Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

4 posts from December 2013

23 December 2013

Propaganda, Sisterhood, Social Welfare and more: a year in social sciences

Every month, my colleague puts together a summary of all of the engagement, research and outward facing activities that our team organises or is part of. It’s a resource that we use internally, but as the year draws to a close, it is a great thing to look back on to see all the different activities we’ve been involved in across the year (sort of like looking back over a diary, but with far fewer ‘cringe’ moments). These summaries remind me of all the productive (as well as fun) times we’ve had working with the public and social scientists in the last year. Here are a few of the highlights:

The year kicked off with the 2013 CMI Management Book of the Year which was announced at the end of January. Richard Newton won the top prize for his book ‘The Management Book: How to manage your team to deliver outstanding results’. The full story can be read here.

In February, we held two social sciences doctoral open days, which were repeated again this December. As well as presentations from our curators and experts, they included some very useful talks from external colleagues, including those at the UK Data Service and the Centre for Longitudinal Research at the IoE.

We were in a celebratory mood in March as we launched Sisterhood and After, a learning website about the second wave feminist movement which resulted from a major research project with the University of Sussex and the Women’s Library. Find out more here.

SMALL If this lady was a car photograph © Jill Posener
Above: If this lady was a car...Image courtesy of © Jill Posener

If this lady was a car... Image courtesy of © Jill Posener - See more at:
If this lady was a car... Image courtesy of © Jill Posener - See more at:

As a prelude to our summer exhibition, Noam Chomsky came to the Library to talk about the roles of the state and the mass media, 25 years on from his essential work Manufacturing Consent. View the event here.

Spring saw the third annual British Library and British Sociological Association Equality Lecture which took place in April. This year the speaker was Professor Danielle Allen, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, who spoke on the subject of ‘The Art of Association: The formation of egalitarian social capital’. Her lecture can be viewed here.

Our team members were active during the conference season, attending the British Sociological Association’s and British Association for American Studies annual conferences. By May digitisation work for the Picturing Canada project was complete. 2,000 Canadian Copyright images were digitised to be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and Digitised Manuscripts at the British Library. The project was funded by the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


Above: Dancing pavilion at Bo-Lo, Bois Blanc Island, Detroit River. By Valentine and Sons United Publishing Company, [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

After many months of research and preparation, we launched our Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition in May. The curators for the exhibition were our very own Jude England and Ian Cooke, who had a busy first month with significant media interest and many associated events, some of which are on the British Library YouTube channel.

May was also a busy month for our participation in the ODIN project, including a visit from a colleague from the Australian National Data Service. If you are a researcher, and haven’t already done so, distinguish yourself with a persistent digital identifier here.

June was filled with events for Propaganda, including those with The New Statesman (Propaganda and Politics in the Modern Age), a ‘Late’ event at the Library which featured Public Service Broadcasting and Hot Chip and ‘Justifying the War’ with Martin Bell. We also held our nineteenth event in the ‘Myths and Realities’ series, ‘Social Media: New Democracy or Mass Deception?’ with Professors Helen Margetts and David Gauntlett – the podcast for which is available here.

Things didn’t really quieten down in the summer as members of the department were involved in organising the ‘Summer Scholar’ series of lunchtime talks and continued to offer presentations about our collections to universities and schools including at Senate House, the IoE and secondary schools in Enfield, North London.

In August the FA Minute Rule Book of 1863 was exhibited in the Treasures Gallery and was launched with Greg Dyke and Roy Hodgson in attendance. Gillian Ridgley, our Lead Curator for Sociology, Culture and Sport has written a blog here.

During early September we organised a series of lunchtime debates with the Speakers’ Corner Trust including contributions from Evan Harris (Hacked Off), Ruth Fox (Hansard Society), Anthony Barnett (OpenDemocracy), and Agnes Callamard (Article19) – see our blog for more details.

