If you are passing by the Foyle Room on the first floor there is a new display there show-casing some of the library’s items on Ghanaian history covering the last five hundred years.
Included are works taken from our Portuguese and Low Countries collections which highlight the early European presence in West Africa from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Among this selection is a reproduction of a chapter from the Crónica de D. João II by Garcia de Resende (1470–c. 1536) which describes how John II commissioned Diogo d’Azambuja to construct Elmina Castle (first of many constructed by the Europeans)
Also displayed are a number of works taken from the library’s Colonial Africa collection which document the British presence in and occupation of the area. Included here a two accounts – one Ghanaian, the other British – of the Ashanti Wars which were waged intermittently from 1823 to 1900 between the Ashanti Empire and the invading British.
2017 also marks sixty years since Ghana declared its independence from the British Empire. Negotiations were on-going for many year prior to 1957 as shown by another item in the display detailing a speech made by Kwame Nkrumah in 1953 describing the talks with the British government and what still needed to be achieved.
Last month the library began a series of blog posts about some of the most notable years of India’s history during the British occupation; the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and the Rebellion of 1857. Here the last instalment will highlight some works from the library’s collection which give some understanding of the events surrounding the independence of India in 1947 and the subsequent partition.
A particular strength of the collection is its range of official sources which give the viewpoint of the out-going British. The transfer of power, 1942-7, a multi-volume collection of sources published by the H.M.S.O. conveys this view. As one would expect, this work puts the process of independence in the broader context of the 1940s as well as having four volumes (of a twelve volume work) devoted to developments from November 1946 to the 15th August 1947. Also found in our collection are Louis Mountbatten’s report of events during the spring and summer of 1947, as well as the diary of Pamela Mountbatten (1929– ), Lord Mountbatten’s youngest daughter. Although varying in formality, from the official documents issued from the British government to the views of a teenager, all were entrenched in the centre of the British political establishment in India at the time.
Lord Mountbatten addressing the Independence Day session of the Constituent Assembly on August 15, 1947. Seated at his right is Dr Rajendra Prasad, President of the Assembly.
Moving away from the direct centre of the British administration, however, a number of works in the library offer differing glimpses into developments during 1947 and 1948. A civil servant since 1935 and appointed partition secretary in 1947, the memoirs of Hiralal Muljibhai Patel (1903–1993) convey the impressions of someone not only from within the workings of Britain’s imperial administration but also someone who would have a major role to play in the new Indian administration.
Away from the government buildings and bureaucracies the course of independence and partition can be gleaned from two further works from our collection. One is the account of the American journalist (and later ambassador) William Phillips Talbot (1915–2010) who at the time was working for the Institute of Current World Affairs. He was not only a keen observer of political events but also of the social and humanitarian ramifications of the partition. The second work is the memoirs of Sir Fulque Agnew (1900–1975). Although he was a member of the British nobility, his career was at times far from typical; running away from school at 17 to join the British army and later air-force during the First World War, he would later become a conscientious objector working for the Friends Ambulance Unit during World War Two and would be briefly be in India in 1947–48, undertaking humanitarian work where he witnessed, although briefly, some of the horrors that took place during the partition.
A refugee train, Punjab, 1947
Understandably these sources only give the briefest of impressions of events that would affect millions. The library, however, remains committed to add to all its collections and acquire works that will offer a broader spectrum of narratives, from the national to the local. Moreover the area around the Institute of Historical Research is lucky to be rich in other collections, notably the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies which offer many more voices from the years 1947 and 1948.
The University of London is implementing a new printing, scanning and copying system on Monday 12th – Tuesday 13th June.
There will be some disruption to services on those days and some periods when facilities will be unavailable. Staff may be able to assist if you need to copy or print at that time.
The new system will be shared across Senate House Library, the Warburg Institute and the Institute of Historical Research so if you are a member of multiple libraries you will be able to use your account for printing and copying at all of them.
A new user account will be required for the new system and further instructions and help with this will be available. Balance(s) from your existing account(s) can be transferred.
