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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.

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



The IHR’s British Poll Book Collection


The IHR Library holds a large collection of printed British parliamentary poll books, both originals and photocopies. Poll books can be traced back to an Act of Parliament in 1696 designed to curb electoral fraud and disputed elections. They record the names of voters, who they voted for, and on occasion the voters’ place of residence, occupation and the place of the voters’ qualification if different from their residence. Therefore, poll books can provide a wealth of information across a swathe of historical disciplines. It should be noted, however, that poll books do not survive for every constituency, nor for every election. In addition, some poll books were printed, while others remain in manuscript.


The first known poll book to be printed was for a by-election in the county of Essex in 1694. It is thought that the prurient interest generated by the suicide of the M.P. whose death triggered the election (he hanged himself at the fourth attempt from his four-poster bed with his garter after unsuccessfully trying to choke himself with ‘the rump of a turkey’) caused the printer of the poll book to ‘cash-in’ on the widespread public interest generated. The printed copy of the poll was an unofficial document and for some elections, several copies of the same poll were published, for example: the election held at Boston in 1865.

Poll books remained popular right up until the introduction of the secret ballot in 1872, yet even after the act’s introduction, poll books survive for the three university constituencies of Cambridge, Oxford and London. The last known poll book is for Cambridge, taken in 1882 and the IHR holds a copy. Below is an image from this final poll book and an image from an early election in the constituency of the University of Oxford.

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The library has been undertaking a project to catalogue and reclassify the IHR’s collection of poll books since late 2011. This project is now complete and as a result, we felt it would be an appropriate time to share some of the highlights that we uncovered while reclassifying these valuable records of British electoral history.

  • At the poll taken in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1865 the printers felt it necessary to include an addendum stating that, “we have been obliged to omit some Squibs issued during the Election, on account of their gross indecency and libellous character.”

– Political songs, speeches and declarations are also recorded in some poll books. One fine example portrays an electoral candidate.
The rhyme declares:

‘There’s Taylor with eloquence blazing,

The Tories he’ll make a clear rout of ‘em,

With Trousers so tight it’s amazing,

How he ever gets into or out of ‘em!’


Another electioneering song from an election in 1813 notes:

‘He sends us Gowland as his substitute

And do they think that he can gain a vote?

From freeborn men by means like these, I swear

I’d almost rather be condemned to bear

The thoughts of drinking water all my days

Than thus I’d swerve from independent ways.’


In addition, the song Cock-A-Doodle-Doo, recorded during an election campaign in Lincolnshire in 1868, highlights the nature of electioneering and canvassing at this time.


The poll book records the Liberal candidate commenting:

“The Conservative Cock is moulting,

Which makes him look so low;

The taps are stopp’d, his throat’s so dry,

He cannot even crow.”

In reply, the Conservative candidate remarks:

‘The Liberal Cock has lost his spurs,

He has nothing to defend him;

And if he ventures in the wars,

The Conservative Cock will end him.”

  • Several poll books were produced hurriedly to cope with public demand. Thus, many polls contain errata asking readers to overlook any mistakes. A poll for the election in Durham in 1813 states: ‘In the course of the work, the reader will in places observe a few typographical errors; they are, however, so obvious, we have thought a particular statement unnecessary, since the error takes not from the grammatical sense, and is generally confined to the misplacing a single letter. In a work of this heterogeneous kind, we hope such mistakes will be candidly overlooked, or generously forgiven.’

The IHR Library staff adopt a similar approach and hope that any mistakes during cataloguing are also candidly overlooked or generously forgiven.

The Library’s collection of poll books are located in the IHR’s onsite store but they can be consulted via request through email or in person. Full details can be found here:

A guide to the Library’s collection of poll books can be consulted here:

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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!

A Visit to the IHR Library Offsite Store


A few members of the IHR library staff recently travelled to the IHR’s offsite depository store at Egham in Surrey for the day in order to record the collections’ periodicals that remain stored offsite following the IHR’s move to its new location in the North Block of Senate House in 2014. The items that remain stored offsite mainly comprise pre-1950 journals and periodicals.

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The visit was designed to enable us to update our catalogue with an accurate record of the library’s Latin American holdings. The Latin American collection will begin to be re-catalogued in the coming months and this will enable this fascinating and exceptionally diverse collection to be explored in greater depth.

The collections comprise materials from across Latin America, with significant areas of strength in Mexican, Brazilian and Colombian history. Journals and periodicals are collected however, from all countries in Latin America.

In addition, the depository itself is also of historical interest! The store contains many historical gems, with a personal favourite being the old style of library trolleys from Senate House Library that deck the halls of the depository.

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For researchers wishing to make use of the offsite collections, please note that items can be requested from the offsite store and accessed usually within 1-2 working days. A guide to the full collection locations of the IHR can be found here:

Blog posts on the treasures unearthed during our re-cataloguing of the Latin American collections will follow – so watch this space!

See also: A full list of the IHR’s seminar series on Latin America, as well as links to several podcasts that are available for download from the seminar series, can be found here:

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).

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.

Joan of Arc Underwear and Diamond Stockings: Fashion in Travel Writing


In the 1923 Handbook to the Gold Coast, editor John Maxwell advises British crown agents and merchants moving to West Africa on what fashions were appropriate in those far-flung colonies. Some of his recommendations fit seamlessly into our Lawrence of Arabia stereotype of the empire’s explorers, like his worshipful praise of khaki, styled either as “shorts or long trousers.” “There’s nothing better,” Maxwell declares, though he warns that because “clothes deteriorate quicker in the tropics…it is therefore advisable to be on the safe side and take a small surplus rather than too little.”

However, his advice to bring “a housewife with a good supply of darning wool, thread, needles, buttons, etc.,” may be jarring for the modern reader unacquainted with the “housewife” sewing kits popular in the British army in the 19th and 20th centuries. Those young colonists who did pack up their human housewives were “advised to get in touch, through the Colonial Office, with the wife of some member of the department who has been to West Africa.”


The 1928 edition of the Handbook to the Gold Coast advertises the perfect underwear & shoes for the tropics.

Travel writing is full of the familiar and the strange, both for the author and the reader trying to piece together the history of fashion through letters and journals where clothes are described either meticulously or barely at all. If only those gentlemen on their Grand Tours had given us an archive of selfies, a repository of vanity that would have saved hours scrounging through cramped handwritten letters for the smallest detail.

While no such archive exists, we are lucky to have a prodigious supply of travel writing that illustrates a remarkable amount of fashion over the past few centuries. Though lacking the cultural nuance of someone speaking for their own country, these outsider perspectives offer a physical, and often blunt, description of how the people they met presented themselves.

Horror drove many of the writers to describe the fashions they saw, like the trauma of Baron Broughton during his travels through Constantinople. “Nothing can be more dissimilar than the appearance of a Turkish lady at home and abroad,” he says. “Her envelope is thrown off within doors, and…her under are then her upper garments, which, although covered with gold and other heavy ornaments, are certainly not contrived for the concealment of her charms.” Joseph Pitton de Tournefort was similarly baffled, though perhaps less scandalized, by the women of Turkey during his voyage through the Levant.  “Though the Women in Turkey do not shew themselves in publick, they are yet very magnificent in their Habits,” he describes. “They wear Breeches like Men, which reach as low as the Heel in the manner of a Pantaloon, at the end of which is a very neat Sock of Spanish Leather.”


An illustration from Baron Broughton’s “A journey through Albania, and other provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia, to Constantinople, during the years 1809-1810″.

Though much of our travel writing comes from Europeans leaving the continent, their home countries are not spared from criticism. Muslim scholar Mirza Abu Taleb Khan was appalled by the women he saw in Paris during his 18th century travels, remarking that “the waists of their gowns were so short and full-bodied, that the women appeared humpbacked; that whilst the drapery in the front was so scanty as barely to conceal half their bosom.”

Not all comments were negative, of course, like the observations of Englishwoman Helen Maria Williams who marvelled at the ballroom fashions in Switzerland in 1798. “For a short time during the winter, in defiance of frost and snow, the costume of a few reigning balls was not à la Grec, but à la Sauvage. The bodice, under which no linen was worn (shifts being an article of dress long since rejected at Paris, both by the Greeks and the Savages)…was made of knitted silk, clinging exactly to the shape, which it perfectly displayed…and the feet, which were either bare, or covered with a silk stocking of flesh colour, were decorated with diamonds.”

Travel writing offers an invaluable resource for the history of fashion. To learn more, please see the IHR Library Collection Guide on Fashion History and check out our temporary exhibition located on the first and third floors of the library.

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.

Fashion and consumption in the First World War: Department store catalogues 1916-17


AboutPeterRobinsonThe Institute of Historical Research, in collaboration with Senate House Library, is delighted to announce the launch of a new online exhibition of digitised fashion catalogues from the First World War. These select catalogues of women’s clothing from 1916 and 1917 illustrate the war’s impact on materials, the roles of women and fashion itself.


BradleysStewartandMacdonaldThe exhibition is freely available at, and includes eight fully digitised catalogues from five different department stores (Bradleys, Dickins and Jones, Peter Robinson, John Barnes and Stewart and Macdonald), potted histories of each of these, and further articles on the provenance of the catalogues, their preservation and the process involved in scanning them.


JohnBarnes2Scanning2This online exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research’s IHR Digital Department and Senate House Library, and has been produced thanks to contributions from Angela Craft, Dr Richard Espley, Dave Jackson, Dr Jordan Landes, Danny Millum and Professor Jane Winters. Please do get in touch with with any questions or feedback.

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