Category Archives: 20th century

New Archive of the Conservative Party releases for 2023

Each January the Archive of the Conservative Party releases files previously closed under the 30-year rule. The majority of newly-available files this year include research, correspondence, briefs and reports created in the lead-up to the 1992 General Election. It has been just over thirty years since John Major’s somewhat surprising election victory, allowing us to open up files offering a unique insight into the behind the scenes work contributing to this win. These include subject files and briefs prepared by Conservative Research Department, campaign documents created by Conservative Central Office, and reports collected by the Public Opinion Research Department, each with significant historical value. Additional newly-released material this year includes Conservative Research Department letter books, files created by the Conservative Overseas Bureau/International Office, and papers and correspondence of Conservatives in the European Parliament.

This blog post will explore a number of highlights of the newly-released material, specifically focussing on files relating to the 1992 General Election. A full list of the newly de-restricted items is linked at the end of the post.

General Election Warbook, Mar 1992

The Conservative Party’s Organisation Department, the largest component of Conservative Central Office, underwent a significant number of structural and organisational changes throughout its lifetime, becoming known as the Campaigning Department from 1989. The Department oversaw campaigning, training, community affairs, and local government, many of their records therefore offering an insight into election planning. Being released this year is a final draft copy of Conservative Central Office’s General Election ‘Warbook’, a document prepared for John Major outlining campaign plans for the election (see file CCO 500/24/309/2). The purpose of the document, as stated in its introduction, ‘is to outline the political scenario in which the next Election will be fought and to provide the detailed guidelines and direction within which a successful campaign can be waged.’ The document is divided into sections on the ‘battleground’ and the ‘campaign’, covering issues such as target groups and floating voters, election timing, and the role of the Prime Minister in the campaign.

Below is an example of a couple of pages from the battleground section of the document, highlighting some of the key political issues of the time in the UK. Inevitably, the economy comes first. The country was still in the midst of a recession that had begun under Thatcher’s leadership, with high unemployment a particular worry. Throughout these pages there is a clear focus on ‘psychological’ impacts of certain issues, including the ‘psychological turning point’ of inflation in the UK falling below that of Germany, and the ‘psychological 2.5 million barrier’ in unemployment figures. It is evident that this election campaign was highly focussed on the way the general public perceived economic changes. Further issues explored in later pages include the NHS, Europe, crime and education.

General Election Warbook: Economic Issues, Mar 1992 – CPA CCO 500/24/309/2.

A later section of the document focusses on target groups and communications during the campaign. It highlights the importance of media in reaching target audiences, stating ‘the objective must be to saturate the media with the Party’s campaign. If the Party reaches the media then the Party’s target groups among the electorate will also be reached.’ Some of these target groups, those typically considered floating voters or who current messaging was failing to reach, included the 30-45 age group, and upper working-class men. The importance of John Major as Party Leader is also discussed here, the document emphasising that ‘the Election Campaign will be more presidential in its style and manner than hitherto experienced.’

General Election Warbook: Target Groups and Communications, Mar 1992 – CPA CCO 500/24/309/2.

Inside Conservative Research Department, Mar-Apr 1992

Conservative Research Department also played a fundamental role in preparations for the election, acting as an essential source of facts and figures for key party members and MPs during the campaign. During the build-up to the 1992 General Election, David Cameron was Head of the Political Section of the Research Department, playing an integral role in these preparations. Amongst the new releases for this year are a couple of his letter books, as well as letters and briefs created by him amongst the letter books of desk officers who worked under his leadership.

The memoranda pictured below, sent out by Cameron in successive days in the week before Labour released their Shadow Budget, illustrate the inner workings of the Research Department at this time. Cameron stresses the importance of making sure ‘we destroy, comprehensively, Labour’s Shadow Budget on Tuesday’, highlighting the need to find any ‘technical slip ups’ and to brief selected journalists with specific topics and questions that might be particularly harmful to the opposition. This period was obviously one of the busiest for those employed in this department, with specific focus on anticipating the moves and policies of other parties in order to effectively tackle them.

David Cameron Letter Book: Political Section (General Election briefing material), Mar 1992 – CPA CRD/L/5/6/14.

The same letter book also contains a document looking back on the work of Conservative Research Department during the campaign. In addition to leading the Political Section of the Research Department, Cameron was responsible for briefing John Major for his press conferences throughout the election campaign, contributing to the very early mornings demonstrated by this timetable. This was perhaps too much to take on, as he reflects: ‘It was a mistake for the job of briefing the Prime Minster to be given to the Head of the Political Section. I should have concentrated solely on monitoring and responding to the statements and activities of the Labour and Liberal parties. It was quite difficult to combine both jobs and do them properly.’ Other reflections include the fact that the Economic Section were ‘persistent offenders’ in being late to submit briefs, and that opposition monitoring had been a particularly successful aspect of the campaign.

David Cameron Letter Book: Political Section (General Election briefing material), Apr 1992 – CPA CRD/L/5/6/14.

Defence, 1990-1992

The issue of defence was an area in which the Conservative Party particularly sought to distance their policies from those of their opposition, emphasising their approach as the only one able to keep the country safe. A newly-released subject file on defence (COB 8/5/2 Folder 5) contains briefings and memoranda relating to the Saatchi and Saatchi Party Election Broadcast on defence. The file demonstrates the gradual process involved in creating such broadcasts, with various annotated drafts illustrating how phrasing and structure was altered. The image below shows Guy Rowlands, Conservative Research Department defence desk officer, emphasising the need to remove the naming of the Ayatollahs as ‘villains’, as this inclusion was ‘just too sensitive and would spark problems’.