This post was written by a group of undergraduate students from the University of Southampton who recently visited the IHR library to complete a research project. We are happy to welcome students doing group projects to the IHR, so please get in touch if you would like to arrange something similar.
We are second year History undergraduate students studying at the University of Southampton, currently undertaking a group project titled ‘Thou art a fals preestes whore’- The Medieval English Church Courts, with a focus on the treatment and role of women within these courts. In order to complete our research on such a wide-ranging area of study, we travelled to the Institute of Historical Research hoping to find a greater collection of sources and literature than is available to us locally in Southampton.
The institute was very happy to grant us admission and give us access to collections relevant to our research, and were extremely helpful in assisting us in the process. As we are all currently based in Southampton, we decided to take advantage of the Institute’s online catalogue which was both informative and easy to navigate, so we could optimise our time spent in the library reading the material rather than searching the collection.
Predominantly, our research covers the medieval period, but increasing material we found pointed to the 17th century onwards, so we decided to comment on the change of treatment of women by the courts from the Medieval period into early Modern. Whilst we all concluded that women were not on an equal playing field to men for a variety of reasons, our research does conclude that despite this, women enjoyed more rights than we originally assumed when beginning the project.
Women and Church Courts in Medieval England
English Church Courts in the Middle Ages stood as a pillar of most communities, under a far less power centralised state than we have today. This meant that the ruling of a Church Court could be damning to your position in society, particularly in more rural locations as communities tended to be smaller and more isolated. The existence of Church courts also spanned over a large period, stretching all the way to the eighteen-fifties, when the final ecclesiastical courts were given over to state courts. By the end of the eighteenth century the Church Courts had lost almost all power in the legal process but it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that there were reforms. It was actually matrimonial matters which were the last to be transferred, moved to the newly created Divorce Court. It can be seen that in fact there was a decline in Church Court’s jurisdiction since the Reformation of the sixteenth century, as Henry VIII ruled out the use of Papal law in favour of Roman Civil law. Although the ecclesiastical courts survived this change, it did mark a change in tradition and to most the end of the medieval period. Therefore, it is interesting to consider cases from within and beyond the Middle Ages to discuss if there is change not only in the outcome of the trials but also the impact of their ruling on people in society. Our research focuses on women, typically seen as more vulnerable members of society, evaluating whether changes in Church jurisdiction affected them.
The most important part of establishing our project and our argument was looking at primary sources, as without Latin at our disposal, we obtained these mainly in translation within secondary source books. Here are some of the books that we studied during our time at the IHR and how they helped us to develop our project further. This is just a small sample of our research:
One book that was useful for our project from the IHR was Anne Tarver’s Church Court Records: An Introduction for Family and Local Historians, (Chichester: Phillimore, 1995). Tarver’s chapter on marriage was particularly helpful due to the clear breakdown of areas the church courts dealt with: contracts, divorce, conjugal rights and jactitation. Whilst the book exceeds our time period, Tarver comments on changes into the nineteenth century and includes relevant primary evidence. A particularly interesting case that Tarver mentions is one of servant, Cordelia Ball, who gives a statement witnessing the cruelty of her master Andrew Dunton to his wife. She suggests to witnessing physical and verbal abuse. (p. 90) The fact that a servant should be called as witness is something we have found to have been a regular occurrence in the Middle Ages to provide evidence in court, so despite going beyond the medieval period it demonstrates that the workings and dealings with church courts actually remained rather similar. As with many sources the issue we have found is a lack of conclusion, as many sources have been damaged, lost or not complete in their recording, which we have had to take into consideration when evaluating these sources.
R.H. Helmholz’ book Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1974) gives an overview of particular aspects of marriage litigation including marriage records, divorce cases and witnesses used within the English Church Courts. Helmholz summarises records and provides statistics that clearly summarise the amount of cases in specific areas across England. For example, ‘at Lichfield between 1465 and 1468, suits brought to establish the existence of valid marriages outnumbered suits for divorce by a margin of thirty to fifteen.’ (p. 11) Comparisons such as this helped to summarise the vast amount of marriage records and explain how these related to other cases the courts dealt with such as divorce or impotence. Helmholz mentions the case of Edmund Dronefeld of York from 1364 who appealed to divorce his wife Margaret due to the belief she was married to another man eighteen years prior, making their current marriage void (p. 77). This was helpful as he cites the original York Cause Paper record, meaning it was easy to corroborate the primary evidence to Helmholz’ writing, especially as this database has recently been uploaded online for easy access.
