THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

9 posts from July 2017

25 July 2017

A Soldier’s Life – the memoir of William Young 76th Regiment of Foot

We recently acquired the captivating memoir of William Young, HM 76th Regiment of Foot.  Young wrote  ‘A Soldier’s Life &  Experience’ whilst stationed in Bangalore in 1871 ‘surrounded by lovely scenery, thousands of miles away,’ to give his relatives at home ‘some faint idea of my chequered life – its joys, its troubles and sorrows’. 

Mss Eur F 698 -1 compressed
One of H.M.’s 76th Regt’ by William Young MSS Eur F698

William starts with his childhood in Ireland and his unhappy relationship with his father who was ‘a very cross man’ with ‘ a rough harsh manner’.   Having decided to leave home, William ‘in mad brained folly enlisted for a Soldier’.  His ‘ever gentle and kind mother’ fretted for him. When she died soon afterwards, she was said to have called for William with her last breath.

Mss Eur F698 - 2 compressed
‘Good bye Sister!  I’m going for a Soldier!!’ by William Young MSS Eur F698


In February 1864, William’s regiment arrived in Madras  after ‘a charming voyage’.  He describes his reactions to his new surroundings – the people, their clothes and language, the blazing sun.  Barely a week after landing he was promoted to Lance Corporal at the age of only nineteen, being ‘a tall, smart, healthy looking young fellow’.

William started to court Mary, the daughter of John Nugent a retired Army Warrant Officer. As John objected to the relationship, William visited Mary at night muffled up in a large black cloak!  John eventually gave his consent to the marriage, but, as William expected, the Colonel of his regiment said that he was too young to marry and there was no vacancy for Mary to be taken on the strength as a wife. 

John Nugent died on 2 November 1865 and Mary’s mother Jane agreed that the couple should marry without permission.  William and Mary had two marriage ceremonies, Protestant at St Matthias Vepery on 17 November 1865, and Catholic at Bangalore on 22 December 1865.  The couple were forced to live apart and Mary worked as a lady’s servant. They did not meet for eighteen months. After William signed on for another term of eleven years, he was given accommodation in the married quarters, with the promise of Mary being taken onto the strength as soon as a vacancy occurred.

There is a gripping description of a military march.  William marched with a pebble in his mouth to help keep away the ‘parching thirst’.  The women of the regiment rode in a cart; many were drunk.  Mary was horrified at their uncouth behaviour and was ostracised for refusing to associate with them.   When the regiment received orders to go to Rangoon, Mary fled to her sister in Trichinopoly rather than travel on with the other women. Her belongings were on board the ship and so William was obliged to sell them in Burma. The couple were later reunited in 1868 at Madras when Mary came to visit William in hospital.  Sadly, Mary died in November 1868 at the age of only 25 – ‘thank God we were permitted to meet and make up all our little misunderstandings’. 

Mss Eur F698- 3 compressed
‘The tired Soldier and his family’ by William Young MSS Eur F698

William’s memoir continues with his return to Britain on leave, his voyage back to India, and a fascinating account of the daily life of a soldier in India, including the relationship between the Army and the local peoples.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
MSS Eur F698 Memoir of William Young
Church register entries for William’s marriages- IOR/N/2/46 ff. 359, 379. Digitised images available via the Findmypast website.
(Mary’s name is given as Catherine in the church records from India.)

 

20 July 2017

Miss Jenny the cheetah visits England

Miss Jenny and another cheetah came to England in 1764. They were part of a collection of animals despatched from India by George Pigot, the Governor of Madras, who had made a vast collection of foreign curiosities, ‘particularly wild beasts’. The cheetahs were fortunate to survive the long voyage which sadly proved fatal to many of the animals.

00158-cheetah
Cheetah from Seringapatam, India, 1794
NHD 32/3


The cheetahs and their Indian handlers were temporarily taken in by the Duke of Cumberland who had been an enthusiastic collector of exotic animals which he kept at Windsor until a tiger escaped and mauled and killed a young boy. The tragic incident led him to send his exotic animals to the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London. Sometimes he still took temporary care of animals on their way to new homes, including the cheetahs brought to England by George Pigot.
On 30 June 1764 the Duke of Cumberland organised an event at Great Windsor Park to put one of these visiting ‘tyger-cats’ on show. The cheetah was set loose to hunt a stag that had been placed in the Park but the demonstration of the cheetah’s hunting skills did not initially go well. After being tossed by the stag’s antlers the cheetah broke free, evaded the netting meant to confine it, and escaped into the forest where it proceeded to kill a roe deer. The Indian handlers caught the cheetah and let it feed on its prey. Manchester Art Gallery has a painting by George Stubbs of the cheetah at Windsor.


One cheetah was sold and one was presented to the King as a gift for the Royal Menagerie. A report on the Royal Menagerie from the early 1770s records not only that the cheetah was still there, but that it had been affectionately named by the Keeper of the Royal Menagerie as ‘Miss Jenny’. The two cheetahs’ Indian handler, known as John Morgan, had less respectful treatment. He was the victim of a theft while he was in England.


Miss Jenny now has a different incarnation as the cheetah guiding children around the History Detectives family trail in a new exhibition Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage.

Cheetah for Twitter

This family-friendly exhibition tells the story of the close connections between Britain and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1600 to the present day. It shows how those connections have influenced our food, culture, fashion, politics and heritage and made us who we are today.

LANDSCAPE SCREENS 1920 x 1080 PXLS


The exhibition is at the Library of Birmingham until 04 November. It was created in partnership with the British Library and generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Details of opening hours, events and family days are on the Library of Birmingham website.


Penny Brook
Head of India Office Records and curator of the exhibition


Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records


Further information
Caroline Grigson Menagerie: The history of Exotic Animals in England, (Oxford University Press, 2016)
Old Bailey Online 
Asians in Britain web pages 
Library of Birmingham
#connectingstories
#brumpeeps

 

18 July 2017

A Court Martial in India

Here’s a second instalment in the life of John Thompson born in Antwerp on the tenth day of Floreal, Year Twelve.

Thompson was appointed as ensign in the East India Company’s Bombay Army on 27 March 1821 and arrived in India in August that year.  He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the European Regiment on 10 June 1822.  An uneventful spell of ten years’ service passed.

Bombay Noc
'Bombay on the Malabar Coast belonging to the East India Company of England.' Reduced version of the engraving by Jan Van Ryne of 1754. Online Gallery 

However on 22 April 1831 the commanding officer of the regiment suddenly ordered an immediate inspection of the money bags and account books of each company.  Thompson was paymaster of his company but was unable to attend the audit as he was unwell.  He ordered his Pay Sergeant to make out the men’s accounts and to insert a debt of 707 rupees owed by Thompson. 

Later that day, Thompson was arrested. He tendered money to pay the debt but this was refused.  On 9 June 1831 he appeared at a Court Martial held in camp near Deesa charged with embezzlement.

Thompson was charged for conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman in having embezzled monies entrusted to him for the payment of the men of the 6th Company under his charge. The Court found Thompson guilty of embezzlement but without intent to defraud.  It acquitted him of ungentlemanlike conduct.  He was sentenced to be dismissed from East India Company service and was ordered to make good the deficiency.  The verdict was accompanied by a unanimous appeal for mercy as the members of the Court felt that the punishment they were compelled to award was disproportionate to the degree of offence committed.

Major General J S Barns, Commander of the Forces, confirmed the punishment but put on record his marked disapprobation of the Court’s finding that the embezzlement of public money was not conduct unbecoming the character of a gentleman.  Thompson was struck off the strength and ordered to take passage to England.

In November 1832 Thompson wrote to the Company Directors in London asking to be restored to the service.  On 29 January 1833 his request was rejected.  But the Company decided to grant him an annual allowance of £50 because of the Court Martial recommendation for mercy, the strength of testimonials produced by Thompson, and his distressed situation.

  IOR D 87 p318
IOR/D/87 p.318 East India Company Committee of Correspondence consideration of John Thompson’s case Noc

When John Thompson’s father William made his will on 8 December 1832, he directed his trustees to apply funds from his estate to support and maintain his son John for life.  John’s share of another bequest in the will was to be held in trust for him, rather then paid directly as was the case with his three brothers.  William Thompson was clearly concerned to protect his son from further financial mishaps.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records


Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/12/69 no. 31 - Record of service for John Thompson
IOR/L/MIL/17/4/401 pp.68-69 Bombay General Orders – Court Martial of Lt John Thompson
IOR/D/87 pp.316-318 East India Company Committee of Correspondence consideration of John Thompson’s case
IOR/B/185 pp. 128, 392 Court of Directors minutes about Thompson's case

East India Company records series IOR/B and IOR/D are now available as a digital resource.

 

17 July 2017

You were born when? The French Revolutionary Calendar

An accident of birth may have left one 19th-century Army cadet wishing his parents had been elsewhere when he came into the world.
 
In March 1821 sixteen-year-old John Thompson tendered an application to enter East India Company service as a junior Army officer. The Company did not insist that its troops had all been born and bred in the British Isles, and therefore the fact that his place of birth was Antwerp and he had been educated at Brussels were no bars to his setting out on a military career, his father William being a merchant.

  Antwerp maps_k_top_103_058_n

 Thomas Rowlandson, Place de Mier at Antwerp Noc

To tease out what made his application very probably unique requires a passing knowledge of Belgian history. Independent since 1830, before this date Belgium had been ruled at various times by the Dutch, the Austrians and the Spanish. Between 1795 and 1814, however, the country came under the sway of revolutionary France. This meant that French rather than Dutch became the language of the administration.  Also all official papers issued in this period were dated according to the Republican calendar devised and implemented in 1792 and imposed on those territories which came to be occupied by French armies. The calendar re-named the twelve months to reflect prevailing meteorological conditions and instituted a (later abandoned) system of three ten-day weeks, factoring in an extra day every four years.

French Revolutionary calendar birth

IOR/L/MIL/9/143 f.401 Noc

The Thompson family knew that John had been born on 30 April 1804, but unfortunately the document proving this showed his date of birth as the tenth day of Floreal, Year Twelve. The Company’s recruitment procedure required the provision of proof of age, and accordingly the document above was duly sent in to East India House. Young Thompson’s sponsors had the foresight to include an English translation of the original French document, authenticated by Robert Annesley, the British Consul; it can be seen that the Antwerp authorities had compromised by adding the familiar date in brackets, as if assuming that the new calendar would not last forever.

French Revolutionary calendar birth 2

IOR/L/MIL/9/143 f.400 Noc

This curious faint echo of the French Revolution is found in IOR/L/MIL/9/143 ff.400-401, and the digitised image can be seen on the Findmypast website in the British India Office births & baptisms dataset. The story ends happily, in that the powers-that-be in London processed the application and passed Thompson fit to serve in the Bombay Army.

However, there was trouble ahead for John Thompson as we shall reveal in our next post!
 
Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services
 
Further reading:
Matthew Shaw, Time and the French Revolution: the Revolutionary calendar, 1789 - year XIV (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2011), shelfmark YC.2012.a.3742

 

13 July 2017

Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage

LANDSCAPE SCREENS 1920 x 1080 PXLS


This family-friendly exhibition, launching on 15 July, will tell the story of the close connections between Britain and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1600 to the present day. It will show how those connections have influenced our food, culture, fashion, politics and heritage and made us who we are today.

Item 67 - Sophia Duleep Singh selling Suffragette 1913The exhibition continues the partnership between the British Library and the Library of Birmingham, bringing together their rich and complementary collections to illustrate this important but little-known aspect of British and local history. There will be over 100 exhibits which highlight many different voices from the past.

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh is one of many people who will feature in the exhibition. (Image from IOR/L/PS/11/52, P1608)

Exhibits include letters, posters, photographs, advertisements, surveillance files, campaigning materials, oral history,music, and even a children’s game and a 19th century paper bag for Indian sweets. I and my co-curator of the exhibition, John O’Brien, hope that the variety of exhibits will prompt visitors to consider the many ways that history is

recorded and how gaps and silences can be filled.

The exhibition aims to capture Birmingham's importance in global trade and as a centre of industry.

Item 85 - 14119_f_37__MBM_D B Harris_advert

Mirror of British Merchandise, 1888

The Library of Birmingham's collections include stunning images by local photographers past and present which will be showcased in the exhibition. The image below is a photograph by Paul Hill of the Dudley & Dowell foundry at Cradley Heath, 1972, Library of Birmingham MS2294/1/1/9/1. (Image courtesy of Paul Hill.)

Item 92 Foundry worker by Paul Hill

 Capturing images of Birmingham’s richly diverse community is an important part of the exhibition and engagement programme. A selection of photographs will be included in the exhibition to give a vivid picture of Birmingham and all the people who live there today. Anyone in Birmingham can get involved now by sending their photograph via Twitter #brumpeeps. Exhibition visitors are also invited to ‘make their mark’ and share their own stories. 


Please see the Library of Birmingham's website for activities throughout the duration of the exhibition, such as family days, oral history training and talks at local libraries. 

The exhibition and community engagement programme have been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. 


Penny Brook
Head of India Office Records and exhibition curator 


Further information
Asians in Britain web pages
Library of Birmingham website for details of opening hours and events
#connectingstories
#brumpeeps

11 July 2017

A turnpike tour of London

London’s most colourful characters take centre stage in this set of aquatints held in the King’s Topographical Collection. Against the backdrop of London’s main gateways, all sorts from the city’s streets populate the scenes. Ragamuffins, tinkers, traders, milkmaids, and beggars bustle at busy junctions along with soldiers and fat and jaunty well-to-dos. Added to the street traffic are horse-drawn carriages, carts, and riders hurtling down roads at alarming speeds, but the near misses and actual collisions only add to the spectacle.
 K.Top.22.6.e.
Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.5, Entrance from Mile End or Whitechapel Turnpike, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, June 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 390 x 535 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.e.
 

Maps K.Top.22.6.f.
Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.6, Entrance from Hackney or Cambridge Heath Turnpike, with a Distant View of St Paul’s, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, June 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 400 x 545 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.f.

Maps K.Top.22.6.c.
Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.3, Entrance of Tottenham Court Road Turnpike, with a View of St James’s Chapel, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, March 1, 1813, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 400 x 542 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.c.  

Maps K.Top.22.6.d.Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.4, Entrance of Oxford Street or Tyburn Turnpike, with a View of Park Lane, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, April 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 398 x 536 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.d.

While such figures provide a diverting illustration of London society, the landscape is also significant. Each scene is set in front of a turnpike road: major thoroughfares leading in and out of London. People could use them for a small fee collected by Turnpike Trust employees, who manned toll houses at either side of the barrier. The taxes were reinvested to build new roads and maintain existing ones. Turnpikes could be found across London at Hackney and Tottenham Court Road, at Tyburn (Oxford Street) and Whitechapel, and at Hyde Park Corner and St George’s Road.

Maps K.Top.22.6.a.[?Edouard] Dagaty (?1745-84) Views of London, No.1, Entrance of Piccadilly or Hyde Park Corner Turnpike, with a View of St George’s Hospital, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, August 1, 1797, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 375 x 520 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.a.  
 

Maps K.Top.22.6.b.
[?Edouard] Dagaty (?1745-84) Views of London, No.2, Entrance of St George’s Road or the Obelisk Turnpike, with a View of the Royal Circus, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, August 1, 1797, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 361 x 538 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.b.  

Turnpike roads improved travel and trade across the country. They transformed the national outlook, but also caused traffic jams and attracted some of the city’s more marginal and unsavoury inhabitants. Perhaps for these reasons, then, turnpikes made for topical and diverting subject matter in prints.

Collaborating with artists Thomas Rowlandson and ?Edouard Dagaty, this series was published by Rudolph Ackermann: a savvy and successful print trader who set up a print shop and drawing school on London’s Strand. From his emporium he sold colour-plate books, decorative prints, periodicals, stationery and art materials to cater to a range of different customers.
 

Maps K.Top.27.16.1.Augustus Pugin (1762 – 1832) and Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), ACKERMANN'S REPOSITORY OF ARTS, 101 STRAND, published by Rudolph Ackermann, London, January, 1809, aquatint and etching with hand-colouring ; sheet 13.9 x 22.9 cm, Maps K.Top.27.16.1.

Ackermann was a major patron of British artists and designers. His association with Rowlandson was particularly fond and lasted over 30 years. He favoured Rowlandson’s comic and adaptable brand of social satire, exemplified here in the Views of London and also in other popular series such as The Tour of Doctor Syntax, the Miseries of London, and the English Dance of Death.

Over 500 views and maps from the King’s Topographical Collection and other British Library holdings are available to view in Picturing Places. Keep up to date on Twitter with what’s being discovered.

Alice Rylance-Watson

 

10 July 2017

Dame Anne McLaren: a noted career

To publicise the upcoming event: Anne McLaren: Science, Ethics and the Archive, to be held at the British Library on 20 July, 6.30-8.00 pm, we are republishing this post examining the notable achievements of McLaren’s career. A longer article on McLaren by the biologist Marilyn Monk can be found on the BL Science blog along with this article on McLaren’s role on the Warnock Committee.

Dame Anne McLaren (1927–2007) was a developmental biologist who pioneered reproductive techniques that led to human in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Dame_Anne_McLaren_©_James_Brabazon Dame Anne McLaren. Copyright © James Brabazon.

McLaren studied Zoology at Oxford and received a DPhil in 1952. In the same year she moved to UCL and began research with her husband Donald Michie into the skeletal development of mice. In 1955 she and Michie moved to the Royal Veterinary College and it was in 1958, while working with John Biggers, that McLaren produced the first litter of mice grown from embryos that had been developed outside the uterus and then transferred to a surrogate mother. This work paved the way for the development of IVF technologies and the birth of the first IVF baby Louise Brown some 20 years later.
 

McLaren-2

Detail from McLaren’s laboratory notebook dated 1955-1959 recording her experiments concerning embryo transplants in mice. (Add MS 83844). Copyright the estate of Anne McLaren.
 

McLaren-3

Detail from Mclaren’s laboratory notebook dated 1968-1976. (Add MS 83854). Copyright the estate of Anne McLaren.


In later years Anne’s career took her from Edinburgh to Cambridge via UCL where she continued her work into fertility and reproduction. As well as undertaking research she was a keen advocate of scientists explaining their work to the population at large and being involved in the formation of public policy. McLaren was a member of the Warnock committee whose advice led to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 as well as the establishment of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which regulated in vitro fertilization and the use of human embryos, on which she served for over 10 years.
 

McLaren-4

Selection of lectures dating from 1977-78 including a ‘Lecture to girl’s school near York’ (Add MS 83835). Copyright the estate of Anne McLaren.

The Anne McLaren papers at the British Library consist of letters, notes, notebooks and offprints. These are currently available to readers through the British Library Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue at Add MS 83830-83981 and Add MS 89202.

Anne McLaren’s scientific publications and books, along with an oral history interview conducted in February 2007, are available to readers via the British Library Explore catalogue.

Jonathan Pledge
Curator of Contemporary Archives and Manuscripts, Public and Political Life

 

06 July 2017

The roaring Dutch lion breaks the English chains

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the raid on the Medway during the Second Anglo Dutch War (1666-1667).  A Dutch squadron commanded by Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter made a daring raid on the English fleet, capturing a fort at Sheerness, breaking the chain boom at Gillingham, capturing the Unity and Royal Charles, and burning thirteen English ships.

A new exhibition Breaking the Chain at the Historic Dockyards Chatham provides a unique opportunity to learn about the Battle of the Medway and its aftermath through items and objects from institutions in Britain and the Netherlands, including a number of items from the British Library.

  Evelyn  John
Provided by Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, via the Europeana Collections Portal CC By

Two of these items come from the John Evelyn papers, including a translation of the account of the Battle from Nicolaas Witsen’s Aeloude en hedendaegsche Scheeps-Bouw en Bestier, and Evelyn’s diary entry describing the battle. More information on the John Evelyn archive can be found here.

The following item is also taken from the Evelyn papers, but does not appear in the exhibition. Add MS 78393 ff 16-17 is a sketch showing the ships and fortifications at Chatham. Although not drawn by Evelyn, it has been annotated in his hand ‘Descent of the Dutch when they burnt our ships at Chatham 1666 [sic]’.

  Evelyn Add MS 78393  f 15
Add MS 78393, f 15. Evelyn’s pencil annotation can be seen in the left hand corner. CC By

Evelyn Add MS 78393  f 15 close-up
Add MS 78393, f 15. Close-up showing the fortifications along the river.  CC By

We also supplied a number of items providing a Dutch perspective, including a copy of De Complete Werken van Joost van Vondel, which features his celebratory poem De Zeeleeu op den Teems.

In addition to loaning physical items for exhibitions, institutions are often able to provide access to digital copies online. The Europeana Collections portal provides access to over 53 million digital objects from European heritage and cultural institutions, and includes several items relating to the Medway raid from the Rijksmuseum.

Alex Hailey
Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts