THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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18 posts categorized "Research methods"

06 May 2014

Happy Birthday Channel Tunnel

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In this post Philip Eagle, Content and Collection Specialist for Business and Intellectual Property, provides more information about the Library's Item of the week.

On the 6th May 1994, twenty years ago this week, the Channel Tunnel was officially opened by HM the Queen and President François Mitterrand. The current Item of the Week on the British Library's website is a Deputation to the Prime Minister by promoters of an earlier Channel Tunnel scheme, published in 1913 and held in the Business & IP Centre's Trade Literature Collection.

The work describes a scheme quite close to today's Channel Tunnel, with two bored single-track tunnels from Dover to Sangatte. Trains would be electrically hauled and cross passages would be used for workers and to improve ventilation.

Much of the 136-page brochure, however, is taken up by arguments against the fear that a Channel Tunnel might provide an avenue for France or some other hostile nation to invade Britain, which had shut down the most serious previous attempt to start construction of a Tunnel in 1882. It is argued that changes in both the political situation and military technology since would make a Channel Tunnel less of a hazard to Britain in the event of a European war, and more helpful as a way of evading any naval blockade to trade.

Arguments for the Channel Tunnel are familiar - increased trade, tourism, and the avoidance of seasickness. The most prominent supporter of a Tunnel scheme listed in the brochure is the late William Ewart Gladstone, whose speech of 1890 supporting a tunnel is quoted. The brochure ends by predicting through trains from London to points as far away as Lisbon, Nice, Palermo, Constantinople and Siberia, and the possibility of a tunnel under the Bering Strait to link Russia with North America for a London-New York express.

The illustration shows a drawing of an even earlier scheme by Hector Horeau in 1851, which would have involved a submerged iron tube resting on the sea bed. The huge moored towers seen in the picture would have been retained after the completion of the tube, to hold it in place and provide ventilation.

Channel tunnel sized

Elsewhere in the Trade Literature collection, we have a number of items covering the modern tunnel, including annual reports from Eurotunnel and Wimpey, and celebratory items in staff magazines from the contractors Tarmac and Costain. For people who want to see what St Pancras and Kings Cross were like before the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, we have a brochure published by the City and South London Railway tube company for their 1907 extension from Angel to Euston via Kings Cross (now part of the Northern Line), which has fascinating pictures of the station and the streets around.

29 April 2014

Law, Gender and Sexuality

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In this post Jon Sims, Curator for Law and Socio-Legal Studies, writes about the third national socio-legal training day to be organised by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the British Library and the Socio-Legal Studies Association. The training day will be held on the 19 May 2014 at the Institute of Advanced legal Studies, London.

Question: What do the following have in common - a lapel badge exclaiming “keep your filthy laws off my body”, the “disciplinary gaze” of the police in interwar London, OECD statistics, wills, the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery, feminist legal judgments, oral history recordings at the British Library, and a 1907 leaflet advertising a talk by a certain “Miss Pankhurst LL.B” (Bachelor of Laws)?

Answer: they are all topics or items from major collections to be discussed at Law, Gender and Sexuality: sources and methods in socio-legal research - an all-day event on 19 May 2014 at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.

Following the model of previous successful events, this year’s training day aims to draw attention to archives and content which newcomers to the investigation of intersections between law, gender and sexuality may not be aware of and to consider the methodological and practical issues involved in analysing sources.  Read on for a taste of this year's presentations by academics, archivists, librarians and curators brought together specically for the event.

Launching the day, the law and feminism session sees Professors Rosemary Hunter and Rosemary Auchmuty discussing, respectively, empirical, feminist analysis and redrafting of legal judgments and the sources and methods informing feminist approaches to sexuality and law scholarship and the gendered interrogation of common identities assumed by the simplistic “gay and lesbian” coupling or notions of the “LGBT community”. Later on, addressing same sex relationships Daniel Monk will focus on the insights afforded by wills, overlooked legal documents offering insights on family, gender, kinship and personal life and on issues associated with their use, while Rosie Harding draws from her utilisation of LGBTQ popular culture sources, sharing her experiences of working with autobiographical narratives, utopian film and literature, cartoons and images.

