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13 posts categorized "Politics"

11 September 2014

Finding Franklin

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Franklin overland camp

Above: a camping scene from one of Franklin's earlier overland expeditions [G.7397]

With 'Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage' coming up in November it would be remiss not to pass a few comments on Canada's locating one of Sir John Franklin's ships. When news of this year's search came through I must confess I hoped they would find something (perhaps a spoon?) but I was doubtful something as significant as a ship would be found.

A few *spoilers* for 'Lines in the Ice' are in the following but rest assured there will be plenty more to see when it opens. So, for those reading on, a potted history of why Sir John Franklin found himself in the Arctic as executive officer of the ships Erebus and Terror. Leaving Britain in 1845 this was Franklin's third time in charge of an Arctic expedition and his fourth aboard one of the many voyages of exploration championed by Sir John Barrow. His previous two Arctic expedition commands had seen some success but also great hardship and starvation (leading to he and his men, famously, eating their boots).

Franklin artefacts

Above: Previously found Franklin artefacts (including a spoon) [Shelfmark: 1781.a.6].

In all these expeditions Franklin was searching for the Northwest Passage, a new trade route to Asia that would dramatically cut journey times for British sailors. English and, later, British sailors had been searching for the route at least since the time of the Tudors, largely hoping to break Spanish and Portuguese trade monopolies with the Asia. By Franklin's time, however, the aim was more broadly political, as much a way of expressing British power over the seas as it was an attempt to find a trade route that may, or may not, be practically viable. Indeed, while we think of this story as being one of Arctic exploration (and of Franklin as an Arctic explorer) it's perhaps worth thinking about the broader context at play here.

After all, Franklin was not just a polar explorer. He was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, deafened by the roar of conflict but otherwise unscathed, and in between Arctic journeys he served in the Greek war of independence and was Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land. Further, by 1845 he was a fixture of Lincolnshire and London society. In short, his career spanned the globe and he was as much a citizen-officer of the British Empire as he was anything else.

So, when Franklin went missing with his ships (which had also seen a diverse and international series of duties) this was not a disappearance of an Arctic specialist on the edge of the world; instead a British officer vanished trying to bring a space into the service of the globe-spanning British Empire. While the distinction is subtle it helps explain the significance of this event, why we remember it so strongly and why such bad-feeling ensued when Dr. John Rae announced the grim fate of Franklin's crew.

Investigator sledge party

Above: a man-hauling party from HMS Investigator. Dragging huge weights across the ice was a fate awaiting a number of Franklin's crew, as well as those searching for them [Shelfmark: 1259.d.11]

Parks Canada's locating of a Franklin ship also operates in a wider context than the narrow geography of the Northwest Passage. It allows Canada to perform geopolitical sovereignty, display technical expertise and set a media agenda on a global scale - this story is being read far and wide beyond Canada and the U.K. For 'Lines in the Ice' this is quite a happy development as it is a further example of the exhibition's main point, that the Northwest Passage and Arctic Ocean exploration in general are areas of global significance. Embedded in all of this are complex networks of cause and effect, especially considering that the Arctic is not an unpopulated space for Europeans and Americans to express their desire for exploration.

Indeed, Inuit who lived in what is today Canada have played an integral role in other nation's exploration of the Northwest Passage - and paid a heavy price for it. A great Franklin search example of this was sketched out by Ken McGoogan in the Globe and Mail and there are many more such stories to tell; but that is for another blog post and the exhibition itself.

[PJH]

30 August 2013

The Art of Occupy

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FightBackOrange
Colectivo Cordyceps, Mexico City, Mexico (website: Justseeds Artists' Cooperative)

If you’ve been to our Propaganda exhibition (and if you haven't, you only have until 17 September), you might have spotted the above print. It’s in a fairly dark corner, so unless you looked at it carefully (or read the accompanying label) you might not have realised that it is a relatively recent poster coming out of the Occupy Movement. It was interesting to me that Ian, one of our Propaganda curators, should choose that particular poster out of a portfolio of prints that we acquired from Occuprint last year. Viewed up close, the text  'the 99% have no borders' is a bit of a give-away, but from a distance it looks like a fairly traditional political poster which could come from more or less anywhere (in fact it’s from Mexico) and from any period.

The use of prints and posters to disseminate views on political issues and causes is nothing new of course, – they’ve been employed pretty much ever since the invention of printing, but they really came in to their own in the early twentieth century as technological developments enabled the relatively cheap mass production of posters. And they remain a simple but effective way of reaching the public and getting a message or viewpoint across.

