Gay, Arthur Wilson; The Conchie; Peace Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-conchie-21680
We begin this week with Clive Barrett’s Subversive Peacemakers, War Resistance 1914–1918: An Anglican Perspective. James Cronin and the author discuss a valuable scholarly contribution to the war’s hidden history documenting its half-forgotten subversive peacemakers (no. 1927, with response here).
Next up is Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865–1914 by Julie-Marie Strange, as Emily Bowles praises a study which is important for understanding contemporary readings of fatherhood and parenting (no. 1926).
Then Sara Charles recommends an exhibition which does an excellent job of portraying Dee as a much-accomplished scholar as opposed to an eccentric occultist, as she reviews Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee (no. 1925).
Finally we have Reconstructing Democracy: Grassroots Black Politics in the Deep South after the Civil War by Justin Behrend. Erik Mathisen believes this work is the perfect place for scholars to begin the work of re-imagining the history of America’s most tortured historical moment (no. 1924).
Even amongst the extraordinary contents of the Ron Heisler collections, this strident little pamphlet rather stands out. It is the first and perhaps only issue of an underground magazine called, with arch provocativeness, Bigot. It is a remarkable mixture of sexual politics, suspicion of the establishment, vegetarian recipes and anti-nuclear propaganda. Something of its spirit and attitude can be discerned from the fact that the editorial has, by way of testimonial, an image of Karl Marx with a speech bubble containing the words, ‘Moist and fruity. A real corker’.
The content betrays a suspicion of authorities, the state and police in many different forms, with a cartoon depicting undercover police offers selling ‘dope’ to students in the hope of postponing the revolution; satisfied with their work, they walk away saying ‘Keep ‘em stoned, keep ‘em tame’. Even Winnie-the-Pooh is drawn into this position; with scant regard for the copyright of either A.A. Milne or E.H. Shepard, he is shown discussing how he would deal ‘with an angry police-person’, namely, ‘I would first bounce on him on my front, then turn over and bounce a little more.’
In other places, Bigot betrays a very powerful impatience with fellow students, for example haranguing a Saturday night crowd oblivious to the world situation and an international militaristic conspiracy: ‘They’re building a war. They’ve planned it. They’re ready, waiting, prepared. And all you do is DANCE.’
While arguably naïve, it is an intriguing document that illustrates with great immediacy the last generation of such publications, which would today be far more likely to be produced as blogs and online content. It is also, to the best of our knowledge, the only example of this or any other issue of Bigot to find its way to the security of a library shelf anywhere in the UK.
Moreover, reading it, one cannot help but warm to, and wonder about, the typist of these now fragile pages. The whole production is anonymous, and the author even remarks wryly that ‘due to anticipated C.I.D. investigations, I am a little less than enthusiastic to give my home address’. This statement does, however, give the best clue to the creator in that the postal address given is ‘Box D, Mandela House, Swansea University,’ a building that still functions as the Swansea University Students’ Union. The best hint of the date of its production is that the first article is an anti-capitalist exploration of the cause of the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise passenger ferry in 1987. From an angry passage where a P.E. teacher is recalled using ‘girls’ as an insult, and from the ensuing discussion, it is also clear that the writer is a man.
So, the staff of Senate House Library and IHR Digital would like to appeal to anyone who suspects they may know or remember the identity of a student who attended Swansea University in the late 1980s, was a socialist-minded vegetarian, and who may have written Bigot. We would love to unite the writer with a new crop of readers, and to hear whether this foray into alternative journalism had an influence on his later life.
Canine at the Westminster Pit – Lord Palmerston and Lord Derby
We start this week with Henry Miller’s Politics Personified: Portraiture, Caricature and Visual Culture in Britain, c.1830-80. Tessa Kilgariff and the author discuss a book whose conclusions have implications not only for political historians but also art historians and scholars of social and cultural history (no. 1923, with response here).
Next up is Papacy, Monarchy and Marriage, 860-1600 by David d’Avray, as Sara Butler and the author robustly debate a comprehensive analysis of royal marriages and their dissolution (no. 1922, with response here).
Then we turn to Alessio Ponzio’s Shaping the New Man: Youth Training Regimes in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Philip Morgan has some reservations about a new history of fascism (no. 1921).
Finally we have the Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution, edited by Michael Braddick, which Elliot Vernon believes to be a useful starting point for those seeking to expand their knowledge of an increasingly complicated field of study (no. 1920).
This collection of political ephemera, built up by Heisler over the last 50 years and still being added to by regular deposits of pamphlet-stuffed plastic bags, currently consists of approximately 25,000 books, 20,000 pamphlets, 3,000 journal and newspaper titles and a quantity of ephemera, published by or relating to labour and radical political movements, and to political expression in art, drama and literature.
The collection is particularly strong for Britain and Ireland, and includes items published by radical groups, friendly societies and the Chartists from the late-18th to the 20th centuries, and many publications of Trotskyist groups, the Independent Labour Party and the Communist Party from the early to mid-20th century. From the 1960s and 1970s, the holdings of New Left material are very extensive, and there are some uncommon publications from the women’s movement. The collection further covers Africa, particularly South Africa; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the West Indies; France, Germany, Italy and Spain (notably the Spanish Civil War); and the former Soviet Union. A substantial proportion of material in the collection was published in very small quantities, and some is scarce.
In order to promote the collection, the cataloguing of which is still ongoing, a selection of the most striking pamphlet covers have been digitised, and made available on a new web resource produced by the IHR Digital team (http://www.history.ac.uk/exhibitions/heislercollection/). Where possible contextual information about the pamphlets, and the issues they cover, has been provided.
The resource aims to give an example of the treasure trove of material that lies within the collection, to illustrate how ephemera can perform as unique type of historical source material, and to act as an introduction to the wider Senate House Library Radical Voices project. Over the next year, under the Radical Voices umbrella, SHL plans to produce a series of events and resources centring around its various collections in this area – including the Grote library, the books and papers of pacifist Caroline Playne, the archive of Afro-Trinidadian journalist, activist and historian C. L. R. James, the Booth library, and many more – as well as drawing in other similar collections from across London.
Anyone interested in finding out more about this resource, or the Heisler collection, can contact email@example.com.
We start with Noel Thompson’s Social Opulence and Private Restraint: the Consumer in British Socialist Thought Since 1800, as Jamie Melrose and the author debate a survey of the Left’s attitude to the worker-consumer in the heyday and beyond of British industrial society (no. 1919, with response here).
Next up we have a review article on The Other Mrs Adams, as Todd Webb reviews five biographies of Louisa Catherine Adams (no. 1918).
Then we turn to Challenging Orthodoxies: The Social and Cultural Worlds of Early Modern Women: Essays Presented to Hilda L. Smith, edited by Sigrun Haude and Melinda Zook, which Charmian Mansell praises as an important book that both celebrates and builds upon the work of Hilda Smith (no. 1917).
Finally Peter Grant and editors Maggie Andrews and Janis Lomas discuss The Home Front in Britain: Images, Myths and Forgotten Experiences since 1914, a wide-ranging survey which challenges some of the misconceptions we hold about the two home fronts (no. 1916, with response here).
We begin this week with The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania. Volume 1: The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385-1569 by Robert Frost. Paul Knoll and the author debate an outstanding contribution to the history of east central Europe (no. 1915, with response here).
Then we turn to Jessica Lepler’s The Many Panics of 1837: People, Politics, and the Creation of a Transatlantic Financial Crisis, and Joanna Cohen praises a book which utilises a new approach to the history of capitalism, interrogating economic concepts as cultural and linguistic constructions (no. 1914).
Next up is Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears by Thomas Dixon. Hannah Rose Woods and the author discuss a book which sets out to dispel the ‘persistent myth’ of Britain as a nation of emotionally repressed stoics (no. 1913, with response here).
Finally Pip Gregory reviews Humor, Entertainment, and Popular Culture during World War I, edited by Clémentine Tholas-Disset and Karen A. Ritzenhoff, which she finds a thoroughly enjoyable book offering insight and interest for cultural historians of the Great War the world over (no. 1912).
We begin with Churchill on the Far East in the Second World War: Hiding the History of the ‘Special Relationship’ by Cat Wilson, which Chandar Sundaram believes to be an excellent treatment of Churchill’s historical sleight of hand (no. 1911, with response here).
Then we turn to Irene Morra’s Britishness, Popular Music and National Identity: the Making of Modern Britain. Paul Martin believes anyone with an interest in popular music and culture or the mores of identity should find this a rewarding and convincing read (no. 1910).
Next up is Shakhar Rahav’s The Rise of Political Intellectuals in Modern China: May Fourth Societies and the Roots of Mass-Party Politics, as Chris Courtney and the author debate a thought provoking and original analysis, a valuable addition to both Chinese and intellectual history (no. 1909, with response here).
Finally we have Addressing America: George Washington’s Farewell and the Making of National Culture, Politics, and Diplomacy, 1796-1852 by Jeffrey J. Malanson. Steve Tuffnell and the author discuss a volume which will be vital reading for those interested in American conceptions of their republic’s role in international affairs (no. 1908, with response here).
We begin this week with Russia in the Microphone Age: A History of Soviet Radio, 1919-1970 by Stephen Lovell, as Allan Jones and the author debate an engrossing history of Soviet broadcasting (no. 1907, with response here).
