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‘The first stone’: 197 years of UCL

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 8 February 2023

Leah Johnston, Cataloguing Archivist (Records), explores documents in the College Archives relating to the history of UCL’s Wilkins Building

We are fast approaching UCL’s bicentenary in 2026 and much of its almost 200-year history is recorded within the documents, plans, drawings, photographs, and ephemera of UCL’s College Archive. The archive spans the period from its establishment in 1824, to the present day, and covers everything from founding deeds to student magazines, along with Council minutes, student registers and files, correspondence, and publications about the university.

As UCL Record’s Cataloguing Archivist, it is currently my job to catalogue some of the many collections we hold. I have recently begun work on the College Correspondence, which covers a variety of matters relating to the early administration of the university between 1825-1890. Although most of this collection has already been processed there are still around 200 letters left to be documented. The collection is often used by UCL’s Records’ team to answer enquiries about the early history of the university so it is important that we know what each letter relates to and where it can be found within the 164 boxes in which they are all stored.

While working on a folder of correspondence from 1827 I came across several letters from the architect, Sir William Wilkins who designed UCL’s Wilkins Building. In 1826 he entered a competition set by the Council to submit a design for the emerging university’s main building. Architects submitted their designs in March 1826 and after much deliberation Wilkins’ design was chosen. As noted by Dr Amy Spencer in her lecture ‘The beginnings of UCL in Bloomsbury: some parallels with UCL East’, this was mainly due to the fact that it offered the largest square-footage for the lowest estimate.

 

First page of a letter from from William Wilkins to the Council, dated 17 February 1827, requesting that they delay setting the first stone.Second page of a letter from William Wilkins to the Council, dated 17 February 1827, requesting that they delay setting the first stone.

Third page of a letter from William Wilkins to the Council, dated 17 February 1827, requesting that they delay setting the first stone.

UCLCA/CORR/3076: Letter from William Wilkins to the Council, dated 17 February 1827, requesting that they delay setting the first stone.

 

In this letter dated 17 February 1827, Wilkins requests that the ceremony of the setting of the first stone be postponed for another month. It seems that due to a hard frost at the time Wilkins believed it would be nearly impossible to break ground and he urged the Council to reconsider the intended date.

Other collections within the College Archive include drawings, plans and photographs of the Wilkins building from its inception in 1826 until the present day, allowing us to trace its history through the decades.

College Collection I 16C: West Front of the University of London, 1828

College Collection I 16C: West Front of the University of London, 1828

This print shows how the building would have looked upon its opening in October 1828. Although Wilkins’ estimate was relatively low the university struggled to secure the required funds and as a result the two wings of the building were unable to be built. It wouldn’t be for another 158 years until the building’s quadrangle was completed in 1985, an occasion marked by a visit of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen is pictured during a visit to UCL in 1985 to mark the official completion of the Main Quad.

The Queen is pictured during a visit to UCL in 1985 to mark the official completion of the Main Quad.

College Collection X 65: William Monk’s etching of the Wilkins’ Building Portico (c.1900-1920)

Over the years the building has become a well-known landmark of the Bloomsbury area and has been reproduced in drawings, paintings, and later photographs. This print is a copy of an etching by the Victorian artist William Monk and shows the distinctive 10 column Portico some time at the start of the 20th century.

UCL Front Quad and Portico at Night. November 2008

UCL Front Quad and Portico at Night. November 2008. © UCL Media Services – University College London

In contrast this image taken by UCL Media Services team in November 2008 shows the same aspect portrayed in Monk’s engraving. Although the images are almost a century apart the Wilkins Building has remained almost unchanged.

To explore more of the history of UCL’s campus check out our Digital Collections page.

Young people against racism in 1980s London schools

By Erika Delbecque, on 9 January 2023

This post was written by Dr Shirin Hirsch, who was one of the 2022 UCL RIC Visiting Fellows.

Bengali lives are at risk whilst they are at Morpeth – we are punched, kicked and spat on. Enough is enough.

On a Monday morning in January 1986 one hundred Bengali students walked out of their secondary school in Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets. That weekend they had drawn up a poster calling on all children to strike with them until their demands were met. In Oxford House just off Bethnal Green Road they set up an anti-racist alternative school. Three days later, the students returned to Morpeth with the school management agreeing to their demands. The strike was partially won. Young people, in taking action on their own behalf, had forced a change in the school.

Just over a decade later, I attended the same school. Bengali students were now a large part of the student intake and the school had new management. There were brief institutional histories given on dark days when fascists had attempted to organise and build their ranks inside the school. Then a new head teacher was brought in and it was said that he had transformed the school, later knighted for his efforts. But nowhere in these official histories were the actions of the students themselves remembered. Years later, when I stumbled upon a news report covering the strike, I was full of questions. Why did the students walk out of their school? Was the action connected to other strikes? What impact did the strike have on the school? And why had the students been forgotten for so long? I wanted to dig into the history of my old school, from a year before I was born, to try and find out more about where I was from and how young people had transformed their environment.

There are many challenges in researching the resistance of young people. For one thing, their lives are often remembered in words, documents or collections owned by adults. What is seen as ‘significant’ by older people might be different to young people’s views and experiences. Protests by young people are often against powerful institutions or people who can make decisions about what is and isn’t recorded. This was certainly the case in the Morpeth school strike, with the school management inviting ILEA press officers to the school to ensure the story was tightly controlled. Thames TV entered the school on the day the students returned from their strike but they were only able to interview selected staff and not students. That does not mean young people’s actions have been entirely erased. The local press did report on the Morpeth strike and documents from the strike were kept by a member of ILEA, which have since been donated to Tower Hamlets Archive.

1980s leaflet about the Campaign Against Racism in Schools

Rally against racism in schools. Papers of Ken Jones KJ/4/1, UCL Special Collections, IOE Library and Archives, London.

Morpeth was not the only school where young people were struggling against racism. For my UCL Special Collections fellowship here, I have been spending time with two collections: the Marina Foster (MF) and Ken Jones (KJ) papers. Marina Foster was a Black teacher who had left South Africa as a refugee in the 1960s and in London became an advisory teacher at the ILEA for many years, focusing on multi-ethnic education and tackling institutional racism. Ken Jones was from the 1970s until 1990 a teacher in London secondary schools and active in the politics of education and in issues of curriculum, pedagogy and trade unionism. Both collections illuminate the debates, policies and projects on multicultural and anti-racist education taking place in London schools. There are documents that show imaginative ways of creating an anti-racist classroom, with teacher organisations like Campaign against racism in education (CARE) All London Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (ALCARF) as well as documents from ILEA (Inner London Education Authority).

The collections also illuminate the serious racism that existed in London schools. Daneford school, nearby to Morpeth, in Tower Hamlets, was the most publicised example of this and there are a number of documents on this in UCL special collections. The Guardian reported in 1986 that three quarters of the students at Daneford were of Asian origin and there had been a spate of racist attacks inside the school. The school gates were plastered with National Front stickers and posters, and a 12 year old Bangladeshi student had been viscously attacked with a razor blade by four white students. Another time, twenty white young people at a football match ‘spilled over into the school’ shouting viscous racist abuse. One teacher, Norma Hundleby, told the press: ‘Boys were coming out of all the classrooms to join them. It was totally out of control.’ Kumar Murshid, Chairperson of Campaign against racism in schools (CARS) explained that only ‘the dedication of the anti-racist teachers and pupils who have organised themselves against these attacks’ had helped to ease the tensions at Daneford. The racism, alongside the resistance, would receive national attention following the arrest of Daneford teachers and a school student who were protesting outside the Tower Hamlets ILEA office over the refusal of ILEA to take serious action against racism at Daneford school.

The reports at both Daneford and Morpeth schools challenged a version of schooling which saw young people as passive objects, who should simply ‘do what they are told’. Sajid, 18 years old, summed up the feeling when he explained to the press in 1986:

If we can’t go to school peacefully and study in safety, then we have to fight back. We have as much right as any white kid to go to school.

Front cover of the first issue of Black Parents Special, 1985

Black Parents Special no 1 (1985). Papers of Marina Foster MF/8/39, UCL Special Collections, IOE Library and Archives, London.

The voices of young people are sometimes hard to hear within these collections, but that does not mean they are completely silenced. In the Marina Foster collection there is a ‘Black Youth Annual Penmanship Awards’ with records of Black children’s writings from 1981, with essays on ‘What is means to be Black and British’ and ‘Being without Employment in Britain today’. The winning essay questioned the very nature of the school system, the student directly asking ‘does it prepare me or help me tackle the blatant and insidious forms of racism that, I am afraid to say, I will invariably encounter?’ The frustration at the school system, as well as wider society, was powerfully expressed by many of these young Black authors.

Front cover of a publication by John Gus from the Black Parents Movement, entitled The Black Working Class Movement in Education and Schooling.

Gus, John (1986). The Black Working Class Movement in Education and Schooling. Papers of Marina Foster MF/8/63, UCL Special Collections, IOE Library and Archives, London.

The resistance at Morpeth secondary school in 1986 emerged out of this context and was not an isolated act. The Miners’ Strike had ended in March the previous year, a bitter defeat not just for the miners but for the whole of the labour movement. The year following the strike the numbers of days lost to strike action in Britain was at its lowest since 1967. However, school student strikes were not included in these figures. In April 1985 there was a national school student strike in response to the government’s attempts to make the Youth Training Scheme compulsorily for 16-17 year olds and to take unemployment benefits away from any young people refusing to participate. Alongside these strikes, the British government were openly attacking ‘hard left education authorities and extremist teachers’, as Thatcher put it. Parents were also resisting, and the Black Parents Movement, born in the 1970s, had begun to win serious changes in the schools. In 1981 and 1985 uprisings involving young people against the police had taken place in inner cities across England. Meanwhile teachers in 1985-6 entered disputes over cuts to schools and pay agreements. Gus John, a key activist and founder of the Black Parents Movement, in a speech he gave to teachers in 1986 which was later published as a pamphlet (M/8/63), explained:

The struggles waged by the black community outside of school and in relation to what was going on inside the school, gave school students the confidence to exercise their own power within the school. The school became for them the site of struggle against racism and against the treatment they were subjected to because of their class.

That relationship between students, community groups, teachers and wider political shifts is what I am interested in further exploring. This fellowship has given me the resources and time to piece together archival material and to explore these topics. I now hope to speak to some of the participants themselves. I am gradually trying to recover the resistance of young people against racism so as to remember and learn from their struggles.

George Greenough’s papers – a window into the worlds of 19th-century science, wealth, and empire

By Kurt M Jameson, on 28 October 2022

George Bellas Greenough inherited a fortune at the age of 16 and, as a rich man in his 20s, decided to devote his life to the study of geology. He is best-known for his Geological Map of England and Wales, published in 1820, which used new data and an innovative colouring system to highlight deposits of different types of rocks and minerals. He later became a controversial figure due to his clashes with William Smith, another geologist who had also made a very similar geological map at almost exactly the same time.

George Greenough's colour-coded geological Map of England and Wales (1920).

Greenough’s Geological Map of England and Wales, published in 1820 by the Geological Society. An original copy of his 2nd edition, published in 1839, is held at UCL Special Collections (GREENOUGH/A/2/1).

In the title of Simon Winchester’s book The Map that Changed the World (2001), he is referring to the map created by Smith. Winchester claims that Greenough plagiarised Smith’s map, and that Greenough was an elitist snob who blocked Smith’s entry to the Geological Society due to his class background. However, others have since argued that the creation of Greenough’s map was in reality more nuanced.

A portrait engraving of George Bellas Greenough, early 19th-century.

Portrait of Greenough by Maxim Gauci, mid-19th century. Held at the National Portrait Gallery.

Regardless of whether or not Greenough plagiarised Smith’s work, these maps were ground-breaking in the way that they displayed the minerals and resources that were lying under the ground. This was an exciting development not only for those with an interest in geology or the study of fossils, but also to those who stood to benefit financially. At the time, raw materials were in high demand in order to fuel the industrial revolution. In Simon Winchester’s words: “Landowners realized that they possibly had beneath their lawns, meadows and forests huge seams of coal that could make them rich beyond their dreams.”

This was also a time of a growing British Empire, which may explain why Greenough’s other major publication was a comprehensive geological map of ‘British India’, in 1855. Greenough produced this map with the help of the East India Company, but never visited the Indian subcontinent himself. Some of Greenough’s papers hint at the potential advantages for nations of having more accurate geological information. The following passage is from a draft letter of 1810 which appears to have been drafted or translated by Greenough for Jacques Louis, Comte de Bournon, regarding a collection of minerals that had recently been bought by the British Museum:

“The collection of the late Mr. Greville, celebrated throughout Europe, is now the property of Great Britain, a country the commerce manufactures & territorial revenue of which are intimately connected with the state of its mines & this acquisition has been made at a time when mineralogy engages a more than ordinary share of public attention.” (GREENOUGH/B/4/R/12)

George Greenough's colour-coded 'General Sketch of the Physical and Geological Features of British India'

Greenough’s General Sketch of the Physical and Geological Features of British India, published in 1855. An original copy is held at UCL Special Collections (GREENOUGH/A/3/1).

UCL Special Collections holds a substantial collection of George Greenough’s papers. These papers include original copies and fragments of his own geological maps, his notes on various geological topics and debates, and his notes on other sciences. His diaries from his many expeditions through Europe include descriptions and sketches of the surrounding geology, as well as his observations on the local culture and politics. In one of these diaries he describes his escape from Sicily in 1803, as the French had invaded the Italian peninsula from the north (GREENOUGH/B/2/1/1).

A considerable amount of these papers consist of Greenough’s private correspondence. These letters read like a ‘who’s who’ of the elite scientific community in 19th-century Britain, and include letters from Michael Faraday, Francis Beaufort, Marc Isambard Brunel, and John Herschel. Being from this time period Greenough’s correspondence is almost entirely with other men, although there are some letters from women. In one letter Sarah Frembly appealed to Greenough to use his influence with the Admiralty, as her husband John had been shipwrecked and dismissed from the Royal Navy, leaving her family destitute (GREENOUGH/B/4/F/14).

In later life Greenough also focussed on the field of geography, serving as the President of the Royal Geographical Society from 1839 to 1841. This likely explains why he was in possession of a leaflet for a rescue mission for Franklin’s lost expedition to find the ‘Northwest Passage’ through the Canadian Arctic (GREENOUGH/B/3/5/1), and of prospectuses for the construction of a ‘Grand Georama’ in London (GREENOUGH/B/1/10).

Leaflet for an apeal to raise money for a rescue mission to find Franklin's lost expedition to the Canadian Arctic to find the 'Northwest Passage'.

Leaflet for the rescue of Franklin’s lost expedition (GREENOUGH/B/3/5/1)

The Greenough papers arrived at UCL in two separate deposits, the second deposit of which (‘Part B’) is newly-catalogued. The catalogue for the Greenough papers can be browsed via the UCL Archives online catalogue: https://archives.ucl.ac.uk/CalmView/. The Greenough papers will be of particular interest for any researchers of the history of geology, but may also prove useful for research into other aspects of 19th-century Britain.

To make an appointment to view any of the papers in the Greenough collection, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk.

“We Are Not Alone”: Legacies of Eugenics in Education and Society

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 17 October 2022

This post has been co-authored with Professor Marius Turda.

The IOE Library has on display a shortened version of the exhibition “We Are Not Alone”: Legacies of Eugenics which was first shown at the Weiner Holocaust Library in 2021 and which is now at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The exhibition was curated by Professor Turda (Oxford Brookes University) with some content from UCL Special Collections (Galton Laboratory Collection and the IOE Library’s History of Education Collection) as well as content from the LSE’s Library. Following the opening of the exhibition, the Weiner Library hosted a Roundtable Discussion where all who worked on the exhibition shared our research. Both Indy Bhullar, Curator for Economics and Social Policy at the LSE Library, and I were subsequently invited by Subhadra Das (previously Curator of Science Collections at UCL Culture and now an independent scholar) to publish this research as short stories for the Wellcome Collection. The following provides some background on eugenics and the resources that are currently on display at the IOE Library.

The title of the exhibition, “We are Not Alone” is inspired by a widely circulated Nazi eugenic poster from the mid-1930s. After the introduction of the 1933 ‘Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring’, Nazi propagandists claimed that their eugenic programme of forced sterilisation was in no way different to provisions already existing in the penal legislation of countries such as the USA and Sweden, and which was about to be introduced in other European countries such as Britain, Hungary, and Poland. ‘We are not alone’, they said, hoping to garner international support for their plans to eliminate ‘defectives’ from society and to ‘purify the race’.

Eugenics was a global movement. The exhibition highlights this aspect, providing historical examples from Britain, USA, Italy, Sweden, and Romania, whilst recognising that eugenics programmes targeting individuals with mental disabilities and ethnic minorities were not stopped after 1945. They continued during the post-World War II period in countries as diverse as the USA, Scandinavia, Japan, Czechoslovakia, and Peru. The exhibition aims, therefore, to offer a historically informed account of our eugenic past, present, and future, balancing various elements of continuity and discontinuity, of idiosyncrasy and similarity between eugenic movements across the world.

The internationalisation of eugenics reflected a general appreciation in many parts of the world that science was the sufficient and necessary foundation for the long-awaited renewal of the human race. As a self-styled scientific theory of human betterment and planned breeding, eugenics was based on the principle that people who were deemed socially and biologically ‘unworthy’ of reproduction should be excluded. In the name of future generations, eugenicists dissolved aspects of the private sphere, scrutinising, and working to curtail reproductive, individual, gender, religious and indigenous rights. The boundary between the private and public spheres was blurred by the idea of public responsibility for the nation and the race, which came to dominate both. In the twentieth century, the state and the society at large increasingly adopted a eugenic worldview, even though none of it was based on proven scientific arguments. Instead, eugenics relied on speculations about social norms, cultural, ethnic and gender differences, and racial worth. Ideas of economic and social productivity also flowed readily from eugenic arguments, and eugenicists argued that if an individual was found to be socially ‘unfit’, it was appropriate for them to be ‘weeded out’. ‘Unfit’ had become a label for those members of society who were deemed ‘pathological’, ‘criminal’, ‘asocial’, ‘foreign’ and ‘undesired’.

Eugenicists claimed to act in the name of future generations by ensuring the continuity of people who were believed to be ‘hereditarily healthy’. Some eugenicists highlighted the primacy of heredity in shaping character and behaviour, while others insisted equally on the role of education and the environment. Not surprisingly, they also disagreed over which eugenic measures were deemed practical and efficient, and which ones should be rejected on ethical, scientific and religious grounds. In Britain, for instance, the Eugenics Society set up a committee to draft a sterilisation bill in 1929, chaired by the society’s president, Bernard Mallet. Two years later Major Archibald Church (1886–1954), a Labour MP and member of the Eugenics Society, introduced a sterilisation bill in the House of Commons, but it was rejected. One of his Labour colleagues, physician Hyacinth Morgan (1885-1956) rebuked the bill sharply: ‘Some when inebriated see beetles; the eugenist intoxicated, sees defectives’. In 1932, another sterilisation committee was established under the chairman of the Board of Control, Lawrence Brock (1879-1949). But these efforts led nowhere, as no sterilisation bill was introduced in Parliament again.

The exhibition presents us with the opportunity to review how assumptions and attitudes rooted in eugenic principles became entrenched in British education. From the beginning, eugenics appealed to educationalists, school reformers and feminists who advocated teaching the nation’s children and the youth ‘sound morals’ alongside physical education and modern ideas of hygiene. These were considered prerequisites for maintaining a healthy body and mind, and in society’s advancement towards a eugenic future. Educationalists such as the co-founder of the London School of Economics, Sidney Webb (who was instrumental in the establishment of the London Day Training College –now the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society), was a key supporter of eugenics. Other examples include heads of colleges such as Margaret Tuke, Principal of Bedford College and J. J. Findlay of Owen’s College, Manchester, the London County Council’s Schools Inspector, W. H. Winch, and the educational psychologist Cyril Burt.

The cases display the intelligence tests or IQ tests from the Psychology and Human Development (PHD) Collection at the IOE. These tests were adapted by Cyril Burt from the IQ tests developed in Paris by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon at the turn of the twentieth century. Burt’s ‘mental footrule’ was used to rate the intelligence of a child and his evaluation of mental deficiencies influenced the outcome of the 1924  Hadow report on psychological testing and the  1929 Wood Report of the Mental Deficiency Committee and the Board of Education. The latter recommended the reclassification of children considered to be ‘mentally defective’ . Also on display are publications by the experimental psychologist, H. R. Hamley and director T. Percy Nunn on The Education of Backward Children: and, Juvenile Delinquency in England and Wales as well as A Textbook of Hygiene for Training Colleges by Margaret Avery, Vice Principal of Warrington Teacher Training College.

Image of the title page of Margaret Avery's textbook 'Hygiene'

Besides focusing on biological hygiene, Avery devotes an entire chapter on eugenics. This chapter provides examples of how eugenic thinking persists in the present day and is consistent with recent statements made by some politicians currently in power. For example, Avery states that while there are many ‘causes of pauperism’, one of them is that the working classes simply ‘lack…”grit”‘(p. 310)–a message that is not dissimilar to the one recently expressed by the (now previous) prime minister in relation to ‘British workers being the worst idlers in the world’. In relation to immigrants, Avery states: ‘We should welcome the right type of immigrant and discourage the wrong type’ and ‘we… receive the off-scourings of other countries, and these are racially very undesirable’ (p. 320). Once again, this mirrors the views of the present government on refugees and immigrants. Avery ends her chapter by stating that Christianity is on the side of the eugenicists because it, ‘more than any other power, has given us a sense of the infinite value of human life, and the eugenicist is trying to prevent the wreckage of human life’ (p. 323). While the Church has spoken out against these messages in Britain, the story is far from different in the United States (see Witnessing Whiteness by Kristopher Norris). Avery’s book continued to be published in several editions until 1951. It was the recommended textbook for the Board of Education’s teachers’ examination in hygiene. Undoubtedly, it will have influenced the thinking of generations of teachers and their students.

Although the true impact of eugenics will never be known, its legacies continue to penetrate deeply and widely into the fabric of our society. Continuing education and engagement with eugenics, as well as its public condemnation, are essential components of our efforts to comprehend a hidden and ominous past, while also pursuing a fair and just society.

Liberating the Collections 2022: A Volunteer’s Experience of Searching UCL Special Collections

By Erika Delbecque, on 23 August 2022

This guest blog post was written by Jane McChrystal , who spent five months volunteering at UCL Special Collections as part of the Liberating the Collections project.

In March I was presented with an exciting opportunity – discovering the work of women authors published before 1750, held by UCL Library’s Special Collections. I’d been invited to join a team of volunteers for the library’s Liberating the Collections project, by Head of Rare books, Erika Delbecque. Next, Erika convened an online meeting to introduce volunteers to each other and some members of the library team. During the meeting the librarians showed us how to identify works catalogued in the Special Collections using the Explore service, knowledge which could then be applied to the pursuit of the individual projects Erika had assigned.

There were some initial qualms- what if there weren’t any works by women authors pre 1750 in UCL’s collections, or I couldn’t work out how to find them? Luckily, my supervisor, Jo Baines, Academic Liaison Librarian / Archivist, was at hand to reassure me that there were, as I’d hoped, many different ways of approaching the collections to find relevant texts, so it was fine, at this stage to try out a variety of search methods and see what worked.

Initially, I set out in quite a random fashion. I didn’t make much headway, but I was able familiarise myself with Explore and become more confident about finding my way round the collections. And then, Covid struck in April, leaving me quite foggy for a number of weeks.

Once the fog lifted, something had become clear, I needed a system. A simple idea occurred to me. How about approaching my searches with a list of women authors who lived between the 14th and 18th centuries? In this instance, Wikipedia was my friend and it helped me to compile a list of 353 authors. I then selected some who looked the most promising and noted the subjects they addressed, and the literary forms they employed, such as poetry, meditations or drama. Consequently, I was able to match the authors with the collections they were most likely to be found in and the carry out a simple author search in the catalogue of the relevant collections.

The title page of
Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M-y W–y M–e by
Mary Wortley Montagu (Dublin : Printed for P. Wilson, J. Hoey, Junior, and J. Potts, 1763). [SSEES Library, Rare Books Room, KMisc51]

The Rotton and Strong Room collections yielded eleven works by Aphra Behn, a good result, but not too surprising, as she was about the only seventeenth-century woman author I was already familiar with. Today, she is remembered chiefly for a novel, Oroonoko, the tale of a doomed affair between Oroonoko, an African prince and his love, Imoinda, set largely in Surinam played out against the background of a slaves’ revolt, and later adapted into a more successful play.

Before my search, though, I wasn’t aware of her four other dramas and poetry, mainly composed of paeons of praise to various illustrious individuals and members of royalty. I really knew very little about this literary form, but as I went ahead with further searches, I came to realise how popular it was, which makes sense when you consider the important role of patrons in literary life at the time.

And then I came across a gem in the Rotton collection, a collection of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters to various eminent men in England, concerning her travels in Europe, Africa and Asia with her husband, a British ambassador, which lists the name “Mary Astell” among its contributors.

Mary Astell (1666-1731), sometimes referred to as England’s first feminist, was the author of A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest, a Lockean philosopher and the founder of a charity school for girls in Chelsea.

She also belonged to a circle of scholarly women in Chelsea, which included Lady Mary Chudleigh, Elizabeth Thomas and Elizabeth Elstob and Wortley Montagu. Each lived in quite different circumstances, ranging from the wealthy, aristocratic Wortley Montagu to Astell.

Astell was a single woman, whose family had fallen on hard times and, as such, had no prospect of marriage to a social equal. She survived on the patronage of women, like those in the circle, who shared her interests in feminism, the oppressive nature of marital relations and the importance of a good education for girls and women.

I returned to the catalogue in search of their names and found four other works by Montagu in the Rotton Collection, largely made up of more letters about her experiences in the different countries she lived in. It is fortunate that these letters were preserved in the eminent men’s libraries and published after their estates were distributed. These texts were then picked up by collectors who donated them to UCL Library.

So, what next?  On 24th August I look forward to sharing my discoveries at a meeting of UCL Library’s Rare Books Club, where participants will have a chance to take a look at some of the texts I found and learn about the work of two fascinating women authors previously buried in the Special Collections, together with the stories of some other important women in their orbit.

All in all, these experiences of taking part in Liberating the Collections have lived up to every expectation I set out with and beyond. Working with Jo as my supervisor has been one of the most enjoyable of them and, thanks to her knowledge, flexible approach and supportive attitude, I found a path to these heroines.

New Jewish pamphlets

By Vanessa Freedman, on 24 June 2022

The Hebrew & Jewish Studies Collections in UCL Special Collections include a treasure trove of material in the form of pamphlets. There are over 9,000 pamphlets on a wide range of subjects throughout the field of Jewish Studies, particularly Anglo-Jewish history, Zionism and liturgy. The pamphlets date from 1601 onwards, and are in English, Hebrew, German and a number of other languages.

In 2019 we completed a project to make these rich collections available to scholars and the general public. They are now catalogued in Explore, the most fragile items have been conserved, and a selection of them have been digitised.

We haven’t finished developing this collection though, as we are still acquiring pamphlets by purchase or donation. If you have any pamphlets that you would like to donate, please contact the Hebrew & Jewish Studies librarian.

Here are a few highlights from our recent acquisitions.

Bekhi tamrurim : be-yom evel u-misped ʻal aḥenu ḥalele ha-peraʻot be-artsot Polin : yom 5, 28 Siṿan 679 li-f.-ḳ = A service of prayer and mourning for the victims of the pogroms in Poland : Queen’s Hall, June 26th, 5679-1919

Cover of pamphletOne of the highlights of the pamphlet collection is a large number of orders of service for a variety of national and communal occasions. This particular service was a cross-communal event: published by the Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United (orthodox) Synagogue, those leading the service also included Rev S.J. Roco of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue and Rev Morris Joseph of the (Reform) West London Synagogue of British Jews. The occasion was a spate of attacks against Jews that took place in newly-independent Poland after the First World War. There were over 130 attacks against Jews in Polish territories between 1918 and 1921, causing around 300 deaths.[1] The Hebrew title Bekhi tamrurim means ‘bitter cry’.

