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Library Management System and Catalogue: essential maintenance – Tuesday, 16th August


A major project is underway to introduce a new generation library discovery catalogue and management system for the Senate House Library and School of Advanced Study’s libraries.  As part of that important project we need to undertake some essential maintenance all day on Tuesday, 16th August 2016 requiring the Library Catalogue, and other related services to be offline whilst the work is being carried out. This means you will not be able to:

  • Search the catalogue
  • Access e-resources (e-journals and databases) authenticated via the catalogue
  • Login to the UoL-open Wifi network

General information about our holdings will continue to be available during the upgrade on COPAC and the Search25 Library Resources. We aim to have all online services, including access to e-journals and databases, back up and running by 9:00am Wednesday, 17th August, 2016. This is the final phase in a number of critical steps to move us from the existing system to Sierra & Encore Duet. We apologise for this disruption, and for any inconvenience this may cause.

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Stern Review: an initial bibliography


Professor Lord Stern of Brentford

Professor Lord Stern of Brentford at the EUI – 16 October 2015. Image: European University Institute from Italy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Research Excellence Framework Review, an independent review of university research funding undertaken by Lord Nicholas Stern, was published by the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation on 28 July 2016. It will now move to a further stage of consultation in late 2016, with the results published in 2017.

The entire Higher Education sector is under review, not just academic historians, but as part of our work supporting the profession, the IHR Library has started to collect relevant material and websites relating to the Review for those interested in understanding some of the implications of the proposals.

  • Twitter responses to the report can also be followed via #SternReview.

Other resources

We hope to add to this list over time. Please contact if you have a suggestion for inclusion.

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Book Repair and the IHR Library Bindery


Two members of staff from the IHR Library recently attended a workshop examining techniques in basic book repair hosted by Senate House Library’s Conservation department. SHL’s conservator, Alexandra Bruce, delivered a short presentation explaining the importance of investing in small book repairs and the practical benefits this can bring to institutions. It was noted that, ‘basic repairs carried out as soon as a book shows signs of damage can extend the life of the book at very low cost and prevent the need for more complex repairs or costly re-binding.’ In addition, undertaking basic repairs in-house allows for volumes to be returned to the shelves more quickly.

Practising hinge-tightening using EVA glue

Practising hinge-tightening using EVA glue

The Conservation team then demonstrated a range of basic repair techniques, including hinge tightening, spine re-attachment, re-sewing pages, tipping in loose sections and consolidating corners. It was exceptionally useful to see the level of detail and range of different implements used according to which repair was being undertaken (including using a knitting needle to apply glue to the spine of a book!) After watching the demonstrations, we were afforded the opportunity to put these techniques into practice ourselves in a hands-on practical session.

Following the workshop, the IHR library is initiating the setting up of a ‘bindery’ where such basic repairs can be carried out. The Institute previously had a dedicated bindery located in the basement of the building before constraints on space necessitated that the bindery be closed. It is envisaged that repair work will commence in September in order to begin clearing a proportion of the backlog of books that are in need of repair and return them to the shelves as quickly as possible.

The 'Old Bindery' in 1986

The ‘Old Bindery’ 1986

Repair materials and pressing boards in the new 'bindery'

Materials and pressing boards in the new ‘bindery’








However, it should be noted that many of the volumes currently in repair require much more extensive work, with many in need of complete re-binding or specialist conservation. The expertise and time taken for such work means that this can be extremely expensive.

A selection of works in need of repair

A selection of works in need of repair

Consequently, the Institute would greatly welcome support for it’s Library Conservation Fund to help preserve the library’s invaluable collections. Donations of any size would be greatly appreciated, with roughly £50-£70 funding a basic rebinding and £160-£200 facilitating restoration of a historic binding. For more information see:

In Autumn 2016, The Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship will offer six apprenticeships, learning the skills and expertise of the hand bookbinding trade. For more information see: 

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Thomas Fisher and British Colonial India in the Collections of the IHR Library


While undertaking reclassification of the Institute of Historical Research Library’s colonial collections, library staff recently uncovered a strikingly bound volume entitled, ‘An Abstract of the Regulations Enacted for the Administration of the Police and Criminal Justice in the Provinces of Bengal, Behar and Orissa‘.

Front page cover

The work comprises two volumes bound together, with Volume I published in Calcutta by A.G. Balfour in 1824 and Volume II published from the Government Gazette Press by G.H. Huttmann in Calcutta in 1826. However, it is noted that both works were ‘originally compiled by W. Blunt Esq. (formerly superintendent of police) to the year 1818; and continued by H. Shakespear, Esq (superintendent of police in the lower provinces).’

