My colleagues in the library have already blogged about History Day, however I thought I’d follow it up from the perspective of the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) as I’ve had a number of enquiries which I can address here.
After an outline of the history of the Bibliography and its coverage I usually emphasise three points:-
1. The Bibliography has links (where possible and where institutional subscriptions allow) to a variety of sources including to full text via doi (digital object identifier); online collections of journals such as JSTOR and Project Muse; links to publishers; and links to other digital resources such as the National Register of Archives and union catalogues (e.g. Copac).
2. The ability to set up email alerts for specific subjects or authors or places (or a combination). Users can easily set up an email alert by following the instructions. The email alerts can then be managed by clicking on the “My email alerts” on the banner of the homepage. It’s a simple and effective way of keeping informed about developments in your research area (you’ll get an update three times per year). As an example I have an email alert for subject keyword “Intelligence” and period covered “1880-1945”.
3. The ability to export data to a range of reference tools, such as Microsoft Word, RefWorks, Endnote and Zotero. Again there are online tutorials for demonstrating how to use these tools.
Additionally from History Day, some useful tips were picked up from Paul Horsler (LSE) who discussed reference tools. He also made three key points. Use the reference manager as you start your research, you’ll become accustomed to it sooner and it will save a lot of time at the end of research. Choose a tool you feel comfortable with and one that is supported by your research institution (if in doubt, ask your librarian). And finally, as with all software, make sure you do backups – you don’t want to lose all that research.
An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 15 June. Over 5,000 new records have been added. Nearly 550 of these new records relate to Irish history, while 244 deal with the history of London.
Female munitions workers depicted in a First World War memorial window at Swaffham Prior, Cambs
To coincide with this year’s Anglo-American Conference of Historians (whose theme is The Great War at Home), we have put a link on the Bibliography search page to a list of relevant material. To generate this, we used the Subject Treein order to establish what terms are used in the Bibliography’s vocabulary of indexing terms to describe the topics of interest, and therefore to get the best results. To use the Subject Tree, go to the Advanced Search page, and open the Subject Tree window by clicking onAll Subjects (screenshot 1). You can then type, for example, “first world war” into the Search box to launch a search through the Bibliography’s subject terms. This will show that the term used in the Bibliography is “Wars, World War I” (this would also work if you searched for “Great War”, “1st world war”, “World War I” or “world war one”). (screenshot 2). Click the check box next to “Wars, World War I” to add it to your search terms. The Search box will clear so you can type in another term.
To limit the results to records concerned with the home front, type “home front” in the Search box which will show that the term used is “War, impact of”. Again click on the check box and “War, impact of” is added to the list of selected terms. To find records that are concerned with both the Great War and its impact, click the AND radio button (if you had left the OR button selected the search would return all records about the Great War alongside all records about the impact of all wars covered by the Bibliography) (screenshot 3). To insert the selected search terms in the search form click Insert/Close (at the top right of the window).
You are now returned to the Advanced Search page which shows the number of records found (screenshot 4). Click on Search to view the results. It would also be possible to limit the search by entering relevant dates in the Period covered boxes, for example 1914 – 1918 if the later consequences of and reactions to the war are not of interest. It is also possible to search on more specific themes connected with the war. For example you could search for women and the Great War by substituting “women” for “War, impact of” in the example above.
In a previous post I mentioned an article which analysed the newspaper reporting of the beginning of the First World War. By happenstance I had begun to read the autobiography of the prolific writer Ursula Bloom – Youth at the Gate – which documents the beginning of the war. The author lived in genteel poverty in St Albans (her mother having left her clergyman father) with her mother and younger brother.
