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

Kurt M Jameson30 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.

The Power of Print

Vicky A Price19 February 2020

The Outreach team at UCL Special Collections have spent a great six weeks delivering an after school club to Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils at William Ellis School. Pupils attended in their free time to explore how written texts have been produced through the ages and to learn about some of the ways printing has influenced western society.

Each session involved a hands on art or craft activity, producing manuscripts complete with calligraphy and gold leaf, block prints of historiated initials and lino cut illustrations. We are proud to share the end results of this final task with you – pupils were asked to choose a poem from a selection and to create an image they felt represented the poem in a lino print.

A black and white lino cut depicting a cactus, a hand reaching towards it and a porcupine looking on.

Porcupines

By Marilyn Singer

Hugging you takes some practice.

So I’ll start out with a cactus.

(Poem taken from the Poetry Foundation)

A black and white lino cut depicting a personified cactus with feet and a geometric criss-cross pattern across its body.

Trees
By Joyce Kilmer

Two black and white lino cut prints, side to side, depicting the same close-up pattern of wood grain.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

(Poem taken from the Poetry Foundation)

 

Extract from The Cloud
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

A black and white lino cut of a personified cloud (with a smiley face), distributing rain.

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

(Poem taken from The Poetry Foundation)

 

To Catch a Fish
By Eloise Greenfield

It takes more than a wish
to catch a fish
you take the hook
you add the baitA black and white lino cut print showing a fish swimming towards a fishing hook on a rod.
you concentrate
and then you wait
you wait you wait
but not a bite
the fish don’t have
an appetite
so tell them what
good bait you’ve got
and how your bait
can hit the spot
this works a whole
lot better than
a wish
if you really
want to catch
a fish

(Poem taken from The Poetry Foundation)

 

A black and white lino cut print of the profile of an eagle, standing a the edge of its nest.

The Eagle
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

(Poem taken from The Poetry Foundation)

Louis Arnaud Reid: Philosopher, Educator, Artist

Kurt M Jameson11 December 2019

One of my first tasks as a project archivist at UCL has been to catalogue the papers of the philosopher and educator Louis Arnaud Reid. Reid became the first Professor of Philosophy at the Institute of Education, and was a strong advocate of the importance of art in education. He retired in 1962, but continued writing and teaching as an emeritus professor right up until his death in 1986 at the age of 90. These papers were donated by his widow Molly.

The first thing that strikes you about the papers of Louis Arnaud Reid is the sheer volume of work. We have his drafts of 48 articles, papers, and books that he wrote. Draft after draft is typed, annotated with notes, and immaculately Tippexed. Here is someone who must have sat at his typewriter for hours on end, day after day. And this went on for decades – Reid published his first article in 1922, and his final book was published in 1986.

Reid c.1950

This photo of Reid was probably taken around 1940 or 1950. Despite looking very serious here, his correspondence hints at someone who was warm and affectionate. Below is an extract of a letter he wrote to a friend to ask for help in editing one of his books. He finished the letter by signing off:

“I know you’re enormously busy, and am really sorry to make it worse. I do wish we could meet sometimes. If it would save your time I could come to Cambridge; but I think it would probably have to be by train.
‘Thanking you in anticipation’ (as they say)
and very much love (as I say!)
Louis”

A letter to a friend

 

As for Reid’s contribution to the fields of philosophy, education and art – his colleague Tony Dyson summarised his work in an article shortly before Reid’s death:

“What is perhaps most remarkable about Louis Arnaud Reid’s life’s work is its consistency: he was writing about feeling and knowledge in the 1920s – and this is still his major preoccupation. The fact that his ideas have been assimilated and frequently employed – consciously or otherwise – by other apologists for the arts is clear evidence of the effectiveness of his mission. He has provided us with a formidable armoury in defence of the arts in education and, in so doing, he has ‘made philosophy live’ for very, very many, far beyond the immediate circle of his students and colleagues.”
Article in ‘Alumnis, The Review of the Institute of Education Society’ (1985)

Reid’s friend and peer Harold Osborne has also written that Reid was “clear that the central purpose of education should be the enrichment and development of the personality as a whole, and this must include the enhancement and honing of that power of direct apprehension which can never be wholly accommodated within verbal propositions” (quoted in Reid’s obituary in The Journal of Art & Design Education, written by Sheila Paine).

Amongst his papers, Reid has also retained material from his seminars at the IOE. Reid’s teaching methods with students are demonstrated here in his typed seminar questions for his students, and students’ written reports from each seminar group discussion have also been kept. His love of art is also clear from two sketchbooks which include Reid’s sketches in watercolour, crayon, and pencil, including the picture below:

One of Reid’s sketches, c.1973

However, his self-written bio for the department at the IOE includes the note:

“Nearly killed myself in the past trying to paint. Have vague dreams of returning to it; but apprehensive of effects!”

A self-written bio at the IOE

Overall, between the many typed drafts of articles and book chapters, the notes from his taught seminars at the IOE, and Reid’s own handwritten notes, there is likely to be much of interest here to a researcher of the philosophy of art and education, and how the two should be combined.

Update

After writing this blog, I later catalogued a small, additional amount of ‘oversize’ material that had been included in Reid’s papers and stored separately, and its content was a little unexpected. It consisted mainly of photographs and pupils’ schoolwork from the Romford County High School for Girls, dating from 1907 to about 1946. Louis Arnaud Reid was never a teacher or a pupil at this school, and would have been only 12 years old in 1907. How, then, did he come to possess this material?