Drawing from the new “Sisterhood & After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement” project, Dr. Polly Russell will explore how activists involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement challenged cultural assumptions about women and will raise questions about  the intersection between this and legislative change in the areas of reproductive rights, equal opportunities and education. Other British Library resources treating or offering a window on areas of law, gender and sexuality within varied, sometimes cross-disciplinary contexts, and not easily found within a traditional law library will be highlighted as well.

Introducing the Hall Carpenter Archive (1958 onwards) and the Women’s Library@LSE in the context of the LSE collections for gender and sexuality studies, Heather Dawson provides background, scope and practical details for exploiting this renowned archive of post Wolfenden gay activism, and what a former Fawcett Society councillor is quoted to have described as “a gold mine of information of the political and social history of women”.

While Elizabeth Dawson and Fiona Cownie investigate the potential for gender focussed research in the Archives of Legal Education at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Professor Cownie shares theoretical and practical insights drawn from her research on Claire Palley, the first woman to be appointed to a Chair in Law in the U.K.  Bridging the themes of legal education and professions, and Men, Masculinities and Law, Professor Richard Collier draws attention to diverse primary sources and sociological data utilised in research on diversity, work life balance and wellbeing in law firms and universities, and father’s activism in law reform.

On visual sources and methods Professor Amanda Perry-Kessaris provides a tour of treasures with a law, gender and sexuality theme hidden or showcased at locations such as the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, while Dr. Dominic Janes draws attention to the research potential of police photographs to investigate the “disciplinary gaze” of London’s police and compare arrests of “effeminate homosexuals” and so called “normally” dressed men in club raids in the interwar years.

If you are interested in attending the conference why not register?  The student rate is just £30.00 for the whole day.

Articles developed from last year's event on legal biography can be read on SAS space using the search term Legal Biography and in special issues of Legal Information Management

25 February 2014

My notes from a conference

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Robert Davies, Engagement Support Officer for Social Sciences at the British Library, writes:

In January, I was pleased to attend the one day conference ‘Working with Paradata, Marginalia and Fieldnotes: The Centrality of By-Products of Social Research’ at the University of Leicester.

The conference was convened by the University of Leicester, the National Centre for Research Methods (Novella Group) and the Institute of Education. The aim of the day was to provide an opportunity ‘for dialogue across disciplines and research paradigms: across the social sciences and humanities, historical and contemporary data, primary and secondary resources, quantitative and qualitative approaches’.  The programme and range of speakers truly reflected this aim.

On arrival one of my fellow delegates asked me the question:

‘So which area of interest brings you here?’

To which I responded:

‘Well, I suppose, I come at this from two directions; as a former conservator of manuscripts and printed books I understand marginalia, as an Engagement Support Officer for Social Sciences I am fascinated by how we might re-use more recent ‘secondary data’ to help understand contemporary society, but I am not sure what Paradata means.'

So what do we mean by marginalia and paradata?  To quote Henrietta O’Connor:

‘…[they are] material collected as part of, supporting or in addition to the research process.  Annotations and augmentations revealed through the analysis of original documents.  By-products, non-standard ‘data’, ephemera, letters, pictures, notes.’

Speakers and delegates went on to consider methodologies for undertaking the analysis of marginalia and field-notes (such as the application of narrative analysis); the potential ethical implications of undertaking secondary analysis of ‘historic’ surveys and following up with the subjects of those surveys; how the analysis of marginalia and field-notes can cast a light on what we understand to be ‘acceptable’ research practices at any given point and how such perceptions shift over time. It included discussion of the latest technological developments which can, and are, being used to collect paradata during large telephone and on-line surveys to understand low response and drop-out rates and to make appropriate adjustments to the surveys as they progress; how individuals may feel that data is being collected by ‘stealth’; and the potential for, and difficulties of, including cognitive and behaviour coding in surveys.