These previously discussed sources, along with others and our extended research, we concluded that across areas of marriage, impotency, prostitution and heresy, women were at a clear disadvantage in church court cases as they were seen as less reputable than male defendants. Although the change in jurisdiction that church courts held after the reformation may have affected their ability and the impact of a case’s outcome, the church courts were not fully disbanded until the eighteen-fifties and still held an element of power but with a definitive decline. However, in many cases we have come across, church courts in fact provided an environment in which women could express their opinions and challenge men, with higher status women affording male lawyers prosecuting on their behalf. Even if a case did not go in favour of the woman, having a platform in which to defend themselves publicly was an achievement in itself, especially in a period where women often were limited to a domestic sphere.
This is only a small extract from a much wider project and if interested please visit our website to explore women and their role and treatment in English medieval church courts further at: churchcourts.co.uk
The document was written during the early 16th century by an unknown author referred to as a “companion of Hernán Cortés”, or simply, “The Anonymous Conqueror” or “Gentleman of Cortés”. The edition in the IHR Library’s collection was translated into English by Marshall H. Saville, and published by the Cortés Society in New York in 1917. The document is one of the sources for the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire dating from the 16th century, one of the many surviving contemporary Spanish accounts from the period of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and central Mexico (1519–1521). However, unlike conqueror accounts which highlight individual deeds worthy of rewards from the Spanish crown (a genre called probanzas or relaciones de méritos y servicios, , the Anonymous Conqueror’s account is descriptive of indigenous life at the time of the conquest.
The document begins with an introduction written by Saville, which explains how the original Spanish text of the report of the Anonymous Conqueror is lost and that this edition was translated from the Italian text. He states that the anonymous author had been speculated to be Franciso de Terrazas, who was the butler of Hernan Cortés, and a mayor of Mexico.
Narrative of some things of New Spain provides descriptions of the life and culture of the pre-Columbian Aztec/Mexica and surrounding peoples of the Valley of Mexico, as they were first encountered by the expedition of Conquistadores under Hernán Cortés. The narrative is divided into 24 chapters and describes everything from the land and animals, to military concerns, to food and drink, to religion and government, to marriage and burials and beyond. It also contains information on the weapons of the Aztecs in comparison to those of the Spaniards.
1. Altman, Ida (2003). The Early History of Greater Mexico. Upper Saddle River, NJ. p. 75.
The IHR Library recently celebrated the opening of its latest exhibition, All the Right Ingredients: Food History Resources in the IHR Library.
Food as a source of nourishment is a necessity of life, but it also has deeper significance. Its importance ensures that it forms the backdrop to everyday lives throughout history. The multi-layered and diverse areas of food history allow researchers to examine the social, cultural, political, and economic perspectives of the past. Through food history, historians can gain a window onto societies at the macro and micro levels, enabling them to research a range of issues such as gender roles, identity, emotions, familial relationships, memory, class, and race.
Within the discipline of history today, the study of food and the closely related research on foodways and culinary history are ever-expanding and rapidly developing areas of historical enquiry. This exhibition therefore explores the wealth of resources in the IHR Library’s collections to demonstrate the ways in which food history can offer fresh perspectives on historical narratives.
The first display case in the exhibition examines culinary history through a selection of cookery books and recipes. Examples include recipes for ‘apple omelet’, ‘Spanish sauce’, and ‘beef or mutton broth for very weak people who take but little nourishment.’ In this way, the recipes on display illuminate historical interactions between peoples and cultures and provide a window onto the social and economic past of the societies in which they were served.