Next up is Angela Woollacott’s Settler Society in the Australian Colonies: Self-Government and Imperial Culture. Bernard Attard and the author discuss a stimulating and thought-provoking study of the nature and dynamics of settler colonialism (no. 1906, with response here).
Then we turn to Germany 1916-23: A Revolution in Context, edited by Klaus Weinhauer, Anthony McElligott and Kirsten Heinsohn. Alex Burkhardt believes the editors have fulfilled their brief to provide an impetus for new ‘cultural-historical’ directions in research on the German Revolution (no. 1905).
Finally we have E. R. Truitt’s Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art, which Stefano Gulizia praises as an evocative book, the first survey of its kind in the English-speaking academic world (no. 1904).
This post has kindly been written for us by Dr Philip Carter of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
For 135 years the Dictionary of National Biography has been the national record of noteworthy men and women who’ve shaped the British past. Today’s Dictionary retains many attributes of its Victorian predecessor, not least a focus on concise and balanced accounts of individuals from all walks of national history. But there have also been changes in how these life stories are encapsulated and conveyed.
In its Victorian incarnation the Dictionary presented each life as a double-column printed text. 2004 saw the publication of the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) with the addition of portrait images. Today the Dictionary includes portraits of 11,500 of its 60,000 subjects. Every image is a depiction of the sitter from life, so as to convey an aspect of his or her personality.
Now the Oxford DNB is moving on—this time with the inclusion of sound—in a project to link biographies to voice recordings made by an initial selection of 750 historical individuals. The earliest clips—including the suffrage campaigner Christabel Pankhurst and the Liberal prime minister, Herbert Asquith – are held in the ‘Early Spoken Word’ archive at the British Library.
As the crackling on these wax cylinders makes clear, this was a pioneering form of communication reserved for periods of political drama. Speaking in December 1908, Christabel Pankhurst issued a rallying call to every ‘patriotic and public spirited woman’ to take up ‘militant’ tactics in the hope that ‘1909 must, and shall, see the political enfranchisement of women.’ In his speech on the 1909 ‘people’s budget’ Herbert Asquith acknowledged the intersection of technological novelty and looming political crisis: ‘I have gladly accepted this invitation to speak to you in this unusual manner to reach as many of my fellow countrymen as possible’.
Two decades later the availability of ‘wireless’ instilled a new pioneering spirit. It’s captured in George V’s opening words to the first Christmas message of 1932: ‘Through one of the marvels of modern science, I am enabled … to speak to all my people throughout the Empire’.
Other British Library clips reveal how voice recordings took on new formats in the 1930s: the personal travel documentary by Amy Johnson; chef Marcel Boulestin’s guide to perfect omelettes (‘practice, quickness, a thick iron pan and a good fire’); and the celebrity interview with Arthur Conan Doyle (‘how I came to write Sherlock Holmes’).
This ability to catch a person’s accent, and indeed to hear a person speak, is the principal attraction of linking ODNB biographies to sound recordings. Hearing the voice reminds us that a distant historical figure was a living person as well as the subject of a biographical text. Listening to voices recorded more than a century ago conjures up something of the ‘marvels’ and delight alluded to by George V.
The effect is particularly striking in the Oxford DNB’s earliest link to the British Library sound archive—that for Florence Nightingale who spoke in support of the Light Brigade Relief Fund in July 1890. Barely audible over the hiss, she concludes her short, carefully enunciated message: ‘When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale’.
Philip Carter is the Oxford DNB’s Senior Research and Publication Editor and a member of the History Faculty at Oxford University.
Find more on the ODNB’s Sounds project, together with a list of all 750 archive recordings. Coming updates will link ODNB biographies to digitized collections of manuscripts, creative works by artists, funeral memorials, and further voice recordings—in partnerships with the British Library, Poetry Archive, Royal Collection, and Westminster Abbey among others.
We start this week with Miles Taylor’s long-anticipated review of Artist and Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past, as he praises a thought-provoking exhibition (running until 10 April), one of the best historically-themed shows that Tate Britain has done for some years (no. 1903).
Next up is Anglican Enlightenment: Orientalism, Religion and Politics in England and its Empire, 1648–1715 by William Bulman. David Magliocco and the author discuss one of the most important interventions in late 17th–century studies in the last decade (no. 1902, with response here).
Next up is David French’s Fighting EOKA: The British Counter-Insurgency Campaign on Cyprus, 1955-1959. Andrekos Varnava reviews an engaging, thorough and, thankfully, not overly long read (no. 1901).
Finally, we have The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pedersen, and Peter Yearwood recommends a book written with clarity and precision, and featuring compelling themes and illuminating detail (no. 1900).