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22 posts categorized "Higher Education"

31 July 2014

Challenging assumptions. Law Gender and Sexuality: sources and methods in socio-legal research (part 2)

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Last week, Jon Sims introduced some of the archives and collections discussed at this year’s Socio-Legal studies training day on law, gender and sexuality . In this post, Jon looks at British Library resources that address the interaction of law, gender and sexuality during the 20th century

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Gay news, issue 11 [1973]

Stepping back in time, Mass Observation Online (available in the British Library reading rooms) provides access to survey material collected by volunteers during and following WWII, on themes including sexual behaviour, family planning, and war time industry. Stepping further back, English translations and academic commentary on classical works by Plato, Aeschylus or Aristophanes provide historical insight on, for example, women’s role in high public office and the military, and female symbolism in the representation of justice. They also support investigation of the cultural impact of classical literature on the judicial and legislative process in the 19th and 20th centuries.

On August 4th 1921, with reference to ancient history and the supposed role of women in the destruction of classical empire and civilization, a proposed amendment to criminalise “gross indecency between females” was introduced by the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (House of Lords, 1921). The Parliamentary debate on the bill reveals varied contexts with which women and same sex sexual relations were framed by the men of both houses (Nancy Astor voted against the clause).

In addition to anecdote from family law practice, reference to the erosion of family structures and social institutions, “feminine morality” and vice, talk of “perversion” is couched in terms of “brain abnormalities” and neuro-science. While the “medico-legal” stance on sexuality enters this legislative discourse in the form of Ernest Wild’s citation (HC Deb 4.8.1921, Vol. 145, Col.1802 – see references at end of this post) of Krafft Ebing’s  Psychopathia Sexualis. Eine klinische-forensische studie, a study published first in 1886 and already reaching an English translation of its tenth edition by the end of the century. The spectre of eugenics is reflected in Lieutenant Colonel Moore-Brabazon’s proposal that when “dealing with perverts” the best policy is to “not advertise them… because these cases are self-exterminating.” (HC Deb 4.8.1921, Vol. 145, col. 1805). Wild’s allusion to Havlock Ellis’ Sexual Inversion brings to mind Ellis’ later work in The Task of Social Hygiene.

The cultural influence of the social hygiene movement in relation to gender and sexuality was discussed by Frank Mort and Lucy Bland (ICA Talks on BL Sounds) in November 1987, less than a month before the introduction of the New Clause 14, later enacted as section 28 of the Local Government Act, prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality “by teaching or publishing material”.

The harder to find parliamentary material for both of these bills can be accessed in the Social Science reading room. A popular cultural perspective can be seen in the Comics Unmasked exhibition, revealing the impact of anti-homosexual legislation and wide spread social prejudice. Friday Night at the Boozer, from AARGH! a benefit comic aimed at organising against the clause 28, captures the pub atmosphere of “ranting, bigoted boozers”. In Committed Comix 'It Don't Come Easy', published in 1977 ten years after the decriminalisation of sexual acts between two consenting men in private, Eric Presland and Julian Howell recount the story of, “a pair of young men on a first date,” who still, “check under the bed to ensure ‘there's no fuzz hidden around’.” The Homosexual Law Reform Society publications (1957 to 1974) also provide valuable insight into the social context in which the law operated with regard to sexuality.

By the time Wolfenden reported in 1957, the Examiner of Plays in the Lord Chamberlain’s Office had, according to Steve Nicholson, “never passed a play about Lesbianism and … very very rarely one in which homosexuality is mentioned.”  (Nicholson, 2011). As well as the Wolfenden report itself, readers at the British Library can access correspondence and readers’ reports in the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays  Collection (Manuscripts Collections Reader Guide 3: the play collections).

In general, the correspondence files in the Lord Chamberlain’s plays collection reveal the frameworks, such as morality and decency and differentiation between public and private space, within which legislatively empowered censorship, in association with commercial and artistic theatrical interests, negotiated the bureaucratic application of law and its control of the public visibility of diverse sexuality (On the scope of its powers see for example the 1909 Report from joint select committee ..on stage plays (censorship) ). More particularly, attempts to negotiate the Lord Chamberlain’s licence (security against the risk of prosecution) for public performance of one particular play, Jean Genet’s The Balcony (LCP Corr 1965/469), explicitly problematic to the censor for its “major themes of blasphemy and perversion”, including off stage voicing of faked sadomasochistic pain, lasted from 1957 until 1965; or from Wolfenden until just a few years before decriminalisation and  the abolition of theatre censorship by the Theatre Act 1968.

