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)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space.
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.
Dr James Baker of the British Library spoke about digital research on 18 March.
Senate House Library and the Institute of Historical Research Library hosted a well-attended and interesting event aimed at postgraduate students, independent and early career researchers last Tuesday, 18 March. The first morning sessions introduced attendees to archival and library networks and the concepts behind the organisation of collections and information. The later morning sessions covered new skills such as digital research and digital imaging; more established technologies like reference management software and electronic research resources; and always-important topics like training and giving presentations. The afternoon gave attendees the opportunity to directly engage with information professionals from twenty-three libraries, archives and professional information organisations.
History Lab and History Lab Plus helped out on the day and recruited new members.
Dr Elizabeth Williams talked to students about presentation skills during an afternoon clinic.
If you could not attend, the story of the day is available for you to browse, and Dr James Baker of the British Library posted his notes online. The Institute of Historical Research Library and Senate House Library hope to build on the initial success of this first year and potentially hold History Day annually, reaching out to more students and researchers of history, as well as more repositories. We would like to thank event sponsors, Brepols, Cambridge University Press, Maney Publishing, Polity and Yale University Press, as well as the members of the Committee of London Research Libraries in History, and we hope to see you next time.
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.
As part of events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, the Centre for Metropolitan History in partnership with IWM (Imperial War Museums) is organising a major conference that will explore the ways in which London and its inhabitants were affected by, and involved with, the 1914-18 conflict.
For the first time London was effectively on the front line, subject to aerial bombing and surveillance, whilst its streets, buildings and spaces were shaped by the needs of mass mobilisation, supply and defence. The war had an impact upon everyday life in the capital in other ways too, including the economy, governance, standards of living, culture, leisure, the physical environment and social life.
The Zeppelin scare is just as if the whole place was in imminent fear of an earthquake. At night the whole of London is in absolute darkness, every window heavily screened, no street lamps, no lamps on vehicles, all trains with windows closed and blinds drawn, constant street accidents and traffic blocks, and a bewildering pandemonium of confusion in the streets.
War Letters of General Monash, Sydney, ed. F.M. Cutlack (1934), p. 124, 18 July 1916; writing to his wife and daughter in Australia
The conference will be an opportunity to examine these and larger themes, such as the idea of ‘resilience’ as a feature of the development of cities in history, and the extent to which warfare has engendered longer term urban societal changes. We are also interested in exploring the ‘legacy’ of the First World War, whether through art, literature, the built environment or the heritage industry.
Proposals for panels (3 x 20 minute papers) or individual papers are invited on any of these or any other topics connected with the impact of the First World War on London, and indeed London’s role, broadly conceived, in the four-year conflict. The programme committee welcomes submissions reflecting a wide range of perspectives and disciplines, including history, geography, literary studies, art history, and museology. We also welcome papers which reflect comparatively on the experiences of London and other cities in the UK and in other countries.
Suzanne Bardgett (Imperial War Museums)
Professor Matthew Davies (Centre for Metropolitan History)
Professor Richard Dennis (UCL)
Dr Stefan Goebel (Kent)
Professor Jerry White (Birkbeck, University of London)
To be effective researchers historians must learn skills to enable them to manage their research processes so that everything they do is recoverable, usable, and useful. This workshop is intended to help postgraduate students and early career researchers to think more about what it is they do, to learn about digital tools that can help them become better and more efficient historians, and to recognise the importance of being able to share that research in terms of both the data/research gathered and in terms of publishing.
This workshop looks at various aspects of the research process, providing guidance, ideas, and training in how to be more efficient and better at the research that you do. It is part of the History DMT (data management training) project between the Institute of Historical Research (London); the Department of History (Hull); and the Humanities Research Institute (Sheffield). The workshop is FREE and refreshments, including lunch are available.
To register for the workshop please fill in a booking form on the Institute of Historical Research website.
A number of bursaries are available to help with travel costs so please indicate if you are interested in one of these in your application.
10.30 Coffee & registration
11.00 Introduction (Matt Phillpott)
11.15 Researchers projects – managing their data
11.45 Bibliographical Tools
12.15 Practical activity
14.00 Sharing Data
14.30 Open Access
15.15 Practical Activity
16.30 Workshop ends
This is the second of three workshops for the History DMT project. The previous workshop was held in Hull in December (see this previous blog post for full details). The third will be held in Sheffield in April. Each session is intended as a standalone; however, if you attend more than one session we believe that this would be highly beneficial.
Location: Senate House (University of London)
Date: 27 February 2014
Places are limited. To reserve a place please fill in the booking form here. If you would like to learn more about the workshop then please contact Matt Phillpott at email@example.com who is happy to help.
The Friends of the IHR will be hosting another of its popular film evenings on 17 February at 5:30. Professor Penelope Corfield, Professor Emeritus, Royal Holloway, University of London will be presenting the film.
Georgina Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire, was an an extremely colourful 18th century British aristocrat. She was not only a socialite, a fashion icon and a political activist, but was also a fervent gambler with unconventional marital arrangements.
The Duchess (2008) is based on the biography, Georgina Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman. The film featured Keira Knightley as the Duchess and Ralph Fiennes, as her husband, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire. The film won several well deserved awards for Best Costume Design, including an Academy Award and a BAFTA.
Professor Corfield, who is an expert on economic, social, cultural, and urban history from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries will put the film into historical context. She will also speak about the film’s costumes and the fashion of the day.
The event is open to the public and tickets are £15/£10 (students). The talk will start at 5:30, with the screening at 6:00 the film will be followed by a reception at 7:30. If you are interested in joining, please contact IHR Development (IHR.Development@sas.ac.uk or on 0207 862 8764/91).
Here in the IHR events office, we’re gearing up for a long evening. The IHR is hosting two memorial lectures today: The Holocaust Memorial Lecture, hosted by the Pears Institute at Birkbeck, and the Douglas Johnson Memorial Lecture, which is organised by the Society for the Study of French History.
We’ve hosted these memorial lectures for quite a number of years now, and they have become regular features in our events schedule. We value our collaborative partnerships with UK and international organisations highly – around half of IHR events are co-hosted. These events are a great opportunity to widen our networks and build relationships across history departments across the country and sometimes the world.
The Gerald Aylmer Seminar taking place on 28th February at Senate House is certainly a collaborative event. The seminar, which has taken The Global Archive as its theme, is being co-hosted with The National Archives, the Royal Historical Society, the University of Leicester, and of course, the Institute of Historical Research. The Gerald Alymer Seminar typically co-hosts with a number of organisations, and attracts over a 100 people each year. Such a diverse group of partners means that discussion is almost always progressive and aims to break into new territory.
Stay tuned to hear more about forthcoming IHR events, such as the exciting History after Hobsbawm conference in April, jointly hosted with the history department at Birkbeck as well as BBC: Origins, Influences, Audiences: a 50th anniversary celebration, being held at the Science Museum, London, also in April.