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The Royal Bounty Archive

By uczcmba, on 3 September 2021

French Protestants became one of the largest group of immigrants in England from the 16th to the 18th century. A small number of refugees started arriving from the 1520s onwards, especially during periods when persecution increased in France. Emigration began to decrease at the beginning of the 17th century thanks to more favourable conditions for Huguenots in their own country after the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes, but then increased again during the dragonnades, which started in 1681, and peaked in 1685 with the Edict of Fontainebleau. The latter, which effectively revoked the 1598 Edict, stipulated that all Huguenot ministers were to be expelled and that the laity had to convert to Catholicism and was furthermore forbidden to leave the country. Nevertheless, c. 40-50,000 French Protestants fled to England but for the most part had to leave all their belongings behind and therefore, many arrived entirely destitute. It soon became clear that substantial aid would need to be dispensed.

James II initially ordered collections to be carried out in Anglican churches for the benefit of Huguenots between 1686 and 1688. The first brief was issued on 5 March 1686 and originated from a petition by the Ministers and churchwardens of the Savoy French Church. The King intended the collection to be for the relief of Huguenots conforming to the Church of England only. Indeed, the potential applicants had to show certificates of having received communion according to the Church of England’s practices. A second brief was issued in 1688 but crucially did not mention that Huguenots had to conform in order to be considered.

A more structured way of providing for the refugees directly from funds from the Civil List was then created by joint monarchs William and Mary, in 1689: The Royal Bounty. On 5 May 1689, William III issued a declaration encouraging Huguenots to make their way to England and promised them protection and support. Responsibility for administering the funds was given to a number of eminent Englishmen, called the Commissioners, and to a French Committee. The Commissioners were appointed directly by the King and were responsible for overseeing the entire operation. On the other hand, the French Committee was composed entirely of Huguenots who had to decide who would get financial assistance and then allocate the money accordingly. From 1696, the distribution was split between the laity and the clergy, represented by two distinct committees. In 1705, the English Committee was set up and its members, nominated by the Commissioners, were tasked with auditing the accounts. These were deposited in the Chamber of London, at Guildhall.

Outside of London, distributions to the poor were carried out by the Huguenot churches, who received block grants, whereas other categories of recipients, such as the nobility and the bourgeoisie, had to apply directly to London. In the capital, two companies were set up to achieve the same aim: one in the City and one in Westminster. Below are two petitions from the French Hospital collection mentioning that both individuals were reliant on the Royal Bounty or bénéficence royale, prior to applying to live in the Hospital.

André Morelon’s petition to the French Hospital, 1783-1785

Catherine Lambert’s petition
to the French Hospital, 1783-1785

 

The papers housed in the Huguenot Library are those of the French Committee. The largest group of manuscripts are the certified accounts which were kept meticulously and list all those receiving funds as well as the respective amounts. They were divided into several categories differentiating the various persons receiving aid and/or the reasons why they needed it. Categories would include, amongst others, funds for the nobility, clergy, country churches, bourgeoisie and those of the lower classes. The amounts allocated to each category was decided in advance with the higher classes, incongruously from a modern viewpoint, receiving the most funds.

Schedule of the payments, under various
heads, authorized for the relief of poor
refugees for 6 months, 8 December 1699

 

Funds were not just distributed to individuals but sometimes also earmarked for a specific purpose, such as payments for funerals, emigration to colonies in the West Indies, establishment of apprenticeships and payment for Huguenots who looked after French Protestant orphans. They were also providing aid to Huguenot organisations such as schools for refugee children and the Pest House, the precursor of the French Hospital, located near Bunhill Fields.

Undertakers’ bill for interments,
November 1753-July 1760

Receipt for money and clothing for orphans by order of the Church of St Martin Orgars, 1735

 

In 1802, the Treasury, which had become responsible for issuing payments for the Royal Bounty, began to question the Committee more rigorously, with the intention of eventually winding up the funds. The gradual extinction of the pensions paid concluded in 1876, when the last payment was made to one Sarah Rignon.

The importance of this collection is not limited to the story of the grant itself, its organisation, distribution and the challenges it faced, but also derives from the detailed information it provides on the individual recipients: their family unit, original provenance in France, occupation and possible health conditions. Finally, it documents to some extent the running and activities of the French Churches involved in the distribution, as well as giving us a snapshot of part of the Huguenot community in England during this period. It can be argued that the Royal Bounty was instrumental in helping Huguenots to assimilate and in some cases prosper in England.

