Category Archives: Period

An archive in exile: Arturo & Ilsa Barea

By Eva Nieto McAvoy

Arturo and Ilsa Barea’s archive and library have been kept in a terrace house near Finsbury Park for the past 40 years. Their niece Uli Rushby-Smith inherited this large collection in the 1970s and has taken upon herself the daunting task of looking after the estate and ensuring that the Bareas’ legacies are kept alive by promoting several new editions of their work. It was through Arturo Barea’s biographer Michael Eaude that I came into contact with Uli, the terrace house, the papers and the books in 2011. I was interested in writing a PhD thesis on Arturo Barea and having access to the archive was a wonderful oportunity. Aside from researching for my thesis ‘A Spaniard in Hertfordshire: The Intellectual Exile of Arturo Barea’, I catalogued the papers and, in the process, became personally involved in this wonderful story. When I first arrived, about twenty boxes of articles, letters, drafts, newspaper cuttings and scrapbooks belonging to Arturo and Ilsa, and several walls covered with the books of five generations (from Ilsa’s parents to her great nieces) were awaiting me. The results of the organizing and cataloguing can now be enjoyed by users for the Weston Library, the new home of Arturo and Ilsa Barea’s papers.

Photographs in the archive, photo by Sonia Boué

Photographs in the archive, photo by Sonia Boué

The Bareas started their exile homeless, but also paperless and bookless. They managed to bring over a case with personal and family documents and some photographs from their previous life in Spain. But that’s about it. For the most part, this archive is an exile’s archive: written in exile, built in exile, read in exile and kept in exile until today.

I have to confess that my weekly visits to the archive, working in the nostalgic living room furnished with Biedermeier cabinets, with walls full of books and magazines, blue china and netsuke that belonged to Ilsa, overlooked by the solemn presence of Barea’s grandfather clock, are still my favourite part of the research. Each letter or photograph has a story behind it and more often than not, Uli has filled in the blanks with her memories of Arturo and Ilsa.

Arturo Barea (Badajoz 1897 – Faringdon, Oxfordshire 1957) was a Spanish writer, literary critic and broadcaster. A socialist and active member of the UGT (the Socialist trade union) during the Spanish Civil War, Barea was the head of the Press Department of the Republican Foreign Office in Madrid, dealing with foreign press correspondents such as Ernest Hemingway or John Dos Passos. During this time, he met and married his second wife, the Austrian socialist Ilsa Barea (née Ilse Pollak), his life-long companion, collaborator and translator.

Ilsa & Arturo in their garden

Ilsa & Arturo in their garden

In 1938 Barea and Ilsa left Spain for France and then England, where they arrived in March 1939. It was during his early years in exile that Barea became a well-known contributor of articles and short stories to Horizon, Time and Tide, the New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement and Tribune, aside from contributing the essay ‘Struggle for the Spanish Soul’ to Orwell’s wartime series Searchlight Books. He was also a regular broadcaster for the BBC Latin American Service under the penname ‘Juan de Castilla’. Barea is the author of the autobiographical trilogy The Forging of a Rebel, which was first published in English by Faber&Faber (1941-1946) and edited by T.S Eliot. The trilogy was an immediate international success and was translated into nine languages during the forties. The Spanish edition came out in Argentina in 1951 and it was only published in Spain in 1977 after Francisco Franco’s death. Barea never returned to Spain and became a British national in 1948.

Ilsa Barea (1902-1973), née Pollak, was a socialist political activist, journalist and translator. Born in Vienna into a liberal family, Ilsa was politically active early on, particularly in the areas of propaganda and education. She was a member of the Austrian Communist Party initially then later the Austrian Social Democratic Party. In 1936, she was employed by the Press Department of the Republican Foreign office in Madrid. During this period of the Spanish Civil War, she met Arturo Barea. They were both working as censors at their headquarters in the Telefonica (the title of her serialised novel published in the Austrian Arbeiter-Zeitung in 1949). After the death of her first husband, Leopold Kulcsar,  in January 1938, Ilsa married Arturo and together they fled Spain.

While in exile, Ilsa continued supporting the Spanish Republican struggle by publishing articles in Time and Tide, New Statesman, Times Literary Supplement, and Tribune. In August 1939 she joined the BBC Monitoring Service in Evesham, translating broadcasts from German and Spanish alongside Ernest Gombrich, George Weidenfeld, Martin Esslin and Anatol Goldberg. She was an exceptionally gifted linguist. Later her work focused on evaluating foreign writers, translating many of them for English and American publishing houses. She also broadcast for the BBC on a number of subjects.

Vienna. Legend and Reality (Secker and Warburg, 1966)

Vienna. Legend and Reality (Secker and Warburg, 1966)

Ilsa was a close collaborator of Arturo’s, influencing his work in many ways. Her most important contribution was the translation of his trilogy The Forging of a Rebel into English, praised for its quality in many reviews. The legacy of her father, Valentin Pollak, a well-known Viennese teacher and educationalist, was carried on in Ilsa’s work as a teacher herself and interpreter for Labour Parties and Unions across Europe. She became a British national in 1948, but after Arturo’s death in 1957, she returned to Vienna regularly, spending the last years of her life there. She is the author of Vienna: Legend and Reality (1966), a social and cultural history of the city.

Arturo and Ilsa shared a life of letters until his death in 1957; he wrote; she wrote and translated what he had written in Spanish into English. Snooping around the couple’s papers I can imagine them in their cottage in Eaton Hastings, working at their shared desk piled with papers threatening to tip over while listening to the radio in the background and having endless discussions about politics in several languages as they shared the house with a mixture of family members and friends from different places. It is precisely this mixture of languages and intellectual traditions which has a very strong presence in the archive and the library.