CROP chinese-Political-opera-sm-orig

Above: White Haired Girl [Public Domain]

Above: White Haired Girl Public Domain Mark

Colleagues Jonnie Robinson, Holly Gilbert and Rob Perks were interviewed by Fi Glover about The Listening Project on BBC Radio Four.

In October we were joined by two new PhD students, who are undertaking work on as diverse subjects as geopolitics in the polar regions and South African political ephemera. We celebrated Black History Month with an evening event on ‘1963: A Turning Point for the Civil Rights Movement’ and held a sell-out event ‘In Conversation with the Women’s Liberation Movement’. A review of the event is here. We also said farewell to our Myths and Realities series with a final event on Challenging Myths and Understanding Society – the presentations can be viewed on the British Library’s YouTube channel.

In November, The Eccles Centre held its yearly Congress to Campus programme for school students. Speakers included two former members of Congress and five British academics. Colleagues attended conferences and events at the Business Archives Council, Spot On 2013 and the National Archives, and were involved in many memorial events for J.F.Kennedy, including David Miliband’s lecture ‘America, Britain and Europe: Lessons from JFK’.

This month sees the first anniversary of the launch of our Social Welfare Portal which is a free online resource which supplies research reports, government documents and summaries which relate to social policy and social welfare.

To finish off, a few words from Jude England, Head of Social Sciences at the British Library:

‘This has been a busy, exciting and fulfilling year for everyone in the department. The Propaganda exhibition inevitably stands out for me personally, but it was also sad to say goodbye to our Myths & Realities series after 20 episodes. We are very grateful to all the speakers and chairs who made the series such a success. There’s much to look forward to in 2014, not least our new series which will look at some of the major concepts and ideas that underpin society and will launch on 25th July. Watch this space.’

We wish all of you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

18 December 2013

Stories from the Empire: Privy Council Cases 1917-1920 (cont’d)

In the second part of this guest post Alex Giles from City University, London, investigates stories from the empire from a socio-legal perspective, through researching Privy Council cases 1917-1920. 

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Record of proceedings in courts below in a Judicial Committee appeal case. (BL pp1316). Copyright British Library Board.

The first part of Alex's blog can be found here

The Privy Council cases can also give an alternative angle on important moments in history. For example in the set for 1920 there are some interesting cases around the unrest in the Punjab in  March and April 1919 relating to the so-called Rowlatt Acts; leading to the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre by the British Army in Amritsar on 13th April1.  One such case is  Bugga2; ostensibly reaching the Privy Council  because of a legal challenge to the retrospective nature of martial law regulations passed as a consequence of the above Acts, but more interesting as a primary resource material relating in detail some of the riots that led to the Massacre.

The case describes through the witness statements, confessions, charge sheets and police depositions, how a mob (some of whom are the Appellants in the case) run riot through the city of Amritsar leading to twenty of them being sentenced to death, and one to life imprisonment (for looting).

They attacked private and public buildings in Amritsar including the burning down of the local National Bank of India and murdering the bank manager and his assistant.  The whole event is described vividly through witness statements:

“I saw boy ringing and ringing bell, calling on people to close shops and get sticks and go to station…saw Muhammadi, whom I knew before, break window. I remonstrated with him, and another man I didn’t know said ‘Burn’. Another man came with oil…”

Or confessions:

“‘We found Sahib [the Bank Manager] standing at his table with a pistol in his hand. The mob fell on the Sahib with dangs and he fell down from the blows. The Sahib did not fire his pistol at all…the pistol fell from his hand and I picked it up. Exhibit P 1 is the pistol in question….’ thumbmark of the Accused”

Some of the men claim their confessions are false “made under Police pressure and threats” or “extorted by the Police through torture”, others blame the “Muhammedans” or that “my brother had a quarrel with the Constable”.  None of those sentenced appeared before an ordinary Indian criminal court – despite them still sitting during this period of martial law.

