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‘Home: New Histories of Living’: announcing the IHR’s Winter Conference

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The IHR’s forthcoming Winter Conference, to be held on 8-9 February 2018, takes as its theme Home: New Histories of Living.

The title reflects the event’s two main aims: to bring together those working on past domesticities (and above all on the experiences of home life); and to focus especially on new and innovative research which explores how the home has been thought about, utilized and lived in. This focus on research and methodological enquiry will, we hope, become an important strand in future IHR events and conferences—in line with the Institute’s standing as a national centre for training in established and emerging forms of historical research.

Over two days in February 2018, ‘New Histories of Living’ will address four interrelated subject areas currently of particular interest to historians of domestic life. Each panel will comprise three papers relating to the principal theme, interconnected and set in context by a specialist convenor. Panels will bring together scholars whose work provides insights both into historical domestic experiences and historians’ approaches to these pasts.

Day One will offer two sessions, beginning with ‘Reconstructions: imagining domestic experience’—a survey of new ways to recreate medieval and early modern interiors, convened by Professor Catherine Richardson from the University of Kent. This will be followed by ‘Rooms’, which—under the guidance of Sonia Solicari, director The Geffrye Museum, London—considers how historians tackle the changing forms and uses of spaces to accommodate family life, from birth to death, and for cooking, cleaning, resting and entertaining.  Given our interest in recreating the uses and experience of household artefacts and furnishings, museum designers and curators are an important constituency—as speakers and delegates—at this Winter Conference.

Day Two will begin with the ‘Home-work: reimagining gendered domesticity’ panel (Dr Lynne Walker, IHR), a survey of male and female domestic environments. The fourth panel, ‘Dream homes: alternative futures for residential experience’, is convened by Dr Elizabeth Darling of Oxford Brookes University. This session will consider the history of lives lived in the ‘homes of tomorrow’.

Alongside the themed sessions we have four plenary lectures. These will be delivered by Professor Jane Hamlett of Royal Holloway, University of London, a specialist in nineteenth-century domestic and institutional living; the art historian and BBC presenter Dan Cruickshank; the historian of early modern London, Professor Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck); and the architectural historian Owen Hatherley, whose latest book, Landscapes of Communism, is a history of a political ideal told through its buildings.

In addition to lectures and panels, the Winter Conference will offer ancillary events on the subject of research practice and methods. We also expect to make available new technologies for visualizing the historical home. Digital research tools are an interest shared by several of our panellists, and by IHR staff who’ll demonstrate how to make, and use, 3D images and printed models of household artefacts—as well as virtual reality (VR) recreations of complete interior spaces or structures.

Tickets for ‘Home: New Histories of Living’, the 2018 IHR Winter Conference, are now on sale. A small number of bursaries are available for Masters Students, PhD researchers and ECRs to help with conference fees and travel expenses. For more information on how to apply for this please visit the conference website.

November issue of Historical Research

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Historical Research, vol. xc, no. 250

Articles: 

Image: British Library, Sloane 278, f. 48v

Miscellanies, Christian reform and early medieval encyclopaedism: a reconsideration of the pre-bestiary Latin Physiologus manuscripts. Anna Dorofeeva

Wales in late medieval and early modern English histories: neglect, rediscovery, and their implications. Tim Thornton



‘Reformation’ or ‘ruin’? The impeachment of the duke of Buckingham and early Stuart politics. David Coast



The English Revolution as a civil war. John Morrill

Royal office and private ventures: the fortunes of a Maltese nobleman in Sicily, 1725–50. Anton Caruana Galizia



Eugenics, socialists and the labour movement in Britain, 1865–1940. David Redvaldsen



Peering into the future: British Conservative leaders and the problem of national renewal, 1942–5. Robert Crowcroft

Negotiating public history in the Republic of Ireland: collaborative, applied and usable practices for the profession. Thomas Cauvin and Ciaran O’Neill

Notes and Documents
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Seven rediscovered letters of Princess Elizabeth Tudor. Alan Bryson and Mel Evans

Libraries Week: Friday

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Life writing in the US collection. Women writing during the American Civil War.

Inspired by my recent reading of Sebastian Barry’s Days without End (borrowed from my local public library) I wanted to check out our holdings for the American Civil War 1861-1865 especially from the point of view of the women that stayed at home. I knew we had some diaries and collection of letters -I should know – being the librarian in charge of that collection but still – I was quite surprised to find out we had that many. I have got about 15 works of diaries and letters on my desk right now and that is not all of them.

