THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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20 September 2018

‘Fulbrighters’: the US-UK Fulbright Commission Alumni

In this second blogpost relating to the US-UK Fulbright Commission Archive recently acquired by the British Library, Eleanor Casson looks at the newsletters of the British Fulbright Scholars Association (BFSA) and the Alumni of the US-UK Fulbright Commission. For more information about this collection, there is an event on 19 November 2018 called ‘Hidden Histories: Gaps and Silences in the Archive’; tickets are available now.

Over the course of 70 years The Fulbright Commission has administered grants to numerous high-flyers in a wide ranging selection of professions, sectors, and skillsets. Senator Fulbright’s main aim was to produce world leaders through educational and cultural exchange. The US-UK Fulbright Program has been a particularly successful Commission in achieving this aim.

From 1982-2012 The Fulbright Commission had a separate supporting British Fulbright Scholars Association (BFSA), which acted as a charity on behalf of the Commission. It also acted as a central point from which Fulbright Alumni could stay in touch with the work of the Commission and build social and business networks across the Alumni database. This blog takes a look at the copies of the newsletter recently acquired by the British Library as part of the US-UK Fulbright Commission Archive.

The BFSA Newsletter was established in 1983, it was sent out to registered members as a way of keeping the community informed about the activities of The Fulbright Commission and the successes of the numerous alumni. The BFSA received a grant from the US Embassy to produce the newsletter to a high quality and improve alumni engagement.

The newsletter went through various overhauls with changes of name and changes of focus before the BFSA moved away from paper copies and began to distribute the newsletter only online. The multiple BFSA events planned throughout the year were documented in the newsletters, including the May Concerts, BFSA Debates, as well as Annual General Meetings Talks. Amongst the articles and photographs of Fulbright events and fundraising efforts there were snippets of the Fulbright Commission’s community including; birth, marriage, and death announcements.  

Img0649The British Fulbright Scholar Association Newsletter, 1983-1988, The British Fulbright Scholar Association: Link, 1989-2000, and The Fulbright Alumni News: Linking the UK and USA, 2001-2012

Alongside the community engagement element of the newsletter there were also thought provoking articles from Fulbright Scholars about their chosen interests and often related to the study they were undertaking with their Fulbright Grant. The BFSA newsletter aimed to engage the audience as well as inform them.

Article HeadlineThis article found in the Spring 1984 issue No. 2 highlights how little politics can change in 34 years. Article by Professor David Walker

Editors of the newsletter included Mary Hockaday, a journalist who went on to become Controller of BBC World Service English, and award-winning Adeola Solanke, a Nigerian-British playwright and screenwriter. Profile articles were written about well-known and successful alumni including Katherine Whitehorn, journalist and columnist with The Observer. Profile articles were also written for the politicians Lord Bernard Donoughue, Baroness Shirley Williams, and Charles Kennedy about their life experiences. Sir Malcolm Bradbury, the author and academic, wrote a small piece reflecting on his time as a ‘Fulbrighter’ in 1955, as well as imagining Sylvia Plath’s journey and experience travelling the opposite way in the same year.

Eleanor Casson
Cataloguer, Fulbright Archive

 

18 September 2018

‘Pierce your heart’: Letters from Europe and North Africa by Indian prisoners in the Second World War

Indian prisoner-of-war (PoW) experiences during the Second World War varied sharply, depending on where soldiers were taken captive and who their captor was.  Letters archived at the British Library, documented in military censorship reports, reveal how such experiences are inflected by differences in war fronts, military rank, individual agency – and sheer luck.

Pic 1Men of the 4th Indian Division with a captured German flag at Sidi Omar, North Africa. © IWM (E 6940)

The top priorities for one incarcerated Jemadar are toothpaste and shoes.  Writing to his friend in August 1942, he describes being imprisoned in Libya and then Germany, where has ‘a comfortable time'.  However, ‘we need some other things of daily use such as toothpaste and stockings.  If it is no trouble to you please send me a pair of shoes of No. 9 size’.  The Jemadar also reflects on the emotional charge of receiving letters from home: ‘The whole of that day the memory of India was fresh in our minds'.

Imprisoned in Germany, Sepoy Ajmer Singh, one of the few named soldiers in the censorship reports, writes rather accusingly in July 1943 to Sepoy Jahar Singh in Cairo: ‘I don’t know whether you are getting my mail, but I’ve sent you a lot of letters and had no reply. As prisoners of war we have nothing to take up our minds and we look forward to getting letters, so you must write to me once a month, or better still, once a week'.  Ajmer Singh’s prescriptiveness about epistolary regularity highlights an acute sense of boredom and loneliness.  How is one to pass the time in prison?