I’ve been fascinated by the sheer volume, diversity and creativity of printing that has come out of the global Occupy movement. The portfolio alone is a good example of this – 31 hand silk-screened prints by 31 artists/groups, chosen out of hundreds of submissions from across the world, but all reflecting the values and many concerns of the movement. A fundraising initiative for Occuprint (a non-profit group affiliated to but independent from the Occupy Movement), the portfolio has been issued through the Booklyn Artists' Alliance in an edition of 100. It is curated by Booklyn’s Marshall Weber and Occuprint organiser Jesse Goldstein, together with various other Occuprint editorial committee members. The portfolio also includes a copy of issue 4 (November 2011) of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, a special folio issue on the poster art of the Occupy movement, the curation of which led to the establishment of Occuprint itself. Occuprint’s website was also launched in November 2011 and now hosts hundreds of images, including the portfolio prints and submissions, all of which can be freely downloaded for non-commercial purposes. More posters continue to be added and the website offers not only a wide range of support materials for local activists, but a fantastic resource for studying the art of Occupy (and much more besides).

BallerinaBull

Creator: lots of people  #Occupy Wall Street NYC General Assembly

When Occupy Wall Street (OWS) sprang up in September 2011 with the occupation of New York City’s Zuccotti Park, its birth was announced with a particularly arresting and now iconic image – that of a ballerina on top of the Wall Street bull, which appeared in Adbusters, the Vancouver-based anti-consumerist magazine. The bull is just one of the many new symbols that has emerged out of Occupy graphic art, and it is joined by more traditional images (e.g. the raised fists in Fightback), plus appropriations and re-interpretations (e.g. the Guy Fawkes mask, and David Loewenstein's underground 'inverted' fist ).  As Marshall Weber has noted, there is evidence of a variety of historical art influences in the imagery -from Russian Constructivism to Latin American political graphic art to Pop. Although the quality of imagery varies enormously, there are some wonderful, memorable and humorous posters, and it is clear that poster-making is an important strategy for participants of the Occupy movement.  

TipOfTheIceberg

David Loewenstein, Lawrence, Kansas. http://www.davidloewenstein.com

Occuprint organiser Jesse Goldstein describes the graphic work coming out of Occupy as 'social movement culture,' quoting Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee’s definitition of this as work 'born from a context in which large numbers of people mobilized to achieve transformation goals.' He says that perhaps the single cohesive thread of Occupy’s cultural work is 'a self-assured dismissal of corporate media channels and the confidence that alternatives can be, and are being, built.' The graphic work is just one aspect of a growing number of cultural practices which include social media, public camping etc., and Goldstein goes on to say that, 'While it’s too early to tell, there does seem to be the possibility that Occupy will successfully reclaim a portion of the cultural commons from a media sphere that has thoroughly infected our everyday lives with ubiquitous branding, messaging, news cycles, and stylized uniformity.' He notes that many of the images on the Occuprint website were created for local use and then passed on to Occuprint, whilst others only exist in the virtual world -'copies without originals.'  He also emphasises the importance of the idea of imagining the future in this social movement culture. 'If anything, the work focuses on the future of the movement itself, and the constituent power that will be required to make the world anew.' - Alexandra Clotfelter’s poster The Beginning is Near, being a perfect example of this.

BullBeginningIsNear
Alexandra Clotfelter, Savannah, GA  Website: http://www.ladyfawn.com

Goldstein acknowledges that 'The images on our site will one day be important, collected, preserved and themselves referenced, as the past is referenced today….The Occupy movement has become conscious of itself as an active producer of history, and this future potential permeates the social movement culture that is beginning to take shape. This, I believe makes the collection at Occuprint an archive of the future.' For me, there was never a doubt that we should have at least some of this material in our collections since it would be important for future researchers studying a whole range of subjects. Aside from the portfolio, we have collected placards, leaflets and other ephemera that help bring to life the movement, culture and a wide variety of political, social and economic issues. The images have in fact already appeared and been discussed and debated in a number of journals and blogs (see below for a few examples). So perhaps not only is the beginning near, the future is now.  

Jesse Goldstein, Occuprint: Archiving the Future, Socialism and Democracy vol.26, no. 2, July 2012 (available online in the library’s reading rooms)

Sarah Kirk Hanley Ink: Political Art for a Contentious Time art:21 September 14 2012

Nato Thompson, “Debating Occupy,” Art in America 100, no. 6, July/August 2012, pps. 99-103 (includes several images from the portfolio accompanied by statements from artists, curators, writers, and critics on the impact of the Occupy Movement).