The Library’s accession registers record that the volume arrived into the Library’s collections in March 1925 after being transferred from the India Office in the House of Lords Library. The work is relatively rare with only three other copies in the UK, held at the British Library and SOAS respectively.

The volumes document regulations and administration in British colonial India. As the abstract notes, the work comprises ‘the Regulations enacted for the Administration of the Police and Criminal Justice, in the Provinces of Bengal, Behar and Orissa, from the Year 1793 to the end of 1823’. Consequently, the work serves as an invaluable resource in documenting not only colonial administration and the implementation of vehicles of power, but also the social history of life in these provinces. For example, the work records the names of witnesses at trials and a regulation of 1823 to prevent the ‘Establishment of Printing Presses without License; and for restraining under certain circumstances the circulation of Printed Books and Papers.’ Similarly, the work illuminates the economic history of the regions during this period, with many regulations concerning revenue collection, trade provisions and ‘what gold coin is to be considered a legal tender of payment.’

SignatureThe IHR’s copy holds additional interest however, due to the signature in the top right-hand corner on the frontispieces of both volumes I and II. The signature appears to be that of Thomas Fisher, an artist and antiquary who worked in India House. As the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records, ‘at the age of fourteen Fisher was given employment by the East India Company at East India House, Leadenhall Street, in the City of London. In 1789 he was appointed as an extra clerk, and in 1816 he was placed on the establishment in the newly created post of searcher of the records in the examiner’s department.’

In the 1820s and 30s, Fisher wrote extensively for the Gentleman’s Magazine, penning several memoirs of Anglo-Indians and missionaries. In addition, Fisher was a supporter of the campaign to abolish slavery in the British colonies and in 1825 he published ‘The Negro’s Memorial‘, or, ‘Abolitionist’s Catechism‘ a copy of which is held in Senate House Library’s Special Collections. It is likely therefore that the IHR’s copy of ‘An Abstract of Regulations…’ was of interest to Fisher for the regulations on slavery in colonial India documented within the two volumes. The work contains a regulation from 1811 entitled ‘Preventing the Importation and Sale of Slaves from Foreign parts’ which records that ‘the importation of slaves by land or by sea prohibited. Offenders liable to be criminally prosecuted.’ It is further documented that ‘Captains of Ships or Vessels (except the Company’s) importing at Calcutta, shall previously to landing their Cargo, execute a penalty Bond for Rs. 5000, not to sell slaves.’ (Vol. I, p 127, 1811 Regulation X)

Fisher died in London in April 1836 with his collection of drawings, prints, and books sold at auction at Southgates in 1836 and by Evans in May 1837 and dispersed.

For more information on Thomas Fisher see Bernard Nurse, ‘Fisher, Thomas (1772–1836)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.

Please consult the Library’s History of Slavery Collection Guide for further information on the IHR’s holdings documenting the history of slavery and the campaign to abolish it.

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Churchill Papers 30-Day Trial


£5 back - polymer © Bank of England [2015]

£5 back – polymer © Bank of England [2015]. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This week, we discovered that Winston Churchill has made the move from paper into polymer, with the announcement from the Bank of England that the next version of the five-pound note featuring the former Prime Minister will be manufactured from transparent plastic film. His papers, which are kept at the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, have, of course, already made the transition from paper into microfilm, and now digital. Some 800,000 documents can now be searched via this resource, including the letter containing revelation (to this librarian) that in 1891 the young Churchill exchanged his bike, believed to be worth a fiver, for Dodo, a fine-bred British bull dog.

The IHR Library is currently running a 30-day trial of the digital resource. The papers can be accessed via any of the Library computers via We would be interested in knowing what you think about the resource, and whether it would be useful for your research. Please contact or Tweet to us at @IHR_Library.

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“A Tour in the Highlands of Perthshire, July 1818″ from the Collections of the IHR Library


During the recent reclassification of the Institute of Historical Research Library’s Scottish Local collections, a pamphlet was discovered entitled A Brief Account of a Tour in the Highlands of Perthshire, July 1818 in a Letter to a Friend.

