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.
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).
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?
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
The exhibition is freely available at http://www.history.ac.uk/exhibitions/fashion/index.html, 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.
This 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or feedback.
Next month, as you may have already heard, there will be a number of events held at the IHR to mark the bicentenary of Otto von Bismarck’s birth including an exhibition on the statesman and a lecture given by Prof. Jonathan Steinberg.
This is naturally, therefore, an opportune time to highlight some of the resources to be found in the library’s collections for those researching Bismarck and his impact on German and European politics. Given the central position Bismarck played in many different political arenas it would be feasible to write substantial guides on a number of different subjects (e.g. the nature of his relationship with Kaiser Wilhelm I, Friedrich III and finally Wilhelm II, the Kulturkampf, his attitude to the growth of German party politics, etc.). Yet here we concentrate on the three wars of the 1860s and early 1870s which would bring about the creation of a politically unified German state.
Editions of speeches, letters and telegrams form the core of the library’s holdings on Bismarck where, understandably, one would find his words and thoughts on the prospect and viability of German unity and Prussia’s role within this process as well as the course of the wars with Denmark, Austria and France. The main editions include:
Anhang zu den Gedanken und
Erinnerungen von Otto Fürst von Bismarck
Moving on from the library’s extensive German collection one can find works of relevance in the Diplomatic History and Military Collections, especially regarding the Franco-Prussian War (the library now has over 250 published works on the conflict thanks in part to a large bequest from Dr. Vincent Wright). Other relevant works in the Diplomatic and Military collection include:
Additional material can also be found in some of the other national collections within the library. In the Scandinavian collection works on the war with Denmark currently include an account of the Battle of Dybbøl, the general work and source collection Manuel historique de la question du Slesvig and Den Danske Regering og Nordslesvigs geforening med Danmark by the Danish historian Aage Friis; a work about the repercussions of the war in Denmark. Besides the works already mentioned from the Diplomatic and Military collections additional material on the Austro-Prussian War can also be found in the Austrian collection, especially from the period of Richard Belcredi’s chancellorship. Additional sources on the Franco-Prussian War can understandably be found in the library’s French collection including a collection of the writings of Émile Ollivier, Prime Minister of France during the first few months of the war, as well as editions of Le Moniteur Universel from the years 1870-71.
For more information on the library’s German holdings see our guide on the collection or feel free to browse the shelves on your next visit (the German collection can be found on the second floor in the Peter Marshall and Past & Present rooms)
In 1921, the newly formed Institute of the Historical Research Research received a donation of Rivista Militare Italiana via “Miss M Froude from the library of Col. James”. An early donation, it made up items 780-864 of the library’s holdings – not only helping to fill the empty bookshelves, but marking the beginning of the IHR’s Italian collection.
94 years later, our Italian collection has expanded beyond Miss Froude’s donation by roughly 3500 volumes, all generally falling within the scope of early medieval to modern history. While the collection’s main strengths lie where one might suspect – for example, our extensive holdings on the city-states and kingdoms of Italy, particularly, Venetian, Tuscan, and Roman history – we also collect some specialties that make the IHR’s Italian collection unique within London and the UK. One such strength lies in our unrivaled collection of archival guides for Italy, ranging from the State Archives to the archives of little-known villages and monasteries.
Most of the collection is held on the second floor with our other European collections, where one can browse through the open stacks. However, to stay here – comfortable and easily navigated as this corner of the library is – would lead even the most eager reader amiss, for there are plenty of Italian books to discover outside of the EI class-mark.
There are the domains of history where one might expect to find the Italians. Religious history (under class-mark ER in the Foyles Room on the 1st floor) has ample holdings on the Vatican’s neighbours, like the book La nunziatura di Venezia sotto il papato di Paolo IV. The Military History Collection (under class-mark W, on the lower ground floor) is full of the travails of Italian soldiers during the World Wars and beyond. For example, you can read accounts like Salvatore Bono’s letters from Libya, Morire per questi deserti : lettere di soldati italiani dal fronte libico 1911-1912. Rivista Militare Italiana can be found in this collection, in close access, under class-mark W.20/Rmi.
One of our smaller but more interesting holdings is our collection of Italian colonial history books (largely under class-mark CLB, which is in closed access). A good place to start would be with the four volumes series Inventario delle fonti manoscritte relative alla storia dell’Africa del Nord esistenti in Italia, which offers a comprehensive list of sources available to researchers in Italy. For a more anecdotal look at the Italian experience within the colonies, there is Posti al sole : diari e memorie di vita e di lavoro dalle colonie d’Africa, an anthology of the letters and experiences of the Italian community who lived and worked in Africa during the 20th century occupation.
If one’s interest lies more specifically within Ethiopia, the library has both the accounts of a government official and sometime-prisoner Lino Calabrò (Intermezzo africano : ricordi di un Résidente di Governo en Etiopia) and the diary of the doctor, explorer, and zoologist Vito Cosimo Basile (Uebi Scebeli : diario di tenda e cammino della spedizione del Duca degli Abruzzi in Etiopia).