The conference concluded with an examination of the marginalia and notes of the writer Vernon Lee (Violet Paget). It examined the importance of capturing marginalia during digitisation projects and the sustainability of data which is ‘born’ digital (regardless of whether the digital content is generated through digitisation projects of ‘historic’ material or via large national household surveys).

In the spirit of the conference, to gain alternative perspectives on the day I thoroughly recommend reading Llordllama’s Research Ramblings and viewing a storify by Dr Helen Kara of the tweets posted on the day.  I hope the bibliography below may be of some use (although it is a very small selection of the books and articles available on the subjects covered during the conference).

Bibliography

Andrews, M.; Squire, C.; Tamboukou (editors) Doing Narrative Research, Sage, 2008.  British Library shelfmark: YC.2012.a.10037

Crone, R.; Halsey, K.; Owens, W.R.; Towheed, S. (editors) The History of Reading.  vol. 1. International perspectives, c.1500-1990. vol. 2. Evidence from the British Isles, c.1750-1950. vol. 3. Methods, strategies, tactics. British Library shelfmarks:
Volume 1 - YC.2013.a.1041; Volume 2 - YC.2013.a.1042; Volume 3 - YC.2013.a.1043

Elliott, H.; Ryan, J.; Hollway, W.  Research encounters, reflexivity and supervision, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Issue 5, Volume 15, pp 433-444. (2012)

Gillies, V.; Edwards, R. Working with archived classic family and community studies: illuminating past and present conventions around acceptable research practice.  International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Issue 4, Volume 15, pp 321-330. (2012)

Groves, R. M.; Heeringa, S. G. Responsive design for household surveys: tools for actively controlling survey errors and costs.  Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A, Statistics in society. VOL 169; NUMBER 3, (2006),pp 439-457.

Kirgis, N.;  Lepkowski, JM. “Design and Management Strategies for Paradata Driven Responsive Design: Illustrations from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth,” in Improving Surveys with Paradata: Analytic Use of Process Data, Krueter, F. (editor). New York: J.W. Wiley & Sons, (2013).

O'Connor, H.; Goodwin, J. Revisiting Norbert Elias's sociology of community: learning from the Leicester re-studies. The Sociological review. VOL 60; NUMBER 3, 2012, pp 476-497.  Blackwell Publishing Ltd , 2012.

O'Connor, H.; Goodwin, J. Through the interviewer’s Lens: Representations of 1960s Households and Families in a Lost Sociological Study, Sociological Research Online, Volume 15, Issue 4, (2009).

Turner, Malgorzata New perspectives on interviewer-related error in surveys : application of survey paradata (2013), University of Southampton, Thesis available via the British Library Electronic Theses Online System (EThOS).

Other Resources

The Research Ethics Guidebook: A resource for social scientists Online 

Developing Generic Ethics Principles for Social Science: An Academy of Social Sciences Initiative on Research Ethics

UK Reading Experience Database 1450 -1945

18 December 2013

Stories from the Empire: Privy Council Cases 1917-1920 (cont’d)

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In the second part of this guest post Alex Giles from City University, London, investigates stories from the empire from a socio-legal perspective, through researching Privy Council cases 1917-1920. 

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Record of proceedings in courts below in a Judicial Committee appeal case. (BL pp1316). Copyright British Library Board.

The first part of Alex's blog can be found here

The Privy Council cases can also give an alternative angle on important moments in history. For example in the set for 1920 there are some interesting cases around the unrest in the Punjab in  March and April 1919 relating to the so-called Rowlatt Acts; leading to the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre by the British Army in Amritsar on 13th April1.  One such case is  Bugga2; ostensibly reaching the Privy Council  because of a legal challenge to the retrospective nature of martial law regulations passed as a consequence of the above Acts, but more interesting as a primary resource material relating in detail some of the riots that led to the Massacre.

The case describes through the witness statements, confessions, charge sheets and police depositions, how a mob (some of whom are the Appellants in the case) run riot through the city of Amritsar leading to twenty of them being sentenced to death, and one to life imprisonment (for looting).