It is overall surprising to find a comparatively small proportion of material in Spanish – letters and documents in English, German, French, Danish and even Swedish open a window onto an important period of European history. The archive is an important repository of Spanish culture in exile, but also of Austrian culture and, even more importantly, of the internationalism that permeated the anti-fascist struggle of the Second World War and the anti-communist struggle during the Cold War.

The Forge, The Track and The Clash (Faber & Faber, 1941, 1943, 1946)

The Forge, The Track and The Clash (Faber & Faber, 1941, 1943, 1946)

Some of the most important holdings in the archive are the original and annotated typescripts of Arturo and Ilsa’s work like Arturo’s La Raiz Rota, Ilsa’s Vienna, as well as their many short stories, articles and even unpublished poetry by Ilsa. Sadly there is no typescript of La forja de un rebelde, but only a few chapters in French and the first two pages of La forja in Spanish, probably from 1938.

Arturo and Ilsa’s papers are hard to separate. Aside from their close intellectual collaboration, she often wrote letters on his behalf, particularly when they first arrived – many of them explaining Arturo’s limitations with English. But Arturo could read in English, and the number of British classics in their library gives credence to a biographical note of 1941 which explained “that his spoken English is still atrocious, but he is beginning to appreciate Jane Austen”. There is an incredible articulation of Spain and Britain in Barea’s work and in the archive and library. On the shelves we can find Don Quijote de la Mancha sitting quite comfortably next to Tristram Shandy. Letters to Cyril Connolly and John dos Passos are written in Spanish and are mixed with those of Arturo to his family back in Madrid. As expressed in one of Barea’s obituaries, he served as an “interpreter between two different civilizations and ways of life”.

Uli tells us that the Bareas spent most of their time writing letters and reading newspapers and magazines, ranging from the Manchester Guardian to Picture Post. All of these activities have left traces in the archive as well. Apparently, one of Uli’s jobs was to help them read through the morning papers, to cut out all the news relating to whatever topic they were writing about at the moment and to paste the clippings in scrapbooks – all of which are also in the archive.

Throughout their careers, Arturo and Ilsa wrote book reviews and articles about the literature and authors of their homelands. They also had an important role in promoting, and often translating into English, Spanish authors such as Camilo J. Cela and other writers in exile like Guillermo de Torre, Ramón J. Sender, Esteban Salazar Chapela, Francisco Ayala or Max Aub. After Arturo’s death, Ilsa continued this work as a translator from Spanish and German, but also as a reader for British publishing houses, as an editor, and as an interpreter, particularly for trade unions. We can find most of this paperwork in the archive, aside from around 12 boxes of correspondence that traces Arturo and Ilsa’s work and life in exile.

Arturo Barea broadcasting for the BBC Latin American Service

Arturo Barea broadcasting for the BBC Latin American Service

The archive also illustrates Barea’s relationship with Latin America. Articles for the Argentinian newspaper La Nación, around 650 of the 850 broadcasts he wrote for the BBC Latin American Service, fan-mail to “Juan de Castilla” and details of his 1956 trip to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – including airplane tickets and a record of all the vaccines he needed.

Arturo’s past as a non-intellectual also sneaks into the archive in rather unexpected ways. One of his major projects was to design a bookshelf system that could be assembled and dismantled by anyone in order to adapt to different spaces and uses, decades before IKEA had the same idea. Drawing on his previous experience in a patent agency in Spain, Arturo tried to patent his design. The shelves still stand in Uli’s living room, more than 60 years after Arturo first built them.

Today, the Bareas’ archive is arguably still in exile. The donation to the Bodleian is an important step in assuring access to its holdings for future generations of scholars – although researchers will now miss Uli and her partner Eugene’s wonderful meals and conversations. One question that comes to mind is why not send the holdings back to Spain, as has happened with other Spanish Republican exiles’ libraries? The return to Spain is often seen as a reconciliation following the injustice of the years of expulsion.

Several reasons are behind the decision to donate the archive to the Bodleain. The cosmopolitanism of the holdings; the fact that Arturo’s work is difficult to separate from that of his wife, which represents a whole chapter of Austrian culture in exile; and the fact that the transnational character of their work might be best represented in Britain, as an example of the internationalism of the war and post-war periods. It is also a much needed reminder of how Britain’s (often reluctant) hosting of European exiles resulted in the political, cultural and social contributions of Europeans to British culture and politics.

Most importantly, it is undeniable that Ilsa and Arturo started their exile struggling to overcome the violent loss of the life they were forced to leave behind. In 1956 Arturo still felt that ‘la patria se siente como un dolor agudo’ – the homeland feels like an acute pain. But Ilsa and Arturo were also able to embrace exile as a new beginning, a new life together in a foreign land that soon became home.

Archives, libraries, books and scrapbooks can help exiles keep links with their homeland, but can also ground them to their new homes. Arturo and Ilsa’s archive is testimony to this. If, in Adorno’s words, “To those who no longer have a homeland, writing becomes home”, the archive is already home and it belongs here, in Britain more than there, in Spain.

Archival packaging, old and new, or: Of silk ribbons and cotton tape

When material from the archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Baron Inverchapel – or indeed from any of the Bodleian’s modern archives – is ordered to the Special Collections reading rooms, it will most likely arrive in a greyish blue box, the papers neatly housed in blueish grey folders of the same colour. Sheets of acid-free, calcium carbonate buffered paper to separate leaves, ‘Melinex’ polyester pockets for photographs, folder titles written in 2B pencil, acrylic adhesive labels, a brass paperclip here and there – everything screams (or rather whispers… it’s a library after all) ‘archival packaging’.
BS 4971, the 2017 British Standard for the conservation and care of archive and library collections, is the Holy Grail, and no packaging material not complying with its strict rules shall ever come near our precious documents.