The Huguenot Society decided to digitise the microfiches of this entire collection and make them available on the members’ area of the Society’s website, which can also be accessed by UCL staff and students, upon request.

The project was approved in May 2019, and went live a year later. The digitisation of the 646 fiches, consisting of 12 x 5 images each was outsourced; whereas the creation of a searchable catalogue to which the images of the manuscripts would be attached was done in-house. The resulting resource has not only made this collection more accessible, especially during the various lockdowns, but has also substantially improved its cataloguing, as records for each constituent item had to be created. In turn, this benefits those who prefer to still visit and see the original documents.

If you would like to access the Royal Bounty archive online or would like to visit the library, please contact the Huguenot Library at: library@huguenotsociety.org.uk

By Micol Barengo

Further reading:

Escot, Margaret M., ‘Profiles of relief: Royal Bounty grants to Huguenot refugees, 1686-1709’ in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol. 25, issue 3 (1991)

Rey, Claudius, An account of the cruel persecutions rais’d by the French clergy since their taking sanctuary here… (London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1718)

Smith, Raymond, Records of the Royal Bounty and connected funds, the Burn donation, and the Savoy Church in the Huguenot Library. Quarto Series volume 51 (London: Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1974)

Smith, Raymond, ‘Financial aid to French Protestant refugees 1681-1727: Briefs and the Royal Bounty’ in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol. 22, issue 3 (1973)

Sundstrom, Roy A., Aid and assimilation: a study of the economic support given French Protestants in England, 1680-1727 (PhD Thesis: Kent State University Graduate School, 1972)

First Impressions: Pre-1750 women writers represented in UCL’s special collections

By Erika Delbecque, on 31 August 2021

This guest blog post was written by Isobel Goodman, who spent six months volunteering at UCL Special Collections as part of the Liberating the Collections project.

Tasked with researching pre-1750 women writers, as part of UCL’s Liberating the Collections project, I was struck by the varied ways in which women engaged with print culture in this period. Unsurprisingly, recognised names such as Margaret Cavendish, Mary Wortley Montagu and Aphra Behn occur frequently in the catalogues, but the research also revealed several other women writers whose non-aristocratic status and lesser-known writings provided a fascinating insight into the processes at work.

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Mrs James’s Vindication of the Church of England in an answer to a pamphlet entituled A New test of the Church of England’s loyalty. (London, 1687) [UCL Special Collections Huguenot Library JB 17 HAL]

The political writings of author-printer Elinor James (1644-1719) were regularly published even before she inherited her husband’s printing business in 1710. Renowned for her petitions to the king and parliament, James’ work benefitted from ready access to a printing press: not only could her concerns be published promptly in response to new debates (hence avoiding any appearance of pre-meditated attack on the petitionee), but also in large quantities for maximum impact. Extant documents indicate that she penned at least 90 pamphlets and broadsides during her career, although the ephemeral nature of these items could disguise a much greater number. UCL holds a copy of Mrs James’ Vindication of the Church of England (1687), in which she defends James II’s ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ against criticism in another pamphlet published anonymously weeks earlier. Robustly countering the anti-Catholic stance of the earlier publication, James concludes “GOD Save the KING”!

Portrait of Elinor James, c.1700 ©Wikimedia Commons

The fast, cheap, ephemeral nature of pamphlet production suggests that James sought neither literary renown nor fortune from her writing. However, the conspicuous inclusion of her name in her publications, often in the title itself, demands recognition as both author and printer. Indeed, a portrait she gifted to Sion College in 1711, notably depicts James holding a lavishly bound book whilst a copy of her Vindication of the Church of England rests nearby.

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Poems upon several occasions. By the late Mrs Leapor, of Brackley in Northamptonshire. The second and last volume. (London, 1751) [UCL Special Collections Strong Room E 221 L2]

In the absence of owning a press, less-wealthy eighteenth century authors could fund the third-party publication of their writing through subscription i.e. half of the book price paid in advance by readers and the other half on receipt, in return for their names being listed in the publication itself. Kitchen maid, Mary Leapor (1722-46), was an unlikely candidate for a published poet, yet she successfully funded printing in this way – no doubt aided by subscribers’ curiosity of her situation. Rector’s daughter, Bridget Freemantle, and Leapor’s employers and their relations (the Jennens and Blencowes) also provided useful connections.