[C.H.] 

 

10 July 2013

Eisenhower and European Integration

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 Letters between eisenhower on Coal & Steel

The British Library recently made available the digitised contents of the EU Bookshop via its catalogue: Explore the British Library now provides free access to a range of digitised official publications produced by the European Union (and its previous incarnations) from the mid 1950s up to the present day.

Why would this be of relevance to our Americas blog I hear you ask? Firstly, I hope to make the wider research community aware of the development since there is a wide range of interesting and informative material available on the subject of European integration. But I’m also taking the opportunity to share an interesting primary source that I’ve discovered from within the EU Bookshop collection:  

Correspondence between President Eisenhower and Presidents of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of the United States about the European Coal and Steel Community and the European unification. 

This 1953 publication (issued in both English and French), offers an insight to the views of President Eisenhower and the members of the U.S. Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee on the prospect of the Coal and Steel Community growing into a wider European community. All parties were keen that this transformation 'may be speedily developed, ratified and put into force.' (Resolution of 16 June 1953 by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives).  

The final part of the document is a communiqué issued from the White House on 3 June 1953, following a meeting held between President Eisenhower and Jean Monnet, the economist and diplomat regarded as the chief architect of European unity, Franz Etzel, and Dirk Pieter Spierenburg. The text notes that while in Europe Eisenhower’s 'experience there convinced him that the uniting of Europe is a historic necessity for the peace and prosperity of Europeans and of the world.' In addition, the document states that in the U.S. 'in the field of coal and steel the barriers, which have so long divided Europe, have been removed so that those basic materials enjoy a single market of 155 million consumers...'

The sentiments articulated in the document echo over time. In recent years I’ve attended many talks and lectures organised by our Eccles Centre for American Studies, and delivered by a range of U.S. statesmen and diplomats. One common and ongoing thread in these events has been the importance of the transatlantic relationship between Europe and U.S. 

To close, in a piece on the U.S. and the European Union, I must mention the fine work of the University of Pittsburgh’s Archive of European Integration to disseminate European Union documentation.

[J.J.]

04 June 2013

The Secretary: a journey with Hillary Clinton

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Kim Ghattas (the secretary front cover)
Above: the cover of Ghattas' book, 'The Secretary: a journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the heart of American power'

As the sun bathes central London it seems like the best possible time to start this year's Summer Scholars programme. On Friday Kim Ghattas, BBC State Department Radio and TV Correspondent, will open the season with a talk drawing from her new book, 'The Secretary'.

Ghattas, who grew up in Beirut during the civil war, has worked as the BBC's State Department Correspondent since 2008 and has drawn on her earlier personal experiences as well what she has seen from the front row of U.S. diplomacy to open up this world to a new audience. With Hillary Clinton as the main focus the book looks at how she handled a range of issues in the first Obama administration, from the relationship with Asia, to the Arab uprisings, to crisis spurred by the diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks. Friday's talk will provide an introduction to the book, as well as a Q&A session and a chance to discuss the issues raised with other attendees over a tea or coffee at the end.

For Team Americas this is a timely talk to be hosting as our intern, Catherine, wades through political letters relating to the Civil War, part of the final steps of the Civil War digitisation programme. If you would like to attend the talk is this Friday lunchtime, places are free and you can find full details here.

[PJH]

03 April 2013

Looking Forward: Congress to Campus, Party politics, and election prospects

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 Us politics panel

Photo © Alexander McIntyre

Professor Philip Davies, Director of our Eccles Centre for American Studies writes:

In March of this year the Eccles Centre hosted its most recent week of Congress to Campus UK events. Twice yearly, in co-operation with the US Association of Former Members of Congress, the Centre masterminds a week of events featuring former Democratic and Republican Members of Congress. This year I was joined by Cliff Stearns (Republican-Florida) and Bob Carr (Democrat-Michigan) for a range of conferences, discussions and seminars with students, office holders, researchers and members of the public. We met more than 500 people, and among the many topics discussed the 2012 election results, and the parties’ future prospects, featured prominently.

The re-election of Barack Obama was followed by much speculation about demographic change in the USA, and the implied inevitable decline of the Republican Party in a country where, for example, projections suggest that one-third of the population will be defined as Hispanic/Latino by 2050.

