This entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt describes the discovery of a bomb hidden in a tree at his Oxfordshire home Nuneham Park in 1907. Harcourt was the First Commissioner of Public Works in the Liberal government of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. He was strongly opposed to the extension of the electoral franchise to women. Writing in his journal, Harcourt reasoned that the planting of the bomb was probably ‘a delicate attention to me from the Female Suffragists.’
Nuneham Park was the object of another Suffragette attack in 1912. By that time Harcourt had been promoted to the Cabinet and was serving as Colonial Secretary in H.H. Asquith’s government. Asquith, a regular visitor to Nuneham, also opposed votes for women. Both men were eventually reconciled to female suffrage in 1916. Harcourt recorded in his journal the following discussion at a Cabinet meeting on 9 August 1916:
‘P.M. says his opposition to female suffrage is vitally affected by women’s work in the war. I said the only logical and possible solution is Universal suffrage (including women). This upset most of the Cabinet, but the P.M. agreed with me.’
Lewis Harcourt’s political journal, along with further political papers, are currently being catalogued. Extracts from Harcourt’s political journal will be on display in the Bodleian Libraries’ forthcoming exhibition The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches.
From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916
2:00pm | Monday 24 March 2014 | Bodleian: Convocation House | Tickets £11 | details
Mike Webb will be talking about his book to be published alongside the Bodleian Libraries Exhibition, The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches, 1914-1916 which runs from 12 June to 2 November 2014
You expect to find many things in modern political archives: letters from constituents, ministerial diaries, speeches, policy papers, even photos and hard drives – but human hair?These mysterious coils of brunette and ash blonde hair arrived with the archive of the politician and peer Roy Jenkins (1920-2003) wrapped in a paper bag from Bourne and Hollingsworth Ltd., one of London’s great (lost) department stores; a feature on the corner of Oxford Street and Berners Street from 1902-1983.
The hair arrived in a box-file of miscellaneous objects and papers dated from roughly the 1920s to the 1960s which also included the signature stamp used by Roy Jenkins’ father, Arthur Jenkins (M.P. for Pontypool) and a ceremonial key to St. Louis, Missouri given to Roy Jenkins himself.
The Victorians were especially fond of keeping locks of human hair for sentimental reasons and in remembrance, and the Bodleian Library contains many examples, including a necklace made from Mary Wollstonecraft’s hair and a ring containing John Keats’ hair but it’s uncommon to find hair in a post Edwardian collection. It’s not even clear whose hair it was: a woman’s, almost certainly. Jenkins’ mother, perhaps? Hattie Jenkins died in 1953 – could this be her hair?
Hair for remembrance, hair for sentiment, hair for a wig, hair for jewellery? Who knows. The Bodleian will be preserving it: maybe one day we’ll find out.
|Gervais Rentoul, MP for Lowestoft, 1922-1934, and first chairman of the 1922 Committee|
Lady Thatcher, who died on Monday, was part of a distinguished line of twenty six British Prime Ministers educated at Oxford University, where she studied Chemistry at Somerville College between 1943-1947 under the supervision of Dorothy Hodgkin, with whom she continued an occasional correspondence well into the 1980s (Hodgkin Papers, and Additional Hodgkin Papers, Bodleian Library).
Her political career is fully captured in documents held within the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian, from canvassing in Oxford during the 1945 General Election campaign and her tenure as President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946, through her long struggle for election to Parliament, her holding of a range of junior Ministerial and Opposition posts from 1961 leading to her appointment to Heath’s Shadow Cabinet in 1967, as Education Secretary in the 1970-1974 Conservative Government, Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975, and onward through her tumultuous period as Prime Minister, 1979-1990.
Below is a chronological selection of material from the Conservative Party Archive which illustrates Thatcher’s rise through the Conservative Party ranks between 1949-1979.
Those of you who are following the presidential election campaign in the US may have noticed Romney’s ‘Obama isn’t working’ campaign, launched last year. The campaign’s key poster is, as Romney calls is, a ‘tribute’ to one of the most famous British election posters. Saatchi and Saatchi’s Labour Isn’t Working poster, called the poster of the century in 1999, is still remembered by Conservatives and non-Conservatives alike. It proves one of the most popular images at each year’s Conservative Party Conference, and it appears regularly in the press as the emblem of an era.
Romney’s campaign manager Stuart Stevens wrote a blog post explaining their choice to emulate the Thatcher campaign, which called a ‘historic political poster depicting the negative economic conditions and the government’s failed attempts to correct that path’.
The original poster(s) addressed the rising rate of unemployment in Britain. The dole queue for the photo shoot was made up of Party members from Brent North and Hendon in north London. It was originally designed for an expected autumn 1978 general election; the election didn’t take place until spring 1979, and the poster was reused in various formats then.
In his forward to Dole Queues and Demons, Maurice Saatchi claims that posters are to politics ‘what poetry is to literature: the only possible words in the only possible order. They should instantly convey the core message in a memorable way. This requires a handful of words, each of which is perfectly chosen, married to an image which reinforces them. When this happens posters can be the single defining medium of a campaign.’
Dole Queues to Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive offers powerful insight into the impact of poster design on a political campaign. From the early Edwardian posters – colourful in both pigment and content – to the pointed posters of Saatchi in the 1980s, many of the political themes have remain the same, but the ways in which they were expressed had the power to make or break campaigns.
Divided into chapters based on political periods, the book offers over 200 examples of posters drawn from the Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection. The images are accompanied by historical background written by Dr Stuart Ball, political historian from the University of Leicester, with a foreword by advertising guru Maurice Saatchi.
The book will be available from the Conservative Party Archive stand at the Party Conference next month (stalls P10 & P11 – Hall 3 in the Party Zone) as well as from the Blackwell’s Bookshop stand.
Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive was featured in a brief Huffington Post piece and slideshow on ‘The Art of Elections’. It offers a sneak peek into a few of the posters we included in the book, which is now available through the Bodleian Library Bookshop as well as other major retailers.
Image © Conservative Party Archive Trust
Just a quick note to say that the Conservative Party Archive featured prominently as a part of the Bodleian Libraries’ participation in UK Parliament Week. Parliament Week is a new national initiative supported by both Houses of Parliament that aims to increase awareness of Parliament and its work as well as encourage participation in the democratic process.
The theme for this year was ‘Stories of Democracy’, and the Libraries highlighted items and collections relating to democracy and Parliament in the United Kingdom, from the Magna Carta to the Conservative Party Archive.
All the week’s posts can be found on the Libraries’ Parliament Week pages. The CPA features in the following:
- Prime Ministers’ Papers (CPA images in gallery; the Archive naturally holds papers related to the work of Prime Ministers)
- Conservative Party Archive (about the Archive)
- Suffrage in the UK (the CPA holds related material)
In addition, Conservative Party Archivist Jeremy McIlwaine spoke to Culture 24 about the work and contents of the Archive; the interview is up on the Culture 24 website.