Material from the Edgar Wind Papers in full archival packaging armour. Blue-grey or grey-blue, the colour of the envelopes and boxes is heavily contested.

However, when archives first arrive at the Bodleian, the packaging is quite different: all kinds of boxes, cartons, baskets and trunks are used for transfer, and the papers are likely to still be in the order and condition their creator or collector stored them in – including a wide array of folders, envelopes, pockets, sheet protectors, paperclips, pins, staples, ribbons, cords and rubber bands once used to organize and protect them.

In case of the the Inverchapel Archive, almost all of the correspondence came in bundles. Hundreds, if not thousands, of letters, still folded up inside their original envelopes, sorted in little piles and tied together with pieces of string, cord or ribbon – like these exchanged between Archibald Kerr Clark Esq., then a young attaché at the British Embassy in Berlin, and Mrs. Kerr Clark, his mother in London:

All bundled up: Letters from the Archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Baron Inverchapel, c.1908. Why are they addressed to Archibald Kerr Clark – find out here.

Whilst it was very helpful to identify runs of correspondence, and match letters with their envelopes, this organisation system had two big downsides: the letters would be difficult to access if researchers had to remove them from their envelopes first, and all the early 20th century silk, cotton, wool, hemp, jute… ribbons and cords are not very likely to be compliant with 21st century BS4971 specifications.

Consequently, quite a lot of time on the Inverchapel cataloguing project was actually spent on pre-cataloguing archival processing tasks: removing all those strings, and the rusty pins and paperclips holding together sheets of paper inside the envelopes, unfolding pages, encasing photographs in Melinex, and not least placing the flattened papers safely in archive standard folders.
After processing more than 80 correspondence boxes, the amount of ribbons, cords and strings removed from the archive was rather impressive:

A rich bounty: Ribbons, cords and strings removed from the Inverchapel material. …We should have tied them all together and measured the result – in ells, obviously!

A lot of pink. But apart from his colour preferences some of those textile fasteners also reveal some of the archive owner’s shopping habits, as these ties, probably re-used from delivery parcels, show:

Fruits and tartan: Some of the strings close up

  • Searcy, Tansley &  Co. Ltd., London – most likely a food delivery. One could speculate if H.M. Ambassador, Lord Inverchapel, had a sneaky takeaway…
  • ALEXANDER MACINTYRE & CO – TWEED AND HOSIERY MERCHANTS – INVERARY AND STRONE. ARGYLL. – Proud of his Scottish heritage, and owner of the Inverchapel Estate near Lock Eck, Clark Kerr would have known where to buy his tweeds!
  • BOOTS THE CHEMISTS – how people carried home their soap and aspirin before plastic bags were invented.
  • G. ADAM & CO., FRUITERERS TO HIS MAJESTY, 42, NEW BOND STREET, W., TELEPHONE 2128 MAYFAIR – only the best apples and pears!

Like those shop ties, most strings and ribbons used for tying up the letter bundles seem to have been repurposed, or, like the many pink cotton bands, were haberdashery leftovers. On closer examination, the big pile of old textile fasteners reveals a remarkable variety of materials and colours:

The closest an ambassador’s archive can get to a rainbow?

But however pretty and colourful those tapes and ribbons may be, they still face the fate and final destination of all* old fasteners which could potentially be harmful to our precious archives – the bin.

Where ties are needed to hold bundles together, there is now archive standard unbleached cotton tape in place. Admittedly, this is less exciting than its colourful historic cousins. But it goes very well with the blueish grey/ greyish blue of our acid-free, calcium carbonate buffered boxes and folders, and most importantly: it complies with BS 4971.

Playing it safe: Unbleached cotton tape for archival use.


*Almost all. Some end up in our Bodleian Conservation colleagues’ ‘interesting pin collection’, where they get a new life in documenting the history of stationary and
help to determine the age of undated documents.


New catalogue: Archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel

The online catalogue of the Archive of Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel, is now available.

Archibald John Kerr Clark was born 17 March 1882 near Sydney, Australia, the son of John Kerr Clark (1838-1910), a sheep station owner originally from Lanarkshire, Scotland, and his wife Kate Louisa (1846-1926), daughter of Sir John Robertson, prime minister of New South Wales. In 1889, the family moved to England, though John Kerr Clark later returned to Australia.
Kerr Clark was educated at Bath College, and in France, Germany, Spain and Italy, where he studied languages. In March 1906 he passed the entrance examination for the diplomatic service and started working at the Foreign Office in London.  After adopting Kerr as an additional surname in 1911, he became known as Archibald (or Archie, to his friends and colleagues) Clark Kerr.

Archibald John Clark Kerr, 1st Baron Inverchapel by Bassano Ltd, half-plate glass negative, 19 January 1938. NPG x155214
© National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

His first posting as a young diplomat took him to Berlin (1908-1910), and after postings to Buenos Aires (1910-1911), Washington (1911-1914), Tehran (1914-1916) and Tangier (1919-1922), he became deputy to High Commissioner Lord Allenby in Egypt (1922-1925).
He served as Minister of the United Kingdom to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador from 1925 to 1928, to Chile from 1928 to 1931, and to Sweden from 1931 to 1934, before he was appointed Ambassador and posted to Iraq in 1935.
Clark Kerr was British Ambassador to China from 1938 to 1942, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. As Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1942 to 1946, he was key to shaping the Anglo-Russian relations during the Second World War – most famously, by convincing Churchill to return to talks with Stalin during their meeting in Moscow in August 1942.

A senior British Diplomat, he attended many of the Allied wartime conferences, including the ‘Big Three’ conferences in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam. He worked with the  Allied Commission to Romania in 1945/46, and in Spring 1946 was sent on a special mission to Java as a mediator in the tensions between the Dutch government and the Indonesian nationalists.
From 1946 Clark Kerr, now elevated to Peerage as Baron Inverchapel, served as British Ambassador in Washington. In March 1948, he retired from the diplomatic service, but was almost immediately appointed to the new committee on European unity, for which he worked until 1949. He died at Greenock 5 July 1951, and was buried at the Inverchapel Estate near Loch Eck in Scotland.