They attacked private and public buildings in Amritsar including the burning down of the local National Bank of India and murdering the bank manager and his assistant.  The whole event is described vividly through witness statements:

“I saw boy ringing and ringing bell, calling on people to close shops and get sticks and go to station…saw Muhammadi, whom I knew before, break window. I remonstrated with him, and another man I didn’t know said ‘Burn’. Another man came with oil…”

Or confessions:

“‘We found Sahib [the Bank Manager] standing at his table with a pistol in his hand. The mob fell on the Sahib with dangs and he fell down from the blows. The Sahib did not fire his pistol at all…the pistol fell from his hand and I picked it up. Exhibit P 1 is the pistol in question….’ thumbmark of the Accused”

Some of the men claim their confessions are false “made under Police pressure and threats” or “extorted by the Police through torture”, others blame the “Muhammedans” or that “my brother had a quarrel with the Constable”.  None of those sentenced appeared before an ordinary Indian criminal court – despite them still sitting during this period of martial law.

Another character in the Punjab at the time is Kali Nath Roy3, freedom fighter and editor of The Tribune, then published in Lahore. He is tried for sedition, and his case4 covering this period of March/April 1919, is a gold mine. Numerous articles from his newspaper campaign against the Rowlatt Acts, and his reports of the subsequent riots and the ill-treatment of those accused (including mention of the Bugga case above), are extensively reproduced within the case file to the Privy Council in an effort to illustrate the extent of his “indefensible language”:

“The masses of India are no fools. They are as intelligent as the masses in any other country; more intelligent perhaps…they know what is what…No man who saw the behaviour of the crowds – at once the picture of manliness and dignity – will ever doubt the supreme fitness of the country to enjoy the priceless and inalienable right of constitutional liberty. The Rowlatt Act must become a dead letter…” Tribune 8th April 1919

The judgment at Roy’s court martial points out “how soon after the appearance of these articles the serious outbreak took place in Amritsar”. Not only can we read his reports of Gandhi’s and Swani Shradhanada’s5 stirring speeches and actions, but we can also see Roy’s response to them  and his own justification (or defence) in his witness statement:

“I have always and uniformly condemned disorderliness and resort to physical force, not only as unjustifiable in themselves, but as futile, murderous and suicidal”.

When Gandhi is arrested Roy  points out that he is writing “ in the most unequivocal terms against any feeling of resentment or indignation and the need of strictly following the spirit of Mr Gandhi’s precept – that of absolutely eschewing violence”. He also explains that The Tribune is published in English and - far from being a rabble-rousing rag - is a respected publication: “the organ of the educated classes of the Province, a large number of its subscribers being Government officials”.

There are some lovely gems in the exhibits of the case too – such as the telegrams; one from the moderate Surendra Nath Bannerjee, Chief Secretary to the Punjab Government and former Indian National Congress president,  pleading for better treatment of Roy, and another from Shradhanada to him at The Tribune on April 11th:

“Just received wire from Bombay. Mahatma Gandhi released today. He regrets loss of life, counsels restraint and avoiding violence. I, too, strongly urge calm restraint…God and truth guide you all.”

Roy’s appeal to the final court of the British Empire against his two year sentence fails, despite his belief that supporting “constitutional agitation for the removal of Indian grievances” was his “legitimate duty”. However by the end of the year, along with others, he does in fact receive a Royal Pardon5; something intimated (but not explicit)in the final judgment. So his comment below is not as ironic as perhaps originally intended:

“The right of passive resistance is an acknowledged human, as distinguished from merely national, right; it is one of those rights which spring from the very fact that man is a rational, a conscientious, a self-determining being. And in no part of the world is this right more valued than in England”.  The Tribune 6th March 1919

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Volumes from this collection can be requested from shelf mark PP1316 for use in the Social Science Reading Room. For guidance on ordering and further information see the British Library web page Privy Council Appeal Cases.

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Alex Giles LLB, studied law at Sheffield University, and the College of Law. He currently works for City University London in their City Law School libraries.