They are normally located in the North American room on the second floor. It is a great feeling to just go to the room and browse the shelves to be able do a bit of shelf-cruising as Simon Schama calls it ( check out the Libraries week: Monday Blog ) I did just browse the shelves and found what I wanted but as it turns out all the items have same the class mark – as they should. Thank you to my colleague Michael Townsend for our in-house classification scheme. The class mark is UF.5175 Non-combatant Individual narratives.

And it is surely the individual speaking through these printed sources making them some of my favourite items in the library. Obviously the writers here the women are not all brilliant at conveying their experiences onto paper so if you are looking to be entertained it might not be the case. But the sheer amount of different kind of information these works can provide is staggering. Hidden within the details of for example meals, family illnesses, social gatherings and money worries there is a load of information. For a researcher patience and time are required depending on which issues are being studied. However all the works include indexes and in studying this material something might pop up which turns out to be quite essential for the research and to be exactly what was being looked for.

Not all of them stayed at home we have got memoirs of women working as spies, doctors, nurses and teachers. Women from the north living in the south for example “A Northern woman in Plantation south”, women from the south living in the north. Women travelling. Women writing a diary for themselves, for their children, writing letters to friends, lovers, mothers, brothers and fathers. Come and look for yourself.

Interested in other sources for US history check out the collection guide here.

Finally have a very lovely Library weekend and hope you enjoyed Libraries week!

Latest Reviews – Burgundy, Holocaust, election agents and paupers

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We begin this week with Robert Stein’s Magnanimous Dukes and Rising States: the Unification of the Burgundian Netherlands 1380-1480. Katherine Wilson and the author discuss a huge contribution to the scholarship of the Burgundian Dominions (no. 2177, with response here).

Next up is The Holocaust: A New History by Laurence Rees. Joseph Cronin praises a gripping narrative interspersed with compelling, moving and relatable testimony (no. 2176).

Then we turn to Kathryn Rix’s Parties, Agents and Electoral Culture in England, 1880-1910. Iain Sharpe enjoys a book which manages to break new ground and make a significant contribution to current historiographical debates (no. 2175).

Finally we have Pauper Policies: Poor Law Practice in England 1780-1850 by Samantha Shave. Joseph Harley finds this book largely convincing and well-researched, and believes it to be a strong platform for further research on pauper policies (no. 2174).

Libraries Week: Thursday

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This post was written by Kate Wilcox (IHR) and Jordan Landes (Senate House Library) during Libraries week 2017.

We are excited that the fifth History Day event will be held on 31 October. The event began in 2014 as a way to bring  libraries and archives together in promoting collections and enabling researchers to discover more about them. Information professionals regularly direct researchers to sources in other places, so it seemed a natural progression to bring displays about those collections and the people involved together in one location.

The day includes a history fair where libraries, archives, historical organisations and publishers have stands, a one-stop celebration of history collections. Researchers can browse the materials, chat to staff members and discover more about sources for their research. Librarians and archivists can meet users and colleagues and refresh their knowledge of other collections.

The first History Day was held in conjunction with the Committee of London Research Libraries in History, a group of history librarians from around London, and the number of stands has grown steadily from 22 in 2014 to around 50 this year. Organisations range from the large to the small, and cover both general and specific subjects areas as well as networks of libraries and archives such as the Feminist and Women’s Libraries and Archives Network and the Engineering Institutions’ Librarians Group.

The organisations attending have expanded beyond London. This year, Gladstone’s Library, Historic England Archive & Library, St Peter’s House Library of the University of Brighton, US History collections at the Bodleian Libraries and the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) Archive Collections are all coming for the first time. Other types of organisations include the History of Parliament and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and we will be welcoming our first European organization, Archives Portal Europe. A full list of participating organisations can be found on the History Day 2017 event page.

Alongside the history fair there will be panel sessions on topics useful and interesting to postgraduate and early career researchers. This year’s sessions are on the themes of Public History, Discovery in Libraries and Archives, and Digital History.

Throughout the year we share blog posts on a range of subjects on the related History Collections website. A special theme this year, given the date of History Day, is ‘Magic and the Supernatural’. Recent posts have covered the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature in Senate House Library, records of witchcraft at the London Metropolitan Archives, and vampires at the UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies.

Free registration is open to everyone. You can also follow and post about the event on twitter using #histday17 and we will be sharing podcasts after the event.

