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Researching Cold War espionage in the IHR Library

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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

_DSC7331
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.

 

 

 


 

Summary

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.

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Mexico-United States Relations: the Mexican Revolution 1910-1920

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The IHR Library holds a wealth of resources for the history of Mexico-United States relations, covering the period succeeding the Mexican-American War up until the twentieth century. A range of sources, such as, treaties, diaries, autobiographies and letters, are included in English, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages. 


Read the first two instalments in this series of blog posts. 

Following the ongoing reclassification project for the Latin American collection and the upcoming Mexico-U.S exhibition, some interesting volumes have been discovered within the library’s holdings. This blog post is the third in a series that will focus on the IHR Library’s holdings of material concerning the history of Mexico-U.S relations, focusing on the Mexican Revolution.

The Madero Revolution which overthrew the regime of Porfirio Diaz had its organisational and military beginnings in the United States. While the root cause was the unrest within Mexico itself, the Diaz government in 1910 was still strong enough to control internal dissension and maintain itself in power. Only the activities of the Mexican revolutionaries, organised and operating from a sanctuary above the U.S border, brought about the violent crack that was to force President Diaz from office. Wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero challenged Díaz in the 1910 presidential election, and following the rigged results, revolted under the Plan of San Luis Potosí. Armed conflict ousted Díaz from power and a new election was held in 1911, bringing Madero to the presidency.


The first work being highlighted in this post is Documents on the Mexican Revolution edited by Gene Z. Hanrahan.

Volume I – The Origins of the Revolution in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California, 1910-1911.

This work consists of 9 volumes, with each volume covering a different time period during the revolution. The documents in this collection have been selected from the many thousands of papers on the Mexican revolution preserved in the United States National Archives. The documents include letters and reports prepared by U.S diplomats, the Mexican ambassador, special agents of the Department of Justice, state governors and private citizens. The first volume of this work includes important original writings and works of the Mexican revolutionaries that embrace subjects such as political and revolutionary writings, public and foreign reaction and U.S recognition of Madero.

Volume V – Blood Below the Border. American Eye-witness Accounts of the Mexican Revolution.

The fifth volume in this series consists of twenty reports, letters and documents written by Americans in Mexico during the first years of the Mexican Revolution. They included Americans in business, diplomats, visiting statesmen and mine managers. This volume sheds light on the concerns Americans had about their safety, investments and future in Mexico during this period, and how their views helped shape United States policy towards Mexico.

 

 


An American family in the Mexican revolution by Robert Woodmansee in collaboration with Richard Herr

This memoir details the experiences of an American family caught in Revolutionary Mexico. The book contains information about the Revolution, life as a foreign national in Mexico, the silver mining industry, and social and cultural aspects of Revolutionary Mexico.
Based on personal documents written by Richard Herr’s older brother, this memoir covers a critical period in Mexican history, beginning in the Porfiriato and continuing through the 1920s, from the point of view of one family. An American family in the Mexican revolution illustrates the economic expansion of the United States into Mexico in the late nineteenth century; relations between foreign managers and Mexicans of all social classes; the foreign colony in Mexico; the development of a working class in Mexico; various aspects of the Mexican revolution (including its contribution to the debate about the degree to which foreigners and their enterprises stirred revolutionary discontent); the impact and changes brought about by the revolution; and Mexican-United States relations during the entire period.


Un húngaro en el México Revolucionario : correspondencia de Kálmán Kánya, Ministro del Imperio Auistro-Húngaro en México durante la Revolución Mexicana y la Primera Guerra Mondial  by Ádám Anderle and Monika Kozári.

This work details the experience and correspondence of the Austro-Hungarian ambassador to Mexico, Kálmán Kánya, during the Mexican revolution. It is translated into Spanish from Hungarian and follows Kánya’s experiences and relationships with Mexican officials from his appointment as ambassador to Mexico to his return to Europe in July 1919.


For more information on the IHR Library’s holdings on Latin American and United States history more generally, please refer to the following guides:

United States History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

Latin American History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

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Baseball…it’s just not cricket: baseball and British and Irish history

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Baseball and British history – not, you think, a natural pairing. It’s then surprising to learn that there are enough references to baseball in BBIH to warrant a blog.

A woodcut from “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book” (1744) England, showing a reference to baseball

There is little on the development of the sport, unlike the lengthy discussions available on the development of football (the association not the American kind).

Highlights from the collection include the nationalistic and sneering response to the game, such as “That’s your way of playing rounders, isn’t it”? The response of the English press to American baseball tours to England, 1874-1924”. The sporting coverage is also explored in Embracing sporting news in England and America: nineteenth-century cricket and baseball news (a chapter in Anglo-American media interactions, 1850-2000).

There is some material on London including Baseball in East London before the war, British baseball and the West Ham club: history of a 1930s professional team in East London and A very peculiar practice: the London Baseball League, 1906-1911.

Picking up on imperial themes, there’s Why baseball, why cricket? Differing nationalisms, differing challenges which asks why India and Pakistan play cricket and the USA does not. A night at Delmonico’s: the Spalding baseball tour and the imagination of Empire looks at parts of the tour by Albert Spalding, particularly the contrasting results of the visits to Australia and Britain, while Similar economic histories, different industrial structures: transatlantic contrasts in the evolution of professional sports leagues contrasts the histories of the English Football League and the National Baseball League.

The issue of class is raised in “Poor man’s cricket”: baseball, class and community in south Wales c.1880-1950 which documents the origins of the sport in south Wales and its development that was said to be ‘slowly ingratiating itself into the favour of the masses’ and became part of the local popular culture.

Even more unexpected is the history of Irish involvement with baseball. As Jerrold Casway notes in his biography, Ed Delahanty in the emerald age of baseball  – “Baseball for Irish kids was a shortcut to the American dream and to self-indulgent glory and fortune”. The Irish in baseball: an early history surveys the contribution of the Irish to the American pastime and the ways in which Irish immigrants and baseball came of age together. It looks at the role of the Irish in Boston, Chicago and Baltimore. Anti-Irish job discrimination circa 1880 : evidence from major league baseball shows that Irish players outperformed non-Irish players both on average and at the margin and were generally relegated to less central positions in the field but were less likely to be hired as managers. Finally there is the chapter, “Slide, Kelly, slide” : the Irish in American baseball in New perspectives on the Irish diaspora and Glimpses of the Irish contribution to early baseball by John P. Rossi in the journal Éire-Ireland (1988).

However, it was not entirely a one-way road as the chapter by Sara Brady, Playing ‘Irish’ sport on baseball’s hallowed ground: the 1947 All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final makes clear (in After the flood: Irish America 1945-1960).

Recent additions (both due to appear in the October update) include Nine innings for the King: the day wartime London stopped for baseball, July 4, 1918 by Jim Leeke and his article Royal match: the Army-Navy service game, July 4, 1918, based on the same event, in NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture. For historians and baseball fans this journal covers a wide range of topics from racism in the sport (including the Ku Klux Klan), media representation (radio and film) the various baseball tours including Japan and Taiwan and, of course, Babe Ruth.

 

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New Historical Research articles

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Image: Wikipedia

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

This article challenges the influential revisionist interpretation of the impeachment of the duke of Buckingham in the parliament of 1626. It argues that Buckingham’s enemies sought to remove him from power rather than ‘reform’ his errors or reach a compromise settlement whereby he would give up some offices. It explores the relationship between M.P.s and their patrons in the house of lords, the ideological and religious significance of the impeachment and the reasons for the dissolution, arguing that the attack on Buckingham was much more radical, polarizing and uncompromising than has previously been acknowledged.

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

Since the nineteen-seventies public history has emerged as an increasingly coherent discipline in North America, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and, latterly, in a wider European context. In all of these places it has had a connected but distinctly different gestation, and the nature of how history is applied, constructed, proffered or sold for public consumption is unique to each society. In Ireland, and within the history profession connected to it, its meaning is yet to be fully explored. Recent talks, symposia and conferences have established the term in the public imagination. As it is presently conceived public history in Ireland either relates specifically to commemorative events and the effect historians might have on official discourse relating to them, or to a series of controversial and contested historiographical debates. This article, by contrast, seeks a wider, more inclusive definition that includes the ‘public’ as an actor in it.

Viking re-enactors at the Battle of Clontarf millennium commemoration, Saint Anne’s Park, Dublin, April 19th 2014

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August issue of Historical Research

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Historical Research, vol. xc, no. 249

Two men in prison MS Ludwig XIV 6 (Getty open content)

Contents:

Getting out of jail: suicide, escape and release in late medieval and Renaissance Bologna. Trevor Dean

The 1553 succession crisis reconsidered. Paulina Kewes

Whose city? Civic government and episcopal power in early modern Salisbury, c.1590–1640. Catherine Patterson

‘I was no “master of this work” but a servant to it’? William Laud, Charles I and the making of Scottish ecclesiastical policy, 1634–6. Leonie James [open access]

Between tension and rapprochement: Sunni-Shi‘ite relations in the pre-modern Ottoman period, with a focus on the eighteenth century. M. Sait Özervarlı

One of the best men of business we had ever met’: Thomas Drummond, the boundary commission and the 1832 Reform Act. Martin Spychal [open access]

Charles Mason, the ‘king of China’: British imperial adventuring in the late nineteenth century. Catherine Ladds

‘That racial chasm that yawns eternally in our midst’: the British empire and the politics of Asian migration, 1900–14. Cornelis Heere

Invasion, raids and army reform: the political context of ‘flotilla defence’, 1903–5. Richard Dunley

‘And those who live, how shall I tell their fame?’ Historical pageants, collective remembrance and the First World War, 1919–39. Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Paul Readman and Charlotte Tupman [open access]

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Pollard and Neale Prize winners 2017

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Congratulations to the winners of the Pollard and Neale prizes:

Sir John Neale Prize in Early Modern British History

The Neale Prize is awarded annually to a historian in the early stages of his or her career for an essays on a theme related to the history of early modern Britain.

Winner: Stephen Tong of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, for ‘The Doctrine of the Sabbath in the Edwardian Reformation’

 

The Annual Pollard Prize (sponsored by Wiley)

The Pollard Prize is awarded annually for the best paper presented at an Institute of Historical Research seminar by a postgraduate student or by a researcher within one year of completing the PhD.

Winner:  Kenneth Duggan of Kings College, London,  for ‘The Limits of Strong Government: Attempts to Control Criminality in Thirteenth-Century England’, paper given to the European History Seminar 1150-1500

Runner up: Imogen Peck of the University of Bristol, for  ‘A chronology of some memorable accidents’: the representation of the recent past in English almanacs, 1648-1660, paper given to the History Lab seminar

The papers will be published in Historical Research

 

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1757, 1857 and 1947: three momentous years in India’s recent past: Part 3, 1947

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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.

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mountbatten_addressing_the_Independence_Day_session_of_the_Constituent_Assembly_on_Aug_15,_1947.jpg

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.

Source Wikimedia Common (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_refugee_train,_Punjab,_1947.jpg)

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.

Part 1: 1757

Part 2: 1857

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New Historical Research articles

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Nader Shah’s portrait from the collection of the Smithsonian Institution

Between tension and rapprochement: Sunni-Shi‘ite relations in the pre-modern Ottoman period, with a focus on the eighteenth century by M. Sait Özervarlı

The Ottoman empire is known for its ethnically and religiously pluralistic social fabric, but also for defending the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam in opposition to its Iranian Safavid rival. This article revisits the Ottoman construction of Sunnism and suggests that, despite strict state policies from above to exclude Shi‘ites and communal pressures from below in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, channels of dialogue could not be closed down in the long term. By focusing on a specific intra-religious dialogue of 1743, that aimed at reconciliation between Sunnis and Shi‘ites, this article highlights a probable case of ‘de-confessionalization’. Close examination of the textual account of this inter-communal meeting demonstrates how the Ottomans were torn between defending their Sunni identity and the need for rapprochement to avoid further sectarianism in broader Muslim society.

 

Invasion, raids and army reform: the political context of ‘flotilla defence’, 1903–5 by Richard Dunley

A1 class submarine, 1902

In response to the pressure of the invasion debates of 1903–1905 the Admiralty developed a new strategy, ‘flotilla defence’, to counter arguments brought forward by the War Office. This concept was a purely political one; it was a cynical bid to mislead the Committee of Imperial Defence in order to secure naval funding. By placing ‘flotilla defence’ in this context this article will demonstrate that it was not, as has been claimed, a revolutionary naval strategy, but part of the polarization of defence policy which led to a breakdown in relations between the army and the navy.

 

‘And those who live, how shall I tell their fame?’ Historical pageants, collective remembrance and the First World War, 1919–39 by Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Paul Readman and Charlotte Tupman  [open access]

Oxford Historical Pageant, 1907 (Wikimedia Commons)

This article examines the ways in which the First World War was represented in historical pageants during the interwar period. Pageants in this period are often overlooked as sites of commemoration and dramatic representation. Three types of pageant are identified: those that portrayed the war hyper-realistically, those which relied on symbolism and allegory to convey messages about war and peace, and those which sought to incorporate the war into the longer histories of the communities whose pasts they depicted. The article argues that ‘traditional’ forms of representation of the past proved to be resilient features of popular commemoration and remembrance.

 

 

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New Historical Research articles

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“Recruiter Deserted,” an engraving by Georges Keating after George Morland and published by J. L. Smithers in 1791.

‘To become again our brethren’: desertion and community during the American Revolutionary War, 1775–83 by Jonathan Chandler

Desertion from active military service has always been a contentious action, especially in times of war. Deserters in the eighteenth century were routinely castigated as poor patriots or traitorous subjects. Recently, scholars have begun to analyse in greater depth how and why desertions occurred, and have demonstrated that political considerations were less important than issues of identity and interest. However, in the context of the American Revolutionary War, historians have focused on the relationship between deserters and the military, arguing that soldiers who left their posts were less integrated into the camp community. This article suggests that the act of desertion was often more than a protest against conditions or discipline, but instead was shaped by a deserter’s connections with civil society rather than the military community.

‘The Gallaunts of Fawey’: a case study of Fowey during the Hundred Years’ War, c.1337–1399, by S. J. Drake

This article explores the influence of the Hundred Years’ War on Fowey between c.1337 and 1399. In so doing, it employs naval pay rolls to study the contribution the town made to royal fleets and considers the mechanisms which the Crown employed to defend the port from enemy raids. It also examines the degree to which the war was extended though the agency of ‘pirates’. The article argues that the conflict had an all-pervasive effect upon Fowey, but that the costs incurred by the port and its people as a result of this were by no means crippling.

Detail from Bayeaux Tapestry, c.1070

In Anglo-Saxon courts, from the eighth century down to the Norman conquest, ‘officers of the mouth’, bore household titles and served the king and his guests during meals, at least on major occasions. Those butlers (pincernae) and dish-bearers (dapiferi, disciferi) were not mere ‘waiters’ but members of great aristocratic families; serving the king’s table was an honour for them, with all the implications of that word in an early medieval context. Using a variety of sources, particularly the subscription lists of charters, this article examines their rank at court, social origin, degree of proximity to kings and queens, and the nature of their occupation.

‘One of the best men of business we had ever met’: Thomas Drummond, the boundary commission and the 1832 Reform Act by Martin Spychal

As one of Britain’s landmark constitutional reforms, the 1832 Reform Act has attracted considerable historical attention. However, only cursory notice has been paid to the extensive work completed by the 1831–2 boundary commission to reform the nation’s parliamentary boundaries. Drawing on previously unused archival material, this article provides the first sustained analysis of the boundary reforms that took place in England’s ancient boroughs in 1832, revealing the significance of Thomas Drummond, a previously obscure royal engineer and chair of the English and Welsh boundary commission, to the ‘Great Reform Act’. As well as revealing the wider importance of parliamentary boundaries to the passage of reform by 1832, Drummond and the boundary commission established significant precedents for the expansion of the reformed British state and future parliamentary reform.

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Octavia Hill, Social Activism and the Remaking of British Society

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‘Nobler Imaginings and Mightier Struggles’: Octavia Hill, Social Activism and the Remaking of British Society

Price: c.£40.00, hbk. ISBN: 978-1-909646-00-1 Published:2016

Edited by Elizabeth Baigent and Ben Cowell, this is a new collective volume from the IHR Conference Series.

Octavia Hill (1838-1912) was a successful housing and social reformer, providing an excellent example of female leadership in the nineteenth century.  She inherited a strong sense of social justice from her mother’s side of the family, and committed herself to the development of social housing and the provision of open spaces for all social classes. She was also co-founder of the National Trust. The following chapters demonstrate the breadth of Octavia Hill’s achievements and her legacy:

Octavia Hill: ‘the most misunderstood … Victorian reformer’  Elizabeth Baigent

Octavia Hill: lessons in campaigning. Gillian Darley

Octavia Hill: the practice of sympathy and the art of housing. William Whyte

Octavia Hill’s Red Cross Hall and its murals to heroic self-sacrifice. John Price

‘The poor, as well as the rich, need something more than meat and drink’: the vision of the Kyrle Society. Robert Whelan

Octavia Hill: the reluctant sitter. Elizabeth Heath

Octavia Hill, nature and open space: crowning success or campaigning ‘utterly without result’. Elizabeth Baigent

Octavia Hill and the English landscape. Paul Readman

‘To every landless man, woman and child in England’: Octavia Hill and the preservation movement. Astrid Swenson

Octavia Hill and the National Trust. Melanie Hall

At home in the metropolis: gender and ideals of social service. Jane Garnett

Octavia Hill, Beatrice Webb, and the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, 1905–9: a mid Victorian in an Edwardian world. Lawrence Goldman

‘Some dreadful buildings in Southwark’: a tour of nineteenth-century social housing. William Whyte

For the benefit of the nation: politics and the early National Trust. Ben Cowell

 

Octavia Hill By John Sergeant (Image from Wikipedia)

 

Available to buy here

 

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Casting Churchill

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© IWM (A 6918)

MR CHURCHILL IN HIS SIREN SUIT AT THE WHITE HOUSE. 3 JANUARY 1942, WASHINGTON DC, USA. DURING MR CHURCHILL’S MISSION TO AMERICA. (A 6918) Mr Churchill, complete in his air-raid suit, which he announce to the press and cinema men present was his ‘siren suit’. poses with Mr Harry Hopkins and his daughter Miss Diana Hopkins along with her pet dog Falla. Also seen is Cdr Thompson ADC to the Prime Minister. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140997

The IHR Wohl Library now offers access to the digitized archive of the private papers of Sir Winston Churchill, both within the library and remotely to holders of a membership card.

The archive, which contains some 800,000 items, is an extraordinarily rich resource, not just for those interested in the life and career of Churchill, but also in broad stretches of the twentieth century.

Today (30 January) is the anniversary of Churchill’s state funeral in 1965: the day when famously even the cranes along the Thames lowered their arms in a moment, it seems, orchestrated for the film news crews. Neither the American President nor the Vice-President attended (President Johndon informed reporters from his sick bed in the White House that his doctors had forbidden him from flying). Instead, the United States was represented by Earl Warren, the US Chief Justice. Many in Britain deemed this a snob to the ‘special relationship’, with some speculating that this was a small form of payback for Churchill missing President Roosevelt’s funeral in 1945 (the archive contains a telegram from Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, who attended the funeral, ‘Mrs Roosevelt said how sincerely touched she was that our country had sent a special representative [Eden]… The Governor General and I were the only representatives who made a special journey to attend the ceremony, except for the President of the Philippines, and I think this has touched people here… I find everybody here conscious of the heavy burdens which will be on you [Churchill] in the defence of both our peoples, indeed of Western civilisation now that F.D.R. cannot take part’ CHAR 20/214/124, telegram, 14 April 1945].

Churchill, of course, continues ‘to take part’ in world affairs, albeit symbolically. Few could have missed the various minor diplomatic disturbances and artificially-generated press scandals concerning the placement of the Churchill bust in the Oval Office of the White House, including that of the current occupant. The bust is by the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), and the White House has access to two casts, one donated to President Johnson in 1965 by a group of Churchill’s wartime friends, and the other loaned from the British Government Art Collection at the British ambassador’s residence in 2001 (before the attacks of 9/11) and first displayed in the White House while their cast was repaired. At some point the Government Art Collection’s cast returned to the British embassy, while the cast acquired in 1965 continued to sit outside the Oval Office. After 20 January 2017, the Washington Post reports, it moved inside, and was then, it seems, replaced by the British embassy’s cast, since the President-elect’s team had asked for another loan.

But what of the artist? Epstein was born in the Hester Street, New York City, the son of Jewish refuges from Augustów, Poland. He studied in Paris and then, in 1905 settled in London before becoming a British citizen, and soon earned a reputation as a sculptor. Artistic fame (and perhaps notoriety) came in 1908, with his carvings on Charles Holden’s British Medical Association in the Strand in London, boldly depicting nudity and pregnancy and challenging chaste public taste of the day: the Evening Standard suggested ‘no careful father’ would let his daughter view them. (In 1935, the Rhodesian High Commission took over the building and mutilated the statues, as the National Archives notes, an ‘ugly reminder of an unfortunate episode of artistic censorship/indifference’.) In 1918, his name appears in the Archive, in a telegram from his wife, Margaret Epstein, to Lady Randolph Churchill, asking, unsuccesfully, if the prime minister could ‘do anything’ to obtain him a position in which, as the Archive catalogue notes, ‘Epstein could use his talents for propaganda purposes’.

His star rose in from the late 1920s, and in 1937 he was chosen as the spokesperson for the London Group, which urged artists to refuse to cooperate with a Nazi attempt to organise an exhibition of British art in Berlin that excluded Jewish artists. During the Second World War he received commissions from the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, including likenesses of Ernet Bevin and, in 1945, Winston Churchill (this was arranged by Sir Kenneth Clark, who wrote that ‘I think he will do something good, and at any rate you will not have to go far to get to the studio’ — Churchill and Epstein were neighbours in Hyde Park Gate, London). Several casts were to be made. After some discussion, Churchill agreed to the commission, and recommended a ‘third bust to go the United States of America.’ [CHUR 1/17A-B, 16 Oct 1945].

Churchill, as the archive makes clear, was rather busy at the time , and was initially unable to make space in his diary for the sitting (‘I am about to leave for an extended visit to the United States’). The Keeper of Pictures at the Imperial War Museum pressed the issue on a couple of fronts, noting ‘if it is not completed fairly soon we shall be unable to pay for it during the present financial year and later on we shall probably not have the money for it.’ More, flatteringly, ‘we  hope to re-open some of the galleries of the Museum [which had been bombed] very shortly and we are very anxious, of course, to be able to include a bust of Mr. Churchill in the exhibition.’ [CHUR 1/17A-B]. Sittings resumed, with Epstein summoned to Chartwell. The bust was exhibited in 1947. You can view one of the casts on the Imperial War Museums site (the bust remains in copyright).

Epstein died of a heart attack in 1959. A memorandum in the Archive reads, ‘You have always has friendly relations with Sir Jacob Epstein, your neighbour. Do you wish to send his widow a telegram’ [CHUR 2/522A-B, f. 171, 22 Aug 1959].  On the top of the note is a Churchillian tick, and we can assume that something was sent: on 29 August, Kathleen, Lady Epstein, replied ‘Thankyou for the kind & sympathetic messsage your sent me when my husband died. He went like any artist would like to go. We drank a glass of wine together in good spirits, sang a few songs, then he took a last look around the studio & died.’

Further guidance on how to access the Churchill Archive is here. Many of Epstein’s papers can be viewed online at Tate Archives (n.b., he wasn’t particularly complimentary about Churchill’s skills as an artist). The saga of the bust, and its continuing use as propaganda, continues.

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