Romford County High School for Girls was founded in 1906 by Frances Bardsley. The school today is known as The Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls, and its website provides some background on her, along with some photographs:

https://fbaok.co.uk/history-of-frances-bardsley/

Frances Bardsley graduated from London University in 1895 and then trained to be a teacher at the Cambridge Training College. At this time, when women had very limited opportunities, it would have been quite rare for a woman to achieve this level of academic education, and to pursue this career path.

Looking through these papers, you get a sense of the activities carried out at the school, under Bardsley’s time there. Decorated ‘Form Book’ folders contain colourful drawings and paintings, poems, and short stories which are often annotated with sketches, all created by the pupils. Programmes of school events reveal festival days at the school, which included activities such as drama, tableaux, choir singing, ‘moving pictures’, recitations, written articles, band performances, cooking, drawing, flower pressing, and dress making. Prizes were given in each category, and guests were sometimes invited, for example Elizabeth Hughes (Bardsley’s former mentor at the Cambridge Training College) and Sophia Bryant (the first woman in Britain to earn a science doctorate).

It seems fairly clear that these papers once belonged to Frances Bardsley. It is not at all clear how they came to be in Louis Arnaud Reid’s possession, however he may have acquired and kept them due to the way they vividly demonstrate how art, poetry, drama, music, and fun can be used in education. Frances Bardlsey lived until 1952 (aged 80), at which point Reid had already been teaching at the IOE for five years, so it is possible that the two met at some point to discuss their ideas and experiences regarding education and the arts.

The catalogue for Louis Arnaud Reid’s papers (including the material from the Romford County High School for Girls) can be viewed online here.

Ten Lords A-leaping

Vicky A Price19 December 2018

We can go one better than the traditional ‘ten Lords’ and offer you ‘one royal’…

We’re not going to lie to you, this one is a bit tenuous. But we couldn’t resist the opportunity to share one of our most successful outreach projects to date.

Thousands of children have been involved in an immersive First World War education programme that UCL Special Collections have played a key role in delivering. This was part of the Shrouds of the Somme project, one of the major centrepieces of Armistice commemorations that took place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from Thursday 8 to Sunday 18th November this year.

The Shrouds of Somme project is the brainchild of Artist Rob Heard, who has spent the past five years making more than 72,000 small shrouded figures, each one representing one of the men killed and never recovered from the battled field at the Battle of the Somme. On Thursday 8 November, each of the shrouds were laid out as a graphic reminder of the scale of sacrifice they made in the Great War. The installation welcomed just under 3000 school pupils as well as around 85,000 members of the public.

Photographs of the Shrouds of the Somme installation and artist Rob Heard, courtesy of the Shrouds of the Somme.

UCL Special Collections teamed up with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and UCL Institute of Education’s First World War Centenary Battlefields Tour Programme to create free online teacher resources, worksheets for visiting schools and a programme of workshops for schools in the neighbouring Olympic Park boroughs (Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Newham). Special Collection’s Education Coordinator, Vicky Price, delivered 33 workshops, visiting 12 schools and reaching almost 1000 pupils.

Pupils at Randal Cremer Primary School in a workshop delivered by UCL Special Collections.

Resource packs for Shrouds of the Somme workshops.

The workshops combined historical enquiry with creative writing and used primary resources from UCL‘s College archive. Through exploring archival items like Rosenberg’s student record and a publication of perhaps his most famous poem, Break of Day in the Trenches (in Poetry: a magazine of verse. Vol. IX (3), December 1916 [reprint edition, 1966], STORE Little Magazines), pupils learnt of the poet Isaac Rosenberg, who had been a student at the Slade School of Fine Art. He grew up in a Jewish working class family in Mile End and went to art school to become a painter. When war broke out, he volunteered to fight, sending poetry back to the UK from the trenches. He was killed in France in 1918.

But where does the royalty come in? (I hear you say). Well, we were honoured to be invited to attend a visit by The Princess Royal at the installation site. Vicky Price (UCL Special Collections Education Coordinator) shook the Princess’ hand and explained the work we had done alongside pupils and the Head Teacher from the Bobby Moore Academy.

The Princess Royal meets Vicky Price from UCL Special Collections, alonside pupils and Head Teacher Dr Foley from Bobby Moore Academy at the Shrouds of the Somme installation.

Summer School a Success!

Vicky A Price15 August 2018

Last week saw UCL Special Collections hold its first Widening Participation Summer School. For four days, a group of twelve 17 year olds from in and around London explored archives, rare books and manuscripts here at UCL, guided by colleagues within Special Collections.

We had brilliant time, and were impressed with the students’ ability to link collection items to areas of their own knowledge and contextual understanding. We also spent a day at The National Archives, visiting their current exhibition, Suffragettes vs. The State, and discussing the notion of authenticity in relation to exhibition interpretation.  The participants then got to work researching collection items from UCL Special Collections, developing interpretation for a public exhibition on the final day.

You can see examples of their work in this video:

We would like to thank everyone at Library Services for accommodating the group, whether that be in the Science Library or the Institute of Education Library, and for Special Collections colleagues who offered their time and expertise.