Rear flyleaf of Poems upon several occasions. By the late Mrs Leapor, of Brackley in Northamptonshire. The second and last volume. (London, 1751) [UCL Special Collections Strong Room E 221 L2]

Following Leapor’s premature death, two years before her book appeared in print to positive reviews, novelist Samuel Richardson published a posthumous second volume of Leapor’s manuscripts (1751), of which UCL holds a copy. While less successful in attracting subscribers, the text’s woodcuts still suggest a reasonable budget. Leapor was certainly well-known during this period: an anthology ‘by eminent ladies’, published in 1755, devoted more pages to her than any other writer. Indeed, UCL’s text previously belonged to Jeremy Bentham and includes his annotations of ‘Mrs Grey’s memories of Mary Leapor’, indicating a prestigious readership of both sexes. Bentham reports that Mrs Grey introduced Leapor to Bridget Freemantle, who subsequently provided her “with pens, ink & paper & a bureau, book case & likewise books, before which she had scarcely an opportunity of coming at any books, or the means of procuring them”.

*****

In contrast, the corpus of poems, prose, petitions, biography and translations penned by Lucy Hutchinson (1620-81) remained deliberately unpublished during her lifetime. She is perhaps best known for her Memoirs of her husband, John Hutchinson – a signatory of Charles I’s death warrant who died in prison following the Restoration – which she compiled for their children between 1665 and 1671.

Lucy Hutchinson by Samuel Freeman, stipple engraving, circa 1825-1850
NPG D19953 ©National Portrait Gallery

The Memoirs’ posthumous publication in 1806, by Hutchinson’s great-great-grandson, raises questions about the control authors ultimately had over their work. The private account was intended as “a naked undrest narrative, speaking the simple truth of him”, confirmed by careful, personal revisions of the original manuscript. Yet the heavily edited (although well-received) first publication was swiftly followed by two further editions before 1810. UCL special collections hold five four copies, ranging in date from 1808 to 1904. The original editor promoted the text to female readers as having “all the interest of a novel”, and the book’s moralistic account of the civil war impacted both historiography and popular opinion, despite no evident intent by Hutchinson to do either.

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An apology for the conduct of Mrs Teresia Constantia Phillips (London, 1748) [UCL Special Collections OGDEN MUI (1)/1]

The scandalous memoirs published in 1748-9 by Teresia Constantia Phillips (1709-65) were perhaps originally penned more for blackmailing former lovers than for book sales! In a self-promoting sales tactic, the imprint claims, “Such extraordinary care has been taken to intimidate the Booksellers, in order to stifle this Work, that Mrs. Phillips is obliged to publish it herself, and only at her House in Craig’s Court, Charing Cross; and to prevent Imposition, each book will be signed with her own hand”. Yet, in reality, the removal of pre-publication censorship during the 18th century had freed publication of such material in Britain. Trade publishers, such as Mary Cooper, who would assign their own name to an imprint and sell publications anonymously on behalf of the publisher and copyright holder, further enabled publishers to print controversial works without risk to their reputation.

Portrait of Teresia Constantia Philips, in An apology for the conduct of Mrs Teresia Constantia Phillips (London, 1748) [UCL Special Collections OGDEN MUI (1)/1]

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Whether for money, renown, or politics, the women represented in UCL’s special collections employed authorship for their own purpose – albeit with varying control over the resulting publications. Literacy was expanding during the 17th and 18th centuries, as was the print market following the lifting of restrictions on printer numbers in 1695. Combined with women’s evident interest in matters beyond the household (despite being unable to fully participate or vote in them) the processes were in place for them to reach a wider audience than ever before, through the medium of print.

By Isobel Goodman

Bibliography

Primary sources

Hutchinson, Lucy. Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Roes and Orme by T. Bensley, 1810.

James, Elinor. Mrs James’s Vindication of the Church of England, in an Answer to a Pamphlet entituled, A New Test of the Church of England’s Loyalty. London: Printed for me, Elinor James, 1687.

Leapor, Mary. Poems upon Several Occasions. The second and last volume. London: Printed and sold by J. Roberts, 1751.