This figure is especially telling. Latino voters made up 10% of the 2012 electorate. They voted 71% for Obama. This group of voters has increased as a proportion of the electorate steadily in recent elections, and has swung increasingly to back the Democratic presidential candidates. In 2004 the Latino vote for Democrat John Kerry was equivalent to 3.7% of the electorate. In 2008 Obama’s Latino vote made up 6% of the electorate, and in 2012, 7.1%. If this Democratic grip continues, the argument goes, as the Hispanic/Latino vote grows, then by mid-century the Democrats could have a bloc vote from this group alone amounting to 25% of the electorate.

There are other startling aspects of this demographic shift. In 1980 Ronald Reagan began his influential period as president with a clear victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter. At the core of this overwhelming result was the support of 56% of the white vote. Mitt Romney had the support of 59% of the white vote, and still lost. Almost 9 out of 10 American voters in 1988 were white, by 2012 this had fallen to about 7 out of 10.

Obama faced re-election as a president whose first term legislative achievements had provoked controversy, in a poor economic climate, facing a united Republican Party opposition. Republicans were confident of victory, but while there was a modest voter swing away from the president, the Republicans failed to erode his electoral appeal very much, and certain key groups, especially young voters, cast the majority of their votes for Obama. Pundits pointed to the Democrats’ more skilled use of social media – for fund-raising as well as messaging – and to a ‘ground game’ that amalgamated the latest data analysis with dogged door-to-door canvassing.

There was some schadenfreude that the hundreds of millions invested in the campaign by Republican supporter Sheldon Adelson, by Karl Rove on behalf of teams of Republican supporters and by other wealthy backers of Romney and Republican candidates had failed to achieve its aims. How could these investors save their party, it was asked, if the demographic imperative is against them.

This is all very plausible, but the decline of the Republicans is not a done deal, and those Republican political investors have plenty of opportunity if they remain interested. Certainly the potential for political investment remains strong if the appetite for it remains. Adelson’s losses in 2012 amount to tens of millions, but his estimated worth approaches $25 billion. Others are not so fortunate, but the Republicans could accumulate a considerable war chest. But do they have places to invest?

Of course they do. In 2012 the Republican presidential campaign was unsuccessful against the USA’s first African-American incumbent, and lessons need to be learned about modern campaigning. The Republicans’ campaigns for Senate seats were an exercise in failure and farce, as candidates who had been selected by deeply conservative primary electorates made statements extreme enough to alienate the general electorate not just in their home states, but via mass media, throughout the nation. Again, lessons must be learned. But the great Republican success in 2012 was in the US House of Representatives, where they retained control in spite of the Democrats receiving almost 1.4 million more votes.

The US House is gerrymandered. In most states the design of constituency boundaries is a political exercise, seen as a spoil of victory. The exercise is usually performed by some combination of the state governor and legislature. Republicans have been very successful in many state elections. After 2012 30 of the nation’s 50 governors were Republicans, and in 24 states the Republicans controlled the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature – the Democrats had similar one-party domination in only 14 states. The federal nature of US politics gives these states victories particular value. Most domestic policy spending is done at the state and local level. Political groups at state level can use ballot initiatives and referenda to influence the political agenda. A substantial rise in spending on state judicial elections in 2012 suggests an increasing awareness of the political potential at this level. The combination of these and other factors presents the Republican Party with substantial electoral opportunities in 2014 and 2016.

2014 will see the second midterm elections of Obama’s administration. The presidential party usually does not do well in midterm elections, especially in second midterms. The Democrats’ gain of four seats in 1998 is only example of a presidential party gaining House seats in a second midterm in well over a century. Turnout declines at midterms, and it may be that elements of the Obama electoral coalition that performed so well for the party in 2012 will be less enthusiastic without Obama on the ballot. In the Senate 21 of the seats up for election are held by Democrats, 14 by Republicans, and about one-third of the Democrat seats are in states that voted for Romney – the Democrats again present a large target.

In 2016, especially if there are not strong signs of recovery, the administration will face a disappointed electorate. And the American electorate has shown an inclination to change its presidency regularly. Since 1952 only once has a party held on to the presidency for more than two terms. President Obama will not be on the 2016 ticket, and while Democrat Hillary Clinton may be the best known potential candidate, the Republican stable – including Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio – looks healthy.

The Republicans have opportunities in the short term to maintain their strength at state level and in the House, to make gains in Senate, and to make a credible challenge for the presidency. They have to adapt their policies and their strategies to the changing demographics of the electorate. And while voting loyalties tend to remain influential over time, in the long term though a group’s political allegiances cannot be guaranteed. When I look at my US Latino grandchildren I am not sure whether either will be Republican or Democrat as adults, but I look forward to their campaigns for office.