Libraries Week – Wednesday

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Book Stacks, Book Lifts…and Daleks ?!?: the London Libraries Graduate Trainee Programme

Tomorrow marks the start of another year of the London Libraries Graduate Trainee Programme. As in previous years the day will be marked by an informal gathering of library trainees from the institutes of the School of Advanced Studies (the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the Institute of Classical Studies, the Institute of Historical Research and the Warburg Institute) as well as those from other London-based libraries and information centres such as the Courtauld Institute, Kew Gardens and the Inns of Court. During this initial session the trainees will get a chance to meet each other over tea, coffee and cake (there’s always cake!) and meet those on the trainee committee (myself included) where we will tell them about such things as CILIP membership, events organised by CPD25 (including the a useful open day, Applying to Library School), the trainee blog as well as what typically happens throughout the programme.

Taken during a visit to Cambridge University Library, 30th June 2016

Designed to supplement the trainees’ work and training at their home institutions, the trainee programme has been run from SAS since 2008 and originally included trainees from the four main SAS institutions but, as already shown, it has expanded since to include a number of diverse institutions across London. The main part of the programme consists of a number of visits throughout the year to a wide variety of libraries and information centres based in London and beyond. Indeed, one of the primary aims of the programme is to give the trainees an insight into how varied the Library and Information sector can be. Given that many of the trainees come from academic libraries with excellent, world-renowned collections, this sector is fully explored through visits to the libraries of the Courtauld Institute, the Warburg Institute, Senate House Library, the Wellcome Institute and the Institute of Classical Studies (to name just a few!). Other sectors, however, are also touched upon during visits throughout the year; many of the trainees currently taking part in the programme are based in legal libraries and information centres (the Inns of Court, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and the legal firm Slaughter & May) so insights are gained into law librarianship. Other libraries visited in recent years include those based at the Natural History Museum, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Globe Theatre Library and Archive, the BBC Archives Centre, the Guardian Newspaper as well as the Ministry of Justice.

The trainees loved the idea of the book lift at the London Library – 15th December 2016

Besides show-casing the diversity of the profession, the programme also aims to provide a number of practical training sessions throughout the year. In previous years, for example, the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum gave the trainees an introduction to art librarianship while Senate House Library’s senior conservator, Angela Craft, kindly gave the trainees a session on preservation and conservation. Other practical sessions have included introductions to library services for readers with disabilities, held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Web 2.0 for Librarians given by Colin Homiski at Senate House Library and an introduction to school librarianship held at King Alfred’s School. During the trainees’ visit to my own library, the IHR, our trainee gives them a brief tour, explaining the type of material we collect while I hold a brief session on RDA and MARC21 cataloguing (depending on your feelings towards cataloguing this is either a cruel form of punishment or quite handy…obviously I hope for the latter).

Informally we also hope the programme allows the trainees to just regularly meet up together socially and either discuss their trainee experience, anything else library related or indeed any subject of their choice (I think that’s allowed!). Also by working together the trainees, over recent years, have increasingly taken the lead in organising the visits and training sessions, making the programme each year truly their own.

The trainees during a visit to the BBC Archives Centre in May 2012 – looks like some of the staff can be quite strict there!

If you would like to find out more about the London Library Trainee Programme check out their blog here.

Libraries Week: Tuesday

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Happy Libraries Week! 

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future” – Ray Bradbury

Hello I’m Ceri, I have recently joined the Institute of Historical Research Library as a Graduate Trainee Library Assistant. Before joining the IHR, I was a residential library intern at Gladstone’s Library. As a history graduate, the chance to be surrounded by history and to work in a historical building is a dream come true. The building is a grade II listed building in a beautiful Art Deco design, something that still takes my breath away every time I come to work and look up.

It is a constant amazement to me that I am surrounded by books every day. The IHR is similar to Gladstone’s in that they are both reference only libraries. The IHR has a vast collection of published primary resource material which can be anything from, to name just a few examples, poll books, diaries to seventeenth century military training exercise books, as well as historiography, bibliographies and guides and catalogues of other libraries and archives. This collection has been obtained through either donations or acquisitions and is one of national importance, which supports the study of history and historical writing. The collection is not only in English, we also strive to add primary sources that are in their original language.

