not keep your diary open for the evening of the 17th February 2015, when Dr Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge and author of ‘23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism’ and ‘Economics: The User’s Guide’, will explore the theme ‘Enduring Ideas: The Problem with Capitalism’?  The evening will be chaired by Dame Kate Barker DBE, former Monetary Policy Committee member at the Bank of England.  Tickets will be on sale soon.

As with our Myths and Realities series of public debates, which ran between 2009 and 2013, the new series in organized in partnership with the Academy of Social Sciences.

In the interim we are delighted to be able to host the British Sociological Association’s Ageing, Body and Society Study Group 6th Annual Conference on Friday 28th November.  The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Researching Bodies’.  The keynote address will be given by Professor Les Back, Goldsmiths, University of London.  For further information and details of how to book please visit the BSA website

Just over a week later we also delighted to host the Social Research Association’s Annual Conference 2014.  The title of this year’s conference is ‘Changing Social Research: Evolution or Revolution?’  Details of all the plenary sessions and parallel sessions can be found on the SRA booking page.

Naturally we are already planning for events to take place during spring and summer 2015, so why not keep up-to-date by using our dedicated British Library Social Sciences events page.  Here you will also find details of previous events and links to associated podcasts and videos.

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Photograph from our 'Epigenetics: beyond nature versus nurture' debate.  Copyright British Library Board.

24 October 2014

Exploring British Online Archives

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British Online Archives is an online platform that brings together digitised images, and descriptions, from a wide range of archives held at institutions across Britain. From this month, registered readers at the British Library can access all the collections held here through our Remote e-Resources Service. To celebrate, I'm picking some of my favourite parts of the collection. 

BBC Handbooks and Listener Research

Beginning in 1928 (1937 for Listener Research), this collection includes all the BBC Handbooks produced during the 20th century. The Handbooks form an annual report for the corporation, alongside detailed information on scheduling, technological development and research and commentary on the year. They form a significant resource for understanding the history and workings of the BBC.

Listener Research conducted surveys across panels of the BBC's audience, to both quantify audience numbers and also provide qualititative information on the way programmes and presenters were perceived. The reports included here, running for 1937 up to the end of the 1940s, reveal detailed information on audience behaviour and attitudes in Britain during the Second World War. They extend beyond commentary on programming into general attitudes to events during the War and aspirations for the post-War world. They are also fascinating for the study of methods in interviewing and public opinion research during the first half of the 20th century. I referred to the Listener Research reports in my post last year on the Kitchen Front broadcasts.  

Colonial and Missionary Records

This series contains official records of administration, missionary records from the archives of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG), papers from plantations in the Caribbean, and other commercial organisations. The records provide details of the impact of British imperialism over nearly 300 years. The missionary records themselves describe some of the earliest contacts between the European world and the peoples of the Americas, Africa and Polynesia. The collection of African Blue Books, which served the function of annual colonial reports,  provide detailed accounts and statistics of British administration. There is much also in these collections, and the related British Records of the Atlantic World, of relevance to the history of slavery, the trade in slaves, and anti-slavery movements.

Communist Party of Great Britain

A significant collection for British politics, these archives mainly cover the period from the 1940s up to 1991. The records include minutes and records of the Executive Committee of the party, as well as the Political Committee, National Cultural Committee, Womens Department (including issues of Red Rag magazine), International Department and Industrial Department. Also included are National Congresses, miscellaneous pamphlets, and the personal papers of leadeing figures such as Harry Pollitt, John Gollan, and Dona Torr. The materials reflect both internal debates in the history of the party, but also engagement with other countries and political movements, and social change more widely in Britain.

This is just a short selection from 11 series and 55 (and growing) collections. Other collections include: World War One diaries; industrial and urban change in Britain; and the records of Parliamentary Labour PartyRegistered readers can start exploring these collections from home, using our Remote e-Resources Service, as well as at the British Library Reading Rooms themselves.    

22 September 2014

Exploring Play – a free, open, online course

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Professor Marsh writes:

Beginning on 29th September 2014 and running for 7 weeks, the University of Sheffield has developed a new, free, online course ‘Exploring Play: the Importance of Play in Everyday Life’ which will be delivered through the FutureLearn platform. Through the course, we aim to investigate play as a serious subject for study and in particular examine the place of play as an
important part of our everyday lives, across our life courses. Play is not only something that occurs in childhood, with a moving away from ‘childish pleasures’ in adulthood, but it is an essential part of life.

‘Exploring Play’ doesn’t require any previous knowledge in the area, just an enthusiasm to know more. It introduces key theories and concepts, and explores the many definitions there are of play. Given that play is such a fuzzy concept, some consideration is given to the meaning of play from different personal, academic and professional perspectives and its value in terms of its contribution to our daily lives is a matter for extensive reflection.

The course is highly interactive and uses video, articles, discussions, quizzes and a wide variety of resources including the British Library Playtimes website. This website was created as part of the AHRC Beyond Text project Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age and provides information on the history and nature of play, drawing on some of the data collected in that project. In the ‘Exploring Play’ course, learners will engage with the material on the British Library website and consider what it tells them about changes in play over time.
Children playing on stones in river
Children playing on stones in a river © University of Sheffield

One of the main aims of the course is to enable participants to understand the very varied nature of play as it takes place across difference contexts. For example, the nature of play in different cultures is explored and learners will consider the way in which the values of different societies impact on the play that takes place within them.

Muffin the Mule

Muffin the Mule puppet, V&A Museum of Childhood Collection

A very wide range of topics is considered, including outdoor play spaces for children and teenagers, playful adult engagement with urban environments, disability and play, play in virtual worlds and play in the workplace. Through the seven weeks of the course, learners will gain a great deal of knowledge about play - and engage in some playful learning activities along the way!

To sign up visit: www.futurelearn.com/courses/play