THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

6 posts from October 2018

18 October 2018

Propaganda Portraits of Muslim Rulers during WW2

The Ministry of Information was the British Government department responsible for publicity and propaganda during the Second World War. On 22 August 1940, Arthur John Arberry at the Ministry of Information wrote to Roland Tennyson Peel at the India Office, enclosing colour portraits of Emir Abdullah of Transjordan (ʿAbdullāh bin Ḥusayn al-Hāshimī), the Sultan of Muscat and Oman (Sa‘īd bin Taymūr Āl Bū Sa‘īd), and the Shaikh of Bahrain (Shaikh Ḥamad bin ‘Īsá Āl Khalīfah, erroneously referred to as the Shaikh of Kuwait in the letter).

Arberry wrote that the Ministry’s Far Eastern Section had ordered a large quantity of these portraits for distribution in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), and that a caption would be added ‘indicating that these Muslim rulers support Britain in the present war’, in an attempt to foster support for the Allies amongst the predominantly Muslim population. He went on to request Peel’s advice ‘as to whether these portraits could appropriately be used for distribution on a large scale in the Middle East, especially in Hadhramaut and the Persian Gulf’, as propaganda.

This letter and the portraits, below, are included in the file IOR/L/PS/12/3942, which has been digitised and will soon be available to view on the Qatar Digital Library

Iorlps123942f19

Letter from Arthur John Arberry of the Ministry of Information, to Roland Tennyson Peel of the India Office, 22 August 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 19. 

Ogl-symbol-41px-retina-black

EmirAbdullahPortrait of Emir Abdullah of Transjordan (ʿAbdullāh bin Ḥusayn al-Hāshimī), c 22 Aug 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 21.

The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

SultanMuscat&OmanPortrait of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman (Sa‘īd bin Taymūr Āl Bū Sa‘īd), c. 22 August 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 22.

The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

  HakimBahrain
Portrait of the Hakim of Bahrain (Shaikh Ḥamad bin ‘Īsá Āl Khalīfah), c. 22 August 1940 . Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 23.

The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

Arberry was sent a reply from John Percival Gibson of the India Office, advising him that ‘we think it undesirable to make any use for publicity purposes of the Sultan of Muscat’s portrait, chiefly for the reason given in Peel’s letter to Rushbrook Williams of the 23rd January [1940]’. The letter referred to is not included in this file, however a draft copy of it can be found in file IOR/L/PS/12/2995, f 9. In this letter, Peel informs Laurence Frederic Rushbrook Williams of the Ministry of Information that ‘the Sultan of Muscat has asked that steps might be taken to prevent publicity being given…to Muscat. Apparently the Sultan is apprehensive that such publicity might draw unwanted attention to his country in German & Italian quarters’, and ‘We have promised to respect his wishes’. 

In Gibson’s reply to Arberry, he also stated that provided the Sultan of Muscat’s portrait was omitted, he did not think there would be any objection to distribution of the other portraits in the Middle East generally, but that this was more a matter for the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. However, he added that ‘I doubt it would be worth the expense to make any distribution in the Persian Gulf, where the attitude of the Sheikhs is well enough known’.

Arberry further consulted the India Office about whether it would be politically acceptable to include a portrait of the Shaikh of Kuwait (Shaikh Aḥmad al-Jābir Āl Ṣabāḥ), to which Peel responded that there was no objection.

Before the portraits were finally approved, Sir Hassan Suhrawardy, Adviser to the Secretary of State for India, was asked for his opinion on them. Suhrawardy approved the green border of the portraits, but thought that it should be an olive shade instead. He also advised the Ministry of Information that the star and crescent symbol should be omitted from the border, for the reasons stated in the letter below.

Iorlps123942_f11

Copy of a letter from Sir Hassan Suhrawardy to E J Embleton, Studio Manger at the Ministry of Information, 5 November 1940. Reference: IOR/L/PS/12/3942, f 11.

Ogl-symbol-41px-retina-black

 

Susannah Gillard,

Content Specialist, Archivist

British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership

 

Further reading

British Library, Coll 30/202 ‘Persian Gulf. Photographs of Notabilities (Sheikhs &c) (used for propaganda purposes)’ IOR/L/PS/12/3942

British Library, Coll 20/35 'Sultan of Muscat's desire to avoid wireless and press publicity during wartime' IOR/L/PS/12/2995

15 October 2018

The royals are here!

RA_QEIIRoyal armorial of Queen Elizabeth II used at her coronation, 1953. BL 99330.tt.12

We have a vast array of images and information about British armorials, thanks to the British Armorial Bindings database. The database was created by John Morris, and since his death in 2006 has been edited by Philip Oldfield. It is a fantastic resource and - thanks to the various ways of interrogating the system - simple to use.  Royal British coats of arms (many from bindings in the British Library) have only just been added to the database.  This is due to their sheer number and complexity.  These armorials are more than simple marks of ownership, the actual motifs (called ‘charges’) throw unexpected highlights on the history and mythology of the UK.

RA2

How did we recognise who was who before the invention of the internet?  Today images, personalised emojis, logos and avatars mean immediate identification is easy with a click or tap.  In the midst of a 15th century battle, though, a fully armoured knight was effectively a man of mystery unless he had a shield, badge or flag depicting his allegiance.  When a king took part in a battle his coat of arms had to be noticeable, enabling the soldiers to rally around their own royal general.

Harry PayneHenry V at the Battle of Agincourt, wearing on his surcoat the royal arms of England (three lions on red), quartered with the fleur de lys of France as a symbol of his claim to the French crown. Painting by Harry Payne.

All British monarchs have at least one stamp of the “arms of dominion” reflecting the lands over which they reigned. As William III did not rule over just Britain, he used the Stuart coat of arms (from his Stuart wife, Mary) with the addition of the escutcheon (i.e. shield) of Nassau in the centre to represent his lands in the Low Countries (see below).

BL_292_d_29BL 292.d.29

Every member of the royal family has an individual coat of arms which must be different from that of the reigning monarch.  The Prince of Wales has a ‘label of difference’ to distinguish him as the oldest son of the reigning monarch.

BL_c46_b_7BL C.24.b.7. The white arrows point to the label of three points, a mark of cadency to indicate an eldest son, in this case Prince Henry Frederick, who died before he could become King, at the age of eighteen.

 There are many royal motifs.  This link from British Armorial Bookbindings demonstrates some used on the books of the Stuart Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick (1594 -1612) Charles I’s elder brother. 

A royal armorial can reflect the history of the realm. George III of England was king of Hanover, (see left below, in the centre) therefore those arms had to be included too.  This continued until the reign of Queen Victoria when it disappeared because she did not rule Hanover.

K&Q

 

The royal armorial has also something to tell us about the myths of a country.  One of the animals which supports the British royal shield is the mythical unicorn, Scotland’s national animal.  It first featured on the arms of William I of Scotland d.1214 and was associated with purity, nobility and strength.

In 1603, James VI of Scotland, whose Scottish shield can be seen on a bookbinding here, assumed the English crown (as James I of Great Britain).  This event was reflected in the royal armorial.  The individual royal arms of Scotland, Ireland and England were brought together and have remained major elements of the royal arms today. The new shield was supported by the lion, standing for England and the unicorn representing Scotland.  Sometimes the charges are arranged in such a way as to give Scotland pride of place in dexter position.

L&U

The nursery rhyme beginning “The lion and the unicorn / Were fighting for the crown” is thought to refer to the heraldic supporters.

 
P J M Marks

Printed Heritage Collections

See British Armorial Bindings online

https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/content/british-armorial-bindings

11 October 2018

An Irish soldier in India

In July 1859 Gunner Richard Scott wrote a letter to his father from Poona.  Scott was about to return to Britain after fighting with the Bombay Horse Artillery in the Indian Mutiny or Rebellion.  He wrote of his military experiences and asked for help in finding employment.

  Poona 1871Street scene in Poona by John Frederick Lester (1825-1915) c.1871 WD3549 No. 18

Richard Scott enlisted at his home town of Dublin on 24 August 1857 for twelve years’ service with the East India Company.  Scott was 5 feet 7⅛ inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. His age is given as twenty but records point to him being just seventeen, suggesting that he was joining the army without parental consent.  This is borne out by his letter home.

  Scott letter L MIL 5 365IOR/L/MIL/5/365 no.473 Noc

 ‘Dear Father
Altho I never wrote to let you know of it I suppose you are aware that I am a soldier in the East India Company’s forces.  I would have written long since to let you know how I was getting on, but from the time I landed in the Country up to the present I could not be shure if I wrote would I ever live to receive an answer.  All the fiting is now over and we are just returned to quarters after being out on field service for nearly 18 months.  The Troop to which I belong has been engaged several times with the rebels but I came off unhurt through it all and strang to say, altho we often were obliged to take the field against overwhelming numbers, our small forse always came off victorios.

Dear Father I suppose you are aware that by a late Act of parliment the East India Company’s Troops are disbanded that is all that wish to take their discharge can have it and all those who wish to stop in the country can Remain as they are, their former service will count for them.   I have taken my discharg & come what will of it for I do not like the country, And perhaps I would never get the chace of leaving it again. Dear Father I cannot expect that you will do any thing for me when I go home again, but I will be in a very poor condition when I land, I will be left in London without one penny in my pocket and who have I to look to except you, if you can spare it Dear Father send me a few pounds that will keep me some time an buy me a suit of clothes And shurly you have interst enough to get me a situation with some Gentleman.  I would go as a groom, I have been Riding horses since I joined the service both in the Military style and the other way.’
 

Lucknow after Mutiny IWMAftermath of the Siege of Lucknow by Felix Beato  © IWM (Q 69821)

 Scott was given a certificate of discharge from the Bombay Regiment of Artillery on 1 October 1859 ‘being unwilling to serve in HM Indian forces’ after the disbandment of the East India Company armies.  Sadly he died of dysentery on 26 October 1859 at sea on board the Hope on his way home.  His father John sent his letter to the India Office in 1863 with an application for payment of Lucknow Prize Money.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/9/23 Recruitment register Dublin 1855-1858
IOR/L/MIL/12/282 f.1369 Discharge certificate for Richard Scott 1859
IOR/L/MIL/5/365 nos.473, 1793, 2491 – enquiries about soldiers

09 October 2018

Hungary Water for Missionaries?

In November 1764 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge wrote to the Court of Directors of the East India Company for permission to send a number of ‘sundry items’ out to their missionaries in India on the ships sailing that season.  The Society sent out various supplies to their missionaries each year and their lists often included unexpected items such as the Four Cheeses in Lead and a Harpsichord sent out in 1762 and featured previously on Untold Lives.

The 1764 list of sundry items included the surprising entry of two bottles of Hungary Water.  Hungary Water, also often known as “The Queen of Hungary’s Water” was one of the first alcohol based perfumes to be produced in Europe and was primarily made with rosemary.   It was the most popular fragrance and remedy in Europe until the development of Eau de Cologne in the late 18th Century.  The water has many myths associated with it, the most common one being that it was named after the Queen of Hungary who used it and at age 70 was believed to have looked so youthful a 25 year old Duke asked for her hand in marriage believing her to be of a similar age.

Hungary waterAdvertisement for Hungary Water in Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 9 June 1857

Hungary Water was most commonly used as a cure-all beauty tonic and was believed to help maintain a youthful appearance and beauty.  It was also considered to have health benefits when digested including to improve strength and eyesight and to dispel gloominess.  The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge presumably sent it to their missionaries for the health benefits, rather than to maintain their youthfulness and beauty.

The Toilet of Flora Title PageThe Toilet of Flora (1775)   Noc


The 1775 publication The Toilet of Flora features a recipe to make what is refers to as ‘Genuine Hungary Water’:

'Put into an alembic a pound and a half of fresh pickt Rosemary Flowers; Penny royal and Marjoram Flowers, of each half a pound; three quarts of good Coniac Brandy; having close stopped the mouth of the alembic to prevent the spirit from evaporating, bury it twenty-eight hours in horse-dung to digest, and distill off the Spirit in a water-bath.

A drachm of Hungary Water diluted with Spring Water, may be taken once or twice a week in the morning fasting.  It is also used by way of embrocation to bathe the face and limbs, or any part affected with pains, or debility.  This remedy recruits the strengths, dispels gloominess, and strengthens the sight.  It must always be used cold, whether taken inwardly as a medicine, or applied externally.'

More recipes from the publication The Toilet of Flora featured in the 2013 Untold Lives blog post Lip Salve and Worms in the Face.

Karen Stapley
Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
J Broughton, Secretary to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to Robert James, Secretary to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, Nov 1764. IOR/E/1/46, ff 737-739

 

03 October 2018

‘Lads of true spirit’ – recruiting for the East India Company in Ireland

Before Robert Brooke of the Bengal Army became Governor of St Helena in 1787, he spent time in his native country of Ireland.  He volunteered to recruit soldiers for the East India Company armies, and then devoted his time to establishing a cotton mill at Prosperous in County Kildare. 

  Recruits BM J 6 47Recruits (1780) - image courtesy of British Museum

The legality of Brooke recruiting men in Ireland on behalf of the East India Company was questioned in the House of Commons by Sir Lucius O’Brien in February 1778.  By way of reply Brooke wrote a paper justifying his activities. Brooke stated that the Company’s charter allowed it to raise men for the defence of their settlements abroad.  The war against America had forced the government to increase the bounty offered to recruits for the King’s Army, causing a sharp fall in the numbers of men volunteering to serve the Company in India.  Therefore the Company had turned to Ireland for manpower to defend its interests in India ‘which may hereafter prove to be the richest Jewell in the British Crown’.

Brooke countered arguments that Company recruitment would thin the population of Ireland with reasons for allowing the ‘temporary Emigration of the Natives’.  He claimed that ‘Idle and dissolute Mechanics will find that Employment of which they were deprived at Home… the Kingdom will no longer wear a face of poverty.. and Ireland will be purged of a riotous Peasantry, that often pass their Lives in beggary, and generally conclude them in Jail’.  The Irish would fight for the British Crown rather than join French or Spanish forces.

He also defended his methods – he did not send out recruiting parties; he did not beat a drum or give arms to any man; he did not lure men with false representations or ply them with liquor; and he did not rob masters of their apprentices.  Instead he placed a series of advertisements in the Irish press aimed at attracting young men ‘desirous of pushing their fortunes abroad’. 

  EIC recruitment Ireland 1779Dublin Evening Press 16 December 1779 British Newspaper Archive

Brooke said that many ‘spirited Lads’ had gone to India as soldiers and returned home with ‘ample Fortunes’.  He claimed that war with France and Spain now gave the prospect of speedy success through prize money.  Boys under eighteen had to have their parents’ permission to enlist. The East India Company ships taking the recruits from Dublin were searched for deserters.

The  registers of East India Company recruits embarking for India give a description of those who enlisted in Dublin during Brooke’s campaign.  The vast majority were recorded as being labourers under twenty years of age.  Very young boys joined as drummers: in 1779 John Hewitson aged 11 and Christopher Hewitson aged 12 sailed together for Bengal on the ship Neptune.

Given the very high risk of death from disease or in military action, many of Brooke’s lads would never have made the return journey from India to Ireland.  But perhaps some did find ‘not only a Road to Station and Honour, but to Wealth also’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
IOR/H/139 Papers on the recruitment of soldiers for the East India Company in Ireland 1778
IOR/L/MIL/9/90 East India Company embarkation list 1775-1784

 

01 October 2018

Strange fish: A distant cousin of the Beluga whale in the River Thames

We have always been both fascinated and saddened by whales finding their way into rivers or being stranded on strange beaches. The beluga whale in the Thames near Gravesend last week is the latest in a long line of chronicled incidents. They have been recorded in print since the sixteenth century, and in manuscript from even earlier. I am researching early modern printed ballads and pamphlets about these ‘strange fish’ that were paraded as exotic marvels, heralded as signs from God or feared as omens. It was only late in the seventeenth century that whales became natural rather than divine wonders. This is a timely moment to share one of my favourite pamphlets.

Photo 1

Strange News from the Deep, BL N.788 Public Domain

In 1677, a whale became stranded in a river near Colchester in Essex and tragically died. We know this because a pamphlet was printed, probably within days of the whale’s death, which exists today in only three copies. Strange News from the Deep: Being a Full Account of a Large Prodigious Whale, Lately Taken in the River Wivner, within Six Miles of Colchester was printed by one still unidentified “W.H.”. Of the two copies at the British Library, one has a fantastically large woodcut of Jonah being swallowed whole by a whale. This copy once belonged to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), a physician, naturalist and collector whose collection became the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum. The other British Library copy is part of another important collection, albeit one formed a generation later – that of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), the botanist who sailed with Sir James Cook.

Photo 2

Strange News from the Deep, BL N.788

Public Domain

This rare pamphlet describes how a “strange whale” was seen swimming up “the Wivner-River”. Villagers watched as it floundered on the shallow sand banks; its tail “shovelled the sands so high” that they showered over the spectators’ heads and the thrashing of its body caused waves to swell out over the banks. She continued to struggle until the tide went out and left her stranded in the shallow water. In her desperation, the whale broke her tail and her blood dyed the river red. Eventually she died in the water, “being of so large a bulk that the river could not cover her”.

The anonymous author tries to explain why the whale became stranded. He refers to Pliny’s theory that their “unnatural wandrings” are caused by sickness. He then suggests the sheer strength of the tide could’ve hurled the young whale into the river mouth. He then resorts to the traditional beliefs that whales are brought to land as a sign of “insuing judgment” or are a “favourable warning given us by the Almighty”. This opinion is “perhaps the least authentick”.

P84Image taken from page 84 of Narrative of the Wreck of the “Favourite” on the Island of Desolation: detailing the adventures, sufferings and privations of J. Nunn, an historical account of the Island, and its whale and seal fisheries. Edited by W. B. Clarke, British Library Flickr Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/11012011156/ 

Stranded whales are almost as mysterious today as they were in the early modern period. A recent theory is that the phenomenon may be caused by the same solar surges that affect the northern lights. Others suggest the melting of the Arctic sea ice, the beluga whale being an arctic animal. These whales have become ominous portents once more, only now they warn of climate change rather than divine wrath. Whether they are reported in seventeenth century pamphlets or on Twitter, their plight evokes the same dread, fascination and pity as it has for centuries.

Maddy Smith,

Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading and references:

Strange news from the deep: being a full account of a large prodigious whale, lately taken in the river Wivner, within six miles of Colchester. Declaring the strange manner of its coming up, and by what unusuall means it was seized upon by the neighbouring inhabitants. Also an account of the like prodigious accidents in general. Printed for W.H. in the year 1677. British Library N.788 and 1257.d.29.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/26/thames-beluga-whale-omen-changing-climate-gravesend

https://estc.bl.uk/R236823

https://estc.bl.uk/R42904