Image-1The small pamphlet, measuring just 10.5cm x 17.5cm and only thirty-five pages in length, was written in 1818 by John Brown, Minister of the Gospel for Whitburn in West Lothian and printed for Ogle, Allardice and Thomson in Edinburgh in the same year. An additional work entitled, Loud Cry from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland is also included in the pamphlet. The volume is rare, with only eight libraries in the United Kingdom holding a copy of the work – the University of Cambridge the only other library out with Scotland to hold a copy. The IHR’s pamphlet came into the library’s collections in 2010, however earlier provenance for the work is currently unknown to library staff.

After having studied at Glasgow University, John Brown became a prominent Scottish minister and theologian. Therefore, both works contained within the pamphlet describe the role of religion within societies in the Highlands of Scotland, as well as providing a travel account of a journey Brown undertook across the area. The purpose of the work is made clear in the advertisement that precedes the text. It notes that the work is published, ‘in the hope that it may be in some degree useful, in directing the attention of the Christian public, to the very interesting field for Missionary labours which the remoter districts of our own country present.’

A Brief Account of a Tour begins with Brown outlining his hopes and aims before providing an account of his travel itinerary, including the many religious figures with whom he met during the tour. In this regard, the account acts as a valuable source for the history of these communities – providing details of the number of residents, the names of sermon-givers, accommodation facilities, and places for worship (including, ‘a tent for preaching in a wood, on the margin of the water’ at Loch Tay.) In addition, Brown remarks that ‘it gave me pleasure to find several good books among the people’ – also of comfort today to library staff!

Image-2The ‘Loud Cry‘ pamphlet is more focussed on explicitly outlining a perceived lack of religious education, sermons and morals within the communities of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It is noted that ‘swearing, smuggling, drinking, strife, revenge, and almost all evil work, prevail in many places’ with the author imploring the need for religious education and guidance to be established in such communities. Indeed it is further stated that, ‘the most faithful description, exhibits only a faint representation of the state of the Highlands: it must be, “come and see”, then the case must affect.’

Consequently, a series of suggestions are set out for how to increase the religious education and spread of the Christian faith into these areas. Among the proposals are calls for ministers to spend summers preaching in rural communities, an increase in the availability of Bibles translated into Gaelic, a Missionary Society for the Highlands to be established, and a call for ‘commercial travellers in their northern journies [to] distribute religious tracts.’ It is also suggested that ‘might not ministers and teachers establish small libraries’ to help ‘moralise’ these rural communities. However, it should be noted that while the work in this respect provides valuable insight into the history of the Highlands of Scotland and religious history more generally, the work does contain language that may be offensive to the modern-day reader. Marginalia

In addition to the work itself, the pamphlet is also of note due to the marginalia and handwritten comments found throughout the work. These appear to have been written by Agnes Baillie, with an inscription on the front cover of the pamphlet of ‘Mrs Baillie of Drylaw’, written in the same handwriting as the notes interspersed throughout the text. Baillie owned Drylaw House in Edinburgh until her death in 1842.

Library staff would welcome any further information or resources concerning the background of both the pamphlet and marginalia. Please email

For more information on the Library’s Scottish Local Collections, please consult the Library’s collection guide: 

For further highlights from the Scottish Local Collections:

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Memory and Commemoration Collection Guide in the IHR Library


– New research guide for the Library’s Memory and Commemoration collections –

Mike Weston (own work via Wikimedia Commons)

With the emergence within historical research of the study of memory and commemoration practices, the Institute of Historical Research Library has seen a substantial growth over recent years in its collections documenting the history of memory. In addition, with significant centenaries of historical events and an exponential rise in public commemoration and heritage events, the library has also endeavoured to collect works on memorialisation practices, heritage studies and the influence history has in societies as a whole. The Library team have therefore recently compiled a guide to the library’s memory and commemoration collections.

The guide provides an overview of the Library’s holdings, gives details of relevant classmark locations and highlights works concerning the commemoration of the First World War, Spanish Civil War and the Holocaust.

holocaustThe Library’s collections contain significant holdings concerning the theoretical approaches of conducting memory, heritage and commemoration research. In addition, the Library also holds a swathe of works examining public commemoration and remembrance practices of specific historical events and periods. Examples from both of these areas are detailed within the collection guide, alongside relevant holdings within the Library’s electronic resources, journals, and periodicals.

The guide brings together works dispersed across the Library’s collections with relevant resources for memory and commemoration research, most notably from within the General collections. Alongside this, the guide also provides information of other relevant libraries and institutions with extensive resources on the study of memory.