A longer look at some of the sources and collections discussed at the training day will feature in the Spring 2015 issue of Legal Information Management. More information about the day’s programme can be found at http://events.sas.ac.uk/events/view/15965, and in the Socio-Legal Newsletter No.73 (Summer 2014)

References

Criminal Law Amendment Bill. HL Bills (1921) [8,a-d etc; 21, a – b & 22].
Harder-to-find House of Lords Bills, such as this one, can be requested from shelf mark BS 96/1. See our guide to Parliamentary Papers for more details.

Parliamentary debates on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (1921) [HC Deb 4.8.1921, Vol. 145,  cols.1799-1807] ; [HL Deb 15.8.1921, Vol.    cols. 567 – 577].
Available in the Social Science reading room at BS. Ref. 13 and 14. See our guide to parliamentary proceedings

Standing Committee debate on Clause 28  (SC Deb (A) 8.12.1987, cols.1199 ff)
Available in the Social Science reading room at BS. Ref. 23 

Report from the Joint Select Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons on the stage plays (censorship); together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence, and appendices.
British Library shelfmark: Parliamentary papers B.S. Ref 1, 1909 session paper no.303, vol VIII pg 451

Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (Homosexual Offences and Prostitution). [the ‘Wolfenden report’]. 1957. Cmnd. 247
British Library shelfmark: B.S.18/158.; Parliamentary papers B.S. Ref 1, 1956-57 session, vol XIV pg 85

Committed Comix: It Don’t Come Easy. 1977.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.821.dd.150.[C]

[Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia] (1988). AARGH! Northampton
British Library shelfmark: YK.1990.b.10288

Arnot, M; 'Images of Motherhood: Achieving Justice in Nineteenth-century Infanticide Cases' Socio-Legal Studies and the Humanities: conference abstracts

Cohen, D (1987) 'The legal Status and political role of women in Plato’s Laws', Revue internationale des droits de l'antiquité 34 (1987) pp27-40
British Library shelfmark P.P.1898.hab

Ellis, Havelock (1897) Studies in the psychology of sex. Vo. 1. Sexual inversion.
London. British Library shelfmark: Cup.364.b.1.

Ellis, Havelock (1912) The task of social hygiene. London.
British Library shelfmark: 08275.cc.55.

Krafft-Ebing, Richard von (1886) Psychopathia Sexualis. Eine klinische-forensische studie. Stuttgart.
British Library shelfmark: 7641.ff.29.

Krafft-Ebing, Richard von [translated by Francis J. Rebman] (1899) Psychopathia sexualis, with especial reference to antipathic sexual instinct ... The only authorised English translation of the tenth German edition. London.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.363.ff.22.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. [1959]. Homosexuals and the law, etc. London.
British Library shelfmark: 8296.a.13.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. 1963- . Spectrum A.T./ H.L.R.S. Newsletter. London.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.364.ff.1.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. [1965- ]. [Miscellaneous pamphlets and leaflets.] London.
British Library shelfmark: Cup.702.dd.1.

Homosexual Law Reform Society. [1966- ]. Report, 1963-66 [etc.]. London.
British Library shelfmark: P.201/52.

Nicholson, Steve. (2003- ) The censorship of British Drama 1900-1968. Exeter.
British Library shelfmarks: vol 1 (1900- 1932) YC.2003.a.4950; vol 2 (1933- 1952) YC .2005.a.12027; vol. 3 (the fifties) YC.2011.a.16019; vol. 4 (the sixties) forthcoming

25 July 2014

Challenging assumptions. Law Gender and Sexuality: sources and methods in socio-legal research (part 1)

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Earlier this year, Jon Sims, Legal Studies Curator, told us what to expect in this year’s Socio-Legal studies training day on law, gender and sexuality. In this post, Jon describes some of the archives and collections discussed at the day, and the recent research and projects available at the British Library.

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Heroine, 1978 (c) Suzi Varty. On display in our exhibition Comics Unmasked.