Archibald Clark Kerr entering the Cecilienhof Palace on the third day of the Potsdam Conference, July 1945. (On the left Sir Alexander Cadogan, Under Secretary at the British Foreign Office).
National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Presidential Libraries, Harry S. Truman Library (Public Domain)

Clark Kerr’s archive comprises his personal papers and correspondence, alongside material relating to his career as a diplomat, from the 1900s to the 1940s. Family papers and correspondence, dating back to the 1850s, document the family history, his parents’ lives in Australia, and Clark Kerr’s connections to family members, especially his close relationships to his mother and to his sister Muriel.
Often, the private and the public overlap: for example, in the many letters exchanged between Clark Kerr and his mother. They corresponded at least twice a week, sometimes daily, and together with personal and family news, they exchanged newspaper clippings and extensively commented on society, culture, politics and international relations in the 1900s, 1910s and early 1920s.
Similarly, Clark Kerr’s correspondence with colleagues and friends, such as Harold Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West, Eustace Percy, Alice Drummond-Hay, Robert Boothby and  Gerald Villiers, and with British and foreign aristocrats, such as the German Kaiser’s sister, Sophie Duchess of Sparta (later Queen Consort of Constantine I of Greece) and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Consort of Georg VI and Queen Mother), paints a vivid picture not only of personal contacts and relationships, but also of the times and social circles the correspondents were living in.

Also available is the online catalogue of the working papers of Clark Kerr’s biographer Donald Gillies, who published Radical Diplomat: The Life of Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, Lord Inverchapel, 1882-1951 in 1998.

Earliest evidence of Oxfam’s involvement in fair trade found in Archive

Back in 1959, Pastor Ludwig Stumpf from the Hong Kong branch of the Lutheran World Federation, was invited by Oxfam to speak at their World Refugee Year conference. With him he brought a suitcase of handicrafts made by Chinese refugees. Although the suitcase containing dolls, tea cosies and slippers, amongst other items, didn’t capture the interest of Oxfam at that time, the list of contents did make it into the archives, and has recently been catalogued.

Letter with the list of sample handicrafts in package sent ahead ready for Rev. Stumpf’s arrival in the UK [DIR/2/3/4/48]

One conference attendee whose eye the handicrafts did catch was Elizabeth Wilson of the Huddersfield Famine Relief Committee (popularly known as ‘Hudfam’), which soon began importing crafts and selling them to the public as a new fundraising initiative. The venture was successful and Oxfam followed suit, creating Oxfam Activities Ltd in 1964. The company was set up to formalise Oxfam’s engagement in trading, with all profits from Oxfam Activities being ploughed back into Oxfam.

Poster advertising children’s books as part of the Helping by Selling Project [MS. Oxfam COM/1/8/353]

The buying and selling of goods imported from overseas was named the ‘Helping by Selling Project’. Helping by Selling mostly sold products that were made in workshops and training centres that Oxfam grants had helped to set up. However, while the project did serve to raise money for Oxfam’s relief and development work, it did not directly help the people who created the goods (beyond creating a market for the products).[1]

Oxfam felt that they could do more to help establish viable businesses, and further increase employment and improve the lives of those in need. They realised that simply selling goods made overseas did not guarantee an ongoing livelihood for communities.

The resolution was to cultivate a business partnership with craftspeople, and protect the vulnerability of poor producers who could be easily exploited. Therefore, in 1975, Oxfam’s fair trade scheme (Britain’s first ever) was created. The scheme was named Bridge, which ‘sums up very aptly the bridging link of trade and support between producers in developing countries and their customers in the UK and Ireland.’[2] Oxfam paid fair prices for the goods produced, as well as a dividend and the opportunity to apply for grants for improvements to workplaces. It also offered help with product development and marketing.

Poster advertising Oxfam’s Bridge project [MS. Oxfam COM/1/8/292]

In the early 2000s, Oxfam launched the Make Trade Fair campaign, advertisements for which featured celebrities such as Colin Firth and Bono being covered in coffee, sugar and other fair trade products. The memorable posters, which can be accessed in Digital Bodleian, highlighted how farmers overseas were being trapped in a poverty cycle by trade rules.

Poster of Colin Firth being showered with coffee highlighting the plight of poor farmers [MS. Oxfam COM/1/8/153/7]

Today, nearly 60 years after Oxfam’s first foray into fairly traded crafts, there is a huge variety of products on sale in the Sourced by Oxfam range from suppliers who practice fair trade in the UK and worldwide. These goods, which range from dog bowls to shampoo, are available in Oxfam shops and online and 100% of profits go to Oxfam’s work all over the world. With consumers more aware than ever about where their food and other goods come from, Fair Trade is now a household name.

Poster advertising the variety of fair trade products available [MS. Oxfam COM/1/8/151]

[1] M. Black,  A Cause for Our Times. Oxfam: the first 50 years (Oxford: Oxfam 1992) pp.166-167

[2] Rachel Wilshaw, ”Invisible Threads: Oxfam’s Bridge Programme.” Focus on Gender, vol. 2, no. 3, 1994, pp. 23–28. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4030240.

 

Now available: Full catalogue of the Archive of Iona and Peter Opie

The full catalogue of the Archive of Iona and Peter Opie is now available online.

In addition to the previously published sections on the Children’s papers and covering correspondence and the Opie working papers and material relating to the Opies’ publications, the updated catalogue now also covers the Opies’ professional correspondence, personal papers, and material related to collecting children’s books and childhood ephemera.

