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)
At the moment there is unsurprisingly an abundance of newly published source material being made available from the First World War, and this is certainly reflected in our latest New Books display. We hold an excellent range of primary sources from the conflict within our military collection, with diaries and correspondence from various perspectives forming a key aspect. The breadth of coverage within these holdings has just been strengthened further with the addition of two volumes from a series of War Diaries published in association with the Imperial War Museum, offering the viewpoints of two non-combatants – an army chaplain and a nurse.
In A chaplain at Gallipoli : the Great War diaries of Kenneth Bestwe are offered a gripping account from a padre who spent time on the front lines of two of the most brutal campaigns of the war – Gallipoli and the Somme. Kenneth Best, a Cambridge graduate, was ordained in 1913 and volunteered for the military chaplaincy on the outbreak of the war in the following year, and went on to spend time in Egypt, Turkey and France. He wrote candidly on the horrors he witnessed, but still managed to inject a bit of wit into his entries. As the Gallipoli Campaign intensified in May 1915 he wrote: ”Men’s hair perceptibly turning greyer under strain. I think my hair would turn grey if I had any to turn – clippers have done their work well. Several times a day one has a narrow shave from shell or bullet.”
Best’s diaries and letters, along with an informative supplementary chapter on British Army Chaplains in the Great War more generally, really highlight the important, varied and often conflicting role that the padres had. They not only maintained the morale of soldiers through their religious duties, but also took part in rescue missions and treated the wounded. There was a huge increase in the number of chaplains serving with the British Army as the war went on, rising from 117 in 1914, to 3745 in 1918, with 172 killed by the end of the war. It is a telling indication of what Best had been through that he proclaimed himself an agnostic in later life, his faith having been shaken by his experiences.
Again offering a different perspective to that of a soldier, we have A nurse at the front : the Great War diaries of Sister Edith Appleton. Edith Appleton had qualified and worked as a nurse for several years before the war began, and was quick to sign up for the highly regarded Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1914, proceeding to serve in France and Belgium. She kept a series of diaries throughout the war and right up until her demobilisation in December 1919, but unfortunately some of the original volumes are now missing, so they are not all featured in what is nonetheless an invaluable and well edited published edition. On the website where the diaries were first made available to the public, set up by descendants of Edith Appleton, you can find further material, including letters which fill in some of the gaps left by the missing volumes, photos of the remaining originals, and an index of all the names mentioned in them – www.edithappleton.org.uk.
In her writingAppleton speaks generally about her day to day duties and how she spent her free time, often in a humorous and light-hearted way, but juxtaposes this with graphic descriptions of the countless wounded soldiers she observed and treated. Editor Ruth Cowen points out that this ‘unflinching account’ is all the more surprising considering the diaries were actually addressed to Appleton’s mother. Perhaps most significant are her reports of the new types of injury and illness being experienced, both physical and psychological, that we now associate so strongly with the war. She was very interested in shellshock, such a controversial condition at the time, and also bore witness to the first victims of chlorine gas-poisoning on the Western Front. Her entry from Ypres on May 5 1915 describes these victims: “They are fearfully sad to see. The slight ones look rather like pneumonia, and the bad ones are terrible – the poor things are blue and gasping, lungs full of fluid, and not able to cough it up. Today six have died of it in one ward alone.”
This has only been a snapshot of the type of material the Library holds relating to the First World War – check back for further posts we are working on to tie in with the IHR’s Anglo-American Conference this year, The Great War at Home.
Below you can find the full list of new books which feature on the current display:
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.
As the forthcoming issue of Past and Future details, a donation from the American Friends of the IHR has enabled the IHR library to purchase a collection of printed sources from the acclaimed (expensive) publisher Pickering & Chatto. All in all four different sets of primary sources spanning from 1609 to 1939 have been added to our Colonial and British collections.
Ireland in the Age of Revolution, 1760–1805 part II BI.515 Iar
The Making of the Modern Police 1780-1914 part 1 B.797 Law
The American Colonies and the British Empire 1607-1783 CLAA.11 Sar
A fifth set, on Women’s Travel Writing, with sources drawn from the Chawton House Library, will arrive shortly and be found in the French collection.
Communications in Africa consists of five volumes documenting the establishment of railways and roads in Africa in support of Britain’s economic interests. At first glance I found the contents pages very uninspiring: endless official reports on the extension of this and that railway in various African states, but as always happens, digging into some of the documents and having a proper read opens up a whole new world. For instance, the full account of an Informal conference with Mr. Bedford Glasier on the subject of the Lagos Railway that took place in 1903 at a Liverpool Hotel definitely delivers what the publisher promises: an illumination of the relationship between colonizers and the colonized. And that is only one aspect of the information one could pull from this specific source.
“the native as you know is not fond of work – far from it, he resents work. I am speaking now of the educated native, and he is not blessed with those qualities of smartness, punctuality, and business aptitude which railway working requires.”
