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Author Archives: Mike Townsend

Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopedie


Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

Anyone craving a bit of Enlightenment might want to head to the third floor reading room of the Institute’s library where there is a small display showing a few choice articles from Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s Encyclopedie.

Thanks to the generosity of R. E. Madisson the library obtained a first edition of this seminal text of the French Enlightenment in 1957. Although not all the volume are on display one can browse some of the articles Diderot wrote himself, including Droit Naturel, where he defines his concepts of the private will and the general will, Autorité Politique, highlighting Diderot’s thoughts on violent and conferred political power, and Intolérance, where he states the vital need for religious tolerance within a state and between its citizens.

If you would like to find out more about the library’s collection on French history just click here.

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Civil Wars in the Library


Accompanying the Institute’s Winter Conference, the library has put together a small exhibition on the lower ground floor, show-casing some of the resources you can find in its collections on the subject of civil war.

Εικον Βασιλικη

Εικον Βασιλικη

Displays include a varied selection of sources on the civil war of the 1640s, including a range of contemporary works on political thought, including an 18th century edition of John Milton’s tract, The tenure of Kings and Magistrates, as well as works highlighting the wars influence on political discourse in the latter seventeenth century and beyond, accounts of the conflict in Ireland, Scotland, and a range of English counties, as well as a selection of civil war ballads. Imagery too is included; one can view a copy of the famous front-piece to Εικον Βασιλικη, found in the library’s edition of the works of Charles I.

Also included is a small fraction of relevant works on other civil war material that can be found in the library. These include some volumes from the official history of the American Civil War, The War of the Rebellion : a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies (1880-1901), a small handful of sources that can be found in the library’s Spanish history collection on various accounts of the civil war there, as well as some contemporary accounts, recently purchased, on the present conflict in Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis (for more information on this aspect see Siobhan Morris’s recent blog post The Syrian Civil War – Resources in the IHR library)

Spanish Civil War selection

Spanish Civil War selection


For more information on these collections and others available in the library see the collections page here.

Syrian Civil War selection

Syrian Civil War selection

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Resources for the Economic Historian in the IHR library


econWorks on economic history abound within the library and it is hoped a new collection guide on the subject will indicate the range of material we have here and help readers locate specific works that may be of use to their research. The bulk of the guide comprises of an overview showcasing some of the works we have here in the library. These include some of our bibliographic resources, works on the historiography of economic history, reference works and editions of published statistics as well as a selection of items on a range of topics from banking and finance, international trade, to even whaling and the fishing industry (during the course of writing this guide I discovered that a particular strength of the library’s collections is agriculture history, especially for Britain and Ireland).

As well as the overview there are details of the University of London theses relevant to economic history we have, as well as the electronic resources you can access from within the library.

Lastly there are also details to some of the other UK libraries and archives crucial for anyone researching economic history including the library at LSE, the Marshall Library at Cambridge and the Goldsmith Collection at Senate House Library.

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Researching Contemporary West European Politics in the IHR Library


Having worked in the IHR library for a while, it can be easy, perhaps, to lose sight of how the library may come across to our readers. In an interesting exercise suggested by our graduate trainee, Siobhan Morris, each member of the library staff played the role of a hypothetical reader for a day to see how easy it is to use the library and find any relevant material for their subject.

For a while I have also been curious to see if the library could meet the needs of someone whose primary research interest is not history. So my imaginary reader is a politics student currently studying an MA very similar to the masters in EU Politics currently being taught at the London School of Economic. Besides looking at the coverage in the IHR’s collections relevant for my imaginary course, I will also attempt to get an understanding of how easy it is to use the space and resources within the library and identify any obstacles that may arise.


General Impressions

MRB1For my morning session (1st August) I chose to work in the basement since this is where the International Relations collection is currently housed. Although by no means loud, the noise from the reception above and the lift meant that this spot is not as quiet as one might think. Thankfully connecting to the Wi-Fi with my laptop (using Windows 10) was very easy. The main obstacle I did face, however, was the inadequate lighting in the International Relations room – hopefully this can be rectified soon. During this morning session I also used a variety of e-resources from the library PC also in the basement. I did not have any major problems using resources like J-Stor or the Times Digital Archive and, in this instance, there were no problems printing or photocopying.

For my afternoon session (2nd August) I had intended to use one of the reader spaces in the main reading room on the second floor but all were taken at this point; there were still seats free in the smaller reading rooms on that floor but I went across the landing to the North American room, which was empty at this point. Locating the material I needed in the various European history collections was largely problem free, and it was particularly helpful having so many complementary collections on open access (locating local contemporary political works in the Italian collection, for example, with the catalogue alone would have been quite difficult).



Using the catalogue on my laptop I initially did a number of keyword searches using terms such as:

  • “European Union”
  • “European Economic Community”
  • “European Community”…etc.

This did result in quite a few hits. Yet this type of search was bringing up a lot of internet resources that were only accessible via MyILibrary, even though I had limited it to an IHR library only facet. The current position of access in the library has been made clear, however on the library page about Electronic resources.

Next I carried out a number of subject searches with  the name of a country suffixed with terms such as “politics and government”, “foreign relations”, etc. Therefore the terms I used for France were as follows:

  •    France Politics and Government 1945-
  •    France Politics and Government 1958-
  •    France Politics and Government 1969-
  •    France Politics and Government 1981-
  •    France Foreign Relations 1945
  •    France Foreign Relations Germany 1945-

This might be construed as cheating, slightly, since these terms are Library of Congress Subject Headings and hence something only librarians tend to be familiar with. However it was a useful type of search to employ, giving a useful impression of the strengths within the various collections investigated, and is a strategy I will recommend to new users in the future. Yet no search strategy is perfect, which is why, as mentioned above, my third method for discovering material was just to browse the open shelves.


Collection Coverage

Throughout the course of my searches the bulk of the material I found for the post-1945 period centred, perhaps unsurprisingly, on Britain, with also significant holdings for France (especially post-1945 international relations) and Germany. A smaller number of titles were retrieved for Italy, Spain and Portugal, and very little, if anything, for the Netherlands and Belgium, Ireland, Austria and Scandinavia. Also the material currently in the library tends to concentrate on the c. 1945-c.1970 period with diminishing returns for later periods. This is something both myself and my fellow collection librarian, Mette Lund, are aware of, and as new works are published about the post-1970 or post-1989 period, which fall into the collection remit of the library, we will acquire them.


Although this exercise did flag-up a few issues regarding collection coverage, overall I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of material that could be found in the library for the hypothetical politics student. Coupled with some of the IHR’s other activities, such as its varied seminar programme, this makes it clear that the IHR and its library is not for historians alone.

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Two New Library Collection Guides


15th century miniature depicting the conquest of Constantinople, 1204.

15th century miniature depicting the conquest of Constantinople, 1204.

Thanks to the work of Daniel Cesarani, who recently completed a brief internship in the library, we have been able to produce guides for both the Byzantine and Crusades collection.

Each guide has a brief overview of each respective collection and then goes into further detail, highlighting some of the sub-sections within each collection, from relevant bibliographies and archive guides, through to the published primary sources to be found in the library, to the various journal titles in our possession.

Given that at times these areas of research complement each other (for example, source material on the Fourth Crusade can be found in both collections) each guide refers to the other. Additionally the guides also refer to other collections within the library such as the Church History, French and Italian collections, which may be of interest to anyone researching Byzantine or Crusader history, as well as other relevant libraries in the London area.

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Around London : Streets of Fashion


From John Britton's The original picture of London, 26th ed. (1826)

From John Britton’s The original picture of London, 26th ed. (1826)

Two years before Burlington Arcade opened, the Gentleman’s Magazine published an article describing some of the reasons for its construction:

It is said that after numerous deliberations, Lord George Cavendish [1st Earl of Burlington] has determined to appropriate a proportion of the grounds connected with Burlington House for the gratification of the publick, and to give employment to industrious females…What first gave birth to the idea was the great annoyance to which the garden is subject from the inhabitants of a neighbouring street throwing oyster-shells, &c., over the wall. The intended erections will prevent these nuisances in future and also block out their view of so delightful a place. (Gentleman’s Magazine, Sept. 1817, p. 272)

Going beyond the fact that Burlington Arcade served Lord Cavendish as a garden fence – a very ornate one, mind you – later visitors understandably commented on its merits as a fashionable, commercial space. In the 1822 edition of Samuel Leigh’s New Picture of London, the author states how Burlington Arcade, ‘is a handsome covered avenue…containing 72 genteel shops’ while during a trip to London, the Polish philosopher, Krystyn Lach-Szyrma (1790–1866) noted how:

High society only frequent places dedicated to fashion…a similar sight can be seen in Burlington Arcade in Bond Street, which is built in the shape of a long gallery lined on both sides with shops…

Both works, however, comment emphatically how the arcade is flanked by two doormen, ‘to keep out improper visitors.’

Turning away from these descriptive sources, the library’s collection of London directories allows a glimpse into who was trading in the arcade. Looking at Robson’s London Commercial Directory…for 1830, for example, we can see most of the shops specialised in the luxury clothing trade: listed were nine hosiers, two ladies shoe makers, eight milliners, two boot makers and one haberdasher. Moreover, although the directory only provides us with a list of names and their trade, one can make cautious, but educated guesses about some of the traders: at No. 15 Burlington Arcade was the hosier David Peden who also had another outlet on 228 Regent St. – presumably quite a successful retailer, while at No. 40 was the milliner Eliza Rainger, whose shop was next door to the jeweller, Frederick Raigner – possibly a late Georgian husband and wife business team?

From a facsimile of the 1812 Langley & Belch New Map of London.

From a facsimile of the 1812 Langley & Belch New Map of London.

Looking beyond Burlington Arcade to the streets to the north, the library’s directories reveal something of the early history of tailoring in Mayfair. Although Savile Row is now synonymous with luxury, bespoke tailoring, this was not always the case. According to Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide for 1817 Savile Row (or Street as it was still known) was the haunt mainly of medical professionals. It was nearby Cork Street where many tailors decided to trade. This trend is confirmed in Pigot’s Directory, 1826-7 and Robson’s London Directory, 1830 and 1835. However one does start to see a rise from 1830 (in 1830 four tailors were based in Savile Row, in 1835 this had risen to seven). Interestingly one of those listed, trading at No. 32 Savile Row was James Poole, whose son, Henry Poole (1814–1876) would go on to mark Savile Row as the destination for luxury tailoring in Victorian Britain and also invent the dinner jacket in 1865 for his friend, Bertie, the Prince of Wales.

Marking this year’s Anglo-American Conference on Fashion History the library has produced a number of other posts and guides: see Alex Zaleski’s entertaining blog post on Fashion in travel writing and Kate Wilcox’s thorough subject guide and accompanying blog post on the largely hidden, but extensive resources the library has on this subject.

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Bismarck and the Wars of German Unification


Next month, as you may have already heard, there will be a number of events held at the IHR to mark the bicentenary of Otto von Bismarck’s birth including an exhibition on the statesman and a lecture given by Prof. Jonathan Steinberg.

This is naturally, therefore, an opportune time to highlight some of the resources to be found in the library’s collections for those researching Bismarck and his impact on German and European politics. Given the central position Bismarck played in many different political arenas it would be feasible to write substantial guides on a number of different subjects (e.g. the nature of his relationship with Kaiser Wilhelm I, Friedrich III and finally Wilhelm II, the Kulturkampf, his attitude to the growth of German party politics, etc.). Yet here we concentrate on the three wars of the 1860s and early 1870s which would bring about the creation of a politically unified German state.

Text of Bismarck's famous "Iron and Blood" speech.

Text of Bismarck’s famous “Iron and Blood” speech.

Editions of speeches, letters and telegrams form the core of the library’s holdings on Bismarck where, understandably, one would find his words and thoughts on the prospect and viability of German unity and Prussia’s role within this process as well as the course of the wars with Denmark, Austria and France. The main editions include:

Die gesammelten Werke

Die politischen Reden des Fürsten Bismarck

Anhang zu den Gedanken und

Erinnerungen von Otto Fürst von Bismarck

Moving on from the library’s extensive German collection one can find works of relevance in the Diplomatic History and Military Collections, especially regarding the Franco-Prussian War (the library now has over 250 published works on the conflict thanks in part to a large bequest from Dr. Vincent Wright). Other relevant works in the Diplomatic and Military collection include:

Die auswärtige Politik Preussens 1858-1871

Quellen zur deutschen Politiks Österreichs 1859-1866

Der Feldzug von 1864

Der Feldzug von 1866

Les origines diplomatiques de la guerre de 1870-1871

Gesammelte Schriften und Denkwürdigkeiten des…Helmuth von Moltke

Additional material can also be found in some of the other national collections within the library. In the Scandinavian collection works on the war with Denmark currently include an account of the Battle of Dybbøl, the general work and source collection Manuel historique de la question du Slesvig and Den Danske Regering og Nordslesvigs geforening med Danmark by the Danish historian Aage Friis; a work about the repercussions of the war in Denmark. Besides the works already mentioned from the Diplomatic and Military collections additional material on the Austro-Prussian War can also be found in the Austrian collection, especially from the period of Richard Belcredi’s chancellorship. Additional sources on the Franco-Prussian War can understandably be found in the library’s French collection including a collection of the writings of Émile Ollivier, Prime Minister of France during the first few months of the war, as well as editions of Le Moniteur Universel from the years 1870-71.


For more information on the library’s German holdings see our guide on the collection or feel free to browse the shelves on your next visit (the German collection can be found on the second floor in the Peter Marshall and Past & Present rooms)

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Hakluyt Society Publications now on open access.


The library would just like to inform its readers that the Hakluyt Society Publications are now once more available on open access and can be found on the second floor of the IHR library in the north-east corner of the main reading room beside the Dutch collection.

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Narratives of Occupation: Belgium 1914-1918


Mercredi 14 avril 1915
Rue de la Régence, deux petites filles sautaient à la corde en chantant La Marseillaise. Des officiers allemands passèrent, entendirent, regardèrent…et sourirent. Et les deux petites continuèrent sans se douter qu’elles risquaient dex ans de prison!

[Wednesday, 14th April 1915
Rue de la Régence, two young girls were skipping rope singing La Marseillaise. Some German officers passed by, heard, watched…and smiled. And the two little girls continued without suspecting that they risked two years in prison!]

So wrote the Brussels-based journalist, play-wright and author Paul Max (1884-1944). His is one of many voices which can be found among the collections of the IHR library, which illustrate the varied reactions, both within government and society at large, to the German Empire’s occupation of Belgium from August 1914 to November 1918.

Initially Max’s account of life in Brussels is filled not only with vignettes of the German presence (as one might expect) but also more pleasant aspects, a trip to the theatre (13th March, 1915) or a day playing bowls (26th May 1915). Unfortunately, these types of entries are seldom made as the diary progresses with accounts of air raids (the 7th June 1915, the 7th September 1916 and the 27th September 1916, for example), swift arrests (22nd June 1915), rising prices and economic deprivation (1st February 1917, 8th November 1917, 15th October 1918) becoming the norm.


The diary of Constance Graeffe (1874-1950) also documents life in occupied Brussels but has a very different tone. With the knowledge that her and her German husband, Otto Graeffe, would eventually renounce their Belgian citizenship, becoming Reichsdeutschen on the 1st June 1917 one should not be too surprised that a major theme throughout her diary is the equivocation she displays between the fondness she has for Germany and the growing hostility she feels in Brussels:

I do not know how I shall bear all this feeling of hatred which pours out of every eye which rests on one, if one has the misfortune of being with any one who is German. I often wonder however that hatred will leave the Belgians? I must not think too much of all this or I would go mad. (17th June, 1915).

Her portrayal of suffering must be tempered, however, by her – almost eager – acceptance of Germany’s justification for its actions during the invasion. In the first months of the war, Graeffe would accept as fact the German explanation for its brutality during the invasion, the civilian guerrilla forces dubbed the Franc-tireurs:

…all along Belgium as the German came along…the men (not soldiers) & women & children began to shoot at them. (27th August 1914)

Mention of the Franc-tireurs is also made in other sources held by the IHR’s library, but in a very different context. The Documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’invasion Allemande dans les provinces de Namur et de Luxembourg was compiled and edited in the early 1920s by the abbot of Maredous, Norbert Nieuwland and Jean Schmitz, secretary to the bishop of Namur. The eight volume work offers a comprehensive account of the invasion but paints a very different picture than either Max’s or Graeffe’s diaries. As outlined by the editors, the work sought to, ‘montrer par des témoignages de première main, quel est le régime, quels sont les traitements que l’armée allemande a fait subir à la population civil durant l’invasion’, dedicating it, ‘à la mémoire de tous morts et martyrs’ (vol. 1, xi-xii). Given this statement of intent, such incidence such as the civilian massacres at Tamines and Dinant (to name only two) are described in hundreds of accounts published in each volume.

Oscar von der Lancken-Wakenitz

Oscar von der Lancken-Wakenitz (German diplomat and administrator based in Brussels 1914-1918)

Accounts from the German perspective tend not to dwell on these horrific events. The reports and memoirs by German diplomat and head of a Politische Abteilung throughout the occupation, Oscar von der Lancken-Wakenitz (1867-1939) mention little of the initial invasion, giving details, instead, on the day to day concerns of the German administration such as the staunch defiance of the Belgian Cardinal Mercier (Nov. 1915-Jan. 1916, pp. 164-168 & Aug. 1916-Jan. 1917, pp. 233-236) as well as the implementation of Flamenpolitik, a policy which sought to widen societal fissures between the Flemish and Walloon population, promoting the status of the Flemish (viz. Germanic) culture over the southern Francophone Walloons (Meine dreissig Dienstjahre, pp. 211-220; see also Les archives du Conseil de Flandre).

In terms of a legacy, the noted Belgian historian, Henri Pirenne (1862-1935) saw efforts to divide Belgium through policies such as Flamenpolitik as being ultimately futile. Although we have seen even in this tiny sample opinion was far from uniform (when is it ever?), looking back and reflecting on the German administration and the Belgium that emerged after war, Pirenne would conclude in 1928

L’administration imposée par l’Allemagne à la Belgique n’était que la conséquence de la victoire. Elle devait crouler avec la défaite et elle le fit tout d’une pièce et d’un seul coup…Matériellement le pays était ruiné, moralement il restait intact. (p. 272)

[The administration imposed by Germany on Belgium was only the consequence of victory. It crumbled with defeat and it collapsed in one fell swoop…Materially the state [Belgium] was ruined, morally it remained intact.]

All the material discussed above can be found in the IHR library’s Belgian, Low Countries Local, Military and International Relations collections and notice of any future acquisitions in this subject can be found on the library pages of the IHR website.

More details of events held at the IHR, including this year’s Anglo-American Conference, The Great War at Home, can be found on the Institute’s Events page.



Graeffe, Constance. “We who are so cosmopolitan”: the war diary of Constance Graeffe, 1914-1915, ed. Sophie de Schaepdrijver.

Lancken-Wakenitz, Oscar von der. Meine dreissig Dienstjahre 1888-1918 : Potsdam-Paris-Brüssel.

Lancken-Wakenitz, Oscar von der. Gouverner en Belgique occupée : Oscar von der Lancken-Wakenitz – rapports d’activité 1915-1918, ed. Michaël Amara et Hubert Roland.

Max, Paul. Journal de guerre de Paul Max : notes d’un Bruxellois pendant l’occupation (1914-1918), ed. Benoît Majerus & Sven Soupart.

Pirenne, Henri. La Belgique et la Guerre Mondiale.

Raad van Vlaanderen. Les archives du Conseil de Flandre, published by the Ligue nationale pour l’unité belge.

Schmitz, Jean & Nieuwland, Norbert (eds.). Documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’invasion Allemande dans les provinces de Namur et de Luxembourg.

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Around London : the St. Martin’s Lane Round-House deaths of 1742


© The Trustees of the British Museum

© The Trustees of the British Museum

The IHR library has a great set of London-based collections, relating to all aspects of the capital’s rich and varied history. We’re drawing on these for a series of ‘Around  London’ posts, starting with the infamous tale of St Martin’s Round House.

Although now occupied by one corner of Trafalgar Square, St Martin’s Round House once stood opposite the church of St Martin’s in the Field and it was here during the summer of 1742 Londoners became enraged by the deaths of six women at the hands of the constables in charge of the house. Horace Walpole relates how on the night of the 15th July 1742 the constables had rounded up a group of twenty women – some beggars, some prostitutes, some returning from work – and placed them in the Round House’s holding cell which was only six foot square, ‘where they were kept all night, with doors and windows closed.’ In the morning four were dead and two others would soon succumb a few days later. All the constables fled never facing justice, except one, William Bird, who was tried at the Old Bailey in the October and sentenced to death, although, as the Gentleman’s Magazine relates, this was later commuted to transportation. An engraving held in the British Museum shows how the crowd soon demolished the hated building with Walpole once again summing up their ire:

‘…the greatest criminals in this town are the officers of justice; there is no tyranny they do not exercise, no villainy of which they do not partake.’

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