Party Election Broadcast on defence: planning, Feb 1992 – CPA COB 8/5/2 (Folder 5).

This file also contains papers relating to a plan of ‘teasing out some damaging nuggets from the Labour hierarchy by way of inspired correspondence.’ The plan involved finding members of the public, identified by constituency agents, willing to send letters to opposition MPs such as John Prescott, Gerald Kaufman and Joan Ruddock, to help the Party learn more about Labour’s defence policy and even encourage admissions such as ‘their life-long support for CND’, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In a letter to the Oldham West Conservative Association, Rowlands offers recommendations for such correspondence, suggesting ‘perhaps the letter-writer could pretend to be full of concern for nuclear proliferation and argue that the world needs organisations like CND more than ever before…!’ This was certainly an interesting tactic but may well have contributed in some small way to the Party’s election victory.

‘The Quest for Labour’s Defence Policy’, Feb 1992 – CPA COB 8/5/2 (Folder 5).

All the material featured in this blog post will be made available from 3 Jan 2023. The full list of de-restricted items can be accessed here: Files de-restricted on 2023-01-03

An Interpreter’s Gift: Tokens of Sino-British Friendships in the First World War

Among recent donations to the Bodleian Library is a stunning lace edged silk cushion cover, now part of the Weston Library Special Collections under shelf mark MS.Chin.a.25. Delicately embroidered with floral patterns and measuring about two feet long and wide, the piece features a calligraphed dedication in Chinese and, at its centre, a watercolour painting reading “Memories from Péronne” in French.

Bodleian Libraries, MS. Chin a.25

Bodleian Libraries, MS. Chin a.25

It is no coincidence that the name of Péronne should immediately evoke the history of the First World War through its association with the Battle of the Somme. Pictured above (Figure 1), the cushion cover was gifted during the war by Zhang Jiantang, a Chinese interpreter and medical dresser enrolled in the Chinese Labour Corps, to Frederick Jones (1890-1975), Serjeant Shoemaker serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) in France.

In recent years, historians of China and Europe have shed increasing light on the long-forgotten role of an estimated 140,000 Chinese men who were sent to Europe to perform manual and support labour between 1916 and 1920. As the French and British governments were being faced with hefty war casualties and acute manpower shortages, they negotiated agreements to recruit Chinese labourers, who then became enlisted as part of the colonial troops administered by the French Ministry of War, or as part of the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC) under the British Expeditionary Forces. These men performed a variety of tasks including factory, agricultural, building, and demining work, before being sent back to China around 1918-1920. Among them, an estimated four to five hundred were formally enrolled as interpreters, with many more who, through linguistic skills acquired at various stages of their lives, performed translation and interpreting duties on top of other tasks.

Among the latter was Zhang Jiantang, who signed as “dresser and translator at the Chinese hospital in France” on the cushion cover that he presented to Frederick Jones. The embroidered piece was a gift for Serjeant Jones to bring back to his wife, Annie Lydia Durbin, whom he had married in January 1916 during a short permission home to Fulham, London. The inscription in Chinese reads as a powerful testament to the deep friendship that developed between the two men, despite them having known each other for a mere two months, and despite the “far-reaching racial and linguistic differences” which should have separated them.

Wedding picture of Frederick Jones and Annie Lydia Durbin, January 1916. Private family collection, courtesy of Ms. Iris Jones.

Wedding picture of Frederick Jones and Annie Lydia Durbin, January 1916. Private family collection, courtesy of Ms. Iris Jones.

In all likelihood, the mention of “Chinese Hospital” on the dedication should point towards the two men having met at the No. 3 Native Labour General Hospital in Noyelles-sur-Mer, which was set up in April 1917 as the “Chinese Hospital” before being renamed as part of a larger system of native labour hospitals for colonial workers. The Noyelles hospital was by far the largest on the Western Front employing and treating Chinese labourers. However, several other medical institutions did employ Chinese personnel, and records show that Chinese medical assistants were often transferred from Noyelles to other institutions when practical needs arose. In particular, the N°7 Native Labour Hospital in Le Havre did employ a sizeable number of Chinese workers, as well as a Serjeant Jones from RAMC who reported for duty in August 1918 from the neighbouring 52nd stationary hospital.

Hospitals, of course, have been described as a key site which both affirmed and questioned colonial and racist hierarchies during the First World War, as well as perhaps one of its most intimate places of encounter (Maguire 2021). Despite the segregation in place and despite frequent descriptions of Chinese medical staff as “lacking knowledge and discipline” in various war diaries of field hospitals, the amount of care, work, and language skills that went into the creation of such a gift in wartime keep reminding us of the importance of looking beyond Eurocentric administrative archives for writing deeply textured, human sized histories of the First World War.

While the exact geographic origin of the cushion cover cannot be pinpointed yet, working alongside Chinese medical workers undoubtedly left a deep impression on the RAMC Serjeant. His daughter, who turned a hundred and one years old this year, still remembers vividly the deep impression that Chinese stretcher-bearers left on her father, and the soothing words in Mandarin that he picked up from them – words that still soothe her to this day.

Coraline Jortay
Laming Junior Research Fellow
The Queen’s College

Our grateful thanks go to Ms. Iris Jones, Frederick Jones’ daughter, for this wonderful gift to the library.

Sources:
Oral history interview conducted by Dr. Coraline Jortay (Laming Junior Research Fellow, The Queen’s College) with Ms. Iris Jones on 9th October 2022; Jones family papers; UK National Archives WO 95/4115 and WO 372/11.

Further readings on the history of Chinese labourers in the First World War:
Chen San-ching, Huagong yu ouzhan, Taipei: Academia Sinica, 1986.
Dendooven, Dominiek. Asia in Flanders Fields. A Transnational History of Indians and Chinese on the Western Front, 1914-1920. University of Kent, 2018.
James, Gregory. The Chinese Labour Corps:(1916-1920). Hong Kong: Bayview, 2013.
Li Ma. (eds.). Les Travailleurs chinois en France dans la Première Guerre mondiale. Paris: CNRS, 2012.
Xu, Guoqi. Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese Workers in the Great War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Further readings on the colonial politics of WWI Hospitals:
Buxton, Hilary ‘Imperial Amnesia: Race, Trauma and Indian Troops in the First World War’, Past & Present, 241 (2018).
Hyson, Samuel and Lester, Alan ‘“British India on Trial”: Brighton Military Hospitals and the Politics of Empire in World War I’, Journal of Historical Geography, 38, 1 (2012).
Anna Maguire, ed., ‘On the Wards: Hospitals and Encounters’, in Contact Zones of the First World War: Cultural Encounters across the British Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021, 153–76.

A folio-sized “book” in a teal felt-lined box; the cover is in brown leather with darker brown leather borders, with an ornate gilt eagle within a decorative border in the centre and gold-coloured “furniture” in the corners.

Fancy things: Cataloguing the Tercentennial Collection

What do you get a library for its birthday? Especially if it’s a big birthday?

An unusual question, perhaps, but one which was faced by institutions in both Europe and North America when the University of Oxford announced that there would be a celebration of the Bodleian Library’s 300th Anniversary in 1902.

The answer, as evidenced by the Tercentennial Collection, was fancy things…

A folio-sized “book” in a teal felt-lined box; the cover is in brown leather with darker brown leather borders, with an ornate gilt eagle within a decorative border in the centre and gold-coloured “furniture” in the corners.

Tercent. b.5, which was sent by the governing body of the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen

As part of an ongoing project by the Rare Books team, my colleagues and I have been upgrading the records of collections which will be moved to offsite storage.

These are all items which have been in the library for some time, and most of them are on what we call Pre-1920 records, which were very minimal and transcribed from index cards. My remit is to deal with “recent” books which, in the context of collections that go back to the 15th century, means anything published after about 1850.

The Tercentennial collection had been sitting quietly in a corner of the bookstack ever since it was moved back in when the Weston Library first opened. Largely on records which described it as “[Miscellaneous papers relating to the tercentenary of the Bodleian library, 1902]” there was nothing on the catalogue to suggest the actual content, which was quite unusual.

There were boxes, in some cases very elaborate boxes, which contained salutations in a number of languages from institutions across Europe, often in very fancy bindings (pictured above Tercent. b.5, which was sent by the governing body of the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen) and also quite often printed on parchment, with wax seals and signatures from the various senior members of the institutions.

Some institutions, perhaps deciding that flat parchment was less interesting, sent scrolls, which make up the Tercentenary Rolls collection.

a blue library trolley with flat wooden shelves containing a collection of telescopic tubes and one square box. The tubes are mostly red and blue leather, with one of brass and another of cardboard. The box for the image above is furthest to the left of the tubes on the top shelf.

Scrolls making up the Tercentenary Rolls collection

This one, Tercentenary Rolls 9, came from the Universität Göttingen, and is the only one which is presented as a box, rather than a telescopic tube:

A roll of paper within a long, tube-shaped box which is covered with brown leather and lined with gold-coloured silk. The box has brass fasteners which are visible on both sides.]

Tercentenary Rolls 9

Aside from the interest of the lengths people went to to present their letters, including a lot of crushed velvet and gold, the textual content of these items is fairly similar: wordy congratulations on the anniversary of the library in a range of languages, and if this were all that the collection held it would be fairly boring. What makes this an interesting snapshot of the library’s history are the scrapbooks.

Tercent. b.9 is a collection of papers relating to the celebrations which was compiled by Falconer Madan, an assistant librarian at the time. It is a comprehensive record of the activities of the University, beginning with a letter dated 1 March 1901, proposing a committee to arrange events for the Tercentenary celebration. In chronological order, the scrapbook contains reports of the committee, announcements from the Curators confirming that the celebrations would take place, and then an official announcement of the celebration, in English and Latin.

Madan was extremely thorough in his collecting and this scrapbook contains a wealth of ephemera including proofs of invitations, lists of the guests who were coming and the people who would be hosting them, copies of a “Lady’s ticket” to the reception (most of the guests being men, of course), plans of the Ashmolean, where the reception was to take place, and seating plans and menus for the dinner in the Hall in Christ Church, which was held on October 9th, 1902.

The scrapbook concludes with press cuttings about the celebration from a wealth of British and foreign newspapers and journals.

Another scrapbook, Tercent. c.5, holds similar material; both now have extensive content notes in the catalogue records, listing everything.

A published work, Pietas Oxoniensis was also produced by the Oxford University Press, and there is evidence in the Tercentennial collection of the painstaking work which went into it. There are several versions of the book in the collection; Tercent. c.6-c.12 are different iterations including proofs which were sent by the Press to the Librarian, Edward Nicholson, who annotated them in his distinctive spidery handwriting in bright red ink.

This example, Tercent. c.6, also shows a few annotations by Madan in black ink. A copy of the finished book can be found at Tercent. c.13.

Two pages of a folio-sized book, printed with a list of the librarians of the Bodleian Library. The text has been heavily annotated in red in the hand of Edward Nicholson, with a few annotations in black ink, and two blue-ink stamps of the Oxford University Press top and bottom

Tercent. c.6

This collection of disparate not-books represents a snapshot of a particular event in the history of the library and is all the more valuable for that. If it had not been for the diligence of the librarians at the time, these items might have been separated into different collections, or lost entirely.

Someone – presumably Falconer Madan – had the foresight to collect all the materials and gifts together, and it is our good fortune that they have been largely undisturbed for the last 120 years.

Everything has now been boxed and sent offsite (with the exception of Tercent. Rolls 11, which is printed on very friable paper and is awaiting repair), from where they can be ordered to the Weston Library by anyone who is interested.

This year marks 420 years since the opening of the library, and, while there will be no big celebrations (or fancy scrolls) to mark that birthday, it seems fitting that the celebrations of 1902 are now recorded in a way that makes them more accessible.

Katie Guest
Senior Library Assistant
Rare Books,

New: Catalogue of the archive of Peter Landin (1930-2009) computer scientist, academic and gay rights campaigner

The catalogue of the Archive of Peter Landin (1939-2009) computer scientist, academic and gay rights campaigner, is now online.

Landin’s early career was industry based; in 1960 he became the sole employee of  Christopher Strachey who was then working as an independent computing consultant. As Strachey’s research assistant, he was also encouraged to pursue his autonomous research interests alongside writing a compiler to translate the early programming language ‘autocode’ into the machine language of Ferranti’s new Orion machine. Landin’s radical approach was never finished, but underpins compiler writing to this day. He researched and published prolifically on formalising the semantics of language. His career and contribution to advancing programming languages and computer science in general was incredibly pioneering – encompassed by both industry and academic positions in the United States of America, returning to England to hold the position of Emeritus Professor of Queen Mary University of London (formerly known as QMC) and teaching hundreds of students, and publishing a formal description of ALGOL 60 programming language for the International Federation for Information Processing. His abstract thinking and constant discoveries mean that Landin is celebrated as a pioneering computer scientist today.

Early in his vocation Landin also lectured at the 1963 Oxford Computing Laboratory summer school on advances in programming and non-numerical analysis. He spoke on lambda calculus and applicative expressions, which he would later publish papers on. The names on the timetable below read as a ‘Who’s who’ of key figures in the computer programming sphere at the time.

Early version of timetable for the Oxford Computing Laboratory summer school in advances in programming and non-numerical analysis, 1963. Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 147. Rightsholder: University of Oxford

Particularly in the series of work papers, drafts and published works and correspondence, Landin’s conscientious and creatively chaotic work ethic is evident. However, computing was never his entire life [1].  As Landin aged, he became less enthused by computer science, particularly disillusioned at its misuse by large corporations and what he saw as the ‘surveillance state’.  This fed into his lifelong disenchantment with bureaucracy, hierarchy and the running of large organisations in general, which is particularly evident in notes, reflections and social aphorisms of Landin, as well as some personal correspondence. In the series of activism and social-political notes, 1961-2003, some papers are testament to his personal life which he kept fairly private. From early 1970s he was involved in facilitating campaigns for the newly founded UK branch of the Gay Liberation Front [GLF] and other social justice causes. Some of the issues we see Landin concerned with in his private notes include:

  • Nuclear free zones and disarmament [2]
  • ‘The Impossibility of getting a campaign going’ [3] and ‘notes for the unaffiliated campaigner’ [4] (This is interesting because  Landin’s involvement in grassroots organisations with a deliberate lack of structure such as the GLF and Bertrand Russell’s Committee of 100, corroborates he disagreed with bureaucracy, hierarchy and administration of organisations in general.)
  • social change and social demonstrations [5] (some of these notes are made on the reverse of a ‘Whose Camden’ poster and GLF poster.)
  • ‘socialists with Rolls Royces’ [6] and the Road crossers [RLF?] Piccadilly Circus ‘The Car Stops Here’ campaign, c.1972 [7] (Landin never owned a car)
  • ‘rights – individual and the collective’ [8]
  • ‘Social values’, including  a circular from Oxford Gay Action Group [9]

Even those colleague and friends closest to him were not fully privy to the entirety of Landin’s personal campaigning life, although correspondence with fellow computer scientist Rod Burstall does shed light on discussions about balancing social activism with work [10]. Other correspondents include:

  • Robert ‘Bob’ Mellor, one of the founders of the GLF [11]
  • Ted Honderich, philosopher [12]
  • Dana Scott, logician [13]
  • Mervyn Pragnell, [14] whose informal underground logic seminars Landin was invited to, c.1960.

However little these two ‘lives’ crossed over, Landin’s archive attests to his constant evolution of teaching and communicating computer science throughout the 1960s to the early 2000s, alongside his interests and involvement in activism, facilitating social change and politics.

Kelly Burchmore

References:

  1.  Bornat, R. ‘Peter Landin: a computer scientist who inspired a generation, 5th June 1930-3rd June 2009. Formal Aspects of Computing, Springer Verlag, 2009, 21 (5), pp.393-395.
  2.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 17
  3.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 18, folder 2
  4.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 20, folder 3
  5.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 18, folder 2
  6.  Ibid.
  7.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 22, folder 1
  8.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 20, folder 1
  9.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 22, folder 2
  10.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 46
  11.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 69 (=Closed)
  12.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 69
  13.  Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 69
  14. Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Landin 45

 

 

The Roger Bannister catalogue is now online

The official race card for the 6 May 1954 athletics meeting at Iffley Road Athletic Ground featuring the world record mile race, signed by Bannister, Chataway and Brasher

The official race card for the 6 May 1954 athletics meeting that featured the world record mile race, signed by Bannister, Chataway and Brasher, who are all listed as members of Achilles, the club for current and former members of the Oxford University Athletic Club

You can now find the catalogue of the archive of athlete, neurologist, and Master of Pembroke College, Sir Roger Bannister (1929-2018) online at Bodleian Archives and Mansucripts.

A talented middle-distance runner from childhood, Bannister came to the University of Oxford in 1946 to study medicine. He served as president of the Oxford University Athletic Club where one of his achievements was to redevelop and resurface Oxford’s Iffley Road athletics track, where he later won a world record. In 1949 in the European Championships, which was his first international event, Bannister won bronze for Great Britain in the 800m final. By 1951 he was ranked first in the world over the mile. In 1952, Bannister concentrated all his efforts on the Olympics in Helsinki, but even though he was considered a favourite, he finished a crushing fourth.

This blow left him on the verge of retiring from athletics, but instead he decided on a new goal: being the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. The world record was 4:01.3 but two other men were drawing close to it: Australia’s John Landy, and America’s Wes Santee, who both ran 4:02 minute miles in 1952 and 1953.

On 6 May 1954, at a meeting between Oxford University and the Amateur Athletic Association at Oxford University’s Iffley Road track, Bannister and his pacemakers Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway (then a student at  Magdalen) were in the AAA team, and lined up at the starting line. There was a false start: by Chris Brasher. The wind had been swirling all day and the decision to run had been touch or go until the wind suddenly dropped, just before the race. In his memoir Twin Tracks, Bannister remembers how angry he was at this delay, afraid that they might be about to lose the lull in the wind.  The starter’s gun went off again.

At first Brasher held the lead, pacing Bannister for just over two laps, and then Chataway took over. With over 200 yards to go, Bannister turned on his famous finishing kick and accelerated into the lead with the Oxford crowd screaming in the stands.

He crossed the line at 3:59.4, not only breaking the world record but running the first ever sub-four minute mile.

Instantly internationally famous, Bannister was sent by the Foreign Office on a tour of America, while also finding time that spring to qualify as a doctor, but 46 days later his world record was broken by rival John Landy. In August 1954, the Landy and Bannister met in one of the most anticipated races of the twentieth century at the British Empire [Commonwealth] Games in Vancouver. The ‘Miracle Mile’ put Bannister’s finishing kick on full display. Landy, who was in the lead, made a famous mistake when he turned nervously to look for Bannister over his left shoulder, only for Bannister to overtake him immediately on the right. Bannister beat his own record with a time of 3:58.8 but Landy retained the world record.

Roger Bannister retired from athletics that year to concentrate on his medical career. He practiced clinical medicine as a neurologist at both St Mary’s Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London and did his national service with the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1957-1959, which included writing a life-saving report on preventing heat illness. His research interests were in the autonomic nervous system, with a particular interest in the neurological control of breathing, on orthostatic hypotension (a failure to regulate blood pressure) and on multisystem atrophy. From 1982 he was the first chairman of a body he largely inspired, the Clinical Autonomic Research Society. Also in 1982, he published the first textbook on the autonomic nervous system, Autonomic Failure.

From 1971-1974 Bannister served as the first chairman of the Sports Council (now called Sport England) and was knighted for this in 1975. He oversaw an increase in central and local government funding of sports facilities and he also introduced the first testing for anabolic steroids. He was subsequently appointed the president of the International Council for Sport and Physical Recreation (ICSPR). Between 1985 and 1993, he returned to Oxford to serve as Master of Pembroke College.

Roger Bannister published two autobiographies, The First Four Minutes (1955) about the four-minute mile, and Twin Tracks (2014) about his dual careers in athletics and medicine.

The archive includes correspondence and papers about the four minute mile, including training schedules and many congratulations letters and requests for appearances and advice. It also includes correspondence relating to his working career as a doctor, head of the Sports Council, and Master of Pembroke, as well as an extensive range of photographs covering his athletic career and public appearances.

African Poetry Project: an intern’s view

What do we mean when we say ‘African poetry’? Do we mean poetry by an African writer? But who counts as an African writer? A poet born in Africa? A poet living in Africa at the time of writing? And what does ‘poetry’ mean here? Are we referring to traditional verse forms like sonnets, villanelles, quintets, with regular metre and rhythm, printed in verse collections or neatly typewritten in English? What would happen if we broaden our definitions, if we recognize the various types of communication, broadcast, and preservation of traditions and how they may inform how poetry is carried in different cultures? What if we were open to these forms? These are the questions which I have been helping to answer over the past few weeks during my internship in the Bodleian Library’s Archives and Modern Manuscripts department. By using broader defining terms and broader answers to these questions, we can dive back into the archives to find new sources of African poetry which may have been buried.

This project is associated with the African Poetry Digital Portal, an initiative of the African Poetry Book Fund. The Fund promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa. The Portal is a new and evolving resource for the study of the history of African Poetry and will provide access to biographical information, artefacts, news, video recording, images and documents related to African poetry from antiquity to the present. It will also feature specially curated digital projects on various aspects of African poetry. The first two sections of the portal—‘The Index of Contemporary African Poets’ and ‘The African Poets and Poetry in the News’ have been developed with the support of the Ford Foundation and the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

The Bodleian Library is one of the collaborating institutions working on the project. When I said ‘dive back into the archive’, the archives of most interest to us are the collections of records relating to Africa, many of which were created during the colonial era. While the collections under consideration also include those more commonly associated with ‘African poetry’, such as the protest songs and poems in the Archive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, this is what the project is designed to do – to recover the occluded and the lost voices, of which there are many in the collections.

Guided by the APDP’s brief, I began by creating a list of search terms. The project’s definition of an ‘African’ with regards to poetry is: “The poet must be African, which we define as someone who was born in an African country, is a citizen of an African country, or has at least one parent who is/was an African.” Their definition of poetry is a broad one, and too extensive to quote here, but to give a hint of what it entails, my list of search terms ended up including, without being limited to:

poetry, proverb, saying, aphorism, motto, epigram, verse, rhyme, ballad, song, incantation, folk, folklore, custom, history, fable, art, runes, oral, chorus, vernacular, oath, tradition…

With this list of terms, I first tackled the online catalogue, Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts. There were limited results here and the outlook seemed bleak. But then I began to gingerly approach a selection of scanned and OCR’d handlists, each of which gives an outline of what each collection includes. Ctrl + F is your friend here. And a good playlist. It was slow progress, and the names are enough to make one doubt: Lord Scarborough. Sir Mark Wilson. Humphrey William Amherst. Searching for ‘folk’ turns up more instances of ‘Norfolk’ and ‘Suffolk’ than African folk songs. ‘Customs’ finds lengthy papers on ‘Customs and Tariffs’ instead of traditional African customs. ‘Histories’ of African tribes look promising, until you see the author – a John, Charles, or George – and realise the history is a type of history written for a particular reason, and not the one we’re looking for.

But there are flashes of discovery. A vague handlist entry tells us about a letter which might contain something of interest:

f. 35. Philip (JOHN) to James Crapper concerning his attack on slavery, his own experiences and findings among the… [Khoekhoe people], and the English translation of a song from Madagascar.

When I had a hunch that here might be an example of African poetry just waiting to be found, I requested the box up from the subterranean levels of the Weston Library. Such was the case for Rev. John Philip’s letter to James Crapper dated 29th September 1830. Having collected the item, I could see that Philip includes in his correspondence ‘A Song Concerning the Dead’ which is ‘translated literally from the Madagascan language’. Squinting through his handwriting, we can make out the origins – he overheard the song while anchoring for a short time in a coastal town. He provides a commentary on the ‘Song’ and compares its beauty to that of Gray’s ‘Elegy’. This is success – a Madagascan poem, composed by an unknown African poet, housed among colonial records and now given its literary due thanks to the project.

Photograph of a handwritten letter including text for a Song Concerning the Dead, 29 September 1830‘Song Concerning the Dead’, letter from John Philip to James Crapper, 29 Sep 1830, Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Afr. s. 4, fols. 35-36

Another example might be the Papers of Lord Claud David Hamilton, who spent much of his life involved in colonial affairs, as well as travelling through and researching Kenya. The handlist reads:

HAMILTON. (Lord Claud David). Correspondence on the Masai [Maasai] tribe, Kenya, with collections of tribal folk-tales and songs, articles on life in Kenya and a MS history of the Masai.

As expected, we find his unpublished (rejected) manuscript on the Maasai. Perhaps more unexpectedly, this manuscript is bursting with Maasai songs, prayers, and poems in various African languages, neatly typewritten. These range from women’s fertility prayers at an ‘ol-omal Ceremony’ to a ‘Song of the Il-Peless age-set’. While we cannot attribute the songs to a named poet or verify the accuracy of his transcriptions of course, these certainly originate from the Maasai tribes and are certainly poems – ‘African poetry’, if we take APDP’s definition.

Hamilton’s and Philip’s papers are just two examples of many more discoveries that we have made, and so far, after combing through catalogues and calling up boxes, I have found fifteen definite instances of African poetry. And the list of boxes for further checking is still extensive. While my internship is over, the project is definitely not – and I’m sure there is much more to find.

-Kelly Frost

This internship was sponsored by the Mellon Foundation as a part of the grant awarded to the African Poetry Book Fund  and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries for the development of the African Poetry Digital Portal. Collaborators include: the University of Cambridge, the University of Cape Town, the University of Ghana, the University of Lomé,  the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Oxford University, and the Library of Congress.

Philip Larkin: Centenary of a Poet

Today marks the centenary of the birth of the poet Philip Larkin, who was born in Coventry on 9th August 1922.

Larkin was educated at King Henry VIII School in Coventry and at St John’s College, Oxford, where he read English language and literature, graduating with a first-class degree in 1943. Whilst many generations who studied his poems at school will remember him first and foremost as a poet, he also had a long and successful career as a librarian, most notably at the University of Hull where he worked for the last thirty years of his life.

Photograph of the poet Philip LarkinPhilip Larkin by Godfrey Argent, bromide print, 19 June 1968, NPG x29214  © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Larkin’s association with the Bodleian Library started in his undergraduate years, and continued throughout his creative and professional life. On his death, Larkin bequeathed the Bodleian several collections of letters. These include letters from: Kingsley Amis, a fellow English student at St John’s who became a life-long friend; the novelist Barbara Pym; and Larkin’s long term friend, lover, and companion, Monica Jones. In 2006, the Bodleian acquired the corresponding letters Larkin wrote to Jones and it is in these letters we get an insight into the creation of one of his most famous poems, An Arundel Tomb.

The tomb that inspired Larkin to write the poem is located in Chichester Cathedral and is now generally thought to be the tomb of Richard FitzAlan, the 10th Earl of Arundel (d.1376) and his second wife, Eleanor of Lancaster (d.1372). Larkin and Monica Jones visited Chichester in January 1956 and his letters to her after their visit refer to the poem in progress (MS. Eng. c. 7413)*.

The letters show that Larkin particularly deliberated over the last verse and the famous oft-quoted last line in particular. On 12th February 1956 (fol. 7), Larkin wrote to Monica saying that he was

absolutely sick of my tomb poem… It’s complete except for the last verse, which I can’t seem to finish: but I can’t feel it is very good, even as it stands. It starts nicely enough, but I think I’ve failed to put over my chief idea of their lasting so long, & in the end being remarkable only for something they hadn’t perhaps meant very seriously.

A postcard to Monica followed, postmarked 21st February (fol. 10), where he gives two alternatives to his last line:

‘That what’  } survives of us is love.
‘All that’

Larkin asks for ‘Comments please’ before rapidly moving on to yesterday’s bout of indigestion. On 26th February (fol. 19v-20r), he wrote that he has ‘about finished the tomb’, the last lines now reading:

Our nearest instinct nearly true:
All that survives of us is love.

Larkin is however still unsure, writing that including ‘almost’ instead of ‘nearest’ and ‘nearly’ in the penultimate line

wouldn’t do if the last line was to start with All: I didn’t think it pretty, but it was more accurate that this one, & I felt an ugly penultimate line would strengthen the last line. Or rather, a “subtle” penult.[imate] line w[oul]d strengthen a “simple” last line. Sea-water mean?

It seems ‘All that’ won out for a time, appearing again in pencil at the end of the typescript draft Larkin sent to Monica (fol. 22). The very fact that these lines are in pencil indicates Larkin was still undecided. On 2nd March, he wrote that he ‘shall ponder the last two lines. I quite like the “almost” set up, but don’t like the “that what” construction it entails’ (fol. 26).


Typescript draft of Philip Larkin's poem 'An Arundel Tomb'
Typescript draft of Philip Larkin’s poem An Arundel Tomb, Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Eng. c. 7413, fol. 22. By kind permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.

In the end, the ‘almost’ won through and the ‘that what’ was avoided:

Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

An Arundel Tomb was published in May that year and would go on to be included in Larkin’s 1964 collection The Whitsun Weddings. Whilst possibility not one of his own favourite poems, it is certainly one of his best remembered. The poem was read at Larkin’s memorial service at Westminster Abbey in February 1986 and the two last lines from the poem were inscribed on Larkin’s memorial stone in Poets’ Corner, which was dedicated on 2nd December 2016.

-Rachael Marsay


*Unless otherwise stated, all quotes are from letters from Philip Larkin to Monica Jones, Feb 1956-Jul 1956, Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Eng. c. 7413 and are quoted with the kind permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.

The Earls of Clarendon catalogue is now online

You can find the new catalogue of the family and working papers of seven Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation) online at Bodleian Archives and Manuscripts.

The archive adds considerably to the Bodleian’s existing collections of Clarendon family papers, which include the seventeenth-century state papers of the very first Earl of Clarendon (1st creation) who was chief advisor to Charles I and Lord Chancellor to Charles II. His heirs in the Hyde and Villiers families took up the mantle and continued to serve the British government and the royal family well into the twentieth century. Notable postings included the 4th Earl of Clarendon serving as Viceroy of Ireland during the Great Famine and later as Foreign Secretary, and the 6th Earl of Clarendon serving as Governor-General of South Africa in the 1930s.

The archive includes approximately 800 letters from Queen Victoria and correspondence with monarchs and statesmen including Frederick the Great of Prussia and Viscount Palmerston. It also includes intimate family and estate papers, including letters between mothers and sons and husbands and wives.

I have been blogging about interesting items I’ve found along the way, ranging from 19th-century condoms to letters from the front during the American War of Independence (plus one extremely cute dog) and you can find those posts all here at the Archives and Manuscripts blog.

Windrush Day 2022

Wednesday 22 June 2022 is Windrush Day in the United Kingdom, celebrating the contributions of Afro-Caribbean migrants and their descendants to British culture, economy and society. The day is also a call to acknowledge and reflect on the hardships and sacrifice endured by the huge number of brave people who responded to the British call to colonies to migrate to Britain, assist in her recovery from World War Two and build a life here.

To mark Windrush Day, we thought we would have a look in our Archives and Modern Manuscripts to highlight some items related to the ship H.M.T. Empire Windrush, and the 70 year anniversary of 2018.

H.M.T. Empire Windrush

The first generation of settlers arrived in Tilbury Docks, 22 June 1948, aboard the Empire Windrush ship (previously called ‘Monte Rosa’, before the British renamed it). On this Caribbean journey the ship picked up passengers in Trinidad, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico and Bermuda. Reports of numbers of arrivals on that first day vary between 500-1000 Caribbean men and women, but immigration from the colonies continued into the 1950s whereby the new British citizens who had travelled aboard H.M.T. Empire Windrush to their new home numbered tens of thousands. Many were servicemen or ex-servicemen.

In 2016 the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera  received the donation of the Sayers Collection of Ocean Liner Ephemera,  which holds some material relating to the ship’s other voyages.

After being claimed as a war prize by the British at the end of the Second World War in 1945, the H.M.T. Empire Windrush still operated as a troopship, at a hefty 14651 tons. Image credit: Sayers Collection of Ocean Liner Ephemera, WP37 Empire Windrush RP troopship

An order for a Divine Service given on board, 30 Oct 1949. Image Credit: Sayers Collection of Ocean Liner Ephemera, ZB19 Empire Windrush Divine Service

‘The Black House’, 1973-1976, photographic series by Colin Jones

Photojournalist Colin Jones, together with journalist Peter Gillman of the Sunday Times, created a photo-series focused on a community hostel run by Caribbean migrant Herman Edwards at 571 Holloway Road, London during the 1970s. The hostel was a refuge for young black British people who were victims of prejudice, unemployed and had problems with the law. The name of the series comes from the name given to the hostel by those who frequented the halfway house, officially named ‘Harambee [Swahili for ‘pulling together’]’, who knew it as ‘the Black House’. Jones and Gillman set about to create a photographic record of everyday life in the house. The story of the series of the British Caribbean adolescents is ‘one of the most profound portraits of Black urban life in Seventies Britain’.[1]

Two photographs from ‘The Black House’ series feature in the Hyman Collection of British Photographs, which was donated to the Bodleian in 2019. The photographs have been digitised and can be viewed on Digital.Bodleian here: MS. 16177/5/4 and MS. 16177/5/5 

 

Psalm for Windrush

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, Mus. 2021 c. 1 (22)

The Bodleian holds a printed copy of the original 24 page music score for Psalm for Windrush: for the Brave and Ingenious, with words based on Psalm 84.  In 2018,  to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of migrants from the Caribbean aboard H.M.T Empire Windrush, Westminster Abbey held a service of thanksgiving and commemoration: ‘Spirit of Windrush: Contributions to Multicultural Britain’. This service also took place in the wake of the Windrush Scandal. The anthem of the service was Psalm for Windrush, written by British Jamaican composer and academic Shirley J. Thompson specifically for the commemoration of the Windrush Generation. Psalm for Windrush was performed for the first time at the Westminster service by sopranos Nadine Benjamin and Gweneth-Ann Rand, tenor Ronald Samm and Baritone Byron Jackson, accompanied by Peter Holder on the organ and directed by Thompson. This copy was printed in The Netherlands,  as part of the Deuss Music Vocal Series.

Many of the British Caribbean migrants settled in London. London local authorities (as well as those further afield) charities,  organisations and heritage institutions are holding arts events, hosting festivals, curating playlists and collating educational resources to engage with Windrush,  the Windrush generation and descendants, and their lived experiences.

References:

[1] ‘Remembering Colin Jones’ Landmark Photographic Series The Black House’ 4 Nov 2021 Elephant Art accessed via https://elephant.art/remembering-colin-jones-landmark-photographic-series-the-black-house-04112021/

The academic papers of Abdul Raufu Mustapha

Abdul Raufu Mustapha (1954-2017), born in Aba, in what is now Abia State in south-eastern Nigeria, was appointed University Lecturer in African Politics at Oxford University in 1996, becoming the university’s first Black African University Lecturer. In 2014 he was appointed Associate Professor of African Politics. His academic papers were donated to the Bodleian Libraries by his widow, Dr. Kate Meagher, in 2018 and 2020 and catalogued recently with the generous support of the Oxford Department of International Development, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and Dr. Mustapha’s family.

Mustapha’s research interests related to religion and politics in Nigeria, the politics of rural societies, the politics of democratization, and identity politics in Africa. His papers contain substantial research materials relating to fieldwork examining the political consequences of rural inequalities, conducted at Rogo Village, Kano State, Nigeria, for his D.Phil. thesis, ‘Peasant Differentiation and Politics in Rural Kano: 1900-1987’ (St. Peter’s College, Oxford, 1990). This fieldwork was followed up in the 1990s by further research using questionnaires for household heads and interviews focusing on topics such as land holding, assets, income, expenditure,  corn production, village life and politics. There are also materials relating to other research projects and articles by him.

Rogo questionnaire

Questionnaire for household heads, Rogo, Feb 1998. Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. 15476/4

In later years, Mustapha studied the issues posed by radical Islamist sects in northern Nigeria, creating a transnational Nigeria Research Network of scholars to study Muslim identities, Islamic movements and Muslim-Christian relations. This culminated in the publication of a research trilogy on Islam and religious conflict in northern Nigeria, comprising Mustapha, A.R. ed., Sects and Social Disorder: Muslim Identities & Conflict in Northern Nigeria (Boydell & Brewer, 2014); Mustapha, A.R. and Ehrhardt, D. eds., Creed & Grievance: Muslim-Christian Relations and Conflict Resolution in Northern Nigeria (Boydell & Brewer, 2018); and Mustapha, A.R. and Meagher, K. eds., Overcoming Boko Haram: Faith, Society and Islamic Radicalization in Northern Nigeria (Boydell & Brewer, 2020).

During his time in Oxford, Mustapha worked to support students from Africa and was the patron of the student-run Oxford University Africa Society. He served as an Associate Editor for the journal, Oxford Development Studies. Within Nigeria, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kano-based development Research and Projects Centre, and of the editorial board of the Premium Times newspaper. Internationally, he was a member of editorial advisory groups for the journals, Review of African Political Economy, and Africa. He participated in the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, where he served in many capacities. He wrote reports for the Working Group on Ethnic Minorities, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and the project on ‘Ethnic Structure and Public Sector Governance’ for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva.