Lee Kuan Yew as Commonwealth statesman

By Dr Ruth Craggs, lecturer in human geography, King’s College London. Politicians and diplomats from around the world have begun to offer tributes this week as it was announced that Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew died on Monday, 23 March 2015. Lee led the People’s Action Party from 1959 and governed Singapore for three decades, overseeing independence from Britain as part of the Federation of Malaya in 1963 and then Singapore’s split from the Federation to become an independent city-state in 1965. Lee was known for masterminding Singapore’s impressive economic growth, and sometimes criticised for the tight political and social control he exerted domestically. In the same year that Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaya, the new island country joined the Commonwealth. An Evening Standard report on the 1965 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting commented that, ‘The man who seemed to have created the biggest impression…is Singapore’s Mr Lee Kuan Yew. His quick brain makes him a match for Mr [Harold] Wilson any day.’ (Cited in Josey, 2013: 337) Lee was one of a generation of independence leaders who dominated the Commonwealth from the 1960s into the 1980s and early 1990s. Alongside others such as Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Lee was regarded as one of the organisation’s ‘giants’ and was a regular presence at Commonwealth summits over several decades. In 1971, Lee’s Singapore hosted the first regular Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held outside of London. This conference was symbolic of how the Commonwealth was changing as an institution, moving from a UK-centric organisation to a post-colonial, multipolar association....

Propaganda bestsellers: the role of paperbacks in the Second World War

In anticipation of the 2015 London Rare Book School, this blog post by Dr Henry Irving examines the idea behind the Ministry of Information’s Official War Books series. What gives a book popular appeal? This question was raised repeatedly in the Ministry of Information’s Publications Division during 1941. The way that it was answered led to the creation of a ‘new kind of book’ and resulted in sales numbering in the tens of millions. By the end of the war, Ministry books were an established part of the country’s reading, yet this chapter in British publishing history remains little known.  The Ministry’s internal discussion over popularity began with the publication of a book which proved to be its most successful. The Battle of Britain, written by the popular author Hilary Saunders, was revised by the Ministry after it became a surprise best-seller in March 1941. The Ministry-edition boasted an illustrated cover, eye-catching diagrams and action photographs. It sold 4.8 million copies in Britain in the six months following its release. The Battle of Britain’s success was followed by that of Bomber Command. This paperback was based on interviews with returning aircrews and promised to tell the story of a battle unlike any ‘fought before in the history of mankind’. Published just after the release of the Ministry of Information’s acclaimed documentary film ‘Target for Tonight’, it quickly sold 1.25 million copies. Robert Fraser (the head of the publications division) believed that figure would have been far higher ‘if only the copies could have been physically produced’. These successes led to questions because Fraser understood that ‘the book is not an easy...

Rethinking the Senses (Public Engagement Case Study – Dr Merle Fairhurst)

To mark the launch of our call for applications for the first SAS/Senate House Library ‘Public Engagement Innovators Scheme’, we asked some staff from across the School about their experiences of public engagement and how it has influenced their research and professional practice. In this second post Dr Merle Fairhurst, research fellow in the Institute of Philosophy, answers our questions about her experiences engaging the public with research on the AHRC Rethinking the Senses project. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and the research that you do/your role in SAS? As a research fellow on the AHRC Rethinking the Senses project at the Centre for the Study of the Senses (Institute of Philosophy), my central function is to use psychological and neuroimaging techniques to explore how we perceive the world through our various senses. I am particularly interested in the ways different streams of sensory information – say the sight and sound associated with someone speaking to you – are combined to create a unified experience. My work is complemented by dialogue and interaction with philosophers as we work together to investigate the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of multi-sensory perception. What public engagement activities have you been involved with in the School? The AHRC grant offers the chance and indeed promotes the sharing of our work with the general public and as such, we are always grateful for an opportunity to tell people about how our senses work together as well as highlight the philosophical relevance of empirical research. Our recent events have included talks in various venues, with two very exciting sessions as part of...