The family were Daily Mail readers and her opening chapters are smattered with references to that newspaper and the developing international crisis. The first sign of the war, “… was recorded in the Daily Mail of June 29th, 1914, when it gave details of the assassination … we received the news fairly calmly … a passing shock was overcome by the comforting reassuring, ‘Thank God that sort of thing couldn’t happen here.’” Her family continued their plans for a holiday: the Isle of Wight or Great Yarmouth? The latter was chosen as they were Norfolk people, and it was far cheaper. She charts the rising international tensions through her observations and the Daily Mail. Reading her observations there seems to be a generational split: the older people are concerned and shocked, the younger excited, “If something happened, then it happened, and it would be fun to get us all out of our rut”.
Holiday preparations continued with the packing of trunks. The British fleet left Portland and her mother blamed that, “… awful Mr. Winston Churchill … Somebody ought to stop that silly young man …” Bloom notes the invasion of Luxemburg but is more interested in the advertisements in the Daily Mail for 1st and 2nd August (hotels in Brighton, and the Papier Poudré beauty item).
She worked as a cinema pianist in Harpenden for 30/- a week (3d off for the insurance stamp). Her working hours were 5.30 to 10.30 and 2.30 to 10.30 on matinees. On bank holidays she began work at 11am. And so it was, in the last few days of peace, she found herself working on the August bank holiday playing any patriotic tune to applause and whistling. Her work in the cinema shows another developing medium, the use of the newsfilm and the use of slides to convey war news. To keep the patrons of the cinema informed about the latest developments and retain the audience, “On the lamp blacked slides latest news was scratched with one of my hairpins, and it was increasingly exciting”. She also relates the newsfilm Pathe Gazette being shown – with pictures of the reserves being called up and a destroyer putting out to see from Harwich – all accompanied by “violent applause from the twopennies”. Later another slide was scratched and displayed saying that Germany still had not replied to the British ultimatum to which the twopennies booed. Goodness knows what the censors would have said if Bloom had continued imparting war news in this manner.
Bloom also recounts how she scratched slides for the siege and fall of Liege (just like the breaking and rolling news of today). Although the cinema owner did not allow the playing of hymns, considering it sacrilege, she played “Through the night of doubt and sorrow” when the slide announcing the city’s fall was shown. Her decision to play the hymn was right as she earned herself a big box of chocolates.
“We were thrilled with the news that HMS Amphion had sunk the German minelayer Königen Luise in British waters. In wild elation I scratched it on the slide, and rushed to the piano, grabbing the keyboard from Mother waiting to greet the announcement with ‘Rule Britannia’. This was the way to win a war! The scanty house rose and cheered to a man!”
The other action that Bloom recorded on the slides was the naval engagement between HMS Amphion and the Königen Luise. The initial slide recorded the sinking of the German ship and then the next day she had to record the loss of Amphion on “my beastly little slides”, as the ship had struck a mine.
Within days of war being declared her fiancé and brother had joined up. Her fiancé then broke off the engagement. The cinema projectionist also enlisted and the commissioner was called up as he was a reservist. Prices shot up and food was hoarded. Her work at the cinema became harder as she had to manage the venue as well as play the piano, all this within the first few weeks of the war. For the rest of the war Bloom fared just as badly. She was accused of being a spy, her mother died of cancer, she witnessed airship raids, and the arrival of casualties. She did marry and had a son. Her army husband survived the war but not the influenza and so, as the war ended, she was left a widow.
Recent articles mirror some of Bloom’s observations about the war. In History Today there is a piece, The Daily Mail and the First World War, by Adrian Bingham. As well as avid readers of the newspapers, the Bloom family bought the Daily Mail war map for 6d. and pinned it on their wall, though her mother, “… was in a continual dither not knowing where to put the next flag.” Catriona Pennell has also written an article, Believing the Unbelievable: The Myth of the Russians with ‘Snow on Their Boots’ in the United Kingdom, 1914. Bloom narrates, “Lots of talk going around”, including the rumour of the Cossacks passing though Harpenden station on darkened trains that had been recognized by, “their fur caps and some had the snow of Siberia still on them!”
And finally, the IHR’s Anglo-American conference for 2014 is entitled The Great War at Home which also covers some of the issues raised by Bloom.