A library to me is something to be celebrated – one of the reasons I wanted to become a librarian is not just because of my love of books but also my love of helping people. In Gladstone’s there was an enquiry desk where we interacted in whispers with people every day (as it is a silent library) – in the IHR there is an office, where we welcome people who need any help. If for example, they have a problem with the photocopier, they need help finding a book or perhaps they just want to see a friendly face – we welcome everyone to our office. So don’t forget to pop to our office on Floor 1 if you ever need any help!

Electronic resources are also available here at the library – we have two microform machines, computers for your use and also a book scanner. The book scanner to me is a fantastic resource and a source of wonder. You can hold the book with your thumbs and the scanner will automatically colour them out. The scanner allows you to scan without causing the same strain to the book as a photocopier. It even has a pedal similar to a sewing machine – I may be the only person who gets excited about that. You can save paper and the environment by saving your scans to a USB stick. It is certainly a useful resource available to members of our library.

The library itself stretches over seven floors – four of these floors consist of our books on open access and reading rooms, while three floors are our onsite store in the tower – accessible only by staff in a lift. In the tower, our collection is found on the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth floors – as well as housing absolutely stunning books, there is also a wonderful view from the tower across London. Each floor of the library usually houses a different collection – so the basement houses the military and the international relations collection, the first floor is the British collection and the religious studies collection, the second floor is the European collection, and American collection and the third floor is our exhibition space with reading rooms. Coming from a library consisting of three rooms, the IHR library has been slightly intimidating but I like to think I am getting to know my way around. One of my favourite features of the library is the rolling stacks. We have modern rolling stacks where you can prevent yourself from being squashed by a lift of the handle – you can move the stacks by just twisting a wheel. Whereas in Gladstone’s, I would have to pull a stack individually now I can move them all at once – without fear of squashing anyone – I feel I should I add that no one has ever been squashed in Gladstone’s library stacks! In the IHR, we have our stacks dotted throughout the library.

In both the IHR library and Gladstone’s library, you could find antiquarian books housed with modern books. At Gladstone’s library, I would love to wander around the shelves and look at the different books housed there. I have a similar love here – one of my responsibilities is ensuring books left on the desks get to go back to their own shelf. I like seeing what people have been reading, but also getting to explore the collections by looking at the shelves. When I was in university I loved using the library to research and also browsing the shelves so I could find similar books that might be of use to my research. So getting to browse and tidy the shelves for my job is my idea of heaven.

Another aspect of my job is library promotion. This could involve anything from this blog for example or adding social media posts. This can be another chance to explore the collections – finding for example an inscription from H. G. Wells or discovering other treasures in the collections. It can be rewarding to provide a fresh perspective on the library. To encourage people to join and for readers to be able discover the treasure trove of resources we hold here at the library.

To join the library is very simple: you just have to come to reception! Postgraduates and academics just need to bring their university ID and proof of address. Undergraduates are welcome too and just need a letter from their tutor.  You can also be a private researcher and pay to join – either at a yearly or daily rate.

My favourite aspect of the job apart from being surrounded by books – is that no one day is the same – I can be rebinding, reclassifying, cataloguing, helping someone with their photocopying, finding information they need or having a book adventure in the tower. I also get to buy books for the library – at the moment this is supervised and is testing my German language strength but eventually they will trust me to choose books for the collection – I will get to leave my own mark on the library! Remember that for you a library is an excellent source of information, this is the same for a librarian (or a wannabe librarian) but we also have to find the information which can be an excellent adventure all on its own. Never be afraid to ask for help from your librarian – we love to help everybody. So come and discover the library and our fantastic resources for yourself!

Libraries Week: Monday

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Libraries Week 9 to 14 October 2017

“If you have a great library like Columbia, an open stacks library, I mean that’s fantastic, because so often it’s the book next to the one you’re hunting for that suddenly wags, crooks the fingers and says: ‘Come hither, I’m what you’re actually looking for.’”… “shelf-cruising”, he calls it.

Saturday’s Guardian carried this titbit in Jonathan Freedland’s interview with the historian and television presenter, Simon Schama.  If you’re interested, there is more in the piece about the perils and pleasures of looking after your own personal library, but here it starts a series of blog posts that will run from Monday to Friday as part of our contribution to Libraries Week, 9–14 October 21017.

We start close to home. The Institute of Historical Research Wohl Library has always been a central part of the IHR’s mission to be a ‘laboratory for history’, with seminars taking place within rooms surrounded by books and journals offering some of the raw materials for historical research, inquiry and argument, as well as training in historical methods. The library makes some 200,000 books available over four floors, shelved according to place and topic, with the aim of serendipitous ‘shelf cruising’ by our readers.  Today, of course, these paper tomes are also supplemented by digital material, such as the IHR’s own British History Online and the numerous resources from commercial or research organisations, such as the Churchill Archive or Connected Histories, all, we hope, whispering ‘come hither’ in their own way.

