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Author Archives: katewilcox

American collections in the IHR and beyond


massachusetts-loyalistsWe’ve recently produced a detailed guide to the Institute of Historical Research United States collections. Coverage includes early American colonial history, the Revolution and establishment of the United States, and special themes such as slavery. The core of the guide was written by Benjamin Bankhurst during his time as Postdoctoral Fellow of North American History, and it has been completed with contributions from others.

The guide will be useful for people new to the collections but those familiar with the collection may also discover something new. It complements the Guide to Canadian History produced in 2014.

You can discover more about North American collections in libraries across London and beyond at the History Day event this Friday. As well as covering general history, a special strand this year will highlight North American collections. If you can’t attend in person, more information is available about the participating libraries and collections at



Bespoke advice at a History day research clinic


One feature of History day on 27 November is the one-on-one guidance provided by the scheduled research clinics. These clinics will allow researchers to spend time with a librarian or historian to discuss resources, training and research, addressing specific needs. For example, if a researcher would like to find historical research training, the IHR’s Dr Simon Trafford will be available to discuss finding sessions from 10:00 to 12:00. For any researchers who want to locate resources for Canadian Studies in London, Senate House Library’s Christine Anderson will have a table at History day from 10:00 to 12:00. Other sessions include:

  • Building your bibliography and keeping it up to date with Senate House Library’s Mura Ghosh from  10:00 until 12:00
  • Locating Caribbean Area Studies Resources with Dr Luis Perez-Simon of the Institute of Latin American Studies  from 11:30 until 15:00
  • Improving your online search skills with Birkbeck’s Aubrey Greenwood from  13:00 until 16:00
  • Help with American Resources at the British Library  with Dr Matthew Shaw of the British Library from 14:00 until 15:00
  • Using IHR’s digital resources with the IHR Digital team from  15:00 until 16:00

Lastly, Michael Little and the team from the National Archives will be available throughout the whole event to discuss using the collections at the National Archives.

The clinics will be in Beveridge Hall as part of the open history fair. If you have any questions, please just ask!

Albert Gallatin and the Early American Republic: exhibition and lecture


Gallatin-imageAn exhibition on Albert Gallatin and the politics of the early United States is currently on in Senate House Library until 27 November 2015, and includes books from the IHR and Senate House Library collections. The piece below was written by Benjamin Bankhurst, former Postdoctoral Fellow in North American history at the IHR.

Dr Max Edling (King’s College London) will hold a public lecture on Albert Gallatin, Jeffersonian finance and the War of 1812 on Wednesday, 4 Nov at 6pm in the Wolfson Suite, IHR, Senate House.

The decades following the American Revolution were a turbulent and transformative time in the United States as the citizens of the new republic wrestled with the meaning of their revolution and attempted to build a society that lived up to its principles.  How was this new society going to be structured and how should its government and economy be structured? Should Americans build a fiscal military state and advanced economy that would enable the United States to compete with the great powers of Europe, or should the country strive to become something different, a vast agrarian republic whose security rested on open trading policies?

Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) was at the heart of these debates. A Swiss immigrant who arrived in the country at the closing stages of the revolution, Gallatin played a leading role in the formation of US finance and politics in the early republic and was a central actor in many of the defining events of the period. He was committed to Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the republic and served under him as the 4th Secretary of the Treasury following Jefferson’s presidential victory in 1800. In this capacity he arranged the financing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1802 and helped plan the subsequent Lewis and Clark Expedition into the Louisiana Territory. Gallatin was also the main American negotiator in the peace talks that led to the Treaty of Ghent (1814) and the end of the War of 1812, the ‘Second War of American Independence’.

To celebrate the recent discovery of a portion of Albert Gallatin’s library in the collections of the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House Library and the IHR are proud to showcase items from their collections relating to Albert Gallatin and the history of the early American Republic. Many of these items are unique and bear marginalia and provenance that exposes the extent of Gallatin’s network of correspondence during this formative period. The items chosen for display touch upon major themes and issues from the period, including American constitutionalism, US expansion, the development of the American State and popular politics in the new nation.

