Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library


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

19 November 2015

Visual Urbanism: Locating Place in Time

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On the 29 May 2015, the British Library collaborated for the third time with the International Association of Visual Urbanists to bring together an eclectic mix of researchers and practitioners from various backgrounds, including the social sciences, geography and the arts, to think about and discuss the use of visual and multi-sensory research methods within urban research.

Presentations, films, sound art and panel discussions engaged with a fascinating range of different sites through a variety of historical moments. These included the voices of different generations of people who frequent a community-owned pub in Peckham, present-day absences in Palestine through the memories of Palestinians exiled in Poland, images of redeveloped Victorian-era railway viaducts in Manchester and experiences of Toronto via an archive of early postcard photographs.

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The movement of people in and out of London was told in their own words through the medium of billboards placed around the city itself, links between the Thames Estuary and South West China were explored through an archaeological art practice, visual images of Hackney Wick were read as a reflection of the movement of people in and through the East End of London and modernist utopian architecture and social ideals were connected to contemporary housing aspirations in and around London through the practice of site-writing.

Jude England, Head of Research Engagement at the British Library, talked about some of the Sound, Moving Image and Photographic collections held here at the Library as well as the UK Web Archive, an ever-growing repository for UK websites.

You can listen to a podcast of the presentations below. Please follow the links to access the films that were screened.

Introduction [00:00:11]

Jude England, The British Library

Keynote Speaker [00:14:15]

Michael Keith, COMPAS, University of Oxford

Assembling the complex city

Chair: Rachel Jones, International Association of Visual Urbanists

Panel 1: Making Sense of the Past [00:51:08]

Chair: Paul Halliday, Goldsmiths, University of London

Sarah Turner, University of Kent [00:58:03]

Public House: A spoken word/ text/ opera/ film

Phil Hatfield, The British Library [01:16:08]

Toronto by postcard: experiencing a city through historic photographs

Dominika Blachnicka-Ciacek, Goldsmiths, University of London [01:32:08]

Following, mapping and performing memories of Palestine

Panel 2: Mapping Urban Temporalities [01:49:41]

David Kendall, Goldsmiths, University of London

Brian Rosa, Queens College, City University of New York [01:51:55]

Spaces of Infrastructure, Visuality, and the Post-Industrial Imaginary

Rebecca Ross, Central Saint Martins [02:13:46]

London is Changing in Context

Rupert Griffiths, Royal Holloway and Lia Wei, School of Oriental and African

Studies [02:32:55]

Between earth, air and water: reimagining urban peripheries through

abandoned defensive architectures and rock cut burial sites.

Jane Rendell, The Bartlett, UCL [02:55:58]

May Mourn

Film Screenings

Écoute (2015) – Karla Berrens

Estuary England (2014) – Simon Robinson

The Region (2015) – Felipe Palma

Sky Lantern – Rebecca Locke

Point/Vector (2012) – Rupert Griffiths

Gone but Not Forgotten (2015) – David Kendall

Panoramas of Time: Kaleidoscope 2 (2015) – Rachel Sarah Jones

Edifices of Separation (2012) – Tomo Usada

29 October 2015

Sources and Methods in Criminology and Criminal Justice

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Registration open now!

Late News: We are pleased to announce that Professor Benjamin Bowling (Kings College
London) will also be speaking at the event.

Criminology and Criminal Justice are the focus of this year’s all day workshop on sources and methods in socio-legal research. Following last year's suggestions for themes of future events the British Library, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Socio-Legal Studies Association have teamed up with the British Society of Criminology. The workshop will take place at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on Friday, 20 November 2015.

The event, aimed at PhD/MPhil researchers, early career academics and policy researchers, offers a valuable opportunity to benefit from insider views of several UK collections that support criminological and criminal justice research, but crucially, also offers the opportunity to hear an international group of distinguished researchers in law and criminology talk about particular sources and attendant methodological issues encountered in their research. There will be opportunities for questions and discussion throughout the day which finishes with a panel discussion.

From the British Library, Jon Sims, will provide a glimpse of content and services that offer potential to support contextual studies of criminal law, crime and criminal justice, offering examples that illustrate the scope of the Library’s collections including news media, sound recordings, industry information, colonial public records, private historical papers, literary and pictorial sources. Beyond the British Library the day offers insight on the qualitative, quantitative and theoretical methods and data sources used by or found in the collections of the impressive array of speakers who have volunteered their time.  

From the Manheim Centre for the Study of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the LSE, Paul Rock (with Tim Newburn and David Downes) discuss the “large and worrying gaps in formal documentation” encountered during their research since 2009 on the official history of criminal justice (1959 to 1997) in context of the accumulation of records, and procedures of file selection and retention. From the National Archives (Kew), Nigel Taylor will discuss the context of Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation, the EU Right to be forgotten ruling, compliance and inter-institutional dialogue surrounding decisions about access to records of criminal justice. Representatives from other UK national collections are Sharon Bolton, Data Curation Manager at the UK Data Service, who will be talking about finding quantitative and qualitative crime and criminological data sources and also highlighting associated resources such as case studies based on the data and teaching sets, and Stuart Stone, from the Institute of Criminology (Cambridge), talking about the world renowned, and strongly interdisciplinary, Radzinowicz Library.

On the theme of qualitative methods and the interpretation of texts, Lizzie Seal (University of Sussex) will discuss sources used for research on public reactions to the death penalty in mid twentieth-century Britain. Focusing on letters sent to successive Home Secretaries, she will compare these articulations of qualitative views with what sources accessible at the British Library - the Mass Observation Capital Punishment Survey, contemporary newspaper articles and oral history interviews from the Millennium Memory Bank - did and didn’t reveal. Linda Mulcahy and Emma Rowden (LSE and University of Technology, Sydney) focus on Court Design Guides published by the UK government in the aftermath of the Beeching Report which concluded that the court system was in crisis. They discuss the use of a Foucauldian methodology and analysis that highlights relationships between data management and emerging themes, discourses on status, efficiency and danger, the privileging of some court users over others, and issues around designated space.

Visiting fellow at Queen Mary, Adrian Howe discusses standard positivist and post-structural methodologies deployed by feminist researchers in criminology and criminal justice. She will be looking at the role of statistical analysis, which allows for particular biases in the collection of data,  in determining the scale and in raising the policy profile of domestic violence, and on the discursive production of crime by non-feminists researchers. Also from the University of London David Nelken (Kings College) asks ‘Whom Can We Trust?’ in discussion of qualitative methods in comparative research, briefly addressing issues such as conflicting accounts of events in context of approaches he has called ‘Virtually there’, ‘Researching there’ and ‘Being there’ and ‘second-order comparison’.

Paul Dawson, Research Manager at the Evidence and Insight Unit of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), will discuss the use of police data, providing insight of the work of the unit through case studies, demonstrating data use and research within the Metropolitan Police Service, and offering advice about data access. Also in the context of policing and data access, Lisa Dickson from the Law School at the University of Kent will discuss her investigation of NHS disclosure to the police of confidential patient-identifiable information without patient consent through the Data Protection Act 1998. She will be talking about her use of Freedom of Information requests as a research method to secure the data, and about FOI responses as a distinctive and interesting source of research information.

On quantitative sources and methods, Nick Tilley (UCL) will be discussing the wide range of statistical sources available in criminology, what types of data are currently most commonly used, possibilities, pitfalls and practical problems for broadening the range of data sources, and other data sets that are often overlooked. Following on from this, Andromachi Tseloni (Loughborough University) offers an overview of common methods applied to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, asking what such analyses can and cannot tell about the issues examined. Continuing the focus on quantitative methods, but also the themes of policing data and domestic violence, Allan Brimicombe, Head of the Centre for Geo-Information Studies at UEL, will discuss the use of police recorded data to understand patterns of escalation to violence and homicide amongst repeat victims of domestic violence/abuse (DVA).

Booking information

This event is organised by the British Society of Criminology, Socio-Legal Studies Association, British Library and Institute for Advanced Legal Studies. The price of £90 (Students £65) includes lunch and refreshments. If you would like to take advantage of this great opportunity please visit on the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies events page for booking details, timings and access arrangements.

21 October 2015

Enduring Ideas 3: The Problem of Prejudice

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Book now!

The third lecture in our Enduring ideas series takes place on the 17th November. Following Matt Flinders on democracy and Ha-Joon Change on capitalism, our exploration of the key concepts and ideas that underpin our understanding of society continues with Dominic Abrams on prejudice. Recent and continuing reactions to the refugee crisis in Europe highlight the importance of our understanding of the problem of prejudice. Professor Abrams will address questions such as whether a tendency to judge and stereotype is an inherent part of human nature, an inevitable aspect of society or something which could be prevented through better education and focused social policies. His talk will also discuss whether our tendency to pre-judge others means that any attempts to aim for sustained societal harmony in our increasingly diverse communities are simply far too optimistic.

Dominic Abrams is Professor of Social Psychology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Group Processes at the University of Kent. We’re delighted to be joined by Professor Dame Helen Wallace, a European Studies specialist, British Library Board member, and Foreign Secretary and International Vice-President of the British Academy.

The Enduring Ideas series takes place in collaboration with the Academy of Social sciences. It starts at 1830, in the Terrace Restaurant. Booking information is available via this link here Enduring Ideas. Look forward to seeing you there!