Pic 2Soldiers of the 4th Indian Division decorate the side of their lorry 'Khyber Pass to Hellfire Pass'.  'Hellfire Pass' was the nickname for the strategically important Halfaya Pass in Egypt, fortified by the Germans and which the British attacked, unsuccessfully, during Operation Battleaxe. © IWM (E 3660)

This significance of emotional connections established by textual exchanges is emphasised by an Indian sepoy in December 1942: ‘We were prisoners of Germany when our British forces reached Benghazi.  Germans left all prisoners and ran away. Now we are quite well and safe.  We suffered a lot for five months and did not receive any letter from home’.  He also reveals the physical and psychological cost of incarceration: ‘Our work was very hard starting at 5 am and finished at 7 pm…We were loading and unloading ammunition and petrol from the ships, for their advance line.  Once we refused to do that kind of work saying that it was against our King and country.  They said that if we disobey their orders, we will be shot down’.

Such terrible conditions of imprisonment continue to be detailed in a letter by a ‘Hindu bearer’ to his mother: ‘Dear mother, I was taken prisoner … in the month of June… I cannot describe how atrociously we prisoners were treated by the Germans.  We were given half a pint of water and one 8oz biscuit.  This was all our daily meal.  We were employed on odd jobs, fatigues from early morning till it was dark.  We were beaten and kicked by the Germans…We have suffered such a lot which, if I write down will pierce your heart’.

It is from such PoWs that Indian revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose started recruitment in Germany in 1941 and Southeast Asia in 1943 for the Azad Hind Fauj, which offered armed resistance to British colonial rule in undivided India.

Diya Gupta
PhD researcher, Department of English, King’s College London
Find out more in this short film

Further reading:
Middle East Military Censorship Reports: Fortnightly Summaries Covering Indian Troops -
August 1942-April 1943, IOR/L/PJ/12/654
April 1943-October 1943, IOR/L/PJ/12/655
November 1943-January 1944, IOR/L/PJ/12/578

‘We become crazy as lunatics’: Responding to the Bengal famine in Indian letters from the Second World War 

The ‘Kashmir of Europe’ and other exoticisms: Indian soldiers’ tales of travel in the Second World War 

Exploring emotional worlds: Indian soldiers’ letters from the Second World War

 

13 September 2018

A day in the life of an East India Company Director

Every April the stockholders of the East India Company elected 24 men to serve as directors for the following year.  Two were then chosen by the directors to be Chairman and Deputy.  These ‘merchant- statesmen’ had responsibility for governing a vast overseas empire as well as dealing with administrative minutiae such as petitions from home staff.  What was a typical working day for an East India Company director in the early 19th century? 

East India HouseJoseph C Stadler, East India House 1817 - P1389 Images Online

The Court of Directors met at East India House in Leadenhall Street in the City of London to take ‘cognizance of all matters of record relating to the Company’.  Thirteen directors had to be present to form a quorum.  One Court had to be held every week, but the directors often met two, three, or more times.  Proceedings generally started at 11am or midday, sometimes at 10am.  They usually broke up between 6pm and 7pm, although sittings might go on until 10pm. There were fines for non-attendance. During a sitting, some directors might go off to other parts of East India House whilst unimportant matters were being dealt with, but if something was brought forward for discussion, all directors were recalled to the Court before business continued.

  EIC Court RoomThomas Hosmer Shepherd, The Court Room, East India House c.1820  - WD 2465 Images Online

Court meetings started with the reading of all papers received since the last session. Dispatches from India were read in Court before being sent to the different departments at East India House, but the vast body of consultations copied back to London were merely referred to and read as necessary. Lengthy debates often took place. Matters were either dealt with immediately or referred to one of the specialised committees of directors. There were sixteen committees in 1813: Buying, College, Correspondence, Government Troops and Stores, House, Law Suits, Library, Military Fund, Military Seminary, Preventing the Growth of Private Trade, Private Trade, Secrecy, Secret, Shipping, Treasury, and Warehouses.

The Court then adjourned and the committees of directors convened.  About 5pm the Court came back together to consider reports from the committees and make final decisions. The Court also swore in captains and officers of Company ships, and saw civil and military servants returning to India.

EIC chairChair used by the Chairman of the Court of Directors manufactured c.1730 - Foster 905 Images Online

Directors took turns at presiding over sales at East India House, and committees often sat on days when the Court was not meeting.  With very few exceptions, the Chairman and Deputy attended East India House every morning, and frequently were there until late in the day: ‘their constant attention is indispensable, from the frequent communication with Ministers and the Government Offices’. They often had to go to the west end of town on government business.  

General Court Room 013355Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, General Court Room, East India House, c.1820 - WD 2466 Images Online

In return for their services, directors enjoyed patronage rights over certain civil and military appointments as well as a salary, fixed in 1793 at £300 per annum for directors and £500 each for the Chairman and Deputy.  In 1814, the General Court of Proprietors voted an increase: £1200 for the Chairman, £1000 for his Deputy, and £500 for directors (£700 for those on the Secret Committee or Committee of Correspondence).  Not all stockholders approved of the pay rise: the vote was 51 in favour, 21 against.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Proceedings of the Select Committee appointed by the General Court of Proprietors, on the 6th October 1813, to consider and report upon the expediency of augmenting the allowances to the Directors for their attendance upon the business of the Company … (London, 1814)