This is part of a series of blog posts highlighting some of the sources we have in the IHR library on the subject of this year’s Anglo-American conference, The Great War at Home. We have a range of sources covering all aspects of the war on the home front from letters, diaries and memoirs, newspapers accounts, business, estate and administration records. Here we focus on the parliamentary records.
The Home Front features heavily across all the parliamentary sources, including the journals and debates, petitions, reports of committees and commissions and Acts of Parliament. The parliamentary debates as recorded in Hansard, are an especially rich source for daily life during the war because MPs often raised concerns on behalf of their constituents or with their experiences in mind.
Provision of food… and drink
Food shortages, food prices and rationing were a source of anxiety and there is much discussion of the issues around agriculture, transportation, import restrictions and food availability.
Some discussions were more concerned with the effects of alcohol. From 1915 the Defence of the Realm (Liquor Control) regulations allowed local authorities to prohibit people from buying drinks for others. In October Basil Peto, Conservative MP for Devizes, urged the government to extend the “no treating” rule across the UK. Hansard reported his Commons speech: “the injury to the health and efficiency of the men of His Majesty’s land and sea forces when on furlough.. [is] directly attributable to the hospitable instincts of their friends” (House of Commons Hansard, Fifth Series, Volume 74, 14th October, 1915 column 1464).
Steps were taken to ensure that households could continue to support themselves. There were protests over tenants being threatened with eviction due to rent increases, particularly those families with soldiers at the front. Discussions can be found in Hansard. In 1915 an Act was passed to restrict “in connection with the present War, the Increase of the Rent of Small Dwelling-houses”.
James Thomas, Labour MP for Derby took up the case of railway workers who needed temporary lodgings as they were moved around the country. In July 1917 he asked the President of the Board of Trade if he was aware that
“railway locomotive men and guards throughout the country, and particularly on the Great Western system, are experiencing hardship when booked off duty away from home, owing to the difficulty under prevailing conditions of obtaining lodgings and food; that a number of Great Western goods guards, after on several occasions walking about for hours at night seeking lodgings and food in vain, and in one case having to proceed to the workhouse for accommodation, are now refusing to be booked off for rest away from home when unprovided with food, and in consequence are being punished by the railway company, which action threatens to bring the whole system into a state of revolt; and whether, therefore, he will at once consult with the Railway Executive Committee and endeavour to find a remedy, either by placing the responsibility of providing food and lodgings in all such cases upon the railway companies or by such other means as may be found practicable?”. (House of Commons Hansard, Fifth Series, Volume 96, Written answers (Commons) 19th July, 1917, column 607)
A pressing need in 1919 was to find housing for demobilized soldiers. Frederick Macquisten, Conservative MP for Glasgow Springburn, questioned: “the number of military and munition camps with comfortable and roomy hutments provided with electric lighting, gas and heating, water and drainage, play centres, and halls.. and the number of returned soldiers who have no houses for themselves and their families and would gladly now reside in these camps in preference to having the prospect of residing in subvented houses which will take long to materialise”. (House of Commons Hansard, Fifth Series, Volume 121, 11th November, 1919)
German Nationals resident in the UK
The parliamentary records reveal a lot about both official and private attitudes to Germans and other foreigners living in Britain. Thousands of people signed petitions asking for Enemy Aliens to be interned, at the same time that MPs were hearing about the poor provision of food for foreign nationals already interned in Alexandra Palace. In November 1915 the Home Secretary intervened to prevent one particular German woman from being repatriated:
“Miss Groschel is a lady of forty-three, who has lived in this country since she was nineteen, is devotedly attached to England, and has no friends to whom she could go or means of livelihood in Germany. To deport such a woman to a country where she would be friendless and penniless and exposed to suspicion and insult on account of her affection for England, would be an act of extreme harshness”. (House of Commons Hansard, Fifth Series, Volume 75, 3rd November, 1915)
Send women workers home!
An essential part of the war effort was that women filled many jobs vacated by men who were called up for military service, often in occupations which had traditionally been closed to females. There is much discussion with Trade Unions about ensuring that men’s employment rights were retained. After the war there were conflicting messages about whether women might continue to hold these jobs. In 1919 one Act (Sex Disqualification Removal Act) appeared to allow it, at least in certain circumstances—no person should be “disqualified by sex or marriage” from any civil or judicial office or post or any civil profession or vocation—while another (Act to make provision with respect to the restoration after the war of certain trade practices) restored pre-war restrictions.