 

 

A Palestine Munich? by R.H.S. Crossman and Michael Foot

Cover of pamphletIn this ‘provocative’[2] pamphlet, published in 1946, left-wing backbench MPs Richard Crossman and Michael Foot (later leader of the Labour Party) attack the Labour Government’s policy on Palestine. They criticise the government for indecision and compare the restriction of Jewish immigration in order to avoid Arab opposition to the pre-war appeasement of Hitler (hence the title). The pamphlet argues for the partition of Palestine to form a Jewish state and an enlarged Transjordan.

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, a fascinating oddity:

Teʻudah Yehudit = Idisher doḳumenṭ = Jewish certificate

Cover of pamphletThis ‘Jewish Certificate’, in Hebrew, Yiddish, English and Arabic, looks like a passport and includes space for the holder’s photograph, signature and personal details. It proclaims that ‘the bearer of this certificate is a Jew not a Zionist and has no connection with the nationalist movement which has gained control over the Holy Land and turned it into a Zionist state by falsely assuming the Jewish names of Zion and Israel’. It was produced in 1976 or 1977 by the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox group Neturei Karta, some of whose members refuse to carry an Israeli identity card[3].

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Anna Cichopek-Gajraj and Glenn Dynner, “Pogroms in Modern Poland, 1918–1946,” in Pogroms: A Documentary History, ed. Eugene M. Avrutin and Elissa Bemporad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), 193.

[2] Kenneth O. Morgan, “Foot, Michael Mackintosh (1913–2010), journalist, politician, and author,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2016).

[3] Menachem Friedman, “Neturei Karta,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007).

Uncovering silenced voices in our rare books: the Liberating the Collections volunteer project

By Erika Delbecque, on 10 February 2022

For most of recent history, access to the means to read, write, publish and collect texts was restricted to society’s most privileged. Most of the 150,000 rare books that are looked after by UCL Special Collections were donated over the past two centuries by members of the same privileged group. Collecting books is never neutral: the choice to purchase books in a certain discipline, or on specific topics or by particular authors also implies the choice not to purchase other materials. The interests and prejudices of the collectors themselves and the society they lived in deeply influenced those decisions.

Portrait of a Muslim woman in formal garb.
Jaʻfar Sharīf, Qanoon-e-Islam, or, The customs of the Mussulmans of India. 2nd ed. (Madras, J. Higginbotham: 1863) [WHITLEY STOKES 113.k.19]

The result is that the rare printed collections that we have inherited overwhelmingly document the experiences, achievements and concerns of white men of European heritage. The experiences of less privileged people – those of non-white ethnicity, women, those living with a disability or people who are LGBTQ+, for example – are much more difficult to find.

Uncovering obscured histories

To start addressing this challenge, we set up a volunteering project called Liberating the Collections in 2021. Thirteen volunteers searched our catalogue for books, pamphlets and journals that relate to the experiences of people from marginalised groups. Focusing on topics such as women book owners, same sex love and desire and BAME authors, they compiled a list of 650 books from our collections that provide glimpses into some of those obscured histories. A new display at the Student Centre, which is opening on 15th February ’22, will showcase a selection of images from the items that the project has uncovered.

Complex questions

Signatures of Mary Rich and Margarit Riche. John Harington. Orlando Furioso in English heroical verse (London: Richard Field, 1591) [STRONG ROOM OGDEN B 2]

Searching for these underrepresented voices in our collections brought up many questions that don’t have easy answers. Are descriptions of non-Western traditions by representatives of the nations that colonised these countries examples of preservation or exploitation? How do you uncover women’s histories when the surviving historical evidence is scanty? Can we apply modern notions of sexual identities to texts that were written by historic people?

These issues are reflected in some of the items that are included in the display. There is a copy of a sixteenth-century epic poem that was signed by Mary Rich and Margarit Riche, whose identities we can only guess at. Another item in the display is a volume of poetry by Katherine Philips (1632-64), who some consider to be a lesbian poet, although others have called this reading anachronistic. Also included is an illustration from Kaladlit okalluktualliait (1859-61), an anthology of Inuit folk tales that was published by a Danish colonial official.

Next steps

Portrait of Katherine Philips in Poems by the most deservedly admired Mrs Katherine Philips (London: H. Herringman, 1669) [STRONG ROOM OGDEN A QUARTO 168]

Listing items from our collections that relate to underrepresented and marginalised groups is only the first step in amplifying these voices. Through updating our catalogue records with the findings of the volunteers, we will make these items easier to discover. For example, where volunteers have identified women who previously owned books in our collections or women printers who used their late husband’s name, we are adding these names to the catalogue record. We are also planning to digitise some of these items so that they are freely available online, and we are using the list as a basis to diversify the items we use in our exhibitions, classes and events.

The Liberating the Collections project has only scratched the tip of the metaphorical iceberg, but already we are finding treasures as the ice starts to melt.

‘Very coarse articles’ – celebrating UCL’s institutional archive

By Colin Penman, on 8 February 2022

February 11 is generally accepted as UCL’s ‘birthday’, the date in 1826 of our founding instrument, the Deed of Settlement. This document establishes a society, called ‘The Proprietors of the University of London’, to set up an Institution with the object of ‘affording to young Men … adequate opportunities for obtaining Literary and Scientific Education at a moderate expence’. That’s exactly what our founders did, disregarding a very snooty letter to The Times on 2 November 1825, which suggested ‘There should be something of a prohibitive duty in the way of expense, to prevent the admission of very coarse articles’.

UCLCA/1, Deed of Settlement

This is an image of the first page of the Deed of Settlement, held in the UCL institutional archive, which I manage. This archive is of course just one part of Special Collections, but I want to use this anniversary to bang our drum or blow our trumpet (or both).

When those who know us think of our Special Collections, they may not think first of the archives of UCL itself: after all, we have other, flagship collections which rightly claim a lot of scholarly and popular attention. But I’d argue that our own archive is not only worthy of some of that attention, it’s vital to UCL’s understanding of itself, and the way we present ourselves to the world.

For a start, it can be a useful corrective to the stories we tell about UCL. For example, for a long time you could read on our website and social media that UCL was ‘the first university in England to admit women on equal terms with men’. You rarely see that claim now, because it simply isn’t true. It’s a lot more interesting than that, and you can trace the complex truth in the College archive through items like the College Calendars, which tell us:

College Collection A 3.2, p. 2

That is, if you were a prospective student in the second half of the 19th century and happened to be a woman (and not connected to a man at the top of the institution), you needed the approval of the Lady Superintendent of Women Students. Similarly, a look at plans of the Wilkins building from this time shows separate spaces for women, with the Union Society (men only) on the left, and women’s space on the right, in the South Wing:

College Collection A 3.2

and the archives of the Women’s Union Society (WUS) attest to a separation of male and female students that lasted right up to 1946.

The archive is also increasingly used as a resource in UCL’s teaching. This term we are taking part in the Institute of Education’s Worlds of UCL module, which uses the history of UCL and the Institute to explore topics in the history of education. Last week, students were using items from the archive – specifically a blazer, medals and magazines – to think about student culture and identity, and how these have evolved over time.

Last term, we contributed to the Bartlett School’s Architecture & Historic Urban Environments MA module on Surveying and Recording of Cities, using our building plans, like this, one of Thomas Hayter Lewis’s plans for the South Wing of the Wilkins Building,

UCLCA PLANS D5

as well as a remarkable document with the prosaic title of ‘Analysis of Plans’. It was the Bartlett’s Dr Amy Spencer, who has just completed her PhD on UCL’s architectural history, who pointed out the significance of this item, slightly unnoticed in our vast collection of College Correspondence. It is in fact a comparison of the bids received (around the time of the Deed of Settlement, in early 1826) for the building for the new university. Due to its significance, and to make it safer to handle and display, we decided to ask our wonderful conservators to stabilise it for the future. Now it has a new enclosure of its own, and will be stored flat, instead of being folded four times:

UCLCA/CORR/1167/15

These are just a few examples of how we’re getting the archive out there, and developing it for the future. Much more cataloguing is needed, and we’re working on that, but we also have a wealth of digitised material which is so vital in research and teaching support, particularly throughout Covid lockdowns, when nobody could access the collections physically. For this, we have to thank our Special Collections digital curation colleagues, and UCL Educational Media Services.

Meanwhile, the archive is being developed in innovative ways. Although we occasionally accept donations from people formerly connected with UCL, the vast majority of the archive consists of the administrative records that you would expect to find in any large educational establishment – minutes, correspondence, registers and so on. These are vital to our understanding of the story of UCL. But with the records of individuals, we can include voices that are missing from that story. If you were a student or staff member at the Slade School, for example, there’s still time to send something to Slade 150: Letters to the Archive. And the Generation UCL project will make a more wide-ranging contribution as a record of recent student life in London.

After all, our 200th birthday is only four years away!

To learn more about UCL Records, check out our main page.

The Trades Advisory Council – countering antisemitism and fascism in 20th-century Britain

By Kurt M Jameson, on 3 February 2022

The Trades Advisory Council of British Jewry (TAC) was formed in 1938, to counter antisemitism in the sphere of trade. The TAC archives capture the history of fascism and antisemitism in mid-20th century Britain, and the history of those who fought back.

Black-and-white portrait photograph of Maurice Orbach.

A photograph of Maurice Orbach, by Walter Stoneman (1949). © National Portrait Gallery, London (link to image). Provided under Creative Commons licence BY-NC-ND 3.0

UCL has a collection of TAC archives, which has recently been fully catalogued. This collection appears to have originally been accumulated by Maurice Orbach (pictured), who was General Secretary of the TAC from 1940 until his death in 1979. The TAC began as a sub-committee of the Defence Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, but it became more independent over time. In their own words, the TAC’s aim was “eliminating friction in industry between Jews and non-Jews”. From the surviving TAC minute books, correspondence, and a large case book from the 1940s, we are able to see what this meant in practice.

The TAC would often intervene to apply pressure on businesses, if Jewish workers or Jewish customers were experiencing discrimination. Some of these people that the TAC helped in the 1940s were Jewish refugees fleeing mainland Europe due to the spread of fascism. In other cases, the TAC would act as mediators in disputes involving Jewish businesses. Their work therefore also involved forming relationships with various unions and trade bodies. Another aspect of the TAC’s work was to challenge antisemitic statements and characterisations that appeared in the media.

A photo of text from a leaflet entitled 'The Objects of the Trades Advisory Council'

An excerpt from a TAC leaflet, c.1940 (found in scrapbook TAC/2/1)

The TAC’s activities have resulted in a vast collection of press cuttings and antisemitic material, and the creation of files about individuals and organisations which the TAC suspected of being fascist. Many of these people were openly fascist, such as Oswald Mosley (who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932). It is not entirely clear whether all of this material was collected for the TAC’s activities, or if some of it was collected for Maurice Orbach’s personal files (he was also an MP and a campaigner against racial discrimination), but regardless this collection now provides a vast trove of newspaper cuttings, leaflets, newsletters, pamphlets, and letters regarding antisemitism and fascism in Europe in the mid-20th century. Large scrapbooks have been filled with hundreds of newspaper cuttings reporting the activities of fascist groups, and of instances of antisemitism in the press. These files also include letters containing antisemitic abuse and threats, some of which had been sent directly to Orbach. The far-right leaflets and pamphlets in this collection demonstrate that many of the antisemitic conspiracy theories around on the internet today were also circulating in Britain in the mid-20th century.

Two open TAC scrapbooks

A scrapbook (TAC/2/1) showing TAC material from 1942; and a scrapbook of press cuttings from 1937 (TAC/7/2)

The creator of these files and scrapbooks (probably Orbach himself) also collected material on those who fought back, and many of the scrapbooks have been given the title ‘Anti-Fascist’. The press cuttings capture the activities of individuals and groups who protested at fascist events, and who broke up meetings of fascist groups. For example, this material covers the actions of those who confronted Mosley and the Blackshirts in the streets in the 1930s, and it also includes a file on the Yellow Star movement, who opposed Mosley and his Union Movement on the streets in the 1960s.

Although much of the material in this collection consists of newspaper cuttings, which have already been published, the fact that such a comprehensive collection of articles has been carefully arranged means that the scrapbooks could be a useful resource for researchers into fascism, antisemitism, and anti-fascist organising. The internal TAC archives on the other hand offer a unique insight into the activities of some of those who worked to counter antisemitism in mid-20th century Britain.

The catalogue description for the TAC collection can be viewed online via this page, by searching for ‘TAC’: https://archives.ucl.ac.uk/CalmView/

To make an appointment to view any of the files in the TAC collection, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

Happy Hanukkah

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 6 December 2021

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light, takes place this year from the evening of 28th November through to the evening of 6th December. We have put together eight Hanukkah-related videos showing items from our collections, one for each night of the festival.

1. Title page of Mocatta Mahzor.

The Mocatta Mahzor (MS MOCATTA/2) is an Italian illuminated manuscript containing prayers for the whole year, including Hanukkah.

 

2. Prayers for Hanukkah

This video shows the prayers for Hanukkah from the Mocatta MahzorItalian mahzorim generally include not only prayers for the major festivals like Passover but also minor ones like Hanukkah, as well as ordinary weekdays and sabbaths 

3. Piyyutim

Some prayerbooks contain piyyutim (liturgical poems) for special sabbaths, including the one(s) in Hanukkah – here’s one from the Mocatta Mahzor. 

 

4. Hallel psalms

The Hallel psalms (Psalms 113-118) are recited on most festivals including Hanukkah. These are the Hallel psalms from the Mocatta Mahzor. 

 

5. Binding of a 17th century Ḥumash 

On the festival of light you can see how the light reflects off the binding and gilt edges of this Ḥumash (a volume containing the Five Books of Moses), which was printed in Amsterdam in 1665 or 1666. It has a fine binding of Dutch morocco, with gilt gauffred edges (STRONG ROOM MOCATTA QB 12 TAR c1) .

 

6. Title page of the Ḥumash 

This video shows the coloured title page of the Ḥumash and part of the portion of Miḳets (Genesis 41:1-44:17), which is frequently read on the Sabbath during Hanukkah.  

 

7. Odekha ki anafta

Here’s another Hanukkah piyyut (liturgical poem), Odekha ki anafta. It comes from a 19th century Viennese manuscript collection of piyyutim (MS MOCATTA/25). The gory illustration is from the story of Judith, who is often associated with Hanukkah. 

 

8. Mocatta Haggadah

This is a bit of a stretch for Hanukkah as it’s actually from the Mocatta Haggadah (MS MOCATTA/1) for Passover. But it shows the Hallel psalms which are also recited on Hanukkah and it’s shiny and reflects the light on the festival of light! 

 

If you’d like to learn more about the Mocatta Mahzor, UCL’s Jewish and Hebrew Studies Subject Liason Librarian has put together a video about the Mahzor and how it came into our collection! You can view it on the Special Collections Moodle Page – just self enrole in order to access the page.

Thank you to Vanessa Freedman for choosing books from the Mocatta collection and for writing about each item!

Gavin’s book of witches

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 29 October 2021

Hidden in the Institute of Education’s Baines Archives is a small book entitled Gavin’s book of witches (BA/1/9/78).

A book cover decorated with crayons which reads Gavin's book of witches

The Baines Archives includes items related to the work of George and Judith Baines, who pioneered new teaching methods in the 1960s-1980s. The archive includes examples of student work from Eynsham County Primary School where George Baines worked as the headteacher. There are a number of small books written, illustrated, and bound by the students. One former pupil described the process:

‘A prominent memory that I have is of the book binding which not only completed a study but also became a feature. The technique is a cherished memory: the meticulous scraping of the lino block, the roller thick with sticky paint, the binding and the glue oozing out in all the wrong places, the pride of producing a book contained within a hardback.’

Gavin’s book of witches is one such example of student work. It was produced by a young pupil, probably named Gavin, who was probably still learning to write. The teacher has written the text for Gavin to copy underneath. It was then illustrated with original drawings.

Two pages. One has children's writing and is decorated with red and black crayon. The other is a drawing of a group of witches.

The book is very short – just six pages in total. A transcription of it follows:

A children's drawing of a witch on a broom with a cat.

 

 

 

My witch is flying. She is going to the witches party.

 

 

 

A children's drawing of a group of witches.

 

 

She gets there first then all these come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A group of witches sat at a table.

 

The witches are singing and eating at their party.

 

 

 

 

 

Gavin’s book of witches is the perfect Halloween story.

If you’d like to see more examples of workbooks from the Baines collection, ‘A Book of Bones’ and ‘My Book about the Potato’ are both featured in our online exhibition ‘Word as Art: Beauty in the Archives.’

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.

*****

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]

*****

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.

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.