Life in the Archives and Special Collections

One of the great things about working with archive materials is never knowing what treasures you might discover in the depths of a storage box untouched by human hand since the dawn of time (well, a few years maybe).

Today’s exciting (and timely) find is this photograph which shows Sir David Attenborough receiving an Award of Doctor of Science honoris causa at a degree ceremony in May 1972.

Landscape image of a man in full academic dress stooping in front of a table (back to camera at an angle), shaking hands with another man in academic dress who is standing facing him: two other men in academic dress are sat at the table to the man standing's left. A man is stood further away in the background to the left (also in cap and gown) watching, and there are smartly dressed people sat in rows behind.
Sir David Attenborough receives his award, May 1972.

Sir David is one of a number of notable individuals who have been awarded honorary degrees by City, University of London, including the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman (who was also recognised at the same ceremony as Sir David), former Speaker of the House of Commons Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd and the journalist Sophie Raworth.

The photo was uncovered as part of our project to digitise the (approx.) 6,000 images in our collection for preservation purposes. This work is being carried out by staff from across Library Services – plus we’ve had some terrific help from the Department of Library and Information Science‘s CityLIS students too.

As today is Sir David’s 93rd birthday, we’d like to offer our congratulations and best wishes to him, and share this marvellous image with you.

For more information on our Archives, Special Collections, and how to access materials, please visit our Archives and Special Collections Guide.

The Annual Register: a record of world events

The Annual Register is a year-by-year record of British and world events, published annually since 1758.

From 1758 to 1789, Edmund Burke was the editor and main contributor to this publication.  The Annual Register, as well as being a record of events, used to include reviews of important books, reproduction of state papers, historical sketches, poetry and observations on natural history.

After 1775, the history section of the Annual Register increased significantly and became the main focus of the publication.  In the 1920s, the content of the Annual Register changed to the format that it is still used today, opening with the history of Britain, followed by a section on foreign history, then chronicles of events, a brief retrospective of the year’s cultural and economic developments, and obituaries of esteemed people who died in the year.

City, University of London Library provides access to the online version of the Annual Register, which includes each volume published since 1758.

Screenshot of Annual Register published in 1946

 

The Annual Register is a valuable source of information for History, International Politics and Journalism students.

You can browse the different volumes of the publication, check the table of content and open the PDF of the relevant chapter.  Alternatively enter your keywords to retrieve all the documents, included in the Annual Register, that focus on the topic of your research.

Annual Register - basic search page

 

 

British Periodicals I and II

British Periodicals I and II offers facsimile page images and searchable full text for periodicals published from the seventeenth century through to the twentieth century. Topics covered include literature, music, philosophy, history, science, the fine arts, and the social sciences. You can browse the full list of over 300 periodicals here. You can also create an account to save searches and documents. 

 

Using the Advanced Search and you can filter results by article type, document feature or place of publication. Once you find an article you need you can download it as a PDF or email/print it.

A SUFFRAGETTE IN THE MAKING Williams, Ailsie Hamilton The Idler ; an illustrated monthly magazine; Jan 1909; 34, 76; British Periodicals

How do I access British Periodicals?

Access British Periodicals I and II via the Databases A-Z list or CityLibrary Search.

You can cross-search British Periodicals I and II content with our other Proquest subscriptions, these include The Guardian and Observer Archive, The New York Times Archive and The British Library Newspapers.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding British Peroidicals I and II please contact alexandra.asman.1@city.ac.uk 

City Archives and Special Collections visits University of London History Day

Banner saying 'Welcome to History Day', with sponsors, web address (historycollections.blogs.sas.ac.uk) and twitter handles (@ihr_history and @SenateHouseLib)On 27 November, members of the Library Services’ Archives and Special Collections group attended the University of London History Day 2018 at Senate House. This annual one-day event provides an opportunity for information professionals from libraries, archives and research organisations from around the country to meet, discuss their work, and promote their collections to researchers. The day includes a Fair, and a programme of talks from leading industry professionals.

More than 60 institutions attended this year’s fair, from a wide range of disciplines. The overall theme this year was Women in History, and City’s stall included reproductions of relevant items from our institutional archive. We had a section on notable women in STEM who have studied at City, including Marjorie Bell, who was the first female student on the Northampton Institute’s Electronic Engineering course, and Shirley Wallis, the first woman to earn a Diploma in Technology. We also featured several articles from the Athenaeum, including a piece by Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (a leading suffragist), and a contemporary review of some of the Brontës’ work.

Material from our Special Collections included a 1943 book of anatomical transparencies from the Walter Fincham optics collection, and a reproduction of a 15th century manuscript written by Johannes de Sacrobosco. We also had postcards available to help promote our collections, including illustrations from a 17th century text on the microscope, and a 19th century illustration of College Building by the architect, William Mountford.

City, University of London History Day 2018 stall

The event was well attended by both information professionals and researchers; we met several staff and students from City there too. Researchers enquired about a wide range of topics, including several questions about the Athenaeum, some about the history of City, and even one about the 19th century fur trade. We also had opportunities to meet colleagues from around the UK, and share ideas for future events.

Talks

We attended several of the talks that ran throughout the day. ‘Archiving Institutions’ included an interesting discussion on the various aspects and uses of business and other institutional archives in historical research, delivered by two corporate archivists and a researcher using institutional records for her PhD on the role of the University of London in supporting overseas universities in the mid 20th century. ‘Digital Tools and Methods’ introduced two fascinating online projects: Layers of London is an interactive map that lets users explore the intersection of historical maps of London dating back to 1520; and Transkribus, an open-source machine learning program designed to solve the challenge of automatic handwriting recognition. A researcher also presented his work on forensic research using web archives.

Another presentation was about an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the British Library and Queen Mary University of London, which gave an insight into the practicalities of PhD students and libraries working together. A student spoke about her own research exploring Russian women’s journalism during the 1917 revolutions and civil war and  discussed how the collaboration also gave her the opportunity to assist on the curation of the exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths, which opened in April 2017 and in cataloguing the library’s H. W. Williams Papers, a large collection of letters and documents relating to the Russian Civil Wars. It was particularly inspiring to hear how libraries such as the British Library are proactively using their collections to stimulate and engage with researchers – something which could be replicated (albeit on a somewhat smaller scale) with our own Archives and Special Collections.

Andrew Medder, Alex Asman, Stephen Penton

Banner: 'University of London Leading Women 1868-2018' with silhouette of several women wearing mortarboards.

CityLibrary makes History

On Tuesday, November 27th, CityLibrary will take part in History Day for the first time.

History Day is an annual event at Senate House bringing together libraries, archives and associated organisations to create a programme of drop-in talks and a fair designed to inspire and support researchers.

Poster featuring a woman reading and writing, advertising History Day 2018
History Day 2018

CityLibrary staff will have a stall in the main History Fair displaying items from the City, University of London Archive and Special Collections. The theme of this year’s event is ‘Women in History’ and so our display will focus on the significant impact and achievement of women at City, as well as showcasing some other notable items from our collections.

Since our founding as the Northampton Institute in 1894, City has had a strong association with STEM subjects and our History Day stall will highlight the contributions of alumni such as Shirley Wallis (the first woman to be awarded a Diploma in Technology) and Marjorie Bell (the first female student on the Northampton Institute’s Electronic Engineering course). We’ll also emphasise the crucial role women workers played during World War I and their connection to the Institute. More information on some of City’s Extraordinary Women can be found on the City website.

Notable women feature prominently in The Athenaeum, the forerunner of The New Statesman and we are the proud custodians of a special ‘Editor’s copy’ which features crucial clues as to who wrote many of the anonymous articles published between 1828-1921. We’ve selected several contributions from the likes of Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to feature, plus the early reviews of several novels by the Brontë sisters writing under their pseudonyms: these reviews were featured (uncredited) in a recent BBC documentary series on the family (which is available to watch via BoB).

Staff will also present a range of other fascinating items and ephemera from our Rare Books collections, plus we’ll have some exciting freebies to giveaway too.

Image of postcards and a bookmark including images from the Archive of the College Building and some taken from the Walter Fincham optics collection
Archive freebies featuring images from the Archive and the Walter Fincham optics collection.

 

History Day is free to attend although the organisers recommend registering in advance. We look forwards to seeing you there and participating in what should be an interesting and engaging event.

 

A witness in the archive: Paris, May 1968

From the archives: 1968 has become synonymous with radicalism. 

 

1968 around the world

Around the world, in 1968, people began protesting. Several countries in Eastern Europe experienced major unrest. In Czech, the Prague Spring was a hopeful period of liberalisation, artistic exploration and democratisation.

The Civil Rights and Anti-War movements in the US ramped up, following the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. West Germany experienced the 68er-Bewegung which saw protests against the Vietnam War, ex-Nazi officials still in positions of power and universities. London itself saw rioting in Grosvenor Square. The reporter calls it “a vicerage teaparty” in comparison to events in Paris.

 

1968 in Paris

Paris was the centre of this whirlpool of revolution and it began with the students. On 2nd May 1968 the authorities shut down the Paris Nanterre University. On 6th May a protest was called by the French NUS. Events developed from this and barricades were thrown up. Heavy handed responses from the authorities led to further action and mass sympathy.

Following more protests and more violent responses, a general strike was called on 13th May. After this day workers began strike action and by one point in May around two thirds of French workers were on strike. There were demands for a new government. On 29th May, President Charles De Gaulle had (briefly) fled from France.

 

City and 1968

Published in June 1968 in the Beacon, a eye witness account offers a clear sighted report on the events. It describes the violence of both sides, but also the solidarity and optimism of the students: “It seems that nothing less than social revolution will satisfy their desires”.

Beacon
Paris in May, Beacon June 1968

 

The legacy of 1968

1968 is sometimes called a political failure for the protesters. Following events in May, France held a general election which De Gaulle’s party safely won. Czech was invaded by Russian Troops in August and American involvement in Indochina expanded under Nixon.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of 1968 was the social liberalisation which we are still enjoying today. Reading firsthand accounts like this however, remind us that we all have a duty to protect everyone’s rights and to support peaceful engagement that questions society.

 

 

From the archives: Decline and Fall

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

One of the gems of our rare books collection is a complete copy of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire which was published in 1789.

12 beautiful leather bound books
Twelve books of Decline and Fall

It’s a six volume work. Each volume is split in two making twelve books in total. The complete work covers the story of the Roman Empire from the second century CE (the time when Gladiator was set) to the fifteenth century. It’s not just a history of the Roman Empire but the history of much of Europe, Africa and Asia during this long period.

The first volume was published in 1776, the same year when the United States of America declared Independence. The final volume was published in 1788 (the year before the French Revolution). This was a time of both great change and disruption, but also continuation and tradition.

This period is sometimes called the Enlightenment. During this time scholars around the world (especially in intellectual centres like Birmingham, Edinburgh, Paris, London and Boston) wrote books and articles which challenged previous ways of thinking. Gibbon was part of this movement. He  believed that the fall of the Roman Empire was caused by, and caused, the growth of medievalism. He thought this was a bad thing and that the Roman Empire was a good thing. The Roman Empire was built on colonialism and slavery and saw massive inequality.

Decline and Fall is both an epic work and a piece of sustained scholarship, however it is of its time. Some of Gibbon’s conclusions are not necessarily followed today, but he is still praised for a fine and vigorous prose style.

frontispiece image
The frontispiece

The state of scholarship

This map shows the relative knowledge of Italy and Egypt. Italy was a stopping point on the infamous Great Tour and many rich Britons would have visited it. Very few Europeans had traveled to Egypt at the time Gibbon was writing his work. Now a days a lot more is known about Egypt, almost more than Italy or Greece, due to discovery of extensive papyrus records.

A line drawing map of Eastern Mediterranean
A map of the Eastern Mediterranean
Greece and Italy map line drawing
A map of Greece and Italy
Egypt map line drawing
A map of Egypt

The author

Gibbon was briefly an MP in parliament but his greatest achievement was this history. He was noted for the critical use of primary sources and was a great example of the value and importance of a solid underpinning of information literacy.

He was also a very well traveled man and a part of that great European Republic of Letters which has survived even to this day in places like City, University of London which value and support the importance of internationalism.

Author portrait from frontispiece

For many people, perhaps, Gibbon’s legacy can be summed up in the apocryphal words of King George III ”Another damned big black book, Mr. Gibbon. Scribble, scribble, scribble – eh, Mr. Gibbon?” It’s certainly a big book, bigger than anything by Tolstoi, but just as readable.

In the 240 odd years since its publication, even though few have read it and the world has changed, many of Gibbon’s presumptions and ideas have become commonplace. Returning to the beginning and learning good information literacy, we can learn to challenge many of these ideas and begin to write our own histories.

From the archive: The Beacon

The Archives Group at City Library are responsible for maintaining and preserving City’s Archives and Special Collections. We are currently working on a number of exciting projects to make the content more accessible to staff, students and external researchers.

In our new series From the archive, each month we’ll be selecting a collection from the archive to share with the world via the News Hub. This month it’s the turn of the beloved student magazine The Beacon. Edited and written entirely by students we hold print runs of The Beacon from the late 1940s until the early 1980s.

The Beacon provides a fascinating insight into the lives of City students throughout this period; the things which were important to them at the time and local political issues of the day. We can also see the activities of the student’s union reflected in the pages, with concerts, theatre productions, dances and sports all recorded or advertised.  

If you would like to find out more about City’s Archives and Special collections please visit our Archives Guide or email archives@city.ac.uk. 

Black History Month

This month we have been celebrating Black History Month and all the powerful and truthful books written by, and about, people of colour.

bell hooks

London has a rich, deep and proud black history which likely dates back to the Roman period, if not before. London’s diverse community is a source of strength and inspiration throughout its history. For example:

  • Olaudah Equiano, was an eighteenth century bestselling author who helped lead the campaign to make slavery illegal.
  • The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor wrote some enduring music of great beauty, but died tragically young.
  • Humanitarian, Businesswoman and healthcare provider, Mary Seacole was hailed as mother of British Soldiers for her work during the Crimean War to care for wounded and convalescent soldiers.

You can find out more about this history with CityLibrary Search

 

 

 

“Am now in the trenches for the first time, and it is d— cold.”

City, University of London was founded as The Northampton Institute, and over the years its staff, students and Alumni have sadly, like most people, been unable to escape the ravages of war.

Whilst academics provided training for members of the armed forces during World War II, local people sheltered in the basement as bombs fell. The Engineering Faculty facilities were used to produce munitions and communication tools during the First World War, and the Institute was involved in helping injured former service personnel following the conflict.

The Archive collection here at City contains records and images from the Institution’s history, and many of you will have seen the commemorative display on the wall of the College Building (opposite the Saddlers Common Room) as you pass through, which features photographs and stories from those times of crisis; events also well documented in the Student Union and Society publications of the day.

An Editorial from the Northampton Engineering College Magazine in November 1914 considers the dilemma of students at the time and reports on a Student Union debate concerning whether “students should enlist” or “students ought not to enlist” (they concluded they should). It then describes how the governing bodies, including the University of London:

“are making it as easy as possible for a student who enlists now to resume his studies again after the war, but it is doubtful whether after months of the glorious and free life of a soldier one could again settle down to the ceaseless poring over ponderous tomes which is so characteristic of our student life…”

In February 1915 the Editorial of The Northampton Gazette featured several appeals: one was for subscriptions to keep the publication going during those tough times, another was for correspondents to send in stories from the Front, and a third was asking soldiers overseas to send a postcard home confirming they had received their copies of the Gazette in the post. ‘Our Letter Bag’ featured some of this correspondence:

The Northampton Gazette 1915How time, hindsight and records from the past shed light on historical events, particularly those we remember on days like this.