Fieldwork: Iona and Peter Opie in the playground

The professional correspondence series contains letters about nursery rhymes and childlore received by the Opies from the general public, as well as their correspondence with researchers, academics, authors, bookseller, collectors, cultural and heritage institutions, the media, and other contacts and enquirers. It also includes general correspondence with the Opies’ publisher, Clarendon Press, later Oxford University Press, and with professional organisations, such as the Anthropology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which Peter Opie was president of in 1962/63.
The extensive correspondence with Doreen Gullen, the Opies’ long-term research collaborator and friend, covers both professional and private topics. The series also contains the Opies’ address books, which link each correspondent to a unique reference number – those reference numbers were then used to manage and track the enormous amount of incoming information. The address books often also record background details on the Opies’ correspondents and their activities.

The personal papers feature correspondence with family and friends, diaries and notebooks, memorabilia, writings and other biographical material, mainly relating to Peter Opie. This material was transferred to the Bodleian Library in various tranches in the 1990s, when Iona Opie was sorting through her late husband’s papers, selecting and annotating material for a future Opie Archive. Although it covers most of Peter Opie’s life from his childhood in the 1920s through to his death in February 1982, there is a strong focus on his young adulthood and his early career in the late 1930s and in the 1940s, reflected in particular in his correspondence, scrapbooks and notes, as well as in the papers relating to his early autobiographical publications such as his first book I Want to be a Success (1939).

The collected material series brings together historic childhood and children’s book ephemera, collected by the Opies, and papers about their book collecting activities. Whilst some of this material was found with the Opie Archive, other sections were transferred from the Opie Collection of Children’s Literature at the Bodleian Library. These include manuscript books, historic notebooks and diaries by children or with references to childhood, drawings and illustrations, printed ephemera and merchandise relating to children’s books, as well as exercise books and other school ephemera from the 17th to the 20th century.
The Opies’ book accession diaries, covering their book collecting activities from the 1940s to the 1980s, are part of this series, and so is a large collection of antiquarian booksellers’ catalogues, dating from the 1910s to the 1990s. Not least, there is some material which the Opies took over from other children’s book collectors, such as the working papers and collection lists of their friend Roland Knaster who died in 1979.

Boxes in the Opie Archive: Before…

 

…and after sorting, careful repackaging, labelling and barcoding.

Overall, the Opie Archive now contains 362 boxes – MSS. Opie 1-362, the result of 18 months of surveying, researching, arranging, sorting, flattening, paperclip removing, repackaging, labelling, barcoding and cataloguing.

More than 24,000 leaves of children’s papers and covering correspondence were individually numbered (‘foliated’) in preparation for the future digitisation of the material.
Simultaneously, the collection became (in-)famous with our Conservation colleagues for containing many exotic and challenging-for-safe-storage items, such as Indian panther bones, a 1920s Eton schoolboy cap, friendship pins, grass samples, and 1970s crisp packets.

Inspired by the descriptions of children’s rhymes and games in Opie working files, we, the cataloguers on this project, regularly lapsed into reminiscences about our own playground rhymes, games and crazes in the 1980s and 1990s (who else remembers French Skipping or Pogs?), and occasionally even broke out into bouts of clapping games, with lively ensuing debates about how the correct version of each song should go – “Em Pom Pee” or “Em Bam Bee”, that is the question!

Requests by readers to access the material had to be juggled with a tight cataloguing schedule – and many boxes were moved back and forth between the archives work areas and the Weston Library reading rooms. It was encouraging to see how much the Opie Papers were already in use, and the many questions researchers ask us about the content and structure of the archive then helped to inform our cataloguing strategy.

Midway through our cataloguing project, in October 2017, we received the news that Iona Opie had passed away, at the age of 94. Although saddened and disappointed to have lost the chance to meet her in person, we nevertheless felt privileged to have got to know her through her correspondence and working papers. We particularly admired her tremendous ability to organise, and distil meaning from, the immense volume of data gathered by her and her husband, while simultaneously building warm and long-lasting relationships with a vast network of correspondents.

In his 1969-73 accession diary (now MS. Opie 316), Peter Opie notes that “the age of the computer is coming”, foreseeing that this may one day facilitate a more thorough organisation of the vast amount of material he and Iona amassed over the years, and ponders the use future researchers might make of their collection, once it has been thoroughly sorted and catalogued:

“And although Iona […] and I will never be able to make use of all the material we have assembled, nor can see even to what use it may be put, I am beginning to think we can be confident that, provided it survives, it will be appreciated by somebody some day.”

The completion of the cataloguing project feels like a good step forward to fulfil Peter Opie’s ‘prophecy’, and we are happy (and indeed a little proud) to have a played a small role in the Opies’ big endeavour. Now it is over to you, the readers, to explore the wonderful resource Iona and Peter Opie created for the research of children’s traditions, nursery rhymes, children’s literature, games and play – and to the put it to innovative and creative uses.

Svenja Kunze & Sarah Thiel


The Opie cataloguing project was generously funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The Wellcome Trust Research Bursaries scheme funds individuals working on
small and medium-scale research projects that focus on library or archive collections
supported by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant – such as the Opie Archive.

Please visit the Wellcome Trust website for further information.