Another character in the Punjab at the time is Kali Nath Roy3, freedom fighter and editor of The Tribune, then published in Lahore. He is tried for sedition, and his case4 covering this period of March/April 1919, is a gold mine. Numerous articles from his newspaper campaign against the Rowlatt Acts, and his reports of the subsequent riots and the ill-treatment of those accused (including mention of the Bugga case above), are extensively reproduced within the case file to the Privy Council in an effort to illustrate the extent of his “indefensible language”:

“The masses of India are no fools. They are as intelligent as the masses in any other country; more intelligent perhaps…they know what is what…No man who saw the behaviour of the crowds – at once the picture of manliness and dignity – will ever doubt the supreme fitness of the country to enjoy the priceless and inalienable right of constitutional liberty. The Rowlatt Act must become a dead letter…” Tribune 8th April 1919

The judgment at Roy’s court martial points out “how soon after the appearance of these articles the serious outbreak took place in Amritsar”. Not only can we read his reports of Gandhi’s and Swani Shradhanada’s5 stirring speeches and actions, but we can also see Roy’s response to them  and his own justification (or defence) in his witness statement:

“I have always and uniformly condemned disorderliness and resort to physical force, not only as unjustifiable in themselves, but as futile, murderous and suicidal”.

When Gandhi is arrested Roy  points out that he is writing “ in the most unequivocal terms against any feeling of resentment or indignation and the need of strictly following the spirit of Mr Gandhi’s precept – that of absolutely eschewing violence”. He also explains that The Tribune is published in English and - far from being a rabble-rousing rag - is a respected publication: “the organ of the educated classes of the Province, a large number of its subscribers being Government officials”.

There are some lovely gems in the exhibits of the case too – such as the telegrams; one from the moderate Surendra Nath Bannerjee, Chief Secretary to the Punjab Government and former Indian National Congress president,  pleading for better treatment of Roy, and another from Shradhanada to him at The Tribune on April 11th:

“Just received wire from Bombay. Mahatma Gandhi released today. He regrets loss of life, counsels restraint and avoiding violence. I, too, strongly urge calm restraint…God and truth guide you all.”

Roy’s appeal to the final court of the British Empire against his two year sentence fails, despite his belief that supporting “constitutional agitation for the removal of Indian grievances” was his “legitimate duty”. However by the end of the year, along with others, he does in fact receive a Royal Pardon5; something intimated (but not explicit)in the final judgment. So his comment below is not as ironic as perhaps originally intended:

“The right of passive resistance is an acknowledged human, as distinguished from merely national, right; it is one of those rights which spring from the very fact that man is a rational, a conscientious, a self-determining being. And in no part of the world is this right more valued than in England”.  The Tribune 6th March 1919


Volumes from this collection can be requested from shelf mark PP1316 for use in the Social Science Reading Room. For guidance on ordering and further information see the British Library web page Privy Council Appeal Cases.


Alex Giles LLB, studied law at Sheffield University, and the College of Law. He currently works for City University London in their City Law School libraries.


1.  see : History of India: A Chronology By John F. Riddick 2006

2. [1920] UKPC 14 Bugga and others v The King-Emperor (Appeal No. 171 of 1919) Lahore [20 February 1920]

3. See The State of India’s Democracy  pp 178 by Sumit Ganguly, Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner  2007

4. [1920] UKPC 107 Kali Nath Roy v The King-Emperor (Appeal No. 164 of 1919) Lahore  [9 December 1920]

5.Hindu reformer, see: Advance Study in the History of Modern India (Volume-3: 1920-1947)  pp 226 By G. S. Chhabra. 2005


12 December 2013

Stories from the Empire: Privy Council Cases 1917-1920

In this guest post Alex Giles from City University, London, investigates stories from the empire from a socio-legal perspective, through researching Privy Council cases 1917-1920 


Photo (1)vols

Volumes in the series catalogued as Appeal Cases Heard Before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (shelf mark pp1316). Copyright British Library Board.