Muilman, Teresia Constantia. An Apology for the Conduct of Mrs Teresia Constantia Phillips. London: Printed for the Author, and sold at her house in Craig’s-Court, Charing Cross, 1748-1749.

Secondary sources

Brown, Susan, Clements, Patricia, Grundy, Isobel. “Elinor James: Writing,” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present, last accessed 03/08/2021. http://orlando.cambridge.org.ezp.lib.cam.ac.uk/protected/svPeople?formname=r&people_tab=2&person_id=jameel&crumbtrail=on&dt_end_cal=AD&dt_end_day=27&dt_end_month=06&dt_end_year=2021&dt_start_cal=BC&dt_start_year=0612&dts_historical=0612–+BC%3A2021-07-12&dts_lives=0612–+BC%3A2021-07-12&dts_monarchs=0612–+BC%3A2021-07-12&heading=h&name_entry=Leapor%2C+Mary&subform=1&submit_type=J

Greene, Richard. Mary Leapor: A Study in Eighteenth-Century Women’s Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Hutchinson, Lucy. Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Mayer, Robert. “Lucy Hutchinson: A Life of Writing,” The Seventeenth Century, Vol. 22(2) (2007): 313.

McDowell, Paula McDowell. “Introductory note” in Elinor James. The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works, Printed Writings, 1641-1700: Series II, Part Three, Volume 11. Ed. Paula McDowell. London: Routledge, 2017.

Plaskitt, Emma. “Phillips [married name Muilman], Teresia Constantia (1709-1765],” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, September 23, 2004, https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-22170

Treadwell, Michael. “London Trade Publishers 1675-1750.” The Library Series 6, Vol. IV, No. 2 (1982)” 99-134.

Women in the Italian Book Trade: forgotten owners and producers of Italian books

By Erika Delbecque, on 23 August 2021

This guest blog post was written by Sara D’Amico, who spent six months volunteering at UCL Special Collections as part of the Liberating the Collections project

We might think that women were not allowed to participate in skilled crafts: for instance, the art of book binding was foreign to them until the nineteenth century. But women have always been involved in the book trade. However, many of them have remained in the shadows and their contribution has not been acknowledged for centuries. The Liberating the Collections project aims to fix this and give the women who are represented in the rare book collections at UCL Special Collections the recognition they deserve. As a volunteer in the LTC project, I have conducted a focused search among the Castiglione and Dante Collections, to allow the women involved in the Italian book trade to come to the fore. What follows is only a brief overview of some of the most interesting people involved in the making and keeping of Italian books.

Luchina Ravani (active ca. 1532-1541)

Luchina Ravani’s edition of “Il libro del cortegiano” (1538) [STRONG ROOM CASTIGLIONE 1538 (1)]

Financial considerations often forced a printer’s widow to take over the business, as the death of a husband plunged many widows into poverty. These women would often work until their sons came of age, but in the case of Luchina Ravani, she apparently continued working even after her son took over. The State Archive in Venice holds two documents stating that Luchina was free to run “a suo conto la stamperia.” This indicates that the widow held an important position in the business and possibily had some kind of agency in deciding what to print, like the beautiful Libro del cortegiano in the Castiglione Collection. However, despite her active role, her name is never explicitly mentioned on any edition. Only her son’s name, Vittore, appears on the titlepages or the colophons, followed by a simple and anonimous “& Co.” The reasons behind this choice remain unknown, but they do raise the question: how many other women’s works are hidden behind a man’s name?

Sofia Giacomelli (1779-1819)

Sofia Giacomelli’s illustrations of the “Divina Commedia” (1813) [DANTE DD 5 K]

Book history has neglected women engravers. Wood engraving was, for almost two centuries, the most common means of illustrating printed work. This art was not usually practised by women until the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement, and yet some of them, because of their incredible talent, managed to excel in this field almost half a century prior. Geneviève Sophie Giacomelli was one of them.

Also known as Sophie Janinet and Madame Chomel, Sofia was a popular singer and an accomplished graphic artist: she even exhibited her work at the Paris Salon in 1799 and in 1800. Art magazines from all over Europe praised her work in illustrating Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divina Commedia. The Journal des arts, des sciences, et de littérature reviewed her Milton collection in 1813: “The collection of the twelve figures of Madame Giacomelli is one of the most agreeable productions that engraving has offered us for a long time. We live in a century when women have won the most distinguished rank in literature: it is enough to look at this work to discover that the field of the arts is not foreign to them either.” But most importantly, Sofia didn’t stop working on her engravings after her marriage in 1802 with musician Joseph Giacomelli, who introduced her in the world of music and singing. She was, first and foremost, an artist.