The second display focuses upon food history in personal testimonies. Multiple examples in the Library’s collections show the importance of food to individuals during times of conflict and celebration, through scarcity and abundance, and during everyday life. Demonstrative of this are the drawings Lance-Corporal Henry Buckle sketched during the First World War. These beautiful depictions of food reveal the dark humour of the trenches and the central role food played in the lives of soldiers. The sketch shown here (right) bears the caption, ‘Note this was *not* drawn from life.’
In the third cabinet, the history of food as recorded within official records and documents is highlighted. Included within the display is a facsimile of the Sugar Act passed by the British Parliament in 1764 and the detailed accounts of dinners provided for the Lords of the Privy Council in Westminster during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I of England. Such records demonstrate the importance of food in history as a commodity, whether for use in ceremonial practices or in establishing control over trade.
The final display is devoted to the history of food in the IHR. Through a series of archival documents, photographs and personal accounts, the display demonstrates that food has held a central role in the history of the Institute, both in formal gatherings such as parties and dinners, and through informal meetings over tea and coffee in the Common Room. A selection of the documents on display include a menu from a sherry party held in 1938 in conjunction with Fortnum & Mason, a seating plan from the Institute’s ‘Dining Club’ dinner of 1958, and photographs of the Common Room prior to refurbishment.
Throughout, the exhibition aims to highlight the range of materials available in the Library’s collections and demonstrate the possibilities food history can afford historians. The exhibition is on display in the third floor reading room throughout the summer and is open to all.
The exhibition was developed in consultation with Dr Kelly Spring, Convener of the Food History Seminar at the IHR. Further information on the seminar can be found here or on Twitter @IHR_FoodHist.
It cannot be denied that the Rebellion of 1857-8 was a turning point in Britain’s occupation of the Indian subcontinent. This is reflected in the prodigious literature produced on the subject, spanning novels, plays as well as works of historical scholarship. Even by the beginning of the 1860s a flurry of works on the Rebellion had been produced. Yet the subject of this post is George Forrest’s A history of the Indian Mutiny, published decades later, from 1904 to 1912.
Although the work is dedicated to his father, Captain George Forrest (1803/4-1859) who would die as a result of the wounds he suffered in May 1857 defending and eventually destroying the Delhi magazine, the work bears little of the shock and at times anger of the literature produced during and in the immediate aftermath of the Rebellion. Perhaps this is understandable given the chronological distance between the Rebellion and the publication of Forrest’s account. What, then, are the features of Forrest’s narrative?
In his article on the historiography of the Rebellion the historian, S. N. Sen, stated that Forrest acknowledged the epic nature of his account but tried to offer a balanced view (Sen, S. N. ‘Writings of the Mutiny’ in Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, p. 383) and this is something Forrest states explicitly declares in his introduction; although basing his account, ‘on the sure ground of official documents’, he recognises the potency which the events of 1857-8 wielded:
The Indian Mutiny addresses our mind through the intellect and the imagination. It is no mere memorable incident in Anglo-Indian history which conveys many grave lessons to those who labour in our Indian Empire, but it is a noble epic which speaks to every Englishman wherever he may be, and calls up past and glorious memories.
It must still be remembered, however, that Forrest’s narrative was a product of the high imperialism of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. He acknowledges that various Indian communities did side with the British, depicting them as stoic – perhaps silently compliant – martyrs to Britain’s colonial interests
Photograph of the Lucknow Residency taken from Vol. 2 of Forrest’s The Indian Mutiny
There have been tongues and pens enough to narrate the excesses which have raised the Indian Mutiny to the rank of world-wide tragedy. It is useful that these crimes should be remembered and freshly pondered, but it is equally wise to study the opposite picture. The brave and turbulent population of Oudh with a few exceptions treated the fugitives of the ruling race with a marked kindness. Not only the loyalty and courage but also calm heroic spirit with which the sepoys in the Lucknow Residency endured dangers and trials are worthy of all honour. The devotion and fidelity of humble native attendants and loyal sepoys, the patient endurance and calm courage of our countrymen and countrywomen, the high energy and valour of the British soldier, afford some relief to the most terrible features of a tale of wrath and fury.