[P.D.]

 

28 February 2013

Obama's Inauguration

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Phil D and poster
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The route to the Americas curatorial team on floor 2 of the British Library is currently guarded by a 5 foot high sign indicating ‘Media Access’. A collection item on its way to accession, we’re lucky to have it. I wasn’t sure I would be able to haul it down the lamp-post on Constitution Avenue at all, and when I had it took a huge effort with my partner, Sarah’s pen-knife before it was fully liberated from its moorings. But Washington DC’s clean up team had been incredibly efficient, and a couple of days after the event we sighted only two from the hundreds of temporary President Obama second inaugural parade signs still languishing in place.

Parties of students swept past us in the gloomy evening light as they exited the Smithsonian Institution’s museums. Federal office commuters headed for the Metro. We diligently sawed thick plastic straps with a wholly inadequate 1.5 inch blade, then joined the commuters on the subway, carrying the signs like a third presence between us. The following day the staff of United Airlines decided that it certainly could be classed as free hand baggage: “Did you really come over just for the inauguration? Would you have voted for him if you could have? We did.” High fives all round.

There had been a similar response at an Obama rally in Concord, New Hampshire on the Sunday before Election Day. A friend and I joined 14,000 other of the President’s closest acquaintances from the surrounding area and on a beautiful fall day the town’s central streets were filled. My friend, a supporter, but critical that Obama had not pursued a progressive agenda strongly enough, was chatting as we walked to the venue, ‘You have to be a bit disappointed, though,’ he said, ‘what makes you still sure that he has your vote?’ The woman he addressed stopped walking, locked eyes, gained his full attention, and said emphatically, ‘Love’. She was so emphatic I thought she might nut him.

The day before the inauguration Washington was a particularly happy and relaxed place. Inauguration-goers in their hundreds of thousands were arriving from all over the country and many of them wanted to scout the lie of the land before rising early to be in place for Monday’s ceremony. Eastern Market had more than its usual visitation of tourists for breakfast, and to browse the stalls. Around the Capitol we exchanged photograph taking opportunities with visitors from Illinois and Indiana. We had souvenirs pressed on us as gifts, “You are international? You must have this...’. Near the Washington Monument we were interviewed for a California schools project.

It was a crowd of enormous diversity, but with a common purpose, signed by many hats, shirts, buttons, balloons: to celebrate the second inauguration of the first African-American president of the USA. It may be that some in these crowds were very well aware that, regardless of policy outcomes, Obama’s second inauguration may be more important than his first.  If the first non-white president had lasted only one term, what would be the message to major parties about nominating candidates outside the orthodox tradition of white men?

These were different Washington streets to those I used to walk when I lived here in 1972-4, the time of Nixon, ‘benign neglect’ of racial poverty, and the mistrustful atmosphere of Watergate. The sense of one family on the Mall in 2012 could never have been predicted 40 years earlier. Inauguration Day fell this year on Martin Luther King Day, and Obama’s second term began as the nation was celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation. When we reached the Lincoln Memorial we found thousands of others were making the same journey.

After the exhilaration of inauguration day Washington returned quickly to its usual business of politics. The news media spent a few days discussing President Obama’s second inaugural address, agreeing that it was as forthright a statement of a political agenda as this president had ever made. As after election day, when many Republicans were shell-shocked at the degree of the Obama victory, there was some indication of potential co-operation across party political lines.

Other Republican voices wanted no capitulation, but instead a regrouping to take advantage of Republican election potential in the 2014 and 2016 elections. While one senior Democrat did mention to me the possibility of ‘twenty-five years of Democratic dominance’, and some Republicans were bemoaning a party failure that might last into the future, I certainly don’t see this being inevitable. The strategy for the Republicans to have single party control of the executive and the legislature in 2016 is every bit as plausible as that for the Democrats. There is all to fight for, campaign lines are already being drawn, and campaign funds already being raised.

Meanwhile the Library has a few inaugural pieces to add to its small collection of US campaign posters and other items, helping keep alive an event that within a few days seemed remembered most for the question of whether Beyonce Knowles lip-synched or sang live the national anthem.

- a guest post by Prof. Philip Davies of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library

20 February 2013

Democratic Brazil at the British Library

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Partido dos Trabalhadores Election Pamphlet 002
Partido dos Trabalhadores Election Pamphlets [BL shlefmark X.0520/785]

I recently had the privilege to attend a talk by the Brazilian Minister of External Relations at King’s College London. During his talk the Minister discussed among other things how the process of democratisation in Brazil has informed its domestic and foreign policy. In particular, how the transition from military dictatorship (Brazil’s current president Dilma Roussef was herself a victim of torture under the dictatorship) has shaped the country’s emphasis on multi-lateral and peaceful diplomacy, reduction of social inequality, and democratic reform of international organisations such as the UN security council.

The minister’s talk plus the upcoming conference ‘Democratic Brazil Ascendant’ and seminar on affirmative action in Brazilian universities inspired me to take another look at some of the Brazilian political pamphlets and ephemera that we hold from the 1980s onwards, when Brazil began its transition from military dictatorship to electoral democracy.

Taking a look at the collections we have here at the BL you immediately appreciate the popular groundswell that brought an end to the dictatorship in Brazil and the social goals that are still coming into fruition today.  The collection includes pamphlets promoting gay rights, affordable housing, agrarian reform, full employment, and an end to poverty and racial discrimination. The various collections of pamphlets and ephemera cover national and municipal elections as well as organising campaigns. They date from the early 1980s through the late 1990s.

Partido dos Trabalhadores Election Pamphlet 001
Partido dos Trabalhadores Election Pamphlets [BL shlefmark X.0520/785]

The collection also includes items from Lula’s 1982 campaign for governor of São Paulo, the work of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (which Lula help to found) and the Direitas Já! campaign for direct popular presidential elections in Brazil. In addition to political ephemera we also hold fascinating publications by the Brazilian trade unions (Miscellaneous collection of publications on trade unions – BL shelfmark ZL.9.d.3). As well as a special microfilm collection of documents and ephemera on the origins and evolution of the PT that you will find at shelfmark SPR.Mic.A.287.

[ENC]

20 December 2012

Cold Comfort: Royalty and Polar sovereignty

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Queen Elizabeth II (BAT 3d deep blue)

Artwork for the British Antarctic Territory: 1963-69 3d deep blue. From the Crown Agents Philatelic and Security Printing Archive held at the British Library [copyright restrictions apply] 

Wednesday was a busy news day but most will have seen the announcement that part of Antarctica is to be renamed Queen Elizabeth Land in order to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In a year where tributes have ranged from river pageants to daring entrances to the Olympic Opening Ceremony this perhaps seems an odd or remote decision, but its geopolitical significance is already being noted.

The naming of territory has always been an important part of underscoring sovereignty claims. The history of the Americas, for example, is populated with many instances of names being applied to places in order to stake or sure up colonial ambitions. Within the name game Royal monikers have always resembled top trumps, with the British and other nations using monarchic associations to back up claims.

Such a heritage means that areas of the Arctic and Antarctic named after British monarchs are fairly common. During the nineteenth century search for the Northwest Passage, Victoria Island was named by Dease and Simpson in 1839 and Prince of Wales Island was named in 1851 by Captain T. H. Austin during his search for Franklin. The etching of these names onto the map of the Arctic took place at a time when the geopolitics of the area were intense and the potential gains from locating a Northwest Passage thought to be huge. As a result you can also find many items from these expeditions in the Library’s collections; Simpson  writes about the work he and Dease conducted between 1836 and 1839 in a work held at Shelfmark 1424.h.2, and a map of Austin’s discoveries can be found at Maps.982.(48).

Continuing this theme, Queen Elizabeth II also has the honour of providing a name to an Arctic territory with the Queen Elizabeth Islands being re-named to mark the coronation in 1953. These islands had been noted by William Baffin in 1616 and were rediscovered in 1818 by Sir John Ross. Again, books and maps relating to these expeditions can be found in the collections. It is worth noting that the 1953 re-naming of these islands coincided not just with the coronation but with a resurgence of Canadian interest in the Arctic as a result of its status as a theatre of the Cold War.

Going back to the Antarctic, we should also note that Queen Elizabeth II is not the only British monarch to have part of the continent in her name. In 1841 Captain Ross took a break from splashing his name (and that of his ships) across the land and named a large part of the continent Victoria Land. Published works by Ross are also held here, with his 1847 ‘A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions’ [Shelfmark: 2374.f.6] and other works available for consultation in the reading rooms.

 Ross Frontispiece

 Public Domain Mark This work (Frontispiece from J. Ross, A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, 1847) identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions. [BL Shelfmark: 2374.f.6]

Needless to say, I will be trying to acquire anything relevant to the naming of Queen Elizabeth Land - and our new Broadcast News service in the reading rooms will have already picked up the news reports.  

[PJH]