With local consent: aid in Guatemala

In the middle of the day on Sunday 3 June 2018, Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego erupted. The 3,763 metre high stratovolcano, situated 27 miles southwest of Guatemala City, belched a column of ash some 33,000 feet into the sky and spat torrents of molten rock down its south side.[1];[2] Pyroclastic flows, generated when the ash column collapsed in on itself, engulfed the communities of El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes; local residents were unable to implement emergency procedures because of the speed of the volcanic activity.[3] Almost 200 people have been recorded missing thus far, with at least 110 dead.[4] An estimated 1.7 million Guatemalans have been affected by the eruption, with 12,000 people evacuated and 3,000 in temporary shelters.[5]

 

Oxfam is on the scene. On 5th June it was ‘evaluating the situation on the ground in close coordination with the Guatemalan government’ and intended to ‘begin distributing water filters and hygiene kits to the affected areas’.[6] Two days later Ana María Méndez, Oxfam in Guatemala Country Director, expressed concern that ‘rescue efforts are being severely hampered by the lack of adequate equipment, poor visibility and roads closed due to the ash, lava flows and mudslides. A planned humanitarian assessment had to be postponed due to perilous conditions’.[7]

 

Volcán de Fuego is one of the most active volcanos in Latin America, but the current emergency constitutes the volcano’s worst eruption in a century. Its last major eruption was in 1974, when no deaths were officially recorded.[8] However, Guatemala endured its fair share of natural disasters during the course of the twentieth century, and over the years Oxfam has been involved in providing relief and rehabilitation to those affected.

 

Two years after the 1974 Fuego eruption Guatemala experienced a catastrophic 7.4 magnitude earthquake. Centred on the Motagua Fault, 99 miles north-east of Guatemala City and near the town of Los Amates, the earthquake ripped across the country. 23,000 people were killed, largely due to the collapse of residential buildings, and 76,000 were injured.[9] 19% of the country’s population was rendered homeless.[10]

Map showing the location of Volcán de Fuego in relation to Los Amates, near the epicentre of the 1976 earthquake. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The Oxfam project file ‘GUA 028’ documents Oxfam’s response to the 1976 earthquake. It operated alongside numerous other humanitarian agencies, including Catholic Relief Services (CRS), The Evangelical Alliance Relief (TEAR) Fund and the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation (UNDRO). The project file details the genuine efforts of relief agencies like Oxfam to alleviate the suffering inflicted by natural disasters, but also suggests some of the inevitable pitfalls associated with foreign agencies intervening in complex and unfamiliar societies.

A particularly revealing document within the project file is one produced by CRS. ‘Guatemala Earthquake – Evaluation of Guatemala Supported Food/Cash Community Development Programme’ evaluates the success of food- and cash-for-work schemes implemented in the areas around Tecpán, Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Chichicastenango and Patzún. The schemes involved community groups working on road projects, housing and school construction, and water system installation. 13,836 work-days were fed into 15 projects with a total of 1,673 workers involved, but the socio-cultural makeup of the targeted communities meant the schemes were not as effective as they might have been.[11]

 

For instance, villagers of Xenimajuju in Tecpán were initially unwilling to work for cash: ‘they either viewed it as a leftist conspiracy, or a ruse by foreigners to gain influence and take over their lands… they had had poor experiences when organizations had offered them aid, which generally never was given.’ In Tzanimacabaj and Chuguexa there were complaints that road projects had resulted in individuals losing land on road margins as the through-ways were expanded. There were additional fears that the new roads would encourage exploitative activities by loggers. Of 29 workers presented with an evaluative questionnaire by CRS, ‘almost everyone felt that cash would have a negative effect on the traditional system of voluntary community labour, and also create drastic negative changes… as people begin to rely more on outside assistance’. CRS acknowledged that the ‘programme was not very successful’.[12] Despite the best of intentions, an external agency had failed to understand the complex socio-cultural makeup of the communities it was trying to help.

A visit report by Ian Davis on behalf of TEAR Fund echoed the need for relief work to comply with local structures and values in Guatemala. He was told that ‘many visiting experts… made wild generalisations’ about indigenous Indian housing, assuming that because they were modest adobe constructions they must be ‘the product of poverty’. However, in such communities additional wealth was simply more likely to be invested elsewhere, for example in land purchase. Even the houses of affluent Indians remained relatively modest. Davis concluded that ‘modifications to the house pattern which may well be necessary for structural reasons [i.e., to improve earthquake resistance] will have to be made with local consent, rather than for local people’.[13]

Oxfam did attempt to address some of these issues in its response to the 1976 earthquake. While Oxfam was in some sense a ‘foreign’ agency in Guatemala, by 1976 it had an office in the country and staff who lived as well as worked there. It had previously been involved in an integrated development scheme in the Chimaltenango municipality of San Martin Jilotepeque, where in collaboration with the American agency World Neighbors it promoted a ‘barefoot’ approach to development, training local people  to run the scheme themselves. Project staff gradually became completely indigenous. While the earthquake claimed the lives of 3,000 people in San Martin, the network of promoters and cooperatives built up over the years formed the basis for post-earthquake reconstruction.[14]

As of 31st January 1977 Oxfam had received £768,480 in donations for the Guatemalan relief effort, including £60,365 donated by the general public. Much of this was invested in shelter and housing provision: ‘lamina’ corrugated roofing was widely distributed, and Oxfam produced 50,000 ‘comic-book style’ manuals on low-cost, earthquake-resistant construction techniques.[15] Oxfam did and continues to channel its funding into local partner organisations in an attempt to prevent local communities becoming passive recipients of development work. Hopefully this policy will mean that, in the present crisis, reconstruction and rehabilitation work will be conducted with local people, rather than for them. The desire to alleviate suffering in far-flung places is an admirable instinct; we need only ensure our efforts are well-executed, in addition to well-meaning.

 

[1] ‘Guatemala’s Fuego volcano: How the tragedy unfolded’, 5/06/2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-44369461, accessed 07/06/2018.

[2] ‘Guatemala volcano: Almost 200 missing and 75 dead’, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-44378775, 06/06/2018, accessed 07/06/2018.

[3] Ibid.

[4] ‘Fresh lava flows from Guatemala’s Mount Fuego as death toll rises to 110’, 10/06/2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/guatemala-volcano-fresh-lava-flow-evacuations-a8391886.html, accessed 11/06/2018.