Historical research in London archives


This post was written by Charlie Berry, a doctoral student at the Institute of Historical Research and cross-posted from the History Collections website

As a research student, a lot of my time is spent beavering away in libraries and archives. My thesis topic, neighbourhoods in fifteenth-century London, means that I am fortunate in having most of the material I need all in one city.

The collections available in London libraries and archives are extensive and usually remarkably well-catalogued. Since I mainly work with documentary sources, the majority of my research time is spent either at the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell or The National Archives at Kew. The collections at both are vast, covering a broad range of periods and topics, and it’s easy to follow trails through the documents all in the one reading room. I’m also fortunate in that both the LMA and National Archives have printed and manuscript indexes available for a lot of the material I look at, which is invaluable for pinpointing the records I need.

Beyond the large archives, there is an amazing array of diversity in the collections available to researchers in London. My thesis research has also taken me to the Guildhall Library, which mainly houses the records of London’s livery companies. Local Borough archives too offer a wealth of material which is perhaps underused by historians. My local archive in Hackney is a wonderful resource I used during my MA as well as whilst recently taking part in a local history project. That project is itself creating an archive of material at the Bishopsgate Institute Library, which has archival collections specialising in radical history.

There’s such a large amount of material out there in London’s archives, large and small, that there must be a million untouched research topics hiding in the files and folders just waiting to be explored, with friendly archivists there to help you find them! History Day at Senate House is a great opportunity to find out more about the kinds of collections available in London (and beyond).

Looking for fashion in the IHR library


The IHR library’s focus on primary sources means that often we don’t hold material ‘about’ a particular subject such as fashion history. Instead, rich material for the history of a topic can commonly be found scattered across editions of documents that were never intended to be used by historians of that subject. An inclusive, wide-ranging, and laterally-thinking approach to identifying relevant works pays off. So when looking through the collections for material on fashion history to coincide with the forthcoming Anglo-American Conference we were not too surprised to discover a wealth of material in both obvious and unexpected places.

from The New York Mercury, 1758 in The arts and crafts in New York 1726-1776, p. 344

Here’s a couple of examples. A compilation of advertisements from New York newspapers contains an unusual source for fashion history, with details of the attire worn by runaway slaves and servants. Handbooks for British businessmen and officials travelling to the Gold Coast advised on suitable clothing. Fashion appears in the many editions that we hold of letters, diaries, and travel writing. Household accounts can include lists of clothing and information about costs and acquisition. Legal and parliamentary sources detail sumptuary laws regulating people’s attire, regulations for the textile industry, and trade agreements. Parliamentary reports and petitions cover the lives of workers in the industry. Lists and advertisements in trade directories are a rich source of information about businesses.

from A journey through Albania, and other provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia, to Constantinople, facing p. 855

A lot of digging is needed as the material isn’t all found in one place. Subject and keyword searching on the catalogue helps to find some specific material, but won’t track down things buried within other sources. Online resources such as the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, newspaper databases, British History Online and the wonderful Connected Histories – which cross-searches multiple resources – are all valuable for in-depth searching and complement the serendipitous pleasures of browsing the library shelves.

See our Guide to fashion history in the IHR library for more examples from our collections. Exhibitions showing works from the IHR and Senate House Library will be held on the 1st and 3rd floors of the IHR over the next month and there is also an online exhibition with beautiful illustrations of department store catalogues from the First World War.

History Day 2015: After the event


History-day-1The IHR and Senate House Library ran a second History Libraries and Research Open Day in January 2015. This brought researchers together with professional staff from a wide range of library and archive collections. It was a fantastic day and it was great to see so many libraries, archives and researchers there. We had very positive feedback from attenders and participating organisations alike.

History-day-2 Speakers gave a range of fascinating talks about how to get the most out of libraries, archives and digital resources. You can read about the day in tweets on the Storify page. An associated website continues to be updated with information about library and archive collections along with podcasts and blog posts from speakers:



Reduced access to library collections on Monday 15th December


NorthAmericanWe’ll be moving books into the IHR’s new North American history room next Monday 15th December. The IHR will remain open but the lower ground area of the library (housing the International Relations and Military collections) will be closed so that the crates can be brought through this area. The Military, International relations and American collections (classmarks W, IR, US, UF and C) will be inaccessible on this day. Other fetches may be disrupted.