We also offer links to other libraries, not just through our collections of bibliographies (from Chartism to football history and beyond), catalogues and guides to archives and libraries, but also through History Online’s directory of London history collections. Let us know if you know of a library that should be listed there.

Over the next week, colleagues from the library team will be posting some of their favourite and curious items from the library, as well as details of our 31 October History Day event organised in collaboration with Senate House Library. Libraries Week will be all over social media, discoverable via the hashtag #librariesweek, and revealing such gems as the British Library’s account of medieval lending libraries (and their pious sanctions).

But the main thing is to visit your local library, renew or sign up for your library pass, and borrow a book, DVD, do some 3D printing, participate in an event, catch up with local news, do some writing, research on the internet, and add your visit to the 250 million visits made to public libraries each year. Of all the disciplines, historians have a particularly intimate relationship with libraries. It’s our duty, as well as pleasure, to support them.

You can find your local library here.

Bibliography of British and Irish History updated – October 2017 – Sleep, dreams and colours

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An update to the Bibliography of British and Irish History was published on 4th October. 5,233 new records have been added. Some 513 new records relate to Irish history while 267 deal with the history of London, 451 with the history of Scotland and 189 with the history of Wales.  The overall total of records available online is 594,068.

We are always looking to improve our subject indexing and coverage and have added a number of new terms to the thesaurus reflecting recent developments in history. “Colours”, “Dreams”, and “Sleep” have all been added and are now searchable by “Subject tree” search in BBIH.

Sasha Handley’s book Sleep in early modern England prompted the addition of “Sleep” as an index term. While most of the references refer to literary representations (“Watching the sleeper in Macbeth) or religious aspects (“The Nyghtes Watchys”: Sleep deprivation in medieval devotional culture) there are also insights into the social aspects of sleep (Norms, forms and beds: Spatializing sleep in Victorian Britain and Sociable sleeping in early modern England, 1660–1760).

Naturally with sleep there are dreams (and nightmares). The book Dreams in early modern England: “Visions of the night” by Janine Rivière led to the addition of “Dreams” to the list of subjects. As with sleep there are literary or cultural references (Prophecies, dreams, and the plays of John Lyly, a chapter in Staging the superstitions of early modern Europe ), and religious aspects (Dreaming and emotion in early evangelical religion, a chapter in Heart religion: evangelical piety in England & Ireland, 1690-1850).

There are also medical viewpoints to dreams as in Forgotten dreams: Recalling the patient in British psychotherapy, 1945–60 and Demons of desire or symptoms of disease? Medical theories and popular experiences of the “nightmare” in premodern England (a chapter in Dreams, dreamers, and visions: the early modern Atlantic world). Intellectual views are explored in Visions, dreams, and the discernment of prophetic passion: Sense and reason in the writings of the Cambridge Platonists and John Beale, 1640–60 (a chapter in Angels of light?: sanctity and the discernment of spirits in the early modern period).

As for “Colour”, references naturally point to the aesthetics of colour in the arts including illuminated manuscripts but also to technological developments in film (Colour films in Britain: the negotiation of innovation 1900-55), television (The techno-politics of colour: Britain and the European struggle for a colour television standard) and the dyeing industry (Johann Peter Griess FRS (1829–88): Victorian brewer and synthetic dye chemist).

Heritage Lottery Fund awards Stage 2 funding for ‘Layers of London’ project

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The IHR is delighted to announce that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Stage 2 funding of £929,800 for the ‘Layers of London’ project. An additional £600,000 will come from matched funding and other contributions. Thanks to support made possible by National Lottery players, Layers of London, which began in 2016, will build an innovative digital platform to enable the public to create and upload heritage content, linked to digitised historic maps of London from the Romans to the present day. The team will be coordinating a large number of volunteer projects across London, including in schools.

The IHR’s project partners are Birkbeck, University of London, London Metropolitan Archives, the British Library, The National Archives, Historic England and Museum of London Archaeology. The project team, based at the IHR, is led by Professor Matthew Davies of Birkbeck, University of London and the Project Manager is Seif El Rashidi at the IHR. For more information, and to get involved in the project see https://layersoflondon.blogs.sas.ac.uk/

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