Sofia Giacomelli’s illustrations of the “Divina Commedia” (1813) [DANTE DD 5 K]

Caroline Morris (dead after 1870)

Caroline Morris was not an occasional book owner: together with her husband she formed a library of about 9,000 volumes, making her a book collector on all counts. In the nineteenth century it was not common for a woman to collect that many books and it was even less common for a woman with no titles and significant richness to do so. James Morris, Caroline’s husband, was a Professor of Languages in the Royal College of Mauritius and the UCL Calendar (1870-71) seems to suggest that he was the owner of this extensive and valuable library: apparently, he bequeathed it to his wife for the duration of her lifetime, and after her death to the College. And yet, the illustrated bookplates that can be found in the books clearly say: “Jacobus et Carolina Morris”.

Letter from J. M. Peebles to Caroline Morris. [MS ADD 133]

As is often the case for women book owners, virtually no biographical information about Caroline is available. However, the UCL archives hold some of the Morris’s correspondence. The letters, together with the bookplates, were invaluable in proving that Caroline must have had an active role in the making of the Morris Library. Not only that, the letters from scholars like Francis William Newman and J. M. Peebles prove that she was also a reader and they help shine a light on Caroline’s interests in a great variety of subjects: from botany to music to women’s rights.

There are many women like Luchina, Sofia and Caroline who contributed to the making and preserving of some of the finest rare books in the UCL Special Collections. Their names are often overshadowed by those of their husbands but the LTC Project is finally giving them a new voice. While there is still room for more research, these first results are an indication of how many valuable resources are hidden within the UCL Special Collections and how much they can contribute to the study of the Italian book trade’s history.

References

Michelle Levy, ‘Do Women Have a Book History?’, in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 53, No. 3 (2014), pp. 296-317.
Deborah Parker, ‘Women in the Book Trade in Italy, 1475-1620’, in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 3 (1996), pp. 509-541.
Patricia Jeffe, Women Engravers, 1990.
Stephen S. Stratton, Woman in Relation to Musical Art, in Proceedings of the Musical Association, 9th Sess. (1882-1883), pp. 115-146.

Exploring Women Owners of UCL’s pre-1750 Rare Books

By Erika Delbecque, on 16 August 2021

This guest blog post was written by Dr Steph Carter, who spent six months volunteering at UCL Special Collections as part of the Liberating the Collections project

The initial phase of the ‘Liberating the Collections’ project at UCL Special Collections has begun to highlight under-represented and marginalised voices in the collections. One area of research has been women owners, contributing not only to the existing narrative of pre-1750 books in the UCL Special Collections but also to the growing scholarly interest in early modern women book owners.

Working primarily with the UCL library catalogue, 5000 provenance statements were examined for evidence of women owners and straightaway provided ample data to pursue research on the lives of these former book owners. However, research into women book owners brought to the fore the intensely acute disparity that is so common between men and women when it comes to historical documentation and searching for biographical details. Biographies of identifiable women tend to be tied into the biographies of their fathers, husbands or brothers, typically comprising little more detail than a wedding date and how many children were born. An added complication is the repeated use of the same first name through successive generations of a single family.

[Seder berakho] (Amsterdam, [1687 or 1688]), front endpaper [STRONG ROOM MOCATTA 1687 B2]

A Hebrew text from the 1680s includes the inscription ‘Rebecca Mocatta’ on the front endpaper. This is undoubtedly part of the surviving Mocatta Library, the majority of the collection having been destroyed by bombing in 1940. The Mocatta family were established in London by 1671 with the merchant and diamond broker Moses Mocatta. At his death in 1693, Moses identified a niece called Rebecca; his son Abraham later had a daughter also named Rebecca. Rebecca also continued to be an important female family name in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the book remained in the Mocatta family collection until at least the early 19th century as there are manuscript notes on the front flyleaves detailing information about births in the family between 1797 and 1809.