We plan to open the room up at the start of January and it will house approximately two thirds of the American collections as well as providing additional reader desks.

History Day talks


DSC3939-300x199History libraries & research open day is actually several events rolled into one. Twenty-six libraries and archives will have stalls in a history fair in Macmillan Hall, a large room with enough space for several tables to allow one-on-one consultations with experts on specific research skills. However, Macmillan Hall was not quite large enough to hold our three panels of useful talks, which will be held in a nearby seminar room. Our goal is to give researchers a look behind the scenes of libraries, archives and digital projects, allowing them to discover what happens to books, manuscripts and webpages before they are available.

Our first panel of the day, chaired by Senate House Library’s Dr Richard Espley, Research Librarian for English, Irish and Post Colonial Literatures and Languages, focuses on libraries. The first two speakers in this panel, Alison Gage of Bibliographic Services in Senate House Library and Michael Townsend, a Collection Librarian for the Institute of Historical Research Library, will answer questions about how library classification can have an impact on your research. Their talks will lead into a talk about using libraries in the digital age by the IHR’s Dr Benjamin Bankhurst.

The second panel of the day, chaired by Senate House Library archivist Richard Temple, starts with an introduction to Archives networks, resources and research by Dr Nick Barrett of the National Archives. The next talk of the session, by Shakespeare’s Globe archivist Dr Ruth Frendo, gives insight into archival arrangement and the research process. Finishing the session will be Dr Elizabeth Williams, librarian of History, Theatre and Performance of Goldsmiths, University of London, who will discuss the new Black Cultural Archives and the impact of the archives on British History.

The last panel of the day will focus on research in the digital world, chaired by Dr Jane Winters of the IHR. Dr James Baker of the British Library will lead off the panel with a discussion on digital research, and his talk will be followed by discussions of a variety of digital resources including British History Online, the Bibliography of British and Irish History, Reviews in History and DERA. These will be presented by Simon Baker, Jonathan Blaney and Sarah Milligan of the IHR and by Daniel O’Connor of the UCL Institute of Education Library.

See the event programme for more details. Attendance to each session will be limited to forty so if you are interested, please let us know you would like to attend as soon as you arrive at History Day. We believe these presentations will give you insight into research resources and strengthen your research skills.

Libraries and archives working together for researchers


Librarians and archivists are great at collaborating. Library collections are often built up with a specific remit so as not to overlap too much with other local or specialist libraries. The Institute of Historical Research library collections, for example, have always focused on Western European and American history, leaving other regions to the nearby libraries of the School of Oriental and African Studies and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Similarly the Senate House Library and IHR history collections have been built up to be complementary, with the IHR focusing on primary source material and Senate House Library collecting monographs and other secondary material. We continue to work closely together when selecting material.

Libraries and archives also complement each other. The IHR library includes a range of guides, bibliographies and calendars which can be a useful starting point for research. Michael Little from theNational Archives library has written more about this in a recent blog post. As he says, ‘it’s helpful to see archives and libraries as working in conjunction with each rather than as being separate entities’.

On January 20th 2015, we will be hosting the second History Libraries and Research open Day in the MacMillan Hall on the ground floor of Senate House. The idea for an open day originated with the Committee for London Research Libraries in History which was itself founded out of a desire to have a forum for libraries to share ideas and collaborate. The event will bring together libraries and archives from across London to provide information about library collections and workshops and presentations about research methods and skills. Researchers will have the opportunity to talk to staff and find out more about relevant collections.

Librarians also work collaboratively in enquiry work – helping readers to find material in our own institutions, but also pointing out where other organisations have related or more specialist collections. The fair is a great opportunity for students – and for library/archive staff – to meet each other and discover the sometimes hidden gems available in libraries and archives in London and beyond.

Copying and Wifi facilities in the IHR – update


Our Wifi network is now in operation- we have coverage in all areas apart from the Foyle room. Please ask at library office or reception if you need details on how to connect.

Work on setting up the copiers/printers is still ongoing. Sorry for the continued delays and inconvenience caused while these facilities have been unavailable.