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1.  see : History of India: A Chronology By John F. Riddick 2006

2. [1920] UKPC 14 Bugga and others v The King-Emperor (Appeal No. 171 of 1919) Lahore [20 February 1920]

3. See The State of India’s Democracy  pp 178 by Sumit Ganguly, Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner  2007

4. [1920] UKPC 107 Kali Nath Roy v The King-Emperor (Appeal No. 164 of 1919) Lahore  [9 December 1920]

5.Hindu reformer, see: Advance Study in the History of Modern India (Volume-3: 1920-1947)  pp 226 By G. S. Chhabra. 2005

6. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1920/nov/03/disturbances-pardons

12 December 2013

Stories from the Empire: Privy Council Cases 1917-1920

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In this guest post Alex Giles from City University, London, investigates stories from the empire from a socio-legal perspective, through researching Privy Council cases 1917-1920 

 

Photo (1)vols

Volumes in the series catalogued as Appeal Cases Heard Before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (shelf mark pp1316). Copyright British Library Board.

The British Library holds a collection of bound volumes of Privy Council cases from 1861 to 2007 (PP1316). Looking at just four years of these at the height of the British Empire makes fascinating reading. Although the final judgments of all Privy Council cases are currently freely available online from 1809 to 2013 on BAILLI (British and Irish Legal Information Institute) or COMMONLII (Commonwealth Legal Information Institute), these cases are often worth reading in full... In other words their Records of Proceedings, judgments of lower local courts, witness testimonies and attached exhibits can really add to our understanding from a socio-legal perspective of this, the final court of appeal for the British Empire and its peoples.

In any one year during the  period 1917 – 1920 a small group of “English” law lords in Whitehall, who made up the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, were deciding on approximately 140 cases originating from all parts of the world such as Canada, Australia, India, the Far East, Africa and the West Indies. The breadth of cases is quite staggering; from ancestral land and inheritance disputes in India using local Hindu matakshara Law or Mohammedan Law, to large commercial cases involving hydro-electric power or mining interests in Canada or Australia. Press and publishing disputes, personal injury, breach of contract for the sale of pig iron, insurance cases, workers’ compensation, licensing of a pub in Adelaide, patents, matrimonial and family, liability for fire damage to a rubber plantation, wills and probate – all with their own peculiar local flavour. One day they would be deciding on who should be running the local temple or muth in a Bengal village1, the next deciding on who owns vast tracts of territory in S. Rhodesia following the Matabele War and the fall of King Lobengula (a very interesting case which includes whole speeches by Cecil Rhodes2).

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Map contained within the records of proceedings in courts below in  Judicial Committee appeal cases decided 1917 - 1920. BL pp1316. Copyright British Library Board.

Some cases in this set are still considered “good law” and are cited or mentioned in recent cases for example [1919] UKPC 136 Taylor v Davies3 regarding trusts4, or [1919] UKPC 825, which was recently cited in a case about HIV/Aids drugs patents6. Lawyers or law students may wish to read the entire original case in such instances.

Others’ interest could be in a particular subject area such as Sugar Cultivation in Queensland and the status/role of non-European workers ([1919] UKPC 1187), or Railways in India ([1919] UKPC 1308). These often lengthy cases give primary source details through witness statements and other documentary evidence which incidentally paint a picture of workers’ and peasants’ lives, the caste system, local language and customs of the time.

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Photograph of an unknown person contained within the records of proceedings in courts below in Judicial Committee appeal cases decided 1917 - 1920. BL pp1316. Copyright British Library Board.

Sometimes the final judgments that we have of these cases are lengthy and informative, other times they can be so brief as to give no indication whatsoever of what the case was about. For example in [1919] UKPC109 the final judgment simply tells us:

“Their lordships will humbly advise His Majesty that this appeal should be dismissed with costs.”