To see what academics are researching and writing about today, I’ve noted a few First World War articles that interested me and I hope interest readers.
The first article begins at the beginning, or a few weeks before, with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Adam James Bones in, British National Dailies and the Outbreak of War in 19141, explores the press and their portrayal of how Britain entered the conflict from the reaction to the Archduke’s assassination (sympathetic); the impact of foreign embassies on press reporting (especially from the Germans and Austrians); and the reporting, reactions and forecasts of the outcome of the Austrian Ultimatum. He also examines the link between politicians and the press, especially between Grey and the Fleet Street editors.
For all Britain’s reputation as an animal-loving nation, the next article, The Dog Fancy at War: Breeds, Breeding, and Britishness, 1914-1918 2 by Philip Howell, may cause pause for thought. He discusses the impact of the war and the popularity (or loss of popularity) for some dog breeds such as the dachshund. Even the dog breeder was seen as unpatriotic – dog breeding was seen as a luxury and as a waste of food.
“Next day the German sausage was re-named breakfast sausage, which it has been called ever since, and the Frankenfurters disappeared. They thought all Germans should be pushed out of this country, good and bad alike. A woman who went out leading a little dachshund, had it stoned to death on the pavement, for there was no stemming this ugly tide of racial hatred to which the sinking of the Lusitania had given rise.” 3
On a lighter note and still away from the trenches, Krista Cowman looks at the entertainments for the off-duty soldier in, Touring behind the lines: British soldiers in French towns and cities during the Great War 4. She makes the point that, for many, the war was also the first occasion a soldier visited a foreign country. Drawing on letters, diaries and memoirs, she considers how men responded to the new experiences they found in French towns, exploring everyday and mundane activities such as shopping, dining, cinema and theatre and of course the inevitable visit to a prostitute.
Continuing the entertainment theme, More than a Luxury: Australian Soldiers as Entertainers and Audiences in the First World War 5 by Amanda Laugesen discusses the crucial importance of live entertainment to soldiers on the Western Front - ‘something more than a luxury—they are a necessity’ as an Australian trench newspaper asserted. It also examines entertainment and audience experiences in order to reveal something about soldiers’ interaction with popular culture, as well as the trench culture shared by soldiers.
Continuing the veterans theme there is Michael Hammond’s, War Relic and Forgotten Man: Richard Barthelmess as Celluloid Veteran in Hollywood 1922-1933 8 which explores the role of popular Hollywood film culture in the construction and commemoration of the war using the films of actor Barthelmess. In The Enchanted Cottage (1924) he plays a disfigured veteran who finds love, and in Heroes for Sale (1933), set during the Depression, he portrays a recovering addict veteran struggling in civilian life.
All relevant material will appear in BBIH.
1 The International History Review. 35: 5, 2013 p. 975-92
2 Society & Animals, Volume 21: 6, 2013 p. 546 – 567
3 Bloom, Ursula. Youth at the gate. 1959 p. 95
4 Urban History, 41, 2013 p. 105-123.
5 Journal of War & Culture Studies 6:3, 2013 p. 226-38
6 Journal of Social History 47:2, 2013 p. 263-296
7 First World War Studies 4:2, 2013 p. 201-17
8 Journal of War and culture studies 6:4, 2013 p. 283-301
A little while back I attended a course on editing Wikipedia. While not an avid user of the online resource, I do find it useful. It’s excellent for popular culture (mainly of the quiz questions variety); where else can you quickly discover what a Vorlon is? Or what Richard Gere’s middle name is? Or a list of the Eurovision song winners and the points they scored? It’s increasingly useful for place names, historical events and planning of anniversaries and celebrations. I particularly like using Wikipedia for place names as there is a useful link to the Ordnance Survey maps. Wikipedia also provides links to VIAF (and other authority files) which I use for creating person authority files in BBIH.
Painting by Anton Otto Fischer depicting the first victory at sea by USS Constitution over HMS Guerriere.
