Emerging research on the First World War, with History Lab

Evening talks, Thursday 26 February, 6pm in the Seng Tee Lee Seminar Room, Senate House Library Senate House Library is very happy to welcome two members of History Lab, Jennifer Doyle and Kim Brice O’Donnell, to speak about their research on topics related to the First World War. History Lab is a network of postgraduate students working in history and related subjects, providing future historians with the opportunities to share and present their research. In addition to regular seminars, History Lab hosts an annual conference. Senate House Library is pleased to nab two members to continue our conversation about duty and dissent during the First World War, accompanying the library’s exhibition. Jennifer Doyle is a postgraduate student at King’s College London, where she researches the work of women on the home front and the creation of communities through the recipe pages of women’s magazines. Kim Brice O’Donnell is also a postgraduate student at King’s College London and her research focuses on the use of dogs by the British Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars. Senate House Library are very excited to hear about their research and would love to see you here at the library. You can book...

Magna Carta 1215–2015: England’s greatest export

The four surviving copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta will come together for the first time in history as part of a one-off event organised by the British Library to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the historic document. Julian Harrison, curator of medieval manuscripts at the British Library explains why it is important we should commemorate these medieval documents. If you’ve been keeping your ears to the ground, you may be aware that 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the granting of Magna Carta. Interest in the ‘Great Charter’ (the English translation of Magna Carta) is certainly on the rise. Already this year radio and television documentaries have been broadcast about Magna Carta, politicians of all parties have latched on to its principles, and controversy has raged over the new Royal Mint coin which shows the Great Charter being ‘signed’ in 1215. People sometimes question why we are commemorating Magna Carta this year. Is a medieval document, written in Latin, still relevant today? The simple answer is that Magna Carta has had widespread influence over the past 800 years, particularly in the English-speaking world. It has influenced politicians and campaigners worldwide, including Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, and certain of its values are echoed in later constitutional texts, such as the United States Bill of Rights (ratified in 1791) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Just three clauses of Magna Carta remain valid in English law, but the most significant and influential one, never repealed, is this: ‘No man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions,...

Creole music of the French West Indies receives novel investigation  

Black Caribbean musical traditions are rich in variety and the biguine, originating before emancipation, epitomises French Antillean Creole music. In this post Dr John Cowley, senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, discusses his essay ‘Mascarade, biguine and the bal nègre’, which traces the music from its origins in the French Antilles to the upsurge in the genre’s popularity in Paris as a result of the Exposition Coloniale in 1931. La Mascarade (en Françaises), the carnival held on the days immediately preceding Lent (Shrovetide) has been a communal focal point for centuries, especially in countries where the Roman Catholic creed predominates. In the French Antilles it became a pivot for the intersection and development of Creole African and European performance traditions that began during the brutal period of African bondage and blossomed after the abolition of enforced servitude in 1848. Elements of these developments are explored in ‘Mascarade, biguine and the bal negrè’ essay (printed in French and English) which features in the newly published Creole Music of the French West Indies, A Discography, 1900-1959. The book will be launched on 23 January at Senate House (details below). Focussing on the city of Saint-Pierre, which was destroyed in 1902 by a volcanic eruption that killed 30,000 people, the essay also examines African-Creole cultural practices that evolved in the course of celebrating the highly prominent carnival. By the end of the 19th century this festival was attracting many visitors from adjacent islands. Although arrested for several years by the annihilation of Saint-Pierre, Martinique’s musical and masquerade traditions have survived. In addition, similar customs existed in the French Antillean territories of...

What should be seen in a Library?

  Senate House recently hosted a multi-disciplinary conference exploring the role libraries have played in restricting access to published works and archival materials deemed ‘erotic’. In this post, research librarian Richard Espley reflects on the irreconcilable demands often placed on libraries. During the recent Forbidden Access conference organised by the Institute of English Studies, libraries were portrayed as repressive organisations, concealing erotic works. In other words, exercising censorship. Examples highlighted included the British Library’s Private Case, the enfer of France’s national collection where access is granted only after readers have negotiated a series of obstacles. At one time this was also true for Senate House Library’s Craig collection. It is true that the absence of publicly accessible catalogues, the refusal of reprographic permission and close observation of behaviour while reading and the compulsory interviews to establish readers’ intentions, all carry a tacit and discouraging accusation of the unseemly. However, while this is clearly a restriction on intellectual freedom, I want to suggest that it often represents a library’s pragmatic response to the irreconcilable demands placed upon it. And that the real confusion over how to define and handle the obscene, lies outside the shelves and the control of the librarian. Indeed, in such circumstances, attempting to collect these works at all, reflects a fundamental desire to preserve both the books and their discussion. A harrowing tale of sexual abuse rather than an erotic work As the University planned and completed its move to Bloomsbury, libraries had much to fear in their handling of obscene books. One notable case, from 1931, involved the librarian of a small public library in Manchester receiving...

‘For the Greater Glory of God and the More Universal Good’: a conference exhibition

Karen Attar (Senate House Library) For several years now Senate House Library has been supporting conferences hosted by SAS Institute’s wherever possible. Usually this is through small displays of books pertinent to the conference theme, to enhance the experience of conference delegates and demonstrate the relevance of library holdings – especially special collections holdings – for research. We are marking an exciting new departure with the conference organised by the Institute of English Studies and Heythrop College to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Foundation of  Heythrop College and of the Jesuit Educational Tradition. For one thing the display is much larger than usual conference displays, filling six display cases and being represented in the Senate House Library website’s exhibition gallery. For another the collaboration between Senate House Library and SAS has taken on an additional dimension with the exhibition being a joint one between Senate House Library, Heythrop College and the Warburg Institute. The books shown in the exhibition fall into five themes: Founding the Jesuits Anti-Jesuit Sentiment Jesuit theology Jesuit scholarship Jesuit creativity Missionary work crept in via the scholarship, with Guy Tachard’s Voyage de Siam des Peres Jesuites, Envoyés par le Roy, aux Indes & à la Chine (1687).  The greatest emphasis, however, is on Jesuit scholarship, appropriately so as scholarship and education have been at the heart of the Society of Jesus’s activities since its foundation in 1540 and are also at the core of University activity, and as the conference celebrates above all the Jesuit educational tradition. Books range from Irish history (by Edmund Campion) to mathematics (Christoph Clavius), architecture (Gaspar Schott), philosophy (the...

Looking for a rare book?

In a major piece of research facilitation, IES Associate Fellow Dr Karen Attar is editing the third edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for CILIP’s Rare Books and Special Collections Group. The previous edition (1997) – of which there are two copies in Senate House Library and one each in the libraries of the Warburg Institute (NMM 2000.D36 ), the Institute of Historical Research (B Ref.0/Rbg/1997), and IALS (Depository 41395)  – remains an indispensable reference work. In no other printed or electronic source for printed books can one look up collections across the British Isles for the answers to such questions as “Where do I find sixteenth-century French imprints / W.W. Skeat’s library / Victorian books about railways?”. While individual websites are the place to learn detailed background information about the collections of a given institution, the Directory informs researchers of what is available nationally and directs them to the libraries which are most relevant for their research needs. But the rare books scene has changed greatly since 1997, such that a new edition is well and truly due. In the seventeen years libraries which have passed since the last edition, libraries have amassed a multitude of collections covering a wide range of subjects. Senate House Library alone has in that time acquired among others a collection of some 1,850 titles printed between 1525 and 1917 illustrating western perceptions of Russia (the M.S. Anderson Collection); the poet Walter de la Mare’s working library and multiple editions and translations of his works and the Ron Heisler collection of about...

Pick of the Week: Launch of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in The Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change

This event marks the launch of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in The Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change, edited by Corinne Lennox and Matthew Waites. While human rights in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity are at last reaching the heart of global debates, 78 states worldwide continue to criminalise same-sex sexual behaviour. Due to the legal legacies of the British Empire, 42 of these – more than half – are in the Commonwealth of Nations. In recent years many Commonwealth states have seen the emergence of new sexual nationalisms, leading to increased enforcement of colonial sodomy laws against men, new criminalisations of sex between women and discrimination against transgender people. Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in The Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change challenges these developments and offers the most internationally extensive analysis to date of the global struggle for decriminalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour and relationships. Co-edited by Corinne Lennox (lecturer in human rights at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and associate director of the Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London) and Matthew Waites (senior lecturer in sociology at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow), the book provides the first quantitative analysis of legal change related to sexual orientation and gender identity across all of the Commonwealth’s 54 Member States. The volume includes 13 peer-reviewed chapters by academics and activists presenting analyses of struggles for decriminalisation and change in 16 national contexts covering all regions of the Commonwealth, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi,...

Refugee Week Series: Writing that kills

Post by Ms Andrea Meyer Ludowisy, as part of our Refugee Week series. The first post, about the Austrian-Jewish Exile Theatre in London, can be found here. The third post, about refugee protection mechanisms, can be found here. Andrea is the Research Librarian at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. Her post gives an insight into the history of the School of Advanced Study’s Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies and its connection to Exile Studies. World War II Refugees “The key question, in fact, is this: how can we become beasts, beasts in such a sense that the fascists will fear for their domination? A beast is something strong, terrible, devastating; the word emits a barbarous sound. But who believes you can fight barbarism by playing at angels? But we must use murderous weapons, or else the plague will continue until the end of our time. How can we writers achieve a writing that kills?” (Bertolt Brecht, The Intellectual Beast Is Dangerous) Already in 1933, the number of intellectuals, writers and poets who fled the Nazi dictatorship rose into the thousands. The Reichstag on fire, and the ensuing wave of terror gave the exodus signal for Germany’s progressive intelligentsia. They found themselves abruptly thrown onto the path of exile while their books were burned, their homes looted and their friends and families lynched. Not all left Germany to save their lives, some deliberately chose exile as they refused to become complicit, if only by their own silence, and no longer recognized their own country in the laws that legalized terror and sadism. “From a people of poets and thinkers (Dichter und...