So, without looking at the full case we wouldn’t know that this involved a complex family matrimonial dispute: A Christian man marries a Buddhist girl for her dowry. On the morning of the marriage instead of sending the kumarihamy (woman who dresses the bride) he goes and asks her parents for the balance of the dower. This offends the Singhalese parents whose custom is to pay the dower after the marriage ceremony before the assembled guests. There follows a long drawn out and tragic dispute; disinheritance, theft, general nastiness and sadly no mention of love or affection between the couple. Instead the original district judge sides with “the Respondents who were Christians and could not bear false witness” as opposed to “the Appellants who were Buddhists” and “not above it”. Fortunately a later judge is more discerning in weighing up the evidence, and comes to a more balanced decision, but from a socio-legal perspective what is interesting is the effect this has on their lives - which is recorded through their witness statements - and also the snapshot it gives us of a certain section of family life and the role of women in Ceylon at the time.

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Volumes from this collection can be requested from shelf mark PP1316 for use in the Social Science Reading Room. For guidance on ordering and further information see the British Library web page Privy Council Appeal Cases. 

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Alex Giles LLB, studied law at Sheffield University, and the College of Law. He currently works for City University London in their City Law School libraries. 

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1. [1919] UKPC 104 Mahunt  Damodar Ramanuj Das v Chemai Tihari (Appeal No 135 of 1917) Bengal [ 28  October 1919] 

2. Special Reference as to the Ownership of the Unalienated Land in Southern Rhodesia (Reasons) v JCPC [29 July 1918] (JCPC)   [1918] UKPC 78 (29 July 1918)

3. [1919] UKPC 136 Isabella Taylor v Robert Davies (Appeal No 51 of 1919) Ontario [19 December 1919] 

4. Cited:  Bagus Investments Ltd. V Kastening [2012] W.T.L.R. 1675 and Williams v Central Bank of Nigeria [2012] 3 W.L.R. 1501

5. [1919] UKPC 82 The Attorney General for the Dominion of Canada v The Ritchie Contracting and Supply Company Ltd (Appeal  No 160 of 1915) Canada [31 July 1919]

6. Merck Sharp Dohme Corp v Teva Pharma BV [2012] EWHC 627 (Pat)

7. [1919] UKPC 118 Addar Khan v John Mullins (Appeal No 78 of 1919) Queensland [2 December 1919]

8. [1919] UKPC 130 The East Indian Railway Company v Major Andrew Torton Kirkwood (Appeal No 92 0f 1919) Bengal [15   December 1919]

9. [1919] UKPC 10 Mengeltina Allahakoon v Selina Marguerita Abeyesekara (Appeal No.45 of 1917) Ceylon [6 February 1919]

17 May 2013

Picturing Propaganda

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Ian Cooke, Lead Curator in International Studies and Politics at the British Library and co-curator of the recently launched Propaganda exhibition writes about an upcoming study day that will examine the power of visual materials. Ian also provides answers to last Friday's quiz.

After nearly two years of planning, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion has opened today. Last night’s launch was great fun, with David Welch and Armando Ianucci speaking, followed by our very own leaflet drop. Over the past couple of days, I’ve very much enjoyed showing people around and talking about the exhibition.

It’s fantastic to finally see everything in place. There’s a huge difference between seeing the exhibits in small groups, as we were doing during planning, and seeing everything displayed together. In the gallery, the emotional power of the more-visual elements is astounding.

We’re going to be examining the power of visual materials in a study day on Saturday 1 June. We’ll be looking at both printed materials, such as posters, and moving images. The programme for the day reflects the themes in our exhibition, covering nation-building, health campaigns, and propaganda in war time. We’re working with the British Film Institute to look at research covering film and other visual materials, and how these kinds of resources can be studied in combination.

Libertycrying411x195

Above: Policemen look out of the eyes of the Statue of Liberty, with a policeman's baton forming a tear shape. The image is from a Russian poster, originally titled ‘Freedom American-Style’ by B Prorokov, as featured in the British Library exhibition Propaganda: Power and Persuasion.