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New Acquisitions in the IHR Library


While processing the latest new volumes to be acquired by the IHR Library, we came across an especially unusual assortment of works. Listed below is an interactive image gallery of some of our personal highlights from these latest acquisitions.

All of the volumes can be found on the Library’s New Books Shelf located outside the Library Enquiries Office on the first floor. For more information and for more titles see the library’s recent acquisitions highlights page: 

croyden-bloghouseholds-blog dissent-blogrevolucao-blogbirmingham-blogmyths-blogmills-blogrev-blogspectator-blogblog2


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Low Countries Fellow in IHR Library


Stijn van RossemWelcome to the inaugural blog post in a series promoting the Low Countries collection in the IHR Library. My name is Stijn van Rossem and I took up a one-year post-doctoral fellowship in March. In the months to come, I will explore and promote the remarkable holdings on the Low Countries, one of the largest collections outside of the Netherlands and Belgium, and will help to show the collection’s relevance not just for Low Countries studies but also for scholars of British, European and World History.

Before joining the IHR, I held teaching positions at the University of Antwerp (Literature of Modernity) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Art History). I am a visiting professor at the School of Arts in Ghent, where I teach courses on the history and theory of graphic design. In 2013, I was director of the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Brussels. My primary areas of expertise are book history, graphic design, and curatorship; my Ph.D. focussed on the publishing strategies of the Verdussen family, printers in Antwerp from 1589 to 1689.

As well as producing a general guide, I will focus on the extensive collection of rare books from the Low Countries held by the IHR, and which includes the arguably understudied collection of about 1,000 Dutch pamphlets (dating from 1602–1814), an important source on the political, religious, commercial and social history of the Dutch Republic and the Southern Netherlands.

Pieter Geijl in London 1922

Pieter Geijl in London 1922 (Source Wikipedia)

This collection of Dutch Historical pamphlets is but a small part of the books on the Low Countries entering the IHR Library on the instigation of Professor Pieter Geyl, the first chair of Dutch Studies in the United Kingdom. Geyl was involved in the creation of a seminar on Dutch History in the IHR and was able to negotiate the transfer of the history books from Bedford College to the IHR, which were to be used as the reference library for his seminar ‘Reading of Dutch Historical Texts’ (from 1925 to 1926). Although often a very controversial figure with the capacity to generate a series of academic and political feuds, Geyl is still considered one of the most important historians from the Low Countries, who started his academic career in London. Together with the Dutch Department of UCL, I plan to organise a conference on the influence of Pieter Geyl in the United Kingdom.

But also other libraries of the School of Advanced Study have important collections. Senate House Library holds more than 1,000 rare books from the Low Countries, with over 700 of those printed by the famous Elzevier family. Next year will be the anniversary of the death of the founding father of the dynasty Lowijs Elsevier (ca 1540–1617). Together with Leiden University, Museum Meermanno (House of the Book, The Hague) and the Elsevier Heritage Collection we are currently discussing how to organise a suiting commemoration and what role we could play in it.

More news will follow soon!

Feel free to contact me via

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A Visual History of Bloomsbury


A library enquiry recently sparked an intriguing trip to the archive, revealing a very different image of Bloomsbury to that of today.

The Institute of Historical Research Library team recently received an enquiry regarding the history of the Institute and in particular the varied buildings which the IHR has occupied during its history. As a result, following some research in the Institute’s archive, we have been researching the history of Bloomsbury, in particular Malet Street and Gower Street due to their proximity to the site that the IHR occupies today.

Interest in this project was further spiked following the discovery of photographs held by the Imperial War Museum in London documenting the area during the First World War. The photographs clearly highlight the greatly changed surroundings from 1918 to the present day.

Imperial War Museum, Photographer George P. Lewis, 1918 © IWM (Q 28741)

Imperial War Museum, Photographer George P. Lewis, 1918 © IWM (Q 28741)

The photographs show the corner of Store Street and Gower Street at the intersection where the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is housed now. Also shown is a Y.M.C.A building that was used as accommodation for troops during the First World War. The area looks almost unrecognisable from today with significantly less traffic!