John Harington, Orlando furioso in English heroical verse (London, 1591), title-page [STRONG ROOM OGDEN B 2]

Of course, even with a family name it is not always possible to identify the correct lineage. The Countess of Warwick, Mary Rich (1624-1678), is a known author and book owner. She was addicted to plays and romances in her youth, so it is not ridiculous to assume that she is the author of the inscription ‘Mary Rich’ on the title-page of Sir John Harington’s 1591 translation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso – the Italian poem that is a source for Much Ado About Nothing.

However, another ascription, ‘Margarit Riche’, is also present on the title-page and an inscription on p. [186] of the main text refers to a note on the marriage of Robert and Elizabeth Riche in 1616.

John Harington, Orlando furioso in English heroical verse (London, 1591), title-page [STRONG ROOM OGDEN B 2  

These details do not match with the genealogy of the Earls of Warwick, suggesting that this book may have been owned by a completely separate family and passed down through female members of that family.

Despite the limitations of researching and identifying women book owners, the Mocatta and Rich examples contribute to a growing narrative of what the editors of Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern England describe as ‘the myriad ways in which women bought, borrowed, accessed, wrote in, made, recorded, cited, and circulated books’ (p. 4). Such research on women book owners will also contribute to a broader engagement with the UCL Special Collections.

Dr Steph Carter, Associate Researcher, Newcastle University

References

Orbell, J. (2004) ‘Mocatta family (per.1671-1957), bullion dealers and brokers’, Dictionary of National Biography Online. Available at: oxforddnb.com [Accessed on 27 July 2021].
Cambers, A. Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript and Puritanism in England, 1580-1720 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 48-50.
Knight, L. and White, M. ‘The Bookscape’ in: Knight, L., White, M. and Sauer, E. (eds.) Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018, pp. 1-18.

Cataloguing the records of Britain’s longest-running birth cohort study

By Kurt M Jameson, on 30 July 2021

For the last year or so I’ve been working on a project to catalogue the administrative records of the National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) – Britain’s longest running birth cohort study. Although this project has been a little disrupted by the pandemic, I’m very happy to say the cataloguing is now complete!

A selection of blank questionnaires used in the MRC NSHD.

A selection of questionnaires and interview booklets that have been used in the NSHD over the years.

The history and impact of the National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD)

The NSHD is referred to as a ‘cohort study’ or ‘longitudinal study’ because it studies the same group of people over time, collecting data from them at fairly regular intervals (in the NSHD they are referred to as ‘study members’). Monitoring the same group of people throughout their lives means that cohort studies can highlight differences in health and development that arise due to life circumstances and experiences.

Front cover of the book 'Maternity in Great Britain' (1948).

The findings of the maternity survey were published in 1948.

The NSHD began in 1946 as a one-off maternity survey. The 1930s and early ‘40s was a period of anxiety in Britain over declining birth rates and high infant death rates. At the time, this also included concerns over the national economy, and whether Britain would have enough people to run the Empire. A national maternity survey was planned, to understand why people were having fewer children. It consisted of interviews with the new mothers of 13,687 babies that had all been born in Britain in the same week in March 1946. It was directed by James Douglas, a young doctor and pacifist who had gained experience of carrying out surveys and data analysis on air-raid casualties during the war. Ironically, by the time the findings of the maternity survey were published in 1948, Britain was experiencing its post-war ‘baby boom’. Although fears over fertility rates had now subsided, the survey still produced some shocking revelations.

The science journalist Helen Pearson summarises the findings of the 1946 maternity survey in her book The Life Project, which gives a history of Britain’s birth cohort studies:

“Almost every result that tumbled out of Douglas’ tabulating machine showed a country divided by class. The babies in the lowest class were 70% more likely to be born dead than those in the most prosperous, and they were also far more likely to be born prematurely.”

These outcomes were largely the result of the costs involved in accessing good antenatal care at the time. The 1946 maternity survey also highlighted that most women were unable to access any pain relief during childbirth. These findings of the maternity survey contributed to the shaping of the early NHS (launched in 1948), and led to a change in the rules so that midwives were able to administer pain relief more freely.

An extract from the 1946 maternity survey questionnaires, about whether received pain relief during childbirth.

An extract from the 1946 Maternity Survey questionnaires (Reference Number NSHD/2/2).