The best part of the course was the fascinating introduction by Andrew Gray. He described how Wikipedia had developed, its ethos and aims, all to the accompaniment of real-time editing changes being screened in the background.
The training was less successful, not I hasten to add because of the tutor but because of the technology. The Mac notebooks used by the library are not geared up for teaching purposes (the screens are too small and the short cuts I’m used to did not seem to work, at least on my notebook) which meant endless scrolling up and down. The session wasn’t helped by my need for glasses to see the notebook and then take them off to see the overhead screen.
To my surprise the editing format is a little clunky and a bit old-fashioned. I initially made a few miserable and desultory attempts to edit something (and failed). The original idea I had of adding snippets of information and fleshing out some short articles has not come to fruition. I thought it would be easy to dip in and out of articles and edit accordingly while doing my “day job”. I’m afraid it all became too frustrating and irritating. I did spend one determined weekend augmenting some articles and was a little more successful but it was a chore and although I managed most of what I set out to do I don’t think I’ll ever truly master the editing. Happily Wikipedia are developing a better user interface. Perhaps I’ll give it another go!
Enough moaning about my inadequacies and to the real point of this posting – two articles, unsurprisingly, about Wikipedia.
The first featured in a special edition of the Journal of Military History1. The article, by Richard Jensen, examines how the 14,000-word article on the “War of 1812” was worked on by over 2,000 different people, with no overall coordinator or plan. Debates raged as the 1812 article attracted over 3,300 comments by 627 of the most active editors. Interestingly the main dispute in the Wikipedia entry was who actually won the war. Jensen also looks at the sources used by the Wikipedia editors, which mainly rest upon free online sources and popular books, rather than scholarly monographs and articles.
The second article, Wicked Wikipedia? Communities of Practice, the Production of Knowledge and Australian Sport History by Stephen Townsend2et al, analysed 115 Wikipedia articles written about notable Australian sportspeople, revealinga disproportionately large group of high-quality cricket biographies. Upon further investigation it was discovered that a small group of Wikipedians were responsible for writing these articles, showing the influence that dedicated special interest groups can have over the production of knowledge on Wikipedia.
Don Tallon Australian cricketer
Increasingly Wikipedia is being cited in learned and academic books and journals. From anecdotal evidence I’ve comes across a review for The Freedom of Speech: The history of an idea, in which the reviewer notes that the introduction contains three referrals to Wikipedia for recent events3.
In Engineers of victory : the problem solvers who turned the tide in the Second World War by Paul Kennedy, the author cites Wikipedia, arguing that for some of his topics he finds that Wikipedia is the best source or one of the best; he is particularly impressed by the articles on the Pacific War. He has 11 Wikipedia pages listed in the digital resources section of his bibliography, and the endnotes refer to a number of pages in very approving terms,though does admit to some which are embarrassing to peruse.
Furthermore, in Norman Davies’ Vanished Kingdoms: The History of half-forgotten Europe, the author offers a robust defence of Wikipedia comparing the entry for Burgundy to, “…old-fashioned printed reference works”. As Davies states, “Analytical studies have shown that Wikipedia, for all its faults, can sometimes match the most prestigious academic brands. It has the virtue of being constantly corrected and updated” 4. One can see his sources using Wikipedia, and other online resources, in his footnotes for Eire5.
Some data scientists and analysts also use Wikipedia to assess rankings of significant people including historical figures. Wikipedia is one of the data sources used, by analysing the pages of more than 800,000 people to measure quantities that should correspond to historical significance. They expect that more significant people will have longer Wikipedia pages than those less notable. Also the Wiki pages of people of higher significance should attract greater readership than those of lower significance.
I’d be interested to know of any other anecdotal evidence or indeed any other articles that have analysed history on Wikipedia.
Also readers might be interested in Andrew Dalby’s The world and Wikipedia: how we are editing reality.