Magna Carta: the international symbol of freedom

By Danny Millum Magna Carta has inspired some of today’s fundamental liberties, yet it began life 800 years ago as a practical solution to a political crisis. It has since evolved to become an international symbol of freedom, and with the creation of the largest exhibition ever staged about this celebrated document, we now have an opportunity to uncover the story of how its power has been used – and abused – from its genesis through to today’s popular culture. Due to open this month (13 March–1 September 2015), the British Library’s Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, is part of a series of events to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the granting of the Magna Carta, one of the world’s most famous documents. Already, the British Library, Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral have made history by bringing the four original surviving Magna Carta manuscripts together in one place, for the first time. At a special screening on 3 February, the manuscripts were viewed by 1,215 people who won the chance to attend the event after entering a public ballot launched last year. They were followed the next day by a group of world-leading Magna Carta academics who have been studying several hundred other King John charters during the course of a three-year research project. Examining the four manuscripts in context of these other charters, they studied them side by side, scrutinising the handwriting of each of the scribes and considering the evidence of the ownership of the documents throughout its 800 year existence. The manuscripts have now been returned to their home institutions, and each will be putting on a...

How information flows: a question for law and the humanities

  The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) is launching a new Centre for Law and Information Policy (CLIP), to extend its research into data law and policy. In this post its director Judith Townend, introduces the Centre and outlines some of its aims. Tied up in green ribbon, the colour of the House of Commons, a government bill is physically and ceremoniously carried to the House of Lords, for the next stage in its development. The Clerk of the House bows gravely to his opposite number in the Lords and hands the stack of paper over, with its Norman French inscription marking its authenticity (a 700-year-old tradition). This was one of the anachronistic scenes in part one of the new BBC 2 documentary ‘Inside the Commons’, a co-production between the BBC and the Open University, which raises the question of ‘how the old should live with the new’. In the programme Sir Robert Rogers, the recently retired Clerk of the House of Commons, points out that at the same time he’s handing the printed sheets over to his counterpart, the text of the bill is ‘on the shared drive between the two public bill offices, using some of the most advanced tech handling software in the world’. It’s a neat illustration of information flows, old and new: for Sir Robert, the handover tradition is ‘picturesque’, although he clearly values the benefit of ‘cutting-edge’ technology and has earlier described his mission to cut down the Commons paper-mountain.  Communication and information systems in Parliament and the Courts provide an extreme example of the juxtaposition between centuries-old systems for handling information...

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,...
The Naukratis Project

The Naukratis Project

  One of the most important activities of any SAS Institute is to promote and encourage cutting-edge research and to ensure that the results of projects are given the widest possible circulation among the whole research community and to a wider audience. The Naukratis Project is one example of how the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS) uses its limited funding to do just this. Given in May 2014 by Naukratis Project members at the British Museum, led by Alexandra Villing, a curator in its Department of Greece and Rome, this lecture was highly successful. It highlighted the Institute’s important work in publicising new research and fostering debate with implications for many different humanities topics. The Institute is collaborating with the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy to support this international and interdisciplinary project, which involves some 70 institutions worldwide with contributions from ICS researchers. Naukratis is a famous archaeological site in the Nile Delta, which was excavated repeatedly in the 19th and 20th centuries, most famously by Sir Flinders Petrie who rediscovered the site in 1884. Founded in the seventh century BCE and still active into the seventh century CE, the city was an important trading port, having documented connections with 12 different Greek cities, here involved in a unique economic venture on Egyptian soil. Classical scholars have traditionally viewed the site as essentially Greek, in effect a Greek colonial settlement founded, occupied and sustained by Greek traders and settlers, perhaps even against initial Egyptian resistance. The Naukratis Project aims to reassess this conception critically, combining the work of Classical and Egyptological historians, archaeologists and scientists. At its core is the online publication that, in the virtual space of the internet, reassembles some 20,000 finds from these earlier excavations, distributed today between some 60 museums worldwide, where they have remained largely unstudied and unpublished....