Turning away from this depiction, Forrest, when discussing the infamous catalyst for the Rebellion, the use of beef and pork grease in the manufacture of rifle cartridges, citing sources which depict the main enemy as persistent rumours, paying little attention to the fact that initially the fault lay with the British authorities, even though Colonel Richard Birch, military secretary, had ordered all cartridges issued were to be free from grease by the 27th January:
On the 24th January 1857, Major-General Hearsey, Commanding the Presidency Division, forwarded two letters for immediate submission to the Government of India. One of them was from Captain Wright…stating “that there appears to be a very unpleasant feeling existing among the native soldiers…regarding the grease used in preparing the cartridges, some evil-disposed persons having spread a report that it consists of a mixture of the fat of pigs and cows.”…Captain Wright also observed that some of the depot men in conversing with him on the subject had stated that “the report had spread throughout India, and when they went to their homes their friends would refuse to eat with them.
Forrest goes on to state
The propagator of sedition and the fanatic, the two great enemies of our rule, took advantage of the feeling of unrest and suspicion to raise the cry that a systematic attack was to be made on the ancient faith and customs of the people, and they pointed to the introduction of the greased cartridge as a proof of what they so sedulously preached.
This work can be found in the library at shelf-mark CLC.3131/For
This gives the briefest of glimpses into Forrest’s Rebellion and evidently his narrative is far from a sound depiction of the events of 1857-8. However this does not detract from its value. As a text loaded with the language of late nineteenth and early twentieth century British colonialism, it is fascinating in its own right, and is ultimately testament to the fractured nature of narrative and memory.
If you would like to find out more about our items on the Rebellion or our collection on Indian history, with its particular strength on the British period, search our catalogue here.
To highlight some of the items and collections currently stored in the central tower of the Senate House building – and perhaps out of mind – the staff in the library will be selecting a few at regular intervals and give a brief description of the items discussed as well as their merits and limitations as historical sources.
Although 2017 has been, understandably, a busy year for historians both of the Reformation and the Russian Revolution, it does also mark a number of anniversaries in the British occupation of India. This year will mark 260 years since the Battle of Plassey, 160 years since the Indian Rebellion and 70 years since independence was won by many of the states in present day south Asia and in this and subsequent blog posts the library will showcase some of the works from the Indian history collection, describing events during those three fateful years.
Title page from volume 2 of Robert Orme’s Military Transactions
The first item is A history of the military transactions of the British nation in Indostan (London: 1803) by Robert Orme (1728–1801). Robert Orme was present in India for much of the 1750s when the British gained a significant foothold in to region. He had joined the East India Company in 1743 and by the late 1750s was a member of ruling council at Fort St. George in Chennai (Madras), and was thus among the authorities responsible for sending Robert Clive to recapture Kolkatta from the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah, leading eventually to the Battle of Plassey on the 23rd June 1757. Orme gives a standard account of the battle, describing the terrain as well as the troop movements of either side in the conflict, as well as depicting the various machinations going on in Siraj-ud-daulah’s camp:
The Nabob had remained in his tent out of reach of danger, continually flattered by his attendants and officers, of whom one half were traitors, with assurances of victory; but about noon he was informed, that Meer Murdeen [Mir Madan Khan], the best and most faithful of his generals, was mortally wounded by a cannon-ball. The misfortune disturbed him to excess; he immediately sent for Meer Jaffier [Mir Jafar]; and as soon as he entered the tent, flung his turban on the ground, saying, “Jaffier, that turban you must defend.” The other bowed, and with his hands on his breast, promised his utmost services; and returning to his troops and associates, immediately dispatched a letter to Colonel Clive…In the meantime, the terrors of the Nabob increased continually: Roydoolub [Rai Durlabh] taking advantage of them, counselled him to return to his capital: his advice prevailed, and the Nabob ordered the army to retreat into the intrenchments. (Vol. II, p. 175)
The rest of Orme’s account describes how the British forces attacked the retreating part of the Nawab’s army, Clive’s belated recognition that one of the lingering divisions was Mir Jaffar’s, as well as the British forces eventual capturing of the Nawab’s camp in the late afternoon of June 23rd. Orme also describes how Siraj-ud-Daulah was captured for Mir Jafar’s forces as well as his eventual execution only a few weeks after the battle on July 2nd. He concludes that Siraj-ud-Daulah’s defeat was largely due to alienating forces in his own court rather than any perceived military prowess on the side of the British:
Tyrant as he was, if he had respected the advice of his grandfather Allaverdy [Ali Vardi 1671–1756], and not have excited the detestation of the Gentoos, at the same time that he was rendering himself dreadful to the principal Mahomedan officers of his court, the English would have found no alliance sufficient to have ventured the risque of dethroning him: but it is probable that the same iniquity of character, which urged him to the destruction of Calcutta, would soon have called forth other avengers of other atrocious deeds (Vol. II, p. 185)
Portrait of Siraj-ud-Daulah
Orme’s account is, obviously, limited, being both a classic example of history from the victor’s perspective as well as dripping with preconceived orientalist notions of someone entrenched in the conquest-capitalism of the East India Company. Understandably, this does not diminish its value as a source. Although one could rightly doubt many aspects of Orme’s account of eighteenth century India, the implicit details and assumptions conveyed by his narrative tells us probably more about British attitudes to India, conquest and race than is does about the events of 1757.
If you would like to consult this work yourself, or any others from the library’s collections of works on India from the 18th to the early 20th century, just contact the library office at email@example.com or come along in person, we’re on the first floor. Try a search of the catalogue to find out what other items we have.
The University of London is implementing a new printing, scanning and copying system in mid-June 2017.
The present public copiers will be replaced.
The new system will be shared across Senate House Library, the Warburg Institute and the Institute of Historical Research so if you are a member of multiple libraries you will be able to use your account for printing and copying at all of them. Balance(s) from your existing account(s) can be transferred.
On Monday 15th May, the IHR Library will host an evening dedicated to food history to coincide with the opening of a new exhibition, ‘All the Right Ingredients: Food History Resources in the IHR,’ examining the history of food as revealed by the collections of the IHR Library.
Food has always held a significant role in history, shaping societies and influencing cultures and economies. However, it was only in the twentieth century that the study of food in history was incorporated into the discipline. Similarly, in relation to the IHR itself, food has always held a central role in the Institute with catering available in the Common Room, a formal Dining Club, and a dedicated Institute Tea Fund. This exhibition, and the talks that accompany its launch, therefore aim to highlight how food history can offer new insights into historical narratives.
Matthew Shaw, IHR Librarian, will introduce the exhibition and the library’s food history collections. Dr Kelly Spring, Convenor of the Food History Seminar at the IHR, will then open the exhibition with a talk examining the establishment of food studies into the historical discipline and the avenues that this has opened up to researchers. As Dr Spring has noted, ‘a macro-approach to the history of food can be implemented in order to reveal food’s effects on the grand narrative while a micro-level view as part of a micro-historical approach can be utilised to analyse the everyday lives of individuals, groups or communities in connection with food to furnish new insights into history.’ Dr Spring shall draw upon materials from the library’s collections and holdings, whilst also exploring new directions in the discipline of food history.
Following this, Siobhan Morris, Library Officer at the IHR, will talk on the importance of food in the history of the IHR. Siobhan will focus on the history of the IHR Dining Club, tracing its history from its establishment in 1938 to the decision taken to fold the Club in 1956. The talks will be followed by a reception and the opportunity to browse the exhibition and view additional materials from the library’s food history collections and the IHR archive.
The exhibition centres around four display cases, each addressing a different theme. These shall examine the social, cultural, political and economic histories of food through a range of materials in the IHR library collections – including recipes from across Mexico, France and India, soldiers’ diaries, chef’s memoirs, parliamentary acts and household accounts. In addition, a brief history of food in the Institute of Historical Research itself will also be displayed. This shall incorporate conference menus, personal testimonies and archival photographs and documents.
The exhibition will be on display on the third floor of the library and is open to all. Please ask at reception if you would like to visit the display. Further details of the launch event are available here.