The IHR Blog |


Researching Cold War espionage in the IHR Library


My name is Tundun Folami, and I am the Institute of Historical Research Library’s current graduate trainee.

In an exercise designed to improve understanding of what it’s like to use the collections, each of the IHR library staff have been undertaking different research projects using the library. This exercise was particularly beneficial to me to see how easy it is to access the collections, as I only started at the IHR library a week ago.

Using the library catalogue

I chose espionage during the Cold War as my research topic and as a starting point for my research, I searched the library catalogue using ‘Cold War’ as a keyword.
Searching ‘Cold War’ by keyword brings up 88 results. Some examples included:

Britain, Italy and the early Cold War : aspects of British foreign policy towards Italy, 1946-1949
The Cambridge history of the Cold War
Canada and the early Cold War, 1943-1957
Chronology of the Cold War at sea, 1945-1991
Chronology of the Cold War, 1917-1992
The CIA and the Cold War: a memoir
The Cold War reference guide: a general history and annotated chronology with selected biographies
The Cold War: a history in documents and eyewitness accounts

Next, I carried out a number of searches to try and narrow down the search results to resources related to Cold War espionage, with terms such as “cold war espionage” and “cold war intelligence”. This yielded the following results:
Encyclopedia of Cold War espionage, spies, and secret operations
Operation overflight: the U-2 spy pilot tells his story for the first time
Cold War Anthropology The CIA, Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual-Use Anthropology
The CIA and the Cold War: a memoir
On the edge of the Cold War American diplomats and spies in post-war Prague
Voices of decolonization: a brief history with documents

The first five results were most relevant to my research; three of which were books available on open access and two were e-books.
I felt narrowing down my search to Cold War espionage didn’t yield enough results, so I scrolled to the bottom of the page and found a link to the IHR library E-Resources page. Here I found a list of links to online resources available onsite. I went through the list and ultimately, the most relevant results were retrieved from JSTOR and Times Digital Archive. These included journal articles, reviews and newspaper articles.


Working in the IHR Library (Wohl Library – Lower Ground)
My topic for this exercise was on Cold War espionage and so I chose to work on the lower ground level of the Wohl Library, as this is where the International Relations collection is held. I sat at the desk closest to the entrance as it had a PC which I could use to browse the library catalogue and it was near to the rolling stacks holding the International Relations collection.                                                               _DSC7337
Working in this area was comfortable and quiet, though occasionally the noise from reception on the floor above would disturb the silence. The room housing the International collection was also poorly lit, especially further in towards the window.






The library has a large amount of material on the general topic of the Cold War, both in the library itself and online as e-books and e-resources. When I narrowed down my research topic to Cold War espionage, the majority of titles   found were_DSC7340 from a U.S perspective. A smaller number of titles were retrieved for the USSR, France, Germany, Italy and Latin America. I felt it would’ve helped my search if there had been a sub-category in either the Military or International Relations collection guides on the website. There were a few issues regarding noise and lighting were the International Relations collection is held, but overall, working in the IHR library was pleasant and largely problem free, and an ideal place to start research on the topic I’d chosen.

Please follow and like us:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography adds its 60,000th person in the latest update


Two_Women_in_a_Garden_(Ravilious)The latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography—published on Thursday 6 October 2016—adds biographies of 89 men and women active over 500 years of British history.

October’s update includes an entry on the artist Tirzah Garwood (1908-1951), who was married to Eric Ravilious, who becomes the 60,000th person to be added to Dictionary.

The October update also adds 35 biographies of early nineteenth-century slave-owners, who were recipients of compensation from the Commissioners of Slave Compensation after the passing of the Abolition Act in 1833. These biographies have been researched and written in collaboration with the new Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership at University College London.

New figures include John Stewart (1789-1860), a slave owner in Berbice, who was probably of African descent. As an MP, Stewart represented the concerns of the West India interest while establishing business interests in the City of London: he is thought to have been the first MP of black or mixed race.

The October update also adds 40 biographies of men and women associated with the city of Hull, which is UK City of Culture, 2017. Among those now added to the Dictionary are Ethel Leginska (1886-1970)—who was born in Hull, and became a noted composer and the first woman to conduct some of the world’s leading orchestras—and Jean Hartley (1933-2011) who published The Less Deceived—the first volume of poems by Philip Larkin, following the poet’s arrival in Hull.

October’s update also adds 2500 new links from ODNB entries to external resources, offering additional biographical information. These include:

Highlights from the new edition are available here. The Oxford DNB is the national record of 60,000 men and women who’ve shaped all walks of British life, worldwide, from the Roman occupation to the 21st century.

Please follow and like us:

Bibliography of British and Irish History updated (September 2016)



An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 30 September. There are 4,962 new records, some 633 new records relate to Irish history while 240 deal with the history of London, 324 with the history of Scotland and 262 with the history of Wales.  The overall total of records available online is now 579,638.

We are pleased to welcome a new section editor to our editorial teamDr Colin Veach  Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Hull, who will be dealing with Irish history to c. 1640. He succeeds Dr Beth Hartland, for whose expert help over the last few years we are very grateful.

We also welcome Dr Adam Chapman, Editor and Training Co-ordinator with the Victoria County History based at the IHR, who will be dealing with England 1066-1500.


We expect to release the next update in February 2017.  You can always find out more about the Bibliography at or, if you already have access to the Bibliography, you can sign up for email alerts so as to be notified each time the Bibliography is updated with records on a subject or subjects of your choice.


Please follow and like us:

More than just drama – Shakespeare and BBIH


You can’t help avoiding Shakespeare and the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of his death, especially when entering Senate House and its ceremonial staircase. Each morning I am greeted by the playwright’s staring eyes and, each morning, I think I ought to write a post. So here goes.

Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me / From mine own library with volumes that / I prize above my dukedom.

Senate House Shakespeare celebration

















Shakespeare has 1860 references on BBIH, surpassing Elizabeth I (1158 references), Winston Churchill (1273) and Geoffrey Chaucer (650). But, as I alluded to in my title, there is more to Shakespeare than drama.

A Person as subject search for “Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616″ brings up the aforementioned 1860 references.  However if I add in Subject tree “Representations of politics” there are over 200 references.

Brepolis  BBIH(6)

Picking out some titles, we can further narrow the search down. So Silences of Elizabeth I and Shakespeare’s Isabella discusses royal marriages or lack thereof; while  Shakespeare’s curse : the aporias of ritual exclusion in early modern royal drama  explores royal ceremonial; and  Hamlet and Succession discusses royal succession.


Shakespeare and rp


Brepolis  BBIH

Shakespeare and Royal succession (click to enlarge)



So by narrowing the search in the subject tree for “Succession, royal” we get 15 hits.








Shakespeare Roman catholic

Shakespeare and Roman Catholicism (click to enlarge)



Shakespeare’s reputed Roman Catholic sympathies can be examined and the research further extended by looking for biographies of the writer.








Shakespeare biography

Shakespeare biographies (click to enlarge)



After a quick straw poll of the office, and in no particular order, here are our top three references to Shakespeare.

From Jew to Puritan: The emblematic owl in early English culture by Brett Hirsch, which discusses the image of the owl to portray Jews, Puritans and Catholics in pamphlets, prints and drama.

Coverture and its discontents: legal fictions on and off the early modern English stage by Natasha Korda, which outlines the law as represented in plays by Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare.

And, finally, The Shakespeare circle : an alternative biography by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells,  covering in detail his family (including his parents and siblings) as well as his friends and collaborators.




Please follow and like us:

New Historical Research Early View articles


William_and_MaryAn inflammatory match? Public anxiety and political assurance at the wedding of William III and Mary II. Catriona Murray

There were undercurrents of discontent amidst the public rejoicing which met the marriage of the future William III and Mary II in November 1677. This article examines the nature of those public misgivings and assesses how Stuart and Orange propaganda responded to the ensuing doubts and anxieties. Through detailed analysis of public festivities, medals and prints, it explores the development of complex images which endorsed the policies and personalities of husband and wife. Ultimately, these hitherto neglected representations of William and Mary were both persuasive and influential, providing the foundations for their regal portrayal, following the 1688 revolution.

Penitence, preachers and politics 1533–47: Thomas Cranmer’s influence on church teaching on penance during the Henrician Reformation. Eric Bramhall

This article examines the reform of the penitential system during the reign of Henry VIII. It considers the call to reform, and analyses official statements from the Ten Articles (1536) to the King’s Book (1543), which is usually regarded as a victory for traditional religion. A careful assessment of the section of the King’s Book on the sacrament of penance, and of the King’s Primer, reveals that in this area evangelical reformers made gains. It shows Cranmer influencing Henry’s religious policy, and as such challenges George Bernard’s position. The article therefore argues for the major significance of penitential reform in the English Reformation.

Lord Kames’s analysis of the natural origins of religion: the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1751). R. J. W. Mills

This article investigates the discussion of the origins and development of religious belief within the Scottish jurist and philosopher Henry Home, Lord Kames’s Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1751). Kames’s work is argued to be a significant yet understudied contribution to the Scottish Enlightenment’s examination of religion as a human phenomenon. The Principles contained one of the lengthiest analyses on the topic published by a Scottish literatus. In particular, Kames placed into a historical trajectory the internal sense theory’s account of the non-rational origins of religious belief. In doing so, he provided an apologetic account of the progress from polytheism to monotheism resulting from the emergence of civil society, which set the tone for later Scottish discussions of religion.

Please follow and like us:

Professor Sir David Cannadine on Prime Ministers’ Props


Prime Ministers' Props TX Card

Professor Sir David Cannadine explores political fame and image by looking at how an object or prop, whether chosen deliberately or otherwise, can come to define a political leader.

Listen to Prime Ministers’ Props

Please follow and like us:

IHR Friends Summer Outing: Tower of London


On 4 July, a group of 24 Friends of the IHR and interested members of the public gathered for a guided tour of the Tower of London. Every summer the Friends organise a visit to some place of historical interest and this year proved an exceptional outing. Once assembled at the Middle Drawbridge, the party split into two groups, for simultaneous tours, and off we went.

Queen's House

Queen’s House

Starting with Dr Alden Gregory at the helm, my group went first to the Queen’s House, nestled in the southwest corner of the Tower grounds. Dr Gregory, a Buildings Curator with Historic Royal Palaces, began by dispelling the myth, perpetuated by the Beefeaters, that the house was a wedding present built for Anne Boleyn. Dendrochronology suggests the house was built around 1539-40, after her death, and we know instead that it served as the lodging for the Lieutenant of the Tower. Today, it is the private residence of the Constable of the Tower of London. After noting the restoration work to the timber framing and casement windows to revive the original, pre-Great Fire Tudor appearance, we ventured inside and into the Bell Tower. This empty stone chamber was once adjacent to the Thames, and the cell of Sir Thomas More.

We then made our way upstairs to the Great Hall. The room was originally twice as high until a mid-level floor was installed in 1607, and the excessively timbered ceiling was only rediscovered and revealed in the 1960s during repairs to a water leak. The most impressive features, however, are a large wall monument and a portrait bust of King James VI. Not just a hall for eating and entertaining, the space also served as an interrogation room for notable prisoners (though the torture took place elsewhere).

The Great Hall and wall monument in the Queen's House

The Great Hall and wall monument in the Queen’s House

Most famously, Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were questioned here; the red, white, and black marble and alabaster wall memorial is fixed as a testament to the triumph of the inquisitors and condemnation of the accused. It dates to 9 October 1608, making it perhaps the oldest commemorative interior plaque of its kind. To its right, the bust of the king served to intimidate prisoners as they entered the hall and to represent the royal presence during interrogations.

Heading outside, the groups re-assembled, swapped tour guides, and Dr Jane Spooner, also a Buildings Curator, led our half of the party to the Byward Tower. Situated on the interior side of the main visitor entrance bridge, this thirteenth century fortification was a principal point for defence of the Tower. As with the Queen’s House, this area is normally closed to the public, and there was something very exclusive and satisfying about shutting the door behind us as we ascended the spiral stairs. At the top, Dr Spooner explained that in the mid-fourteenth century the space would have housed the King’s Exchange, part of the Royal Mint. The fine appointments that decorate the room—red striping on the stone walls, a large fireplace, and a tiled pavement—were befitting of this distinguished occupant.

Wall painting in the Byward Tower

Wall painting in the Byward Tower

Crossing the hall, past the wooden mechanism of the inner portcullis, we entered a slightly larger, timber-framed room, resplendent with a fourteenth century wall painting. The scene is brought to life with an array of expensive green, red, and blue pigments and gold leaf. It depicts on one side St John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary, and on the other St John the Evangelist and the archangel Michael, holding the scales weighing Christ’s soul in judgement. The figure of Christ on the cross, originally over the mantelpiece, was replaced with a Tudor rose in the sixteenth century when a new fireplace was installed. An imposing beam running the length of the room bears more green and gold painting, of birds, lions, and fleurs-de-lis. There is evidence that paintings of angels once existed on the north wall, as late as the 1950s, but almost no trace now survives.

The groups came back together a final time for some refreshments in the Great Hall of the Queen’s House. What a marvellous treat to sit where Guy Fawkes may have sat, though thankfully with some lovely tea and scones instead of an inquisitorial squad. There was just enough time left in the day to make a quick visit of the armouries or the crown jewels. The outing was a great success for all, and a particularly splendid introduction for those who had never been to the Tower, like yours truly.

Please follow and like us:

Shakespeare and Place on BHO


Shakespeare on BHO

Shakespeare when he discovered BHO (probably)

British History Online might not be the first place you’d think to look when researching Shakespeare, but London and the early modern period are two of the great strengths in BHO’s collection. We have an abundance of materials that provide excellent context for Shakespeare’s life and his writing. What was London like when Shakespeare lived there? How has Shakespeare shaped the London of today? What about Shakespeare and places across the rest of the country?

Senate House Library recently hosted a Shakespeare and place Wikipedia workshop, which prompted me to compile the following list of relevant BHO resources. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully a useful starting point.

John Stow’s Survey of London: Although John Stow famously does not mention any theatres or playwrights in his Survey of London, the Survey is a contemporary account of London, which makes it an invaluable resource for understanding the city where Shakespeare lived. The first edition of the Survey was published in 1598, with a second and much-modified edition published in 1603. The version of the text that is on BHO is a 1908 edition of this 1603 text, edited by C L Kingsford. In his Survey, Stow ‘walks’ through the City of London, parish by parish.

Survey of London: Not to be confused with its early modern namesake above, this project began in the late nineteenth century and continues today. It provides detailed architectural and topographical studies of the capital’s built environment. Volume 22 covers Bankside, including the playhouses.

Victoria County History: This project also began in the nineteenth century and continues to this day. It is an encyclopaedic record of England’s places and people from earliest times to the present day. Particular series that contain useful information about Shakespeare are the History of Middlesex and the History of Warwickshire.

Agas Map of London: The woodcut map of London, usually called the Agas map, represents London in the 1560s—slightly earlier than Shakespeare was in London, but it is a wonderful resource to get a sense of what the city was like in the 16th century.

Old and New London: This nineteenth-century account of the history of London is chock-full of useful—and sometimes imaginative—descriptions of famous Shakespearean sites. Volume 6 covers Southwark and the Globe.

The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Inventory volumesThe RCHME was established in 1908, with a remit to produce an inventory of English monuments and identify those which were worthy of preservation. It is a good resource for both monuments mentioned by Shakespeare and monuments to Shakespeare.

A Dictionary of London: This early twentieth-century text by Henry A Harben lists streets and buildings in the City of London and often signposts places that have been mentioned in Shakespeare plays.

Analytical Index to the Series of Records Known as the Remambrancia 1579-1664: This index covers correspondence between the central government and City of London officials. Includes descriptions of letters regarding plays, players and theatres.

Camden Record Society Old Series: The volumes of this series that we have on BHO cover medieval and early modern London.

Feet of Fines, London and Middlesex: Feet of fines are court copies of agreements following disputes over property. The disputes were mostly fictitious and were simply a way of having the transfer of ownership of land recorded officially by the king’s court. The records in this series relate to London and Middlesex for the period 1189-1570.

Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane: Detailed property histories for five parishes in the central Cheapside area of London, from the 12th to the late 17th century. It includes accounts of the parish churches, and information about the people and buildings associated with the properties.

Topographical Dictionaries: A series of topographical dictionaries for England, Scotland and Wales, compiled by the publisher Samuel Lewis (1782/3-1865).

Please follow and like us:

Women entrepreneurs and Bronze Age man added to Oxford DNB


Houghton_EC8.Ed377.Y800g_-_Mrs._Guppy's_Dialogues_for_Children,_1800_-_coverThis post has kindly been written for us by the ODNB’s Philip Carter.

The May 2016 update of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography adds biographies of nearly 100 men and women active over 4000 years of British history.

May’s update provides a special focus on eighteenth and nineteenth-century women entrepreneurs and industrialists. New additions include the Bristol inventor, Sarah Guppy (1770-1852), whose many patents include a suspension bridge crossing the River Avon—years before Telford and Brunel; the Derbyshire colliery owner Ellen Morewood (1741-1824), and the domestic servant and autobiographer, Mary Ann Ashford (1787-1870).

Early modern religious biographies include Anne Hooper (d. 1555), one of the earliest wives of a bishop in the post-Reformation period. Hooper’s letters chart a period of intense religious and personal uncertainty.

Modern salon culture is captured in the lives of Caroline Jebb (1840-1930), a leader of academic life in Cambridge, and Mary Jeune, Lady St Helier (1845-1931) whose influential political circle brought together Winston and Clementine (Churchill).

The earliest new addition is Racton Man (fl. c.2200 BP), the skeleton of a Bronze Age warrior at The Novium Museum, Chichester, whose ‘biography’—based on forensic science—can now be written. May’s update also includes two pioneers of tattooing: George Burchett (1872-1953) and Sutherland Macdonald (1860-1942). Macdonald coined the term ‘tattooist’ (‘tattoo’ + ‘artist’) to better convey the artistry of his work, and both men numbered members of the aristocracy and royalty among their clients.

The new edition also extends the ODNB’s coverage of historical groups and networks. Essays include the members, works, and legacy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; the Erasmus Circle of scholars who championed the great Dutch humanist from the early 1500s; and participants in the Northern Rising (1559-70). Essays on more than 320 historical groups—early medieval to late modern—are now available in the ‘Themes’ area of the Oxford DNB online.

Finally, 4000 new links have been added from ODNB entries to online resources providing alternative perspectives on an individual. These include links to 850 English Heritage Blue Plaques, 650 monuments in Westminster Abbey, 200 person records in Queen Victoria’s Journals, 200 Poetry Archive and BBC recordings, and 2500 correspondence records created by the Oxford history project, ‘Early Modern Letters Online’.

Please follow and like us:

Pollard Prize 2016


Entries are invited for this year’s Pollard Prize (sponsored by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.) awarded for the best paper presented at an IHR seminar 2015-16 by a postgraduate student or by a researcher within one year of completing the PhD.1096214263368_PXYJwtsF_l

First prize

Fast track publication in the prestigious IHR journal, Historical Research, and £200 of Blackwell books.

Runner up prizes

Publication in Historical Research, and a selection of Blackwell books.


Applicants are required to have delivered a paper during the academic year in which the award is made. Submissions should be supported by a reference from a convenor of the appropriate seminar. Papers should be fully footnoted, although it is not necessary at this stage to follow Historical Research house style. All papers submitted must be eligible for publication.

The closing date for submissions is  27 May 2016.

Enquiries and submissions should be directed to the Deputy Editor, Historical Research (

Please follow and like us:

Let the people speak: history now with voices



Christabel Pankhurst

This post has kindly been written for us by Dr Philip Carter of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

For 135 years the Dictionary of National Biography has been the national record of noteworthy men and women who’ve shaped the British past. Today’s Dictionary retains many attributes of its Victorian predecessor, not least a focus on concise and balanced accounts of individuals from all walks of national history. But there have also been changes in how these life stories are encapsulated and conveyed.

In its Victorian incarnation the Dictionary presented each life as a double-column printed text. 2004 saw the publication of the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) with the addition of portrait images. Today the Dictionary includes portraits of 11,500 of its 60,000 subjects. Every image is a depiction of the sitter from life, so as to convey an aspect of his or her personality.

Now the Oxford DNB is moving on—this time with the inclusion of sound—in a project to link biographies to voice recordings made by an initial selection of 750 historical individuals. The earliest clips—including the suffrage campaigner Christabel Pankhurst and the Liberal prime minister, Herbert Asquith – are held in the ‘Early Spoken Word’ archive at the British Library.

As the crackling on these wax cylinders makes clear, this was a pioneering form of communication reserved for periods of political drama. Speaking in December 1908, Christabel Pankhurst issued a rallying call to every ‘patriotic and public spirited woman’ to take up ‘militant’ tactics in the hope that ‘1909 must, and shall, see the political enfranchisement of women.’ In his speech on the 1909 ‘people’s budget’ Herbert Asquith acknowledged the intersection of technological novelty and looming political crisis: ‘I have gladly accepted this invitation to speak to you in this unusual manner to reach as many of my fellow countrymen as possible’.

Two decades later the availability of ‘wireless’ instilled a new pioneering spirit. It’s captured in George V’s opening words to the first Christmas message of 1932: ‘Through one of the marvels of modern science, I am enabled … to speak to all my people throughout the Empire’.

Other British Library clips reveal how voice recordings took on new formats in the 1930s: the personal travel documentary by Amy Johnson; chef Marcel Boulestin’s guide to perfect omelettes (‘practice, quickness, a thick iron pan and a good fire’); and the celebrity interview with Arthur Conan Doyle (‘how I came to write Sherlock Holmes’).

This ability to catch a person’s accent, and indeed to hear a person speak, is the principal attraction of linking ODNB biographies to sound recordings. Hearing the voice reminds us that a distant historical figure was a living person as well as the subject of a biographical text. Listening to voices recorded more than a century ago conjures up something of the ‘marvels’ and delight alluded to by George V.

The effect is particularly striking in the Oxford DNB’s earliest link to the British Library sound archive—that for Florence Nightingale who spoke in support of the Light Brigade Relief Fund in July 1890. Barely audible over the hiss, she concludes her short, carefully enunciated message: ‘When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore.  Florence Nightingale’.

Philip Carter is the Oxford DNB’s Senior Research and Publication Editor and a member of the History Faculty at Oxford University.

Find more on the ODNB’s Sounds project, together with a list of all 750 archive recordings. Coming updates will link ODNB biographies to digitized collections of manuscripts, creative works by artists, funeral memorials, and further voice recordings—in partnerships with the British Library, Poetry Archive, Royal Collection, and Westminster Abbey among others.

Please follow and like us:

< Older Posts