1 Journal of Military History, vol. 76:4, 2012
2 The International Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 30:5, 2013 p. 545-59
3 McMenemy, Paul. Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies, 36:2 2013 p. 312-13
The latest update to the local history internet sites guide was published in the November 2012 issue of the Local Historian . This very useful guide, that updates previous issues and a booklet, covers local history and genealogical sites and resources. The booklet was reviewed in a previous blog.
While aimed at the local/amateur historian, the update is of use to the academic historian, listing such resources as the Cabot Roll 1496-1499, which provides links to high-resolution copies of the out-of-copyright publication, consisting of facsimiles, Latin transcriptions and English-language translations of the enrolled customs accounts for the port of Bristol. There is also the Middle English Compendium, offering easy access to three major Middle English resources.
Some sites have longer reviews, notably, Coal Mining Resource Centre which is especially strong on mining accidents and those who died in them; North-East Diary 1939-1945 is a labour of love, listing day-by-day wartime activities. A quick search found for Friday 12th July 1940, “Many IBs [incendiary bombs] dropped in region of Bridgehill near Consett. A cow was killed, a house was slightly damaged by fire”. Also reviewed is the Gaelic /English website containing over, 30,000 oral recordings from the 1930s onwards, Tobar an Dualchais.
Thanks and congratulations to the compiler of these excellent updates, Jacquelené Fillmore for her dedication and patience.
The International Journal for Maritime History ran a special forum on a variety of projects, some new, some old and some in development. In Some implications from the Transatlantic slave trade for maritime databases, David Eltis discusses the development of the Trans-Atlantic Save Trade database. This database, launched in December 2008, comprises nearly 35,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866. The records are compiled from various archives and libraries and provide information about vessels, slaves, slave traders and ship owners. By using this data, Eltis hopes to chart the geographical origins of the slaves on the complementary site www.african-origins, launched in May 2011. He outlines plans for a photographic collection and ethnographic material.
The slave trade database offers a variety of search facilities. The initially daunting search screen turns out to be remarkably easy to use and in a very short time I was able to establish the role of Cowes (yes, that Cowes, on the Isle of Wight) as a starting and end point for around ten slaving voyages dating from 1734. With such a well-established site there is the usual contextualisation of material and research materials as well as the ability to download material for particular research projects.
One such research project – Liverpool as Trading Port, 1700-1850 – uses data from the slave database to chart the rise of Liverpool as a port. It combines the data from this site with genealogical material as well as civic records from Liverpool. Stephen Berhrendt et al give a detailed outline of the sources and their incorporation into the database in Designing a multi-source relational database: ‘Liverpool as a Trading Port, 1700-1850′.
A more recent use of the slave database is a fascinating article, The speed of ships and shipping in the age of sail in the European Review of Economic History. Using a sample of vessels from the database the article shows that the speed of ships increased significantly.
While the slave trade database has collated material from a variety of sources, the next project discussed uses one source – the Sound Toll Registers. The registers are an intriguing collection of data detailing the accounts of the toll which the king of Denmark levied on shipping which passed through the strait between Sweden and Denmark. The data covers the period 1497-1857, after which the toll was abolished. There are gaps in the sequence but the records are complete from 1574. The database will ultimately contain evidence for over 1 million voyages. Already the project has begun using the data in research and these are outlined in the article, Sound Toll Registers Online: introduction and first research examples. 
The forum rounds off with a discussion of the potential of the Navicorpus site, which aims to create a tool for capturing a wide variety of resources related to shipping and maritime trade. The article covers the types of fields and data needed, its development and testing.
It is heartening that well-established sites are providing the impetus and stimulus for other research projects and also heartening that the IJMH ran the forum as a result of a conference held at the French National Archives in Paris in May 2011.
 International Journal of Maritime History, 24:1, 2012, p. 253-360  European Review of Economic History,16:4, 2012, p. 469-489  See also Erik Gøbel, The Sound Toll Registers Online Project, 1497-1857, International Journal for Maritime History, 22:2, 2010, p. 305-324