Scott Anthony and Linda Kaye will talk about public relations in Britain and the use of film to reinforce images of Britain. Bryony Dixon will talk about public health in early silent film, and Sarah Graham, who features in our exhibition, will compare methods in visual communication in AIDS awareness campaigns. Luke McKernan will talk about newsreels in World War One, and Peter Johnston will discuss government-media relations during the Falklands War. The day starts with David Welch, talking about the use of visual materials in creating a sense of the enemy, and Sue Woods, providing an introductory guide to government film-making.

The day will be a great chance to find out more about current research and resources using these powerful and striking materials. You can find out details and book tickets on our web page.

Last week, I posted three national anthems questions. Here are the answers:

1. South Africa uses five languages in it’s national anthem: isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, and English.

2. The national anthem of Poland has the chorus: ‘March, march, Dąbrowski, March from Italy to Poland, Under your command, We shall reach our land’.

3. The European Union uses music from Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the setting of Friedrich von Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’, as both its anthem and to symbolise Europe in a wider sense. 

30 April 2013

Researching the exhibition

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Dr Peter Johnston is a freelance researcher, copywriter and editor, who recently worked on researching and writing labels and other text to accompany our Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteAJohnston. Here, Peter describes his experience, and explains the background to one of our exhibits.

When I began conducting research on the British Library’s forthcoming exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, I was a little daunted by the task. I’m no stranger to research, far from it - but here was a massive project, more than 200 objects that needed to be researched and explored in quite a short space of time, with the results written up and presented to an audience that will number in the tens of thousands.

The obvious question was where to start? Propaganda is not a new concept, and if you visit the exhibition you’ll see that, while it has not always been known by that name, propaganda stretches back as far as Ancient Greece and Rome – and probably further. So in order to tackle this massive project I started in the most logical place: the beginning.

Using Explore, the British Library’s catalogue, meant that I had access to thousands of books and articles on the subjectfrom which to extract knowledge. The ability to handle original documents and study the original productions was truly remarkable. The problem of where to start soon became one of how I could possibly fit in all of the fantastic information. Apart from the fascinating objects displayed in the exhibition, I was able to find out about aspects of propaganda that I never knew existed and some of the stories that surrounded them.

One of the most striking examples of this was the propaganda employed by the American colonists in the War of Independence. The colonists who wished for revolution were very conscious of the importance of public opinion and propaganda in promoting and attracting popular support for their cause. Boston was the Revolution’s propaganda nerve centre, the hub from which the majority of propaganda emanated.

Initially, propaganda was orchestrated by figures such as Samuel Adams through the Boston Gazette, and his depiction of the Boston Tea Party was a propagandist triumph. Adams later headed the Boston-based Committee of Correspondence, which became the chief agent of persuasion and propaganda used by American politicians seeking initially to further the cause of ‘no taxation without representation’, and targeted both British and Canadian public opinion. In time, the propaganda came to foster calls for independence.

American revolutionary propaganda was diverse, incorporating words and images. Entertainment was politicised to further the cause and Liberty Songs and plays depicting recent events were common. Other propaganda included poems, paintings, and printed caricatures. Pamphlets by authors such as Richard Price and Thomas Paine (copies of which are in the British Library) sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and General George Washington had Paine’s writings read to his troops to motivate them and raise morale before the successful Battle of Trenton, at a time when morale amongst the Continental Army was perilously low. When reading them now you can see why, as they include quotes such as this:

‘These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country... Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.’

(Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776)

The British counter-attacked on the propaganda front with their own pamphlets and leaflets, but the Americans certainly won the propaganda war. They even went international, and Benjamin Franklin was despatched as an Ambassador to France in order to enlist French support and worked closely with French publishers so as to gain support amongst the wider populace. This work resulted in direct French military involvement later in the war. Similarly, John Adams also went to Amsterdam to continue and support the work Franklin was doing in Paris.

SMALL Massachusetts Calendar 1772 p p 2517 n (3)

Public Domain Mark  The Massachusetts Calendar, 1772

This is one aspect of a diverse and detailed history behind just one exhibit that features in the exhibition, a Paul Revere engraving of the events in Boston of 5 March, 1770.