This year’s joint socio-legal training day saw a number of established academic researchers and staff from UK research collections talking about sources and analysis that underpin the investigation of intersections between law, gender and sexuality. The aim of these days is to introduce newcomers to more unusual information sources and methods that lie outside the typical domain of doctrinal legal research.  Sources used by speakers included:

  • feminist judgments project, at the University of Kent;
  • Stonewall’s “House of Lords #EqualMarriage Bingo” card, which circulated on social media at the time of the Marriage (same sex couples) bill and offered a template of cliché and prejudice with which to interrogate discourse about the bill;
  • wills valued (pre and post 1858) for their biographical potency and their potential to challenge assumptions about vertical genealogy by applying messier legal constructions of queer kinship;
  • pre-Wolfenden police photographs used to explore institutionally embedded ways of seeing homosexuality; and
  • a t-shirt used to help explore the contexts and subtext of its production story, including its gendered and legal dimensions.

Resources from the IALS Archives were highlighted for their potential to support research on women’s history in the legal academy. The Hall Carpenter ArchiveWomen’s Library and Gender Studies collections were introduced by Heather Dawson of the LSE. The remainder of this post serves to highlight British Library resources.

British Library resources

Sharing extracts of interviews with Lesley Abdela  and Vera Baird, British Library curator Polly Russell illustrated the potential of the Sisterhood and After: Women’s Liberation oral History collection to provide context for reforms relating, for example, to equality in pay, educational and job opportunities, and  reproductive health. Further sound recordings were also highlighted including the Hall-Carpenter Oral History archive (catalogue no: C456) which compliments the LSE and LAGNA collections; The Millthorpe Project: Interviews with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Trade Unionists; Before Stonewall (C1159); and around 60 recordings on the theme of gender studies. (ICA Talks on BL Sounds) .

There’s a growing cross-disciplinary research literature including feminist law journals, work on law’s silence on gender and sexuality, its default male hetero-normativity and impact, biographically and empirically based work on the legal professions, and work on women and gender studies work more generally. This can be found through the Library's catalogue, numerous legal and women’s studies e-resources, bibliographies and guides. Useful collections and reviews of the literature include Ruthann Robson’s (ed) 3 volume Sexuality and the Law (in the Social Science Reading Room at SPIS 346.013) and Rosemary Hunter’s Gendered socio of socio-legal studies in Exploring the 'socio' of socio-legal studies (SPIS 340.115).

The day’s focus on Library collections lay elsewhere however. Attempting to demonstrate the potential of the Library’s diverse collections to help explore the social and cultural context of law’s relationship with gender and sexuality, Jon Sims started at the modern end of things. First off, he used the Broadcast News service archive of France 24 as an example of visual analysis of the diverse composition of the assembled conservative right united in France in opposition to same sex marriage legislation or in support of traditional family values (Sun Feb 2nd 2014 17.00 to 19.59). Similarly, there are multiple disciplinary perspectives on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality bill (intermittently available online, also held at the British Library, shelf mark: CSC 251/6 : bill No.18 of 2009, Bills Supplement No.13 to Uganda Gazette No.47 Volume CII. 25th September 2009) and its impact, for example on closeting, HIV prevention and treatment. These can be discovered via Africa Wide and Sabinet (freely available in the reading rooms).

Following Rashida Manjoo’s (UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women)  recent mission to the UK and mention of “over-sexualized portrayals of women and girls” in the media, the Library’s collections of tabloid newspapers, "lads mags", and "women’s glossies", offer potential support for researching relationships between the circulation and perpetuation of gender stereotypes, unresponsive and unsupportive criminal justice contexts, and low reporting and conviction rates for violent crimes against women. In a similar vein, Shannon Sampert’s 2010 Canadian study on Newspapers and Sexual Assault Myths is available in the reading Rooms (22 Can. J. Women & L. 301 2010  HeinOnline)

While once-elusive reports with references like A/HRC/26/38 or A/HRC/26/39  now can be found routinely on UN websites, the British Library’s UN Depository Collection and statistics from other Inter-Governmental Organisations, such as the OECD, also contribute to our understanding of laws role in facilitating both discrimination against women and girls and in protecting rights. One example,  Gender, Institutions and Development, a statistical data set within OECD i-Library,  provides comparative international figures on for example inheritance rights, female genital mutilation (FGM), legal age of marriage, levels of domestic violence, custody and guardianship rights, reproductive rights and unmet need for contraception, and access to public space.

In Jon’s next post, he’ll talk about resources from earlier in the 20th century, throwing light on the interaction between law, gender and sexuality.

References

Rosemary Hunter. 2012. ‘Feminist Judgements as Teaching Resources’. Oňati Socio-Legal Series. Vol. 2, no. 5. See SSRN abstract 2115435

Rosemary Hunter, Clare McGlynn and Erica Rackley. ed.s. 2010. Feminist Judgements: from theory to practice. Oxford: Hart. British Library shelfmark: YC.2013.a.12208

02 June 2014

Languages and the First World War: Trench Journals

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Conference Organiser Julian Walker writes:

The First World War was, as is well known, a great catalyst for literary activity. The relationship between expectation and reality, the change, the magnitude of the experience and the sharp focus on the details are the matter of a literary experience that altered the direction of twentieth-century literature.

But these ideas could be equally seen in a non-literary written culture produced by the war, the trench journal. Trench journals were magazines produced by troops for troops. There were produced in vast numbers, at the front, in hospitals, behind the front lines, in troopships and in prison camps. Issues were printed in a small number of copies, or in their thousands. They are known from September 1914, and they immediately tell the experience of the war.

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Cyclist Battalion Christmas Bulletin 1915

They are important because, as J G Fuller writes in Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies (1990), they are ‘ not coloured by subsequent experience, and they represent a collective rather than an individual commentary, validated to a large extent by their soldier audience.’ Effectively they represent the experience of the war to those who are going through the experience, presented by those who are going through the experience; as such they are uncoloured by subsequent thoughts and to a large extent give us an immediate idea of ‘what it was like’. This validity was recognised early on, as from 1915 the British Museum asked for copies of trench journals for their collection, and the British Library now holds 1138 issues, including Australian troopship journals, hospital journals and journals produced by German internees and prisoners-of-war. The most well known title is the Wipers Times, but there were hundreds of others.

They were produced by people who often had no professional journalistic experience, but employed the skills of soldiers who in civilian life were printers, compositors, or commercial artists. Some were made up in the trenches and printed back in Britain, others were copied out by hand and circulated amongst a handful of men. Full of in-jokes, poetry of dubious quality, limericks, pastiches, well and badly drawn cartoons, awful puns, diary-sketches that give self-censored references to the frontline experience, football results and thanks for gifts from home, they often resemble school magazines. But then the people who wrote and read them were in many cases little older than schoolboys.

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Morning Rire Issue 3 1916

It is in homage to this extraordinary journalistic culture that the Languages and the First World War conference is working with Graphics students from Central St Martins College of Art and Design to produce a homage ‘trench journal’. It will contain articles by some of the people who wanted to come to the conference but were unable to attend, some linguistic titbits (including new finds), illustrations and photographs, excerpts from journals in the British Library collection and some in private collections, and pastiches of trench journal material.

The Central Saint Martins students have studied trench journals in the British Library collection, and for them this project, working in direct relation to a print medium a century old that was produced under the most stressful conditions conceivable, is a challenging venture. Various print methods are being explored, including letterpress and mimeograph, the print technique by which some of the more close-to-the-action original trench journals were produced. Echoing the ‘autonomy within self-imposd boundaries’ of the originals, the students have full design control of the journal, including the title; working from the description by Graham Seal (The Soldiers’ Press, 2013) of trench journals as a ‘democratic cultural republic amidst a hierarchical martial regime’, the publication is called At No-one’s Authority.

The relationship between the wartime journal editors and their superiors varied; while some were explicitly published under the authority of commanding officers, for others, circulating even in typescript or manuscript, this was not an issue. It is particularly pertinent that Koenraad Du Pont from the University of Leuven will be giving a paper on how an Italian trench journal, L’Astico, was centrally manipulated for propaganda purposes; in this case the attempt to use a range of dialects to cement camaraderie within the army backfired. Though British journals display attitudes of ‘grumbling but not complaining’, pride in achievement, group identity, ‘laughing will get us through’, and ‘getting on with the job’, these were perhaps uneasy and fragile masks of the soldier’s awareness of his unprecedented relationship with his environment, and manifestations of a desperate need to say ‘I am still here and alive now’.

At No-one’s Authority will be available in a very limited edition, and only at the conference, so book your ticket now.

Programme, booking links, and blog: http://languages-and-first-world-war.tumblr.com/

04 April 2014

The Redress of the Past

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In this post, Tom Hulme explains more about historical pageants and a public workshop entitled ‘The Redress of the Past’ to be held in London on 8 May 2014.

Chelsea-historical-pageant3
The Chelsea Historical Pageant ... 1908. Book of Words.
British Library 11779.k.25

The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain, 1905-2016, is a major AHRC-funded project, being conducted at Kings College London, the Institute of Education, and the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow. The project will uncover the full spread of the popular pageantry movement in Britain. The British Library’s collections contain many examples of pageant books, music, posters and manuscripts that show how people and communities celebrated and commemorated the past.

Pageants were often huge local community events staged by a variety of different groups for a range of purposes, from town charter commemorations and royal jubilees, to local association fundraisers or political protest. Casts consisted of thousands of locals, and thousands more spectators crowded into purpose built open-air arenas, as communities came together to perform what they saw as a shared history and identity. While the movement ebbed and flowed and declined especially following the Second World War, pageants are still occasionally held today, and have lasted as important memories for those who spectated or took part.

Greenwich-night-pageant
Greenwich Night Pageant: Pictures. British Library YD.2010.b.2955

As well as producing articles, books and oral histories on this under-researched topic we also hope to encourage popular public engagement, especially through our website and twitter - http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/ and @Pageantry_AHRC – as well as through the creation of a publically accessible database of the pageants we’ve researched. We’d like to get feedback on these aspects of the project, and so are looking for volunteers to participate in a user-group workshop. The purpose of this event is to gain opinions from various constituencies, academic and non-academic, which will then be used to further shape the form and content of the project website and database.

The event will be held at King's College London on the afternoon of 8 May 2014, beginning at 12.30, and includes lunch. If you are interested in participating, please email historicalpageants@kcl.ac.uk by Monday 28 April 2014. In the meantime please do look at our blog and follow us on twitter – we’d love to hear more from anyone who has an interest in pageantry, has watched a pageant, or even performed in one themselves.

Tom Hulme is a researcher on the AHRC-funded project 'The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain, 1905- 2016', Kings College London Department of History. 

16 October 2013

Doctoral open days in social sciences

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If you are in the first year of a PhD in the social sciences, why not come along to one of our doctoral open days on 2 and 13 December 2013?

These days are a chance for new PhD students to discover the British Library’s unique research materials. You will learn about our Social Sciences collections, find out how to access them, and will have the opportunity to meet our expert staff and other researchers in your field.

The collections at the British Library which are relevant to social science research range from national government documents, material from international organisations, legal documents and texts, sound recordings and oral histories, trade literature and market research, datasets and digital resources, newspapers, magazines and other news media...amongst other things.

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The King's Library at the British Library. Photo by Daniel2005.

These days are the perfect opportunity to find out what the British Library holds that could support and enhance your research. The days include sessions by social science curators and members of the reference team to help you find and use the collections. In previous years the days have been a great way to demystify our collections and to welcome new researchers into the British Library. To make the most of your day, you may wish to get a free Reader Pass before the event.

The events are solely for first year PhD students who are new to the Library. Lunch and refreshments will be provided and there is a small charge of £5. Find out more and book here.

There is some introductory information and case studies about our social science collections (aimed at postgraduate and academic researchers) on the ESRC website here. These pages provide some great examples of how social scientists have used our collections and descibe the sort of content you can expect to find here.

We hope to see you in December!

06 September 2013

Made at the British Library

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The British Library has put together a new series of videos which show how different people have been inspired and supported by the Library’s collections. Different areas of the collections such as newspapers, maps and market research reports are shown to enable researchers, educators and creative individuals carry out their work. Alex Hall, a final year PhD student at the University of Manchester has used the British Library’s newspaper collections to undertake research in the history of science. Here is a bit more about his research and how he has used our collections.

History of Science – Alex Hall

Alex Hall is in the final year of his PhD at the University of Manchester, researching UK weather events and the history of the Met Office. He is interested in the way that the Met Office has communicated with the public, and how its role has changed since WWII. His starting point was the Daily Mirror headline after the Great Storm of 1987: ‘Why didn’t they warn us?’ This prompted the question: how did this culture of blame develop?

Alex has used official documents from other archives to research particular events, for example, floods in the 40s and 50s. These sources can tell you ‘what happened’, or ‘what was supposed to happen’, but they often don’t tell you how events unfolded, and how the public responded. He turned to the Library’s unique collections of local newspapers to analyse the public response to the floods. He also used the Library’s international collections to find government documents from around the world, to give a wider context to his work. Particularly useful was a US document called ‘Weather is the Nation’s Business’; he discovered that many British policy ideas had been directly drawn from this report. Alex has spoken at several conferences about his work, in the UK and US, and also writes a weather-related blog. This blog led to him being invited to speak to a group of Chinese meteorologists about his research. He hopes his completed research will prove useful to the Met Office, as his discoveries give insight into the evolution of its role and reputation.

Watch Alex’s short video about his research at the British Library here:

 

In the case of the video failing to play, click here.

Follow Alex on Twitter @Green_gambit and read his personal blog here: http://greengambit.blogspot.com/

 

04 June 2013

Interested in Business History?

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In this post Andrew Dixon, Lead Curator for Management and Business Studies, writes about his engagement activities with Management and Business Studies researchers and asks how we can support the Business History research community   

It has now been almost six months since I took up my present role at the British Library.  This personal landmark seems like a good reason to share some thoughts about how the British Library has been engaging with the MBS research community (here at the Library we refer to the subject as Management and Business Studies or MBS for short).  The phrase “MBS research community” is perhaps a misnomer as it implies that there is one heterogeneous group of like-minded, like-funded and like-reported researchers and projects.  In fact members of the business and management community are a diverse bunch whose interests range from post modernist critiques of capitalism to full on number crunching of raw economic datasets.  Still, this diversity makes for an interesting life and one thing that they do all seem to have in common is that they like to share their thoughts and opinions. 

To give some examples of how we try to engage with the MBS research community for this subject, I have attended a number of meetings and events in order to build contacts and tap into the collective wisdom of academics, policy makers, students, practitioners and stakeholders. The overriding purpose of these activities has been to engage with our readers to help make informed decisions about how best to develop coherent collections to meet their research needs.   Some of these activities have been hosted at the British Library such as the Open Access event that marked the end of my first week in post.   This resulted in a number of contacts that were to prove useful as time progressed.   Attending the Annual Research Conference of the Association of Business Schools held at Lancaster University was another useful exercise.  My colleague Sally Halper and I had the opportunity to give a presentation on the MBS resources at the British Library, to explain our content strategy and to elicit opinions about how best to meet the research needs of the business schools.  This event formed part of a pattern with others undertaken along with colleagues.  These included a presentation about the Business & IP Centre, a Library facility that supports entrepreneurs and innovators in launching and developing businesses, at Brunel University and participation in a Study Conference at Kingston University.  These reinforced our view that there is a large demand from business and management academics for resources that support specialist research rather than the teaching and learning support often offered by their own institutional libraries.  The British Library as a national library has a vital role to play in this.  Of particular interest to participants across events were the implications of the coming into force of the Non Print Legal Deposit regime, British Library plans to engage with Open Access and the use of the British Library MBS Portal as a means of doing this.

Another more specific project that I have been involved in is a review of how we can support the Business History research community.  Anecdotal evidence suggests this group have been seen as “falling in the gap” between MBS and History research support.  As a practical first step we have targeted the development our annual report collection as a type of resource that is particularly valued by many business and management historians.  To this end I have conducted focus groups and targeted interviews with business historians and other stakeholders with a particular interest in using such material.  The Library has traditionally received a large amount of such items but in a rather uncoordinated way as annual reports have not been covered by legal deposit and active collecting had tended to be focused on the leading FTSE companies.  Other material has, however, found its way into the collection often as part of donations of wider collections relating to companies or industries.  So far we have received a variety of opinions as to how best configure and develop our holdings so as to make them of most use to researchers.  Widely proffered opinions have included that we should build collections around industries and sectors across time and that we attempt to develop holdings for the “lost years” from the mid sixties to the end of the century where this kind of material can be particularly difficult to find.  We are also investigating how researchers react to digital storage and provision for such collections.

This is very much an ongoing consultation so if you would like to offer your opinion individually or take part in one of the forthcoming focus groups then please do contact me, preferably by the end of June, at andrew.dixon@bl.uk and we can find the best way to feed your ideas into the process.  Indeed, do feel free to contact me on more general MBS related topics as well.  A part of the purpose of all of the activities outlined above and of others that are taking place in the Library is to engage with our users to sense-check that our actions will lead to outcomes that help them to access and exploit our unique resources and collections to best effect.  We are always keen to hear from those in the MBS community, be they students, academics or practitioners, who want to contribute to this ongoing process. 

17 April 2013

Legal Biography: A national socio-legal training day - 15th May 2013

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In this post Jon Sims, Curator for Law and Socio-Legal Studies, explains Legal Biographies and outlines a forthcoming event: Legal Biography: a national socio-legal training day on 15th May 2013. This is the second national socio-legal training day to be organised jointly by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the British Library and the Socio-Legal Studies Association.

As varied cultural currents narrate the 1970s and 1980s through the political life of Baroness Thatcher (called to the Bar, Lincoln’s Inn, in 1954), it occurs to me that a recorded interview with Baron Joffe (called to the South African Bar in 1962, just one year before the Rivonia Trial) is among the British Library’s oral history collections (law and the legal system).  

Legal Biographies “are a rich and important source of information about the legal system, the evolution of case law and statute and legal cultures more generally”. “Yet … they have been much neglected in the study of law” states the website of the London School of Economics Legal Biography Project

Further steps to remedy this neglect will be made next month, on the 15th May 2013, at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. The “Legal Biography: a national socio-legal training day”, organised jointly by the Institute, the Socio-Legal Studies Association, and the British Library, will focus on methodological considerations and problems involved in doing archival research for legal biographies. The day aims to draw attention to archives that newcomers to the field may not be aware of and to consider the practical problems involved in analysing sources.

Cornelia_Sorabji_bust_in_Lincoln's_Inn2

Sorabji, Cornelia, bachelor of civil law in 1892, called to the bar 1923, diaries covering 1919 – 23  are held at The British Library e.g. File reference: Mss Eur F165/81. Photograph of Bust at Lincolns in by James Frankling CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons  6a00d8341c464853ef017ee9c1502c970d-800wi

Given recent initiatives in research methods training and the roles of social-sciences and history in the evolution of disciplinary paradigms in academic legal research, growing interest in legal biography is perhaps unsurprising. Interest in biography and life course research is clearly evident from the British Sociological Association’s conference programmes and Auto/Biography Study Group for example. 

Names such as Maine, Maitland, Milsom and Holdsworth are prominent in the story of history’s role in British legal scholarship. However the work of Hurst and Horrowitz (what is it about Ms and Hs!) demonstrate, as Ibbetson points out on page 875 of The Oxford Handbook of Legal Studies (OUP 2003), a shift in US legal history which, at least superficially, suggests the utility of biographical methods. This was the shift of focus away from legal doctrine and towards “institutional frameworks”, “legal practitioners and administrators”.  Biography has also recently been described as the “new history” of the moment. 

Examples of North American academic interest in legal biography can be seen for example through the Women’s Legal History – biography project at Stanford, the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History - Oral History Programme.

UK socio-legal enquiry has embraced investigation of the professions and institutions of law, looks beyond the roles of legal elites to administrators (court clerks, street level enforcers, and bureaucratic decision makers), and also searches beyond the monologue of the appeal judgments for the lives of the litigants. The litigants story has also emerged, for example through critical evaluation of the narrative of standard institutional histories, asking for example, what happened to the eponymous Miss Bebb of the landmark case, [1914] 1 Ch 286, concerning the opening of the legal profession to women.

However, while legal studies embraces, at times, the need to look beyond legal rules and doctrines, legal biography, as this LSE Project reminds us, also aids our understanding of the “evolution of case law and statute”.

The Legal Biographies training day on the 15th May is the second national socio-legal training day to be organised jointly by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS), the British Library and the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA).  If you are interested to find out more about methods and resources in legal biography then why not register and come along to IALS (Russell Square, London) to learn from the experiences of legal academics, archivists and librarian’s working in the field. 

Confirmed