The British Library holds a collection of bound volumes of Privy Council cases from 1861 to 2007 (PP1316). Looking at just four years of these at the height of the British Empire makes fascinating reading. Although the final judgments of all Privy Council cases are currently freely available online from 1809 to 2013 on BAILLI (British and Irish Legal Information Institute) or COMMONLII (Commonwealth Legal Information Institute), these cases are often worth reading in full... In other words their Records of Proceedings, judgments of lower local courts, witness testimonies and attached exhibits can really add to our understanding from a socio-legal perspective of this, the final court of appeal for the British Empire and its peoples.

In any one year during the  period 1917 – 1920 a small group of “English” law lords in Whitehall, who made up the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, were deciding on approximately 140 cases originating from all parts of the world such as Canada, Australia, India, the Far East, Africa and the West Indies. The breadth of cases is quite staggering; from ancestral land and inheritance disputes in India using local Hindu matakshara Law or Mohammedan Law, to large commercial cases involving hydro-electric power or mining interests in Canada or Australia. Press and publishing disputes, personal injury, breach of contract for the sale of pig iron, insurance cases, workers’ compensation, licensing of a pub in Adelaide, patents, matrimonial and family, liability for fire damage to a rubber plantation, wills and probate – all with their own peculiar local flavour. One day they would be deciding on who should be running the local temple or muth in a Bengal village1, the next deciding on who owns vast tracts of territory in S. Rhodesia following the Matabele War and the fall of King Lobengula (a very interesting case which includes whole speeches by Cecil Rhodes2).


Map contained within the records of proceedings in courts below in  Judicial Committee appeal cases decided 1917 - 1920. BL pp1316. Copyright British Library Board.

Some cases in this set are still considered “good law” and are cited or mentioned in recent cases for example [1919] UKPC 136 Taylor v Davies3 regarding trusts4, or [1919] UKPC 825, which was recently cited in a case about HIV/Aids drugs patents6. Lawyers or law students may wish to read the entire original case in such instances.

Others’ interest could be in a particular subject area such as Sugar Cultivation in Queensland and the status/role of non-European workers ([1919] UKPC 1187), or Railways in India ([1919] UKPC 1308). These often lengthy cases give primary source details through witness statements and other documentary evidence which incidentally paint a picture of workers’ and peasants’ lives, the caste system, local language and customs of the time.

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Photograph of an unknown person contained within the records of proceedings in courts below in Judicial Committee appeal cases decided 1917 - 1920. BL pp1316. Copyright British Library Board.

Sometimes the final judgments that we have of these cases are lengthy and informative, other times they can be so brief as to give no indication whatsoever of what the case was about. For example in [1919] UKPC109 the final judgment simply tells us:

“Their lordships will humbly advise His Majesty that this appeal should be dismissed with costs.”

So, without looking at the full case we wouldn’t know that this involved a complex family matrimonial dispute: A Christian man marries a Buddhist girl for her dowry. On the morning of the marriage instead of sending the kumarihamy (woman who dresses the bride) he goes and asks her parents for the balance of the dower. This offends the Singhalese parents whose custom is to pay the dower after the marriage ceremony before the assembled guests. There follows a long drawn out and tragic dispute; disinheritance, theft, general nastiness and sadly no mention of love or affection between the couple. Instead the original district judge sides with “the Respondents who were Christians and could not bear false witness” as opposed to “the Appellants who were Buddhists” and “not above it”. Fortunately a later judge is more discerning in weighing up the evidence, and comes to a more balanced decision, but from a socio-legal perspective what is interesting is the effect this has on their lives - which is recorded through their witness statements - and also the snapshot it gives us of a certain section of family life and the role of women in Ceylon at the time.


Volumes from this collection can be requested from shelf mark PP1316 for use in the Social Science Reading Room. For guidance on ordering and further information see the British Library web page Privy Council Appeal Cases. 


Alex Giles LLB, studied law at Sheffield University, and the College of Law. He currently works for City University London in their City Law School libraries. 


1. [1919] UKPC 104 Mahunt  Damodar Ramanuj Das v Chemai Tihari (Appeal No 135 of 1917) Bengal [ 28  October 1919] 

2. Special Reference as to the Ownership of the Unalienated Land in Southern Rhodesia (Reasons) v JCPC [29 July 1918] (JCPC)   [1918] UKPC 78 (29 July 1918)

3. [1919] UKPC 136 Isabella Taylor v Robert Davies (Appeal No 51 of 1919) Ontario [19 December 1919] 

4. Cited:  Bagus Investments Ltd. V Kastening [2012] W.T.L.R. 1675 and Williams v Central Bank of Nigeria [2012] 3 W.L.R. 1501

5. [1919] UKPC 82 The Attorney General for the Dominion of Canada v The Ritchie Contracting and Supply Company Ltd (Appeal  No 160 of 1915) Canada [31 July 1919]

6. Merck Sharp Dohme Corp v Teva Pharma BV [2012] EWHC 627 (Pat)

7. [1919] UKPC 118 Addar Khan v John Mullins (Appeal No 78 of 1919) Queensland [2 December 1919]

8. [1919] UKPC 130 The East Indian Railway Company v Major Andrew Torton Kirkwood (Appeal No 92 0f 1919) Bengal [15   December 1919]

9. [1919] UKPC 10 Mengeltina Allahakoon v Selina Marguerita Abeyesekara (Appeal No.45 of 1917) Ceylon [6 February 1919]

10 December 2013

The personal and political: memories and commemoration of Nelson Mandela on the web

Ian Cooke, Lead Curator for International Studies and Politics at the British Library, writes:

It is a cliché but nevertheless true that news is now reported and commented on immediately and globally. The news of Nelson Mandela’s passing on the evening of Thursday 5 December was quickly followed by statements, comments and reflection from political leaders, church leaders, campaigners, trade unionists and many others. At the British Library, we have been collecting together some of the reaction, comment and reporting on UK websites, to form part of an archive of the UK web. One of the strengths of an archive like this is that it’s possible to see the development of reaction to an event over time. This blog post will focus on the tributes, commemoration and comment that surfaced in the first 24 hours following the announcement.

The news of the passing of political leaders is in some ways untypical of other events that gain international attention, in that awareness of ill health allows for a period of reflection and preparation. This could be seen in some of the more analytical pieces that appeared, such as Chatham House’s briefings on Mandela’s impact on regional and international affairs. However, much more common in the responses within the first 24 hours was the sense of very personal expressions of grief. The messages that were posted online during the 5th and 6th December showed how much Nelson Mandela inspired love as much as respect.

Above: Nelson Mandela. South Africa The Good News / [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Also striking was how personally people responded. President Obama’s statement was typical of many in describing the role that Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement more generally played in his own political awareness and political activism. In the UK, statements from Church and Trades Unions alike also recalled earlier periods of solidarity and support for Mandela personally and the anti-apartheid movement more generally. This could be seen in statements made by the Evangelical Alliance and the Public and Commercial Services union. Here and elsewhere was the sense that, in responding to the news, memories of national politics were mixed in with tributes to Mandela himself. For the UK, this particularly meant the anti-apartheid movement and debates, particularly those during the 1980s on support for the ANC, sporting boycotts and economic sanctions. As the day drew on and news reports began to carry accusations of short memories, so the comments in response to some blog posts began to repeat the debates of 30 years previously.

Much more recent events also seemed to influence the tone of some of the comment and analysis of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy. Perhaps wishing to avoid accusations of hagiography, some blogs carried critical as well as more positive posts.         

As this week progresses, we will, alongside other legal deposit libraries, be collecting more online comment and recording of activity across the UK. Changes to regulations on non-print legal deposit mean that we are now able to respond much more quickly in collecting web pages and web sites, although access to the resulting collections are restricted to computers in legal deposit libraries. We hope that our collection will stand as a record of UK public and political opinion on the life and achievements of Nelson Mandela, as well as reflecting the emotional impact of the news of his passing.