Parliamentary petitions can show the strength of local feeling over particular issues in wartime. In June 1917 some 300 people requested an inquiry into the case of Frank Bimson, held under guard at Chester Castle after being taken “by the military authorities for service which he cannot conscientiously perform”. The petition explained how Frank had been “wholly devoted to religious work in the township of Newton in Makerfield for over five years”. (Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions, Session 1917-18, Second Report on Public Petitions, 29 March – 23 July, 1917)
Another year, another failure by the IHR’s Team Certain Victory to live up to its billing in the University of London annual quiz, though we did at least secure full marks in the history round, so some honour was maintained. I’m not sure the loud declamations from our table that the only reason we were losing is that the questions were ‘insufficiently academic’ won us any friends across the rest of the University mind…
These questions are beneath us…
Anyway, on with our reviews, and we start with another in our occasional series covering historical exhibitions. Simon Trafford finds the British Museum’s Vikings: Life and Legend to be a spectacular and unmissable exposition of Scandinavian early medieval culture, but one constantly troubled by an uncertainty about its audience and purpose (no. 1578).
Next up is Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution by James P. Byrd, which Benjamin Guyer believes will be foundational for all future studies of the Bible and the American Revolution (no. 1577).
Then we turn to Anne C. Nagel’s Hitlers Bildungsreformer: Das Reichsministerium für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung 1934-1945. Helen Roche recommends an enlightening and extremely well-written book, as well as a ground-breaking study of one of the Third Reich’s key institutions (no. 1576).
Finally, we have The Politics of Wine in Britain by Charles Ludington, and David Gutzke reviews an interesting, thought-provoking book, with a thesis that often goes beyond its quite thin evidence (no. 1575).
It’s an exciting month at the IHR: a long, sunny Easter break with be followed by two high-profile and much-anticipated conferences. BBC2: Origins; Influence; Audiences: A 50th Anniversary Conference will take place 25-26 April at the Science Museum, London. The conference will explore the origins, history and influences of BBC2, as well as the ever-changing viewer experience and the advent of multi-channels. Take a look at the conference website for the full programme on the conference website at http://bbctwo50th.wordpress.com/.
Eric Hobsbawm presenting a paper at the 1993 Creighton lecture at Senate House, London
History after Hobsbawm is being co-hosted with Birkbeck College, London, one of our more common collaborative associations. This will be a 3-day conference, interspersed with a piano recital by an IHR visiting fellow – Professor Peter Bailey – and parallel and plenary sessions. Lots of high-profile speakers will be in attendance such as former Anglo-American conference plenary speakers Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam (from 2011’s Health in history conference), and Professor Harriet Ritvo (2010’s conference on Environments). The conference will draw inspiration from the capacious legacy of the late Eric Hobsbawm, but is not a memorial event as such. The conference aims to bring together discussion about what we are currently doing as socially-committed historians, where we are headed, and what it means to be an historian in the twenty-first century. Do visit the conference website at http://www.bbk.ac.uk/history/about-us/events/history-after-hobsbawm.
Stay tuned for details of the IHR’s annual flagship conference on The Great War at Home, taking place this summer at Senate House…
Three of this year’s Junior Research Fellows at the IHR – Dhwani Patel (KCL, Thornley Fellow), Wendy Sepponen (University of Michigan, Mellon Fellow) and Jo Edge (RHUL, Scouloudi Fellow) – have come together to organise a conference on the links between art and ritual in the medieval and early modern periods. After meeting at the introductory party for JRFs at the start of the year, we realised that while we all work on diverse topics – Wendy works on Renaissance sculpture, Dhwani late medieval ceremonial in Rome, and Jo medieval divinatory diagrams – that there was a real opportunity to organise a conference on this little-explored area. The IHR, Royal Holloway and King’s College London have all generously pledged financial support for what promises to be a most engaging day.
We’re aiming to bring focus to how material culture and art (broadly defined) negotiates with and shapes ritual. We have identified three principal thematic strands. The first is art that influenced ritual, for example space and site specificity, or the importance and history of a particular place, site or space in connection with ritual. The second is art that reflected ritual, for example representations of processions. The final strand concerns objects and images that functioned as an integral part of ritual, for example relics and magical diagrams.
This conference will have a broad chronological, disciplinary and geographic scope, drawing from art historians, historians, and archaeologists from the late antique to early modern periods. Speakers including Achim Timmermann (University of Michigan), Sophie Page (UCL), Zoe Opacic (Birkbeck), Tom Nickson (The Courtauld Institute), Natalia Petrovskaia (University of Cambridge), Marianne Gilly-Argoud (Universite Pierre-Mendes-France) and Andy Murray (UCL) are already confirmed to speak.
The conference will take place on Saturday 17 May, in the Senate Room, Senate House, London
Registration is now open. The cost for attendance on the day, including lunch and refreshments, is £10 (£5 students/unwaged/retired/disabled). Please email email@example.com to reserve your space.
I’m always receptive to feedback (this is the sort of foolish statement that unleashes a barrage of abuse and ends with me weeping in a corner), and as a sharp-eyed reader had pointed out a couple of weeks ago that all the reviews we’d published that week had (co-incidentally) been on British history, I just wondered whether anyone else had suggestions for areas we don’t cover as much as we ought? Don’t think I won’t notice if it turns out that the gaps in our coverage can only really be filled by reviews of your own forthcoming masterpieces…
Then we turn to Jean-Christian Vinel’s The Employee: A Political History, which Jefferson Cowie believes invigorates the stale paradigms of labor history and brings new perspectives and intellectual energy to the subject (no. 1573).
‘I am delighted that such a distinguished scholar and so experienced a pair of hands, is succeeding me as Director’, said Professor Taylor, who is leaving the IHR to take up a Leverhulme Research Fellowship at University of York. ‘Professor Goldman will bring much that is new and preserve all that is essential to the life of the IHR as it heads towards its centenary in 2021′.
A Cambridge graduate and Oxford University historian, Professor Goldman has, since 2004, also edited the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, once the preserve of the great and good, but which now includes space for a broader spectrum of British public and artistic life. He is the author of The Life of R.H. Tawney, Science, Reform and Politics in Victorian Britain: The Social Science Association 1857–1886 and Dons and Workers: Oxford and Adult Education Since 1850 and editor of The Blind Victorian: Henry Fawcett and British Liberalism collection. His articles have appeared in several journals including the English Historical Review, Past and Present and The Historical Journal.
Professor Roger Kain CBE FBA, Dean and Chief Executive of the School, said ‘I am delighted that we have been able to obtain the services of Lawrence Goldman, an historian of world-renown, who will bring to the School and the IHR the benefit of his deep and broad experience of the management of his college and an internationally-significant long-term academic publishing project.’
Professor Goldman said he is honoured to be joining the School and the IHR in his new role as Director. ‘The Institute is central to the promotion of historical studies in the University of London and the United Kingdom more generally. I hope to build on the achievements of the many notable historians who have been Director before me, especially Professor Miles Taylor, my immediate predecessor, who has overseen the renovation and refurbishment of the Institute and developed an exciting programme of teaching and research.’
– Ends –
Notes for editors:
1. For further information and to request an interview please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 20 7862 8670. Images available on request.
2. The Institute of Historical Research (IHR), founded in 1921, is one of 10 member Institutes of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. It is home to two important research centres and a major open access library, hosts over 60 seminar series and offers doctoral supervision in a wide range of historical subjects. It has a substantial publishing programme, hosts a number of innovative digital research projects, administers fellowships, runs specialist research training programmes and organises a variety of conferences and workshops each year. www.history.ac.uk
3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and facilitation of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights. www.sas.ac.uk
4. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. It consists of 18 self-governing Colleges of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. Learn more about the University of London at www.london.ac.uk
At the moment there is unsurprisingly an abundance of newly published source material being made available from the First World War, and this is certainly reflected in our latest New Books display. We hold an excellent range of primary sources from the conflict within our military collection, with diaries and correspondence from various perspectives forming a key aspect. The breadth of coverage within these holdings has just been strengthened further with the addition of two volumes from a series of War Diaries published in association with the Imperial War Museum, offering the viewpoints of two non-combatants – an army chaplain and a nurse.
In A chaplain at Gallipoli : the Great War diaries of Kenneth Bestwe are offered a gripping account from a padre who spent time on the front lines of two of the most brutal campaigns of the war – Gallipoli and the Somme. Kenneth Best, a Cambridge graduate, was ordained in 1913 and volunteered for the military chaplaincy on the outbreak of the war in the following year, and went on to spend time in Egypt, Turkey and France. He wrote candidly on the horrors he witnessed, but still managed to inject a bit of wit into his entries. As the Gallipoli Campaign intensified in May 1915 he wrote: ”Men’s hair perceptibly turning greyer under strain. I think my hair would turn grey if I had any to turn – clippers have done their work well. Several times a day one has a narrow shave from shell or bullet.”
Best’s diaries and letters, along with an informative supplementary chapter on British Army Chaplains in the Great War more generally, really highlight the important, varied and often conflicting role that the padres had. They not only maintained the morale of soldiers through their religious duties, but also took part in rescue missions and treated the wounded. There was a huge increase in the number of chaplains serving with the British Army as the war went on, rising from 117 in 1914, to 3745 in 1918, with 172 killed by the end of the war. It is a telling indication of what Best had been through that he proclaimed himself an agnostic in later life, his faith having been shaken by his experiences.