Imperial War Museum, Photographer George P. Lewis, 1918 © IWM (Q 28740)

Imperial War Museum, Photographer George P. Lewis, 1918 © IWM (Q 28740)

The Institute of Historical Research was first housed in similar accommodation to that pictured in the photographs above, with the Institute only moving to a newly built Senate House when ‘Senate House lost its veil of scaffolding and University staff moved in’ during 1937. (Simpson, The University of London’s Senate House:Charles Holden, Classicism & Modernity, University of London, 2005, p37) Prior to this, the IHR building was frequently referred to as ‘the army huts’ because of its external resemblance to those provided for troops. The building was a single-storey structure and rested on the basements and cellars of houses that had been cleared before the war. Additionally, it should also be noted that at this time Malet Street was significantly narrower than it is presently, only being widened in the 1930s.

The secretary and librarian of the IHR from 1946-1971 recalled how the streets of Malet Street and Gower Street were made up of single-storey buildings. Mr A. Taylor-Milne remarked that, ‘In the academic year 1924-5 some of us undergraduates at University College used to walk down Malet Street to the headquarters of the University of London Union, temporarily housed at the corner of Montague Place, in what had been a large Y.M.C.A hut for the troops during the First World War. On the way we passed the first home of the Institute of Historical Research, a neat row of single-storied structures.’ (Birch and Horn, The History Laboratory: The Institute of Historical Research 1921-96, University of London, 1996, p 24).

YMCA London Shakespeare Hut, 1914-1918, Archive of the National Council of YMCA’s, Record No: YMCA/K/1/12/75 © Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, The University of Birmingham

The archives of the Y.M.C.A, housed within the collections of the University of Birmingham, contain many striking examples recording the cottage-style buildings that were located right along Malet Street. An example of these ‘huts’ is that of the ‘Shakespeare Hut’, a Y.M.C.A recreation hut built for the rest and recuperation of serving forces during the First World War with a remit to entertain the troops with dramatic performances of Shakespeare productions. The building was situated on the corner of Malet Street and Keppel Street, the site now occupied by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

British Museum, ‘King Edward VII galleries under construction’, graphite and watercolour, 1910, (detail) ©BM

British Museum, ‘King Edward VII galleries under construction’, graphite and watercolour, 1910, (detail) ©BM

The history of the British Museum site occupying Montague Place also sheds light on the history of Bloomsbury, with the scope of the site mostly unchanged from its conception to the present. The north entrance (situated on Montague Place and facing Senate House today) was opened in 1914. Interestingly, however, the north entrance was never intended to be a public entrance. Instead the entrance and galleries on this side of the building were originally meant to face a long avenue which would be part of a victory parade route. The saluting gallery, a reminder of this grand scheme, can still be seen above the north entrance.

Following the end of the First World War, building work commenced across the Bloomsbury area. The IHR’s Secretary and Librarian from 1927-1943 recalled watching the works begin along Malet Street. He commented that, ‘the southern end of the Institute’s building faced to the west another vacant site, soon to be covered by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I watched its building from my office next to the Institute’s entrance and used to say that the names Frank, Pettenkofer and Briggs would be found graven on my heart!’ (Birch and Horn, p 40)

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Construction of the Keppel Street Building, c.1927 © LSHTM Archives

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Construction of the Keppel Street Building, c.1927 © LSHTM Archives

Similarly, in 1921 further along Malet Street, a new theatre was built by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art [RADA]. This building occupied land which backed onto the Academy’s existing buildings on Gower Street.

It is clear therefore, that the area underwent enormous transformation during this time. Indeed, the vast urban development projects that were taking place within the area can be evidenced through London County Council’s legislative directive to widen both Malet Street and Montague Place in 1928 (London County Council (General Powers) Act 1928 sections 48-53 (50.9) in Simpson, p19).

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Vanbrugh Theatre Entrance, Malet Street © RADA

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Vanbrugh Theatre Entrance, Malet Street © RADA

In many of the images Bloomsbury is unrecognisable in relation to its present-day form. The archival photographs in this way allow for a window onto an often forgotten past. However, whilst the architecture may have changed, the institutions lining Malet Street have remained and the work and research carried out within them provides a continuum to the present day.

This short introduction is only intended as an overview of the visual history of the area. However, several archives contain significant holdings on the changing architectural face of Bloomsbury and each respective institution’s history. Therefore, for more information please see:

– There is a small online exhibition created to mark the IHR’s ninetieth anniversary. See also a previous IHR blog post on ‘The IHR’s Original Home‘.

– LSHTM’s project ‘Resurrecting the Shakespeare Hut‘ will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the YMCA Shakespeare Hut on the School’s Keppel Street site on 11th August 1916. The project, made possible by a joint-award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will include an audio-visual exhibition, performances and local First World War oral history testimonies.

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