Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library


Find out about social sciences at the British Library including collections, events and research. This blog includes contributions from curators and guest posts by academics, students and practitioners. Read more

06 June 2024

D-Day: from memory to commemoration


This post highlights a small selection of the many books published in the last two decades and available in the Library that bring a contemporary approach to the history and understanding of D-Day and the battle for France.


Timeleft between us

In The time left between us, by Alicia DeFonzo, Lincoln : Potomac Books (University of Nebraska Press), 2022, shelfmark m22/.11296, the author explores the link between past and present through her grandfather’s experience of D-Day and fighting in France.


To coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, BBC2 has screened a groundbreaking documentary series, D-Day: The Unheard Tapes (available on iPlayer). The series brings to life audio interviews with those who fought by using actors who resemble the speaker at the time of the war to lip-synch to the recordings.  The use of actors bridges the gap brought by time and gives a contemporary feel to the recordings, many of which have not previously been heard beyond the archives where the tapes are held. The series, accompanied by a new book – one of many focusing on D-Day to be released this month – highlights the way these events are passing from the testimony of living witnesses into cultural history. 


Both the programme and the accompanying book offer new insights, and show that there are new and different ways of approaching history both to make it meaningful to younger generations and to re-examine established narratives to draw out different aspects and understandings. This post focuses on some of the books currently available to readers in the Library’s reading rooms that have been published in recent years that bring a contemporary approach to the telling of social history.  Some of the books featured in this post bring to the fore different perspectives on the invasion, others consider how a younger generation can relate to these events, and some examine the social and political implications of the commemoration of war and of D-Day itself.       


The selection of books highlighted are among those that are held in print format and should currently be available to readers in the Library’s reading rooms.  Most are held at our St Pancras site whilst a couple are held at our site at Boston Spa in Yorkshire.  Some books held in Yorkshire are now available to readers, although those held in automated storage cannot yet be accessed following the cyber incident last year.  Just under half of our current intake of books published in the UK come to us in digital format, and access to these has not yet been restored, so they are also excluded from this selection of books.  An update on the restoration of services can be found on our Knowledge Matters blog.


And so to the books we can make available to readers...   Pictured above, Alicia DeFonzo’s The time left between us blends memoir, history and oral story-telling. DeFonzo, who lectures in English at Old Dominion University in Virginia, retraces her grandfather’s steps through France and Germany and weaves his account of his experiences in wartime Europe into her own memories to understand the relationship between past and present.  Her grandfather’s memories – passing from the Normandy landings to the liberation of concentration camps - become part of her own history.  Starting from the realisation that she knew almost nothing about this history and that her grandfather had not previously related these experiences – she arrives at an understanding that she has a part to play in safeguarding and transmitting memory.


Jonathan Mayo

D-Day minute by minute, by Jonathan Mayo. London : Short Books, 2014. YC.2015.a.763


A more straightforward, fast-paced, and highly accessible account of events is offered by Jonathan Mayo’s D-Day minute by minute, London: Short Books, 2014 (shelfmark YC.2015.a.763).  In just over 300 pages, Mayo’s book draws on a wide range of personal narratives to construct a detailed account of events as they were experienced not only by those who fought but by many people impacted by these crucial events, from French villagers and journalists, to schoolchildren and nurses.  Mayo’s book focuses not on military strategy but on the human experience of involvement in shaping the course of history.



James Holland

Normandy '44 : D-Day and the battle for France: a new history, by James Holland, London : Bantam Press, 2019, YC.2020.a.1072


A similarly broad range of experiences is brought to the fore in James Holland’s Normandy ’44: D-Day and the battle for France.   Holland uses archival research and eyewitness testimonies from around the world to re-examine established narratives of the invasion, bringing out the human aspect of the conflict as well as differing perspectives, with accounts from civilians and resistance fighters as well as military personnel.



Forgotten: the untold story of D-Day's Black heroes, by Linda Hervieux. New York, HarperCollins, 2015. Shelfmark  m15/.11728


Blending social history, biography and an account of military events is Linda Hervieux’s book, Forgotten: the untold story of D-Day's Black heroes (New York: HarperCollins, 2015, Shelfmark  m15/.11728).  The book focuses on the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of African-American soldiers within the racially-segregated US forces involved in the assault on the beaches. Using military records and interviews with surviving members of the battalion and their families, Hervieux highlights the sense of freedom these men gained in Europe and in England in the lead-up to the invasion. The book notes the lack of recognition accorded to these men and the denial of military honours after the war. The disparity between their experiences in Europe and the segregation and injustice they faced at home was an important backdrop to the emergent civil rights movement.


Breath of freedom

A breath of freedom: the civil rights struggle, African American GIs, and Germany, by Maria Höhn and Martin Klimke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. YC.2013.a.5132


This theme is shared by Maria Höhn and Martin Klimke’s book, A breath of freedom: the civil rights struggle, African American GIs, and Germany, which explores the social and historical impact of serving in Europe for African American servicemen and how this fed into activism within the civil rights movement.  Although not focused specifically on D-Day, it is one of a number of books to consider the wider social and political aspects of participation in the fight to bring to an end to the German occupation of Europe.  This is explored in a more recent work by Sandra Bolzenius, Glory in their spirit: how four black women took on the Army during World War II (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018), shelfmark YD.2022.a.1758.  The book records a strike against discriminatory work assignments by four African American female privates serving in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in 1945.  At the time, their well-publicised protest “pushed the army's segregation system to its breaking point”.



Sylvia Wild

Woman at the front: memoirs of an ATS girl: D-Day to 1946, by Sylvia Wild, Stroud: Amberley 2012. YK.2013.a.3983

Returning to different perspectives and experiences of D-Day itself, is Sylvia Wild’s first-person account, published in 2012, of her service in the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a shorthand typist working for the Senior Royal Engineer officers developing the D-Day plans concerning ports, docks, harbours and railways as part of Operation Overlord.  Her service continued in France, where she lived in French households as transport services were reinstated in France, Belgium and Germany.  Her first-hand account could be read alongside the very different experiences of the 39 women who served in France within the Special Operations Executive working undercover to support the French Resistance. Their story is recounted in Kate Vigurs’ Mission France: the true history of the women of SOE, published in 2020 by Yale University Press, shelfmark YC.2022.a.4932.




German eyes

Normandiefront: D-Day to Saint-Lô through German eyes, by Vince Milano and Bruce Conner. Stroud: Spellmount, 2012. Shelfmark YK.2013.a.1164)


A different perspective on the fighting, based on interviews with, and the testimony of, German combatants in 352 Division is offered by Normandiefront: D-Day to Saint-Lô through German eyes, by Vince Milano and Bruce Conner (Stroud: Spellmount, 2012, shelfmark YK.2013.a.1164).  Through the course of their work over many years, the authors collected German and Allied photographs and documents, many of which had not previously been published.  Although focused more on the course of the battle than on the feelings of those involved, the book gives an insight into a very different experience of how events unfolded.




100 locations

D-Day UK: 100 locations in Britain, by Simon Forty, Swindon: Historic England, 2019, shelfmark YC.2020.b.320


The preparations for D-Day and the way that they involved a wide range of people from across the country is the focus of D-Day UK: 100 locations in Britain, by Simon Forty (Swindon: Historic England, 2019, shelfmark YC.2020.b.320). It is one of a number of books to consider the planning and information-gathering that was necessary before the invasion could be attempted.  This is also the focus of Bletchley Park and D-Day: the untold story of how the battle for Normandy was won, by David Kenyon, published in 2019. Using previously classified documents, David Kenyon shows how preparations for the Normandy landings in 1944 - the turning point in the war in Europe - began at Bletchley in 1942, with the careful collation of information extracted from enemy signals traffic.




Bletchley Park and D-Day: the untold story of how the battle for Normandy was won, David Kenyon, New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2019. YC.2020.a.1359




Screenshot 2024-06-04 at 20.58.28

The cruel victory: the French Resistance, D-Day and the battle for the Vercors 1944, by Paddy Ashdown, London : William Collins, 2014, shelfmark YC.2015.a.14166


In a very different vein, Paddy Ashdown’s book about the French Resistance in the Vercors mountain range near Grenoble aims to tell a story overlooked by most English-language histories of D-Day. As Allied troops stormed the beaches in Normandy, the resistance in the Vercors rose up in a planned rearguard action that was brutally crushed when German reinforcements arrived. The book shows how the tragedy gave the Vercors a place in French history and gives voice to the many fighters who fought to gain a say in the future of their country.



Divided memory

Divided memory : French recollections of World War II from the Liberation to the present, Olivier Wieviorka, Stanford, California : Stanford University Press, 2012. Shelfmark YC.2013.a.312


Wieviorka's important book tackles the conflicting memories of all aspects of wartime France: the fall of France, Vichy, the Occupation, the deportations, the Resistance, trials and amnesties. Wieviorka examines the contested area of who should be honoured within French history in the wake of war and occupation.