What was truly amazing is that, despite the evolution of propaganda mediums with the growth of mass media, the central methodologies and motivations remain the same. Propaganda remains a tool for spreading messages and influencing opinion, a vital exercise in the spreading and consolidation of power that was recognised by Alexander the Great as much as it is in the 21st century.

Useful information

'Propaganda: Power and Persuasion' launches on 17 May 2013. For more information see the 'What's On' pages. To join in the converstation on Twitter use #BLPropaganda

19 April 2013

The 1980s Archived

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In this post Sarah Evans outlines materials and resources available at the British Library that can be used to research social, political and cultural aspects of Britain in the 1980s

The events of the last two weeks have fuelled discussion about British society, politics and culture during the 1980s. Serendipitously, I was today browsing through the British Library Sounds website and came across this new oral history collection entitled ‘Observing the 1980s’  which features interviews with those involved in key events such as the Falklands War, the uprisings in Brixton and the Miners’ Strike, as well as on social issues such as unemployment and HIV. It brings together different voices from those who lived through the 1980s and is part of a project led by the University of Sussex, in collaboration with the British Library and the Mass Observation Archive.

As well as this collection, there are many others which offer insight into politics and life during the 1980s. Indeed, the recently launched website ‘Sisterhood and After’ includes extracts with women who were involved in the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. For example, the below extract from Rebecca Johnson about the idea of ‘Embrace the Base’:

‘I don’t know who came up with the idea to call Embrace the Base but what came out of that idea of the action was, we were going to bring women to Greenham in their thousands.  We were going to do it on the anniversary of the NATO decision to put Cruise and Pershing into Europe and that was December 12th 1979, so we were going to do this on December 12th 1982 and that was a Sunday.  And having got loads of women to come to the camp we were going to invite as many as possible to stay and help us close the base so it was Embrace the Base on Sunday, Close the Base on Monday.  And this action began to kind of form in our minds as a way to bring women to see what’s going on, to see the sheer immensity of this nuclear base expansion ‘cos it had been a nuclear base for quite a while.’

Embracing_the_base,_Greenham_Common_December_1982_-_geograph.org.uk_-_759090 (1)

Embracing the base, Greenham Common December 1982, near to Greenham, West Berkshire, Great Britain. At noon on December 12th 1982, 30,000 women held hands around the 6 mile perimeter fence of the former USAF base, in protest against the UK government's decision to site American cruise missiles here. The installation went ahead but so did the protest - for 19 years women maintained their presence at the Greenham Common peace camp. This image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by ceridwen and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.  6a00d8341c464853ef017ee9c1502c970d-800wi

Alongside the oral history collections which document personal experience, the British Library sound collections include other kinds of recordings which will no doubt be of value to researchers in many different disciplines. For instance, the collections include recordings of speeches of the major political parties during the 1980s. Indeed, I have just found Margaret Thatcher’s speeches at the 1984 Conservative Party Conference in Brighton and the 1989 Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool.

Researchers of pop culture during the 1980s will be interested in the music recordings and pop videos which are held at the British Library. From The Specials singing Ghost Town to Kylie Minogue talking the audience through her favourite songs on BBC Radio One, the sound collections offer the opportunity to remember the events which fuelled musical responses or to be catapulted back to one’s younger self (I also just found ‘Smash Hits’ magazine in the main catalogue!).

Nearly three years ago my colleague Dr. Phil Hatfield and I organised, with a number of external partners, an event which brought together witnesses from the uprisings (sometimes called ‘riots’) of the early 1980s, alongside those who have subsequently undertaken research on what happened. The chair was Professor Gail Lewis and the speakers were Linda Bellos OBE, Wally Brown CBE, Kunle Olulode, Prof. Louis Kushnick OBE, Dr Anandi Ramamurthy and Sean Creighton. The podcast for this event is available on the British Library Website.

The recent political, cultural and public discussion about the impact and legacy of social change during the 1980s has certainly shown the need for researchers to be able to access a variety of materials relating to recent history. For those who remember the 1980s and for those who want to find out more, the British Library’s diverse collections are a good place to start.