Although the maternity survey was intended as a one-off, about a third of the babies were selected for a follow-up survey, and it became the basis for an ongoing longitudinal study of health and development. In addition to health, the NSHD became influential in education and social policy. Douglas published the book The Home and the School in 1964, which demonstrated that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds were much less likely to go to grammar school, even when they were judged to be of similar ability. These findings contributed to the introduction of the ‘comprehensive’ school system in 1965.

Although the NSHD’s funding was precarious in its early years, from 1962 it secured regular core funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC). In its later years the NSHD evolved into a study of adult health (including mental health), and the life factors involved in developing certain illnesses and conditions. Today the NSHD remains an active, ongoing study, now oriented towards being a study of ageing. It has just had its 75th birthday as the NSHD study members turned 75 in March 2021. This online talk on the history of the NSHD was given as part of the 75th birthday celebrations:

As mentioned in that talk, the NSHD cohort is representative of the racial demographics of Britain when the study began, rather than Britain’s racial demographics today. As the NSHD study members were born in 1946, before the significant levels of immigration to Britain that happened in subsequent decades, the cohort is therefore overwhelmingly white. However, the impact of the NSHD provided the inspiration for several later British cohort studies, notably the 1958 National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study, and the Millennium Cohort Study. These three later cohort studies are administered by a different organisation, the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), whose archives are also stored at UCL.

What’s in the NSHD archive?

It’s important to stress that none of the research data are included in this archive – this in an administrative archive whose documents demonstrate which kinds of data were collected, why particular questions were asked, and how the study has changed over time. A key part of the NSHD archive is the series of blank questionnaires and interview booklets, running from the 1946 maternity survey through to the present. From these you can see each and every question that has been asked as part of the study. The topics they cover include health, education, employment, income, housing, family, and social attitudes. The study members also took cognitive and attainment tests at ages 8, 11, and 15.

A page from the ‘Picture Intelligence Test’ given to the NSHD study members when they were aged 8, as part of the 1954 data collection of the NSHD..

A page from the ‘Picture Intelligence Test’ given to the NSHD study members when they were aged 8, as part of the 1954 data collection (NSHD/2/8/3).

In 1962, the NSHD study members turned 16, which meant it would be much harder for the study to keep in touch with them. As a result, the NSHD began sending birthday cards to each study member every March (remember the NSHD study members all have roughly the same birthday!) Each year the card would have a new design, sometimes chosen through competitions. In a recent article, Hannah Elizabeth and Daisy Pailing explain how the NSHD birthday cards have evolved over time, how they led to the development of close bonds between the NSHD and its study members, and how the birthday cards demonstrate “the growing awareness of importance of emotion within British social science research communities”.

The male and female designs for the 1962 NSHD birthday cards.

The first NSHD birthday card was sent out in March 1962, when the study members turned 16. The 1962 card is the only NSHD birthday card to have designs for different genders: female, left (NSHD/8/2/1/1); and male, right (NSHD/8/2/1/2).

The 1996 NSHD birthday card design.

The 50th birthday card, sent out in March 1996, featured pictures of NSHD staff members (NSHD/8/2/1/36). James Douglas (top, centre) was director of the NSHD 1946-1979; Michael Wadsworth (top right) was director 1986-2006; and Diana Kuh (bottom right) was director 2007-2017.

The archive also contains a wealth of planning documents, progress reports and grant applications, which demonstrate the rigorous and constant scrutiny involved in the study, and which also document the way the study has evolved over time. These records will allow researchers to see not just which questions were asked but why those particular questions were asked, and not others. These documents also capture the way that the importance of ethics and consent have changed over time in scientific research.

NSHD Progress Reports to the MRC in 1965 and 2012.

NSHD Progress Reports to the MRC, from 1965 (left, NSHD/3/1), and from 2012 (right, NSHD/3/9/3).

This cataloguing project was given the title ‘Interconnections’ due to the links between social science and medical science in the NSHD. The NSHD archive will therefore be of particular interest to researchers of either field.

You can now browse the catalogue for the NSHD archive through the UCL online catalogue: https://archives.ucl.ac.uk/CalmView/.

To make an appointment to access the archive in our reading room at the UCL Institute of Education, contact ioe.arch-enquiries@ucl.ac.uk.

The Wellcome Trust logo.

This cataloguing project has been funded by the Wellcome Trust.