[5] ‘Guatemala volcano: Emergency agency ‘failed to heed warnings’’, 07/06/2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-44393085, accessed 07/06/2018.

[6] ‘Oxfam in Guatemala is assessing its humanitarian response to “Volcano of Fire” eruption’, 05/06/2018, https://www.oxfamamerica.org/press/oxfam-in-guatemala-is-assessing-its-humanitarian-response-to-volcano-of-fire-eruption/, accessed 07/06/2018.

[7] ‘Over 12,000 people evacuated due to continued volcanic activity in Guatemala, Oxfam provides humanitarian aid’, 07/06/2018, https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2018-06-07/over-12000-people-evacuated-due-continued-volcanic-activity, accessed 07/06/2018.

[8]  ‘Guatemala’s Fuego volcano: How the tragedy unfolded’, 5/06/2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-44369461, accessed 07/06/2018.

[9] ‘1976 Guatemala earthquake’, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_Guatemala_earthquake, accessed 07/06/2018.

[10] ‘Global Earthquake Model – Earthquake Consequences Database’, https://gemecd.org/event/11, accessed 07/06/2018.

[11] Ms. Oxfam PRF GUA 028.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ms. Oxfam PRF GUA 028 Rep.

[14] M. Black, A Cause for Our Times. Oxfam: the first 50 years (Oxford: Oxfam 1992) pp.198-199.

[15] Ms. Oxfam PRF GUA 028 Rep.

Sir Oliver Wardrop’s desk diaries donated to the library

Audience members who attended the launch of Nikoloz Aleksidze’s book Georgia: a Cultural Journey through the Wardrop Collection  at the Weston Library on June 1st also had the novel experience of witnessing the arrival of a further addition to the Bodleian’s Wardrop  holdings. A family descendant of Sir Oliver, who was attending the launch, brought his desk diaries to donate to the collection. The Wardrop collection forms the nucleus of the Bodleian’s rich holdings of Georgian books and the donation of the desk diaries enriches this significant collection still further.

Dating from 1882-1948, the diaries provide details of Sir Oliver’s daily meetings and activities. They  will offer scholars an important glimpse into his day-to-day life, particularly during the critical period leading up to and immediately after the formation of the Democratic Republic of Georgia when he served as the British High Commissioner for Transcaucasia.

 

“What the hell are you doing?” The Lewisham North By-Election, 1957

Next week the voters of Lewisham East will go to the polls to elect a new member of parliament. Using the collections of the Conservative Party Archive, this blog post looks back at the last parliamentary by-election in the borough, held in 1957.

On 16 Feb 1957 a letter arrived at Conservative Central Office on the subject of the Lewisham North by-election, held two days previously. Addressed to the “Party Manager”, it read simply:- “Dear Sir, What the hell are you doing?”. [CCO 1/12/25/3]

Scanned image of a letter sent to Conservative Central Office, reading "Dear Sir, North Lewisham Bye-Election (and no doubt others) - What the hell are you doing?"

A letter recieved by Conservative Central Office following the party’s defeat in the Lewisham North by-election. [CCO 1/12/25/3]

The letter was just one of many critical messages sent in by Conservative supporters around the country following the by-election, which had seen the party lose the seat to Labour on a swing of 5.5%. The vote had been the Tories’ first electoral test since Harold Macmillan had replaced Anthony Eden as Prime Minister – and it appeared that the change in leadership had failed to improve the party’s fortunes.

The by-election was triggered by the death of Sir Austin Hudson, the Conservative member for the seat since 1950. Although present-day Lewisham is seen as a Labour stronghold, in the 1950s the Conservatives had a strong record in the area, and with a new leader in Downing Street the government could be expected to have a fair chance of retaining the seat on a platform of tax cuts and improved living standards. In his election address the party’s candidate, Norman Farmer, urged voters to give a “vote of confidence to the new Conservative government”, and echoed Macmillan’s pledge that “Britain has been great, is great and will stay great.” [PUB 229/1/12]

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The Conservative Campaign was soon blown off course however, as Labour went on the attack over the government’s controversial Rent Bill, which dismantled much of the post-war rent control system. The Labour candidate Niall MacDermot used his election address to warn that tenants will be left “at the mercy of the landlord” under the Tory plans. [PUB 229/1/12] The line of attack appears to have worked:- a memorandum by the party’s Chief Organisation Officer on 8 Feb 1957 notes that “The main lines of opposition attack appears to be the ‘Rent Bill’. We are likely to lose Conservative support on the issue… I am not very hopeful of holding the seat”. [CCO 1/12/25/2]

Scanned image showing the first page of a report on the Conservative Party's prospects in the Lewisham North by-election, 1957.

Conservative Party report on the campaign situation in Lewisham, dated 8 Feb 1957. [CCO 1/12/25/2]

Another issue that haunted the Conservatives was the legacy of the Suez Crisis, which had brought down Eden’s premiership. Not only did Labour continue to attack the Conservatives’ handling of the episode, but in Lewisham North the party also faced a challenge from the right-wing League of Empire Loyalists, an imperialist pressure group that supported independent candidate Lesley Greene. Greene, who was also the organising secretary of the League, used her election address to denounce the government for the loss of British influence over Suez: “All but one of the Cabinet Ministers responsible for this sickening humiliation are still members of the Government. Where is their national pride?” [PUB 229/1/12] The Conservatives sought to counter such charges by appealing to voters’ patriotism: “Don’t Listen to Nasser’s Advice’ urged one of Farmer’s leaflets, claiming that the Egyptian leader wanted to see the Conservatives defeated. [CCO 1/12/25/2] The party failed to defuse the issue however, and the Conservatives were forced onto the defensive throughout the campaign.