And, of course, there is the gem Francesco Crispi: la prima guerra d’Africa : Documenti e memorie dell’archivio Crispi ordinati, which one reader defaced so creatively:
For more information about the Italian collection, please see our collection guide.
The North American Collections Room on the second floor of the IHR opened its doors to readers last week. We are pleased to announce that over two-thirds of our American resources are now available on open access in the room. The resources are spread over 350 metres of shelf space and represent the strengths of the overall collection, including colonial North American History, Canadian history, the American Civil War, US western expansion, and early US constitutional history. The space is also home to the IHR’s English and Spanish Caribbean holdings.
Soon the room will be equipped with a projector and will provide a new base for several IHR seminars. It will also be used to host small workshops, book launches and other functions promoting American history in London. In this way, the library hopes that it will become a community space for students and researchers interested in early American history.
To mark the opening, the library will post a series of entries on the IHR blog devoted to a body of sources that constitute the backbone of our colonial American resources: archival series published by state and regional historical societies. All together, the IHR holds over 800 volumes of state historical society material relating to the history of the colonial and revolutionary periods. It is the largest open shelf collection of these resources in the UK. These volumes contain printed versions of a range of documents held in state archives, including – but by now means restricted to – personal correspondence, assembly minutes, and court records. The first blog post, to appear early next week, will focus on our New England resources.
by Olwen Myhill
This post has kindly been written for us by, Dr Karen Attar, Rare Books Librarian, Senate House Library.
The Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research and the Imperial War Museum are holding a major conference on 20-21 March that will explore the ways in which London and its inhabitants were affected by, and involved with, the 1914-18 conflict. Senate House Library provided a display to support the conference of a few items that pertain specifically to London.
One item displayed is as parochial for the University as it is possible to be: the Roll of War Service, 1914-1919, which lists members of the University of London Officer Training Corps who lost their lives in the conflict. It is a chilling list of seven officers and some 670 cadets. Perhaps equally chilling is Alfred Rawlinson’s The Defence of London 1915-1918, which describes the defence of London during the First World War against zeppelins and against aeroplanes, about which Percy Scott states in the preface: “Colonel Rawlinson has written this book on our defence of London against attacks from the air by Germany. He has to admit that we had no defence.”
Life was not entirely miserable. The most visual items displayed are a couple of catalogues from London fashion emporia, Dickins & Jones on Regent Street and Peter Robinson’s on Oxford Street. The war affected them: a catalogue held but not shown, from Bradley’s in Chepstow’s Place for its 1916 autumn and winter fashions, warns: “The increasing shortage of labour, coupled with the rapid advance in prices of all materials, is likely to seriously affect the possible output of all firms, even of a firm such as ours with its exceptional resources and capacity …”. Stock ranges from the severely practical (the well-cut farm suit of khaki gabardine advertised by Dickins & Jones) to the luxurious, with Peter Robinson’s advertising, for ten guineas: “Evening gown in Silk net over Charmeuse; corsage of handsome silver lace. The tunic effect is edges with opalescent beads and large hanging crystal bead tassels.”
Stories could be amusing. Ward Muir’s Observations of an Orderly (1918) describes the author’s experiences working during the war at the 3rd London General Hospital. Much of the work (waiting on the patients, washing up, checking linen) would have been the same anywhere in the country. But Muir describes how a colleague accompanied seven blind soldiers to a matinée at Queen’s Hall. They went there by bus, but insisted on taking the tube back. The corporal who was accompanying them consented. He had forgotten that the lifts at Oxford Circus tube station had been abolished in favour of escalators, judged unsafe for blind people. Having heard a comic song about escalators, they wished to sample “this metropolitan invention”. At the bottom they fell down, one on top of each other, with other hurrying passengers falling too. The soldiers regarded the affair as extremely comical, while an old lady who had tripped over the first soldier reproved the hapless corporal for his “callousness and cruelty to these unhappy blind heroes”.
The books shown come from two of the named special collections at Senate House Library: the Bromhead Library of about 4,000 items on the history of London, and the Playne Collection about 530 books and pamphlets pertaining to the First World War collected by pacifist and historian Caroline Elizabeth Playne.
The IHR and Senate House Library ran a second History Libraries and Research Open Day in January 2015. This brought researchers together with professional staff from a wide range of library and archive collections. It was a fantastic day and it was great to see so many libraries, archives and researchers there. We had very positive feedback from attenders and participating organisations alike.
Speakers gave a range of fascinating talks about how to get the most out of libraries, archives and digital resources. You can read about the day in tweets on the Storify page. An associated website continues to be updated with information about library and archive collections along with podcasts and blog posts from speakers: http://historycollections.blogs.sas.ac.uk.