Again offering a different perspective to that of a soldier, we have A nurse at the front : the Great War diaries of Sister Edith Appleton. Edith Appleton had qualified and worked as a nurse for several years before the war began, and was quick to sign up for the highly regarded Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1914, proceeding to serve in France and Belgium. She kept a series of diaries throughout the war and right up until her demobilisation in December 1919, but unfortunately some of the original volumes are now missing, so they are not all featured in what is nonetheless an invaluable and well edited published edition. On the website where the diaries were first made available to the public, set up by descendants of Edith Appleton, you can find further material, including letters which fill in some of the gaps left by the missing volumes, photos of the remaining originals, and an index of all the names mentioned in them – www.edithappleton.org.uk.
In her writingAppleton speaks generally about her day to day duties and how she spent her free time, often in a humorous and light-hearted way, but juxtaposes this with graphic descriptions of the countless wounded soldiers she observed and treated. Editor Ruth Cowen points out that this ‘unflinching account’ is all the more surprising considering the diaries were actually addressed to Appleton’s mother. Perhaps most significant are her reports of the new types of injury and illness being experienced, both physical and psychological, that we now associate so strongly with the war. She was very interested in shellshock, such a controversial condition at the time, and also bore witness to the first victims of chlorine gas-poisoning on the Western Front. Her entry from Ypres on May 5 1915 describes these victims: “They are fearfully sad to see. The slight ones look rather like pneumonia, and the bad ones are terrible – the poor things are blue and gasping, lungs full of fluid, and not able to cough it up. Today six have died of it in one ward alone.”
This has only been a snapshot of the type of material the Library holds relating to the First World War – check back for further posts we are working on to tie in with the IHR’s Anglo-American Conference this year, The Great War at Home.
Below you can find the full list of new books which feature on the current display:
We’re a little bit rushed in the IHR Digital office today, as me and my esteemed colleague Jonathan Blaney of BHO fame are giving talks this afternoon to visiting students from Northwestern University. It’s always an intimidating experience being on the same bill as Jonathan, but more than ever this week, as after a triumphant appearance at the Research Libraries and Research Open Day his twitter-stream was deluged with ‘Agree with Blaney’ comments. He’s now had this inscribed on a sign above his desk, and the rest of us are starting to worry…
‘I agree with Blaney’
Anyway, on to the reviews, and we begin with The Anglo-American Paper War: Debates about the New Republic, 1800–1825 by Joseph Eaton. Thomas Rodgers and the author discuss a study which firmly locates the development of the United States in its international context (no. 1570, with response here).
Then we turn to Top Down: the Ford Foundation, Black Power and the Reinvention of Racial Liberalism by Karen Ferguson. Fabio Rojas recommends an account that clearly situates the Ford Foundation’s position in mid 20th-century social politics (no. 1569).
Next up is Jack P. Greene’s Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain, as Daniel Clinkman assesses a book that probes an important question about the relationship between the imperial centre and peripheries (no. 1568).
Finally Megan Armstrong believes that Ignacio de Loyola by Enrique García Hernán proves that Loyola is one of those historic figures that bears repeated examination (no. 1567).
A less well-known, but integral part of the Institute of Historical Research is its Friends programme. Founded to support the aims of the Institute, the Friends bring together individuals from the academic community and beyond to foster the growth and development of the study of history in Britain.
As a Friends Bursary holder in 2012-2013, the award proved invaluable to my studies. It allowed me to access the resources at the IHR and the National Archives which resulted in the production of a chapter in my thesis. I was also able to take part in many seminars conducted at the IHR while undertaking research in London. Attendance at the seminars allowed me to learn about and engage with historians carrying out research
In learning about the Friends organisation and coming to understand the important role it plays in supporting the activities of the IHR, I became a member of the group in the summer of 2013, and was asked to join its committee in the Autumn of that year. As the newest member on the IHR Friends Committee, I am continually learning about the valuable work the group undertakes to assist with activities at the institute. Through annual membership fees and fund raising, the Friends group supports the IHR in a number of ways, including funding seminars, giving money to purchase books for the library, and underwriting conferences and workshops. Among this year’s contributions, the Friends organisation donated money to help with the refurbishment of the institute, and offered financial assistance to the Women’s History seminar to help defray the costs of running the meetings.
Members of the organisation engage in a number of exciting activities throughout the year, participating in special events such as the annual summer outing to a place of historical note. Last summer’s excursion took Friends to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, where we were treated to a guided tour of the newly renovated gallery, and had refreshments in the tea room. The Friends also host film evenings at which historians present and discuss cinematic portrayals of historic events. Most recently, Professor Penelope Corfield hosted a screening of The Dutchess for the Friends group at which the audience busily searched for anachronisms in the film. Lively debates about the social, cultural and political representations of Georgian England followed.
William Morris Gallery
This summer’s reopening of the IHR in the North Block of Senate House promises to offer the Friends group new opportunities to contribute to the Institute and the historical community. Plans are underway to expand the Friends’ calendar to include more film evenings and other stimulating events throughout the year.