In memory and history

D-Day in history and memory: the Normandy landings in international remembrance and commemoration. Edited by Michael Dolski, Sam Edwards, and John Buckley. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 2014, shelfmark YC.2015.a.5044


The politics of commemoration is the focus of a work bringing together a collection of essays on the complex and often conflicting memories of D-Day.   The work aims to deconstruct and counter the way D-Day has frequently been mythologised by bringing together multiple national viewpoints.



D-Day remembered

D-Day remembered : the Normandy landings in American collective memory, Dolski, Michael, 2016. YC.2017.a.7666.


Addressing similar themes, historian Michael Dolski’s book examines how understandings of the past are shaped by the present through consideration of how D-Day is remembered and commemorated by Americans. His study aims to expose and consider the cultural functions of war remembrance.  Drawing on a wider range of international examples of warfare, Commemorating war : the politics of memory, by T G Ashplant, Graham Dawson, and Michael Roper (New Brunswick, N.J.; London: Transaction 2004) is one of a growing number of academic works to explore war memory and the role of commemoration.  The latter book is available on the open shelves in the Social Sciences reading room at SPIS303.66 and can also be ordered to other reading rooms via shelfmark YC.2009.a.7918.


Because of the Library's IT outage, readers will have to wait a while before access is available to the new crop of books published to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, but as services are restored, anyone with an interest in delving deeper into this history will be able to access these works in the Library's reading rooms.

22 April 2024

Researching social work in the Social Sciences Reading Room.

This post, written by Social Sciences Subject Librarian, Ben Hadley, describes printed resources relevant to social work that are available to readers in the Social Sciences Reading Room, as well as publications that can be ordered up from basement storage for use in the reading rooms.  The Library's digital collections are not currently available whilst systems are restored following the cyber attack in October 2023.   Information about the restoration of services can be found on the British Library Knowledge Matters blog, and details of opening hours and current services are on the Library's website.


Mod soc thought shelf

Reference materials relevant to social work in the OPL section on the shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room. 


Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change. Research themes encompass a range of interdisciplinary approaches including law, philosophy, politics, public policy, psychology and social anthropology. 


The recent cyber-attack has had a severe impact on our digital collections. Unfortunately we currently cannot provide access to abstracting databases and e-resources via our reading room PCs.  Similarly, we are not able to provide access to books and journals published in the UK or in Ireland that have been deposited with the Library in electronic format rather than in print.  This affects many British (and also Irish) books published since 2013 as roughly half of the Library's intake from these countries is received in digital format.


However, readers can still order journals and printed books to use in our study spaces, and social work dictionaries, encyclopedias and reference sources on related topics are available on the open shelves. Social work research demands a multi-disciplinary approach, and we can still provide access to a broad spectrum of topics from a wide range of subject areas. Our research monographs cover a wide field of subject disciplines and many are held in the Social Sciences Reading Room. 


Here are just a few examples of books are available to order and use in the reading rooms, that can be found in our catalogue: 


Social Policy for Social Work, Lorraine Green and Karen Clark 

Soc Policy for Soc Work

Front cover of Social policy for social work, by Lorraine Green and Karen Clarke. Cambridge; Polity Press, 2016. British Library shelfmark YC.2016.b.604


This book examines the shifts in the dominant political ideology that have affected the nature of welfare provision and the balance of responsibilities between the family, the voluntary sector, the market and the state. It explains how these developments impact social workers and service users. 

It traces the origins of state welfare from the Elizabethan Poor Laws to the late 1800s. It then examines each stage of welfare provision from the post-war consensus through to the Coalition government 2010 – 2015.     British Library shelfmark YC.2016.b.604 


Mind, state and society: social history of psychiatry and mental health in Britain 1960 – 2010, edited by George Ikkos and Nick Bouras.

Mind state society

Cover image of Mind, state and society: social history of psychiatry and mental health in Britain 1960–2010, edited by George Ikkos and Nick Bouras. Cambridge University Press, 2021.  Shelfmark YC.2022.a.5666.


This book examines the reforms in psychiatry and mental health services in Britain. It features contributions from leading academics, policymakers, mental health clinicians, service users and carers. It offers a rich and integrated picture of mental health, covering experiences from children to older people; employment to homelessness; women to LGBTQ+; refugees to black and minority ethnic groups; and faith communities and the military. 

British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a.5666 


Child Welfare and Social Action in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Jon Lawrence and Pat Starkey.  Liverpool University Press, 2001

This collection of essays addresses child migration, ‘delinquency’, and the physical and psychological traumas of children in care. It offers an international perspective on these issues and each case study provides a thorough analysis within its historical context. Each of the themes introduced in this study can be explored in more detail in our collections. 

British Library shelfmark YC.2006.a.15461 


What is Social Work: Contexts and Perspectives, Nigel Horner. London; Learning Matters, 2012

This book is primarily aimed at social work students in their first year of study. It examines the major influences that shaped the welfare systems towards the end of the nineteenth century, including religious movements, philanthropy, social reform, labour movements and government policy. 


It presents an overview of child welfare policy and practice and introduces legal frameworks for working with children and families. It also examines the changing context of the profession in light of legislative changes from the 1908 Children Act which led to the introduction of juvenile courts, to the Children Act 2004 which affirmed a commitment to assuring high quality childcare for all.  

British Library shelfmark SPIS 361.30941 


In addition this book also introduces a professional capabilities framework that informs all social work practice. These themes can be explored further in studies held in the reading room under subject heading SPIS 361.01. A member of staff can help you to find these titles.  


Gender diversity, recognition and citizenship: towards a politics of difference, Sally Hines. Basingstoke; Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.


Gender diversity

Gender diversity, recognition and citizenship: towards a politics of difference, by Sally Hines. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. British Library shelfmark SPIS 306.768 

This book explores the significance of the UK Gender Recognition Act (GRA) and considers broader social, cultural, legal political shifts that have resulted. This book considers the politics of identity and how lived experience has been impacted by these changes. The GRA is also contextualised within human rights discourse and law.  

British Library shelfmark SPIS 306.768  



Social Policy, John Baldock.  Oxford University Press, 2012

Explores the history and development of social policy and provides a comprehensive introduction to this area of study. An understanding of these themes is essential to social work students and to those studying related disciplines. The glossary provides a list of terms that can help readers to focus and narrow their research themes. 


Some of the subject headings in this study include: social need and inequality, family and welfare, the voluntary sector, global social policy, health policy, housing, crime and punishment. 

British Library shelfmark SPIS 361.610941 



Here is a list of some of the key journals in social work: 


Social Policy and Society 

British Journal of Social Work 

Journal of Social Policy 

Journal of evidence based social work 

Journal of social work practice 

Social Policy and Administration 


Some of the articles from these journals are available for free on the web. Just type the journal title into Google and you should be able to find a full list of articles on the publisher’s website. Look for the Open Access symbol, this means that an article is free to access.  We can provide access to other articles from these journals if they have been published before October 2023, just note down the year and issue number that you need and bring this information to the Social Sciences issue desk.  You can also find some digitised journal articles via the Internet Archive's  Wayback Machine. 


The following titles are held on the open shelves in the SPIS journals collection: 


Professional Social Work 

Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 

Social Theory and Health 

Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma 

Journal of Public Health Policy 


Here is a list of some of the topics associated with social work held within the SPIS books collection (there is a more comprehensive list in the reading room): 


Children 305.23  

Older people 305.26 

Courts 347.4201 

Social work 361.301  

Social action 361.2  

Social work research 362 

Mental health 362.2  

Disabled persons 362.4  

Children problems 362.7  

Criminology 364 

Drug abuse 362.29 

Counselling 361.06 

Delinquent and problem pupils 371.93  


In the OPL section you can find encylopedias and abstracts for related subjects and disciplines

Dictionary shelf

Examples of reference sources on the open shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room.  



Reference materials on the open shelves include the following titles: 


Social research methods OPL 300.72  

Encyclopedias, sociology dictionaries OPL 301.03  

(In this section you can also find encyclopedias in women’s studies, social psychology, adolescence, race and LGBTQ studies) 

Encyclopedias of social work OPL. 361.003  

Social work abstracts OPL 361.973  

Halsbury’s laws of England OPL 344.4209  

Introduction the law and the legal system OPL 345.0973  

Magistrates court guide 2024 OPL 345.38  


Finally, here are some websites and resources that may be useful to your research into social policy: 


The King’s Fund Library 


London School of Economics Library 


British Sociological Association 


King’s College Library 


The Knowledge Exchange 


The following organisations publish research papers, policy briefings and reports on their websites: 


National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) 

Joseph Rowntree Foundation 

Resolution foundation 


The Children’s Commissioner 

Intergenerational Foundation 

International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) 

13 March 2024

Consulting Official Publications collections after the cyber attack.


This post, written by the Library's Content Lead for Official and Government Publications describes how readers can access official publications in the wake of the cyber-attack on the Library in October 2023.   Information about the restoration of services can be found on the British Library Knowledge Matters blog, and details of opening hours and current services are on the Library's website.


Following the cyber-attack on the British Library’s IT estate in October 2023, access to our official publications collections is limited, but will gradually improve.  At present, you can only consult print and microform materials that are either shelved in the Social Sciences Reading Room at St Pancras or in the St Pancras basements. In the reading room we have a selection of historic UK parliamentary and legal texts including:

Commons and Lords journals
The Official Report (Hansard) and Standing Committee Debates
Public General Acts, Local and Personal Acts and Private Acts
UK Statutory Instruments
House of Commons papers and bills on microfiche, 1801-2004/05
House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century reprint edited by Sheila Lambert


Reading room

Official publications on the open shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room at St Pancras.


Basement 1 at St Pancras holds an eclectic mix of UK, US and United Nations publications in print which, in a leap back to the 20th century, can be ordered on paper tickets:

Bound sets of Commons and Lords papers and bills from 1801-
United States Congressional Serial Set 1817/18-1979/90
Electoral registers, 2002-
United Nations documents 1946-2012


Official texts were historically catalogued and shelved in series, not at the individual document level. Fortunately hard copy indexes are still available in the reading room and these will enable you to record the correct citation in the series so that the library assistants can locate your chosen document on the shelf.



Hansard: the official record of parliamentary debates in the House of Commons.


The St Pancras basements also hold a treasure trove of official materials on microform which can be consulted in lieu of electronic sources, such as:

The depository collection of US federal government and Congressional papers, 1982- on microfiche arranged by Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) code
US Congressional hearings on microfiche
Historic electoral registers for England, 1832-1937 on microfilm
HMSO controller’s library on microfilm
Government publications relating to Kenya, 1897-1963 on microfilm
Annual departmental reports relating to Sierra Leone, 1893-1961 on microfilm


There are printed indexes to these sets in the reading room that will help you to find the correct document codes and reel numbers so that you can place orders. There is also a card index of official microforms available for consultation.


Now for the bad news. Apart from these print and microform sets, all other UK, foreign national government, and intergovernmental organisation (IGO) publications are two hundred miles away on our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire. UK departmental publications and electoral registers 1832-2001 in print are kept in an automated store and cannot be retrieved as yet, although restoring this service is a priority.  However the historic collections of foreign national government and IGO documents are in static stores, and we aim to restart delivery around the end of March. You can find their shelfmarks in the interim catalogue or in the printed copy of the British Museum Library catalogue in the Social Sciences reading room.


Edinburgh council

An example of the electoral registers available at the Library.


Our world class collection of subscribed electronic resources is inaccessible at the moment, including full-text document collections such as the US Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994, Congressional Record to 1997,  Congressional Hearings, 1823-1979, US Territorial Papers, the US Foreign Broadcast Information Service, UK Parliamentary Papers, UK State Papers Online 16th-18th centuries, and British Online Archives databases, but in many cases there are print or microform alternatives available.  Originals of digitised UK government archives are available at the National Archives, Kew.  Recent UK, IGO and foreign national government materials can of course be found freely available on the internet.  Large and influential IGOs such as the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank now make their electronic libraries available free as a public good:

World Bank Open Knowledge Repository 
United Nations Official Document System  
IMF eLibrary 


You will find records for electronic UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland government documents acquired through non-print legal deposit before April 2023 in the interim catalogue, but there is no access to the documents themselves at present. We are aiming to restore view access in June or July this year, so watch this space. However, prior to the cyber incident we received feeds of records with hot links to freely available documents published by the European Union, the US federal government and the Irish Republic government. These links work and you can view the documents from within the catalogue.


Access to full text of Scottish government and Parliament documents is available from the National Library of Scotland catalogue (Library Search). Queen’s University Belfast hosts the Northern Ireland Official Publications Archive, a repository containing Northern Ireland government documents. For current UK government and Parliamentary documentation you can of course search Gov.UK and the UK Parliament website.


Navigating the Library’s historic print and microform collections of government and IGO documents is challenging because they were catalogued at the series level (print) or set level (microform). To trace the correct citation of a document within a series or microform set you need to consult a range of printed indexes. Please ask our friendly and efficient reference team for help. They can be contacted in person in the Social Sciences reading room or by email at [email protected]