The Making of Modern Police (only part one has been published so far) also offers a wide range of insights into the past. The three works deal with three different aspects of the making of the police as we know it today. Volume one, “The idea of policing”, includes John Fieldings, A Plan for Preventing Robberies from 1755, wherein the London Magistrate  brother of Henry Fielding outlines his plan for preventing highway robberies within 20 miles of London. In volume two, “Reforming the police in the nineteenth century”, both contemporary material and memoirs are listed, with many documents dealing with the implementation of the County Police Act in 1839, covering, for instance, the establishment of rural police in Essex. In the third volume, “Policing the Poor”, we find under the heading Tramps and Vagrants in Trafalquar Square 1887  a letter to the Commissioner Police of the Metropolis from Mr. T. Cavanagh relating his distress to find so many people sleeping rough in the Square.
…not only 200 but more were there huddled together in the seats, on the stones at the back of the seats, on the stones around about the fountains and under the lions, making I should say about the most terrible sight of open air misery to be met with in Europe : and this under the eyes of the wealthiest visitors to London!”
The American Colonies and the British Empire, 1607–1783 consists of eight volumes and deals with the development of colonial and imperial ideology. Nearly all the sources are reproduced in full and include pamphlets, reports, sermons and letters. The publisher has tried to give examples of the often conflicting ideas of the people involved: the administrators, the politicians, the colonists to mention a few. The very detailed and comprehensive chronology in the first volume, beginning 1496 with John Cabot’s voyages to Newfoundland and ending in 1784 with the Order in Council to exclude American merchants from British colonial trade, is definitely worth checking out. I love it! Sir Walter Raleigh here pops up in almost every volume and of course features in the chronology.
Sir Walter Raleigh by ‘H’. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 7
Closer to home, part two  of Ireland in the Age of Revolution 1760-1805 (subtitled “Ireland and the French Revolution”) promises to illustrate the impact of the French revolution on political issues in Ireland. Pickering and Chatto have selected ca. 60 pamphlets originally published between 1797 and 1805 for that purpose. In addition, other material is included; for example, there are a few excerpts from “Memoirs and Correspondence of Viscount Castlereagh” (1798) (the then ActingChief Secretary of Ireland), one of them being ‘Communications passed between the Government and the State Prisoners’,  which is followed by reports from the Committee of Secrecy of the House of Commons and from the House of Lords in Ireland from August of the same year.  All material of interest to both readers interested in the history of revolutionary ideas and also those specifically interested in Irish history.
Come and have a look for yourself – the class marks are listed above, and all these sets have a brilliant consolidated index in their final volume.
Our next blog will be another look at the library’s fascinating collections of travel writing.
 Communications in Africa, 1880–1939 vol. 1 p. 225
Henry and John Fielding created the Bow Street Runners the first professional police force in 1749.
Further to our previous post about the IHR library refurbishment plans, we can now give a bit more detail about our initial plans for the library collection locations. About two thirds of the collection can be kept on open access. The remainder will be closed, and we would like to store as much as possible onsite within Senate House.
We have drafted some initial plans based on
frequency of use
ease with which volumes can be identified and requested
ease of fetching and availability of appropriate shelving for oversized items
availability of material in nearby libraries and online
collections fitting logically into particular areas of the library
There are some general principles which we have adopted, given the space limitations. These are:
All except current volumes of periodicals will remain in closed access. This is disappointing as we know how much the open-access back runs have been valued for browsing purposes. We will be looking at widening access to electronic journals where possible and hope to work with Senate House Library colleagues to improve the user interface.
With the exception of the British history collection, much of the bibliography/archive guide sections will go on closed access. Although we appreciate that these sections can be useful as a starting point for research, they include much material that is now online or out of date, and they have had relatively low usage. We do plan to check these sections carefully with subject specialists and aim to bring the most useful material into a quick-reference section.
It is difficult to prioritise some sections over others and we’ll have to make some hard decisions, but we hope we can make the library as usable as possible. We’ll continue to do more to promote the collections and improve their discoverability. The closed-access fetch service is flexible, and we are happy to bring out long runs of material and keep it available for as long as it is being used.
Our draft plans divide the collections into broad areas: British, Irish and Ecclesiastical History on the first floor, Military and International Relations collections in the basement and European, Colonial and North American collections on the second floor. More details about individual collections can be found in the attached list. These plans are all subject to discussion. We will be asking subject specialists in different areas to discuss particular collections in detail. We welcome your feedback or input into this, please visit us in the IHR library enquiry office, or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7862 8760.
Here is the latest run-down of new additions to the library, based on our recently updated New Books display. Whereas last month’s entry focused on collected correspondence, this time I have picked out some examples of new volumes from some of the many local records societies whose publications we hold, and which cover a range of regions and areas. Our English local history collection forms a significant part of the library, and this is continually expanding largely because of the regular output of such societies.
Firstly we have the Dugdale Society and their latest publication – Coventry Priory Register. The Dugdale Society was founded in 1920 and named after Sir William Dugdale, a seventeenth century antiquary from Warwickshire. Their stated aims are ‘publishing original documents relating to the history of the County of Warwick, fostering interest in historical records and their preservation and generally encouraging the study of local history.’
Forming Volume XLVI of the Dugdale Society’s Main Record Series, Coventry Priory Register has been carefully produced from an original set of over 250 fifteenth-century folios, kept in The National Archives. It shows in great detail the extensive range of property and land owned by the priory at the time, and the rent that was received. Within the volume the Register itself is preceded by a very helpful contextual introduction from the editor, as well as a series of specially produced street plans for Coventry in 1411, which are certainly a valuable accompaniment to the original source.
Froxfield Almshouse, the subject of this latest volume, has a fascinating history going back to its foundation in the 1690s, and is in fact still open today as The Duchess of Somerset Hospital. The almshouse was originally built to ‘accommodate 30 poor widows’ on a budget of £1,700 left by Sarah duchess of Somerset in her will. This generous benefactor not only provided the initial start-up costs, but also made many other stipulations to ensure the future sustainability of the almshouse, and the care of the women living there. The resulting legacy of successful management is reflected in the minute books, which are a valuable source for studying how the almshouse was run from day to day, as well as providing the bigger picture of adaptation to change across the years.
Senate House Library and the Institute of Historical Research are hosting a research event on the 18th of March 2014, as you may have noticed from several tweets in the last month or two. The morning research skills training sessions are, unfortunately, all booked. However, the afternoon open history fair is open to all who register, with further details on the event website. The open fair will allow you to talk to the representatives of twenty-five London-area libraries, helping you to find the perfect resources for your research. Furthermore, the nine research clinics will give you one-on-one time with experts on British History Online and the Bibliography of British and Irish History, the print and archival collection of the National Archives, digital preservation, digital curation, reference management, digital imaging and presentation skills. Bring your camera, your laptop, your knottiest problems and lots of questions!
This post was written for us by library intern Lisa Smoltino.
The Spanish Collection at the IHR contains numerous resources for digging in to the complex and multi layered history of Spain. The collection includes primary sources written in the Spanish, but also a good amount of material in English, allowing access to important historical material for even those who do not speak Spanish.
The Spanish Civil War was one of the crucial moments in Spain’s history, and is one of the biggest strengths of the collection. There is a variety of sources written from various different perspectives, allowing the researcher a complete look at the war.
For a realistic portrait of what it was like to be a female exile during the time of the Spanish Civil War, have a look at Éxodo: diario de una refugiada española, written by Silvia Mistral, a Spanish writer who sought refuge in France and Mexico during the war. Mistral gives an emotional and personal account of what is was like to be uprooted from one’s country. José Villar Sánchez also writes from the point of view of an exile in Diario de un exiliado español de la guerra de 1936. This personal narrative reads like an intimate diary of what Sanchez, an anarchist, experienced throughout the war. To take a look at the Civil War from a more historical perspective, Nuestra guerra: memorias de un luchadorby Enrique Líster analyzes all aspects of the war from the political to the personal, mixing historical content with his own autobiography.
As described previously, work on the IHR refurbishment is well underway, and we expect to be returning to the Senate House North block in August or September this year.
First Floor Axonometric view. Illustrations courtesy of BDP. For illustrative purposes only.
The library will have a smaller footprint than before, but the layout has been carefully planned to maximise shelving and reader desk spaces. The two main floors (first and second) have been reconfigured to create a more open layout with fixed and rolling stack shelving. Four seminar rooms, three on the second floor and one on the first, will double-up as library rooms to take full advantage of the space.
To the west of the staircase on the first floor will be a room housing most of the library’s folio and map collection, with a larger desk to facilitate use of oversized material. As before, the library will have a current periodicals reading room next to the common room on the ground floor. There will also be shelving and reader spaces in the basement. The rest of the basement and the third floor will house conference and training facilities for the IHR’s rich programme of events.
General view looking through library. Illustrations courtesy of BDP. For illustrative purposes only.
A dedicated reprographics room on the second floor will house new photocopier and scanning equipment. New microform scanning facilities will also be provided. Bespoke reader desks have been designed to incorporate power and data points and lighting. Metal shelving with glass and timber end panels is being supplied by Ecospace, in a similar style to our current shelving. A lot of care has gone into the design of the space to accentuate and complement the architecture of Senate House, and the lighting schemes are both functional and visually appealing.
This week we have received the final library shelving plans and can now complete the collection layout plans. We expect to have around twice as much open-access shelving as we do now. The rest of the collection will continue to be available through a fetch service. Further information on these arrangements will follow, but if you have any questions or comments or would like to view the plans, please visit us in the IHR library enquiry office, or contact us on email@example.com or 020 7862 8760