Scanned image of a Conservative election leaflet with slogan "Don't Listen to Nasser's Advice".

Election leaflet in support of the Conservative candidate Norman Farmer. [CCO 1/12/25/2]

Unsurprisingly, Conservative post-mortem reports on the by-election defeat identified Labour’s campaign against the Rent Bill and the fallout from Suez as major reasons for the defeat. However, the party’s campaigners also identified more practical reasons for the failure to hold the seat:- Labour for instance were accused of deploying an illegal number of cars to ferry their voters to the polling stations (the use of private motor transport in elections was strictly regulated in the post-war period), while one Conservative canvasser berated the party for “knocking-up” their supporters too late in the day, as “it is difficult to get women to vote in the evenings as they have their husbands’ dinners to prepare”. [CCO 1/12/25/3] Reports such as these offer a fascinating insight into the very different nature of election campaigns in the 1950s.

The Conservative defeat in North Lewisham was ultimately short-lived: the party regained the seat in Macmillan’s 1959 general election victory, and subsequently held it until 1966. Even so, the contest gives us a snapshot of British politics at a time of great upheaval and change. Whoever wins in Lewisham East next Thursday, it might well be that historians of the future will similarly look at the records of the campaign in order to understand our own politics and times.

This blog is based on the Conservative Party Archive’s correspondence series and collection of historical election addresses. The archive as whole contains the official papers of the Conservative Party’s parliamentary, professional and voluntary wings, spanning from 1867 through to the present day. Visit our website for more information on our holdings and to view our full online catalogues.

The UK Web Archive: Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK

The beginnings of the Online Enthusiast collection of the UK Web Archive can be traced back to November 2016 and a task to scope out the viability and write a proposal for two potential special collections with a focus on current web use: Mental Health, and Online Enthusiasts.

The Online Enthusiasts special collection was intended to show how people within the UK are using the internet to aid them in practising their hobbies, for example discussing their collections of objects or coordinating their bus spotting. If it was something a person could enthuse about and it was on the internet within the UK then it was in scope. Where many UK Web Archive Special Collections are centred on a specific event and online reactions, this was more an attempt to represent the way in which people are using the internet on an everyday basis.

The first step toward a proposal was to assess the viability of the collection, and this meant searching out any potential online enthusiast sites to judge whether this collection would have enough content hosted within the UK to validate its existence. As it turns out, UK hobbyists are very active in their online communities and finding enough content was, if anything, the opposite of an issue. Difficulty came with trying to accurately represent the sheer scope of content available – it’s difficult to google something that you weren’t aware existed 5 minutes ago. After an afternoon among the forums and blogs of ferry spotters, stamp collectors, homebrewers, yarn-bombers, coffee enthusiasts and postbox seekers, there was enough proof of content to complete the initial proposal stating that a collection displaying the myriad uses hobbyists in the UK have for the internet is not only viable but also worthwhile. Eventually that proposal was accepted and the Online Enthusiast collection was born.

The UKWA Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK collection provides a unique cultural insight into how communities interact in digital spheres. It shows that with the power of the internet people with similar unique hobbies and interests can connect and share and enthuse about their favourite hobbies. Many of these communities grow and shrink at rapid paces and therefore many years of content can be lost if a website is no longer hosted.

With the amount of content on the internet, finding websites had a domino effect, where one site would link to another site for a similar enthusiast community, or we would find lists including hobbies we’d never even considered before. This meant that before long we had a wealth of content that we realised would need categorising. Our main approach to categorising the content was along thematic lines. After identifying what we were dealing with, we created a number of sub-collections, examples of which include: Animal related hobbies, collecting focused hobbies, observation hobbies, and sports.

The approach to selecting content for the collection was mainly focused around identifying UK-centric hobbies and using various search terms to identify active communities. The majority of these communities were forums. These forums provided enthusiasts with a platform to discuss various topics related to their hobbies whilst also providing the opportunity for them to share other forms of media such as video, audio and photographic content. Other platforms such as blogs and other websites were also collected, the blogs often focused on submitting content to the blog owner who would then filter and post related content to the community.

As of May 2018 the collection has over 300 archived websites. We found that the most filled categories for hobbies were Sports, collecting and animal related hobbies.

A few examples of websites related to hobbies that were new to us include:

  • UK Pidgeon Racing Forum: An online enthusiast forum concerned with pigeon racing.
  • Fighting Robots Association Forum: An online enthusiast forum for those involved with the creation of fighting robots.
  • Wetherspoon’s Carpets (Tumblr): A Tumblr blog concerned with taking photographs of the unique carpets inside the Wetherspoon’s chain of pubs across the UK.
  • Mine Exploration and History Forum: An online enthusiast community concerned with mine exploration in the UK.
  • Chinese Scooter Club Forum: An online enthusiast community concerned with all things related to Chinese scooters.
  • Knit The City (now Whodunnknit): A website belonging to a graffiti-knitter/yarnbomber from the UK

The Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK collection is accessible via the UK Web Archive’s new beta interface

A life in letters: a tribute to Jenny Joseph

Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes

On Sunday 13th May the actress Miriam Margolyes will be in Oxford to perform a public reading of poems by Oxford alumna Jenny Joseph, the author of Warning:

‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me’

The event, hosted by the Bodleian and St Hilda’s College, celebrates the life and work of Jenny Joseph, who died this January, and will include a selection of poetry ranging across her more than 50 year-long writing career. She donated her literary archive to the Bodleian in 2017.

The reading will be at the beautiful, seventeenth-century Convocation House in the Old Bodleian Library from 11.30pm-1.00pm. Tickets cost £12 (£10 concessions), including tea/coffee and a pastry. You can book tickets online at What’s on, or phone the box office at 01865 278112 (there is a £2 booking fee for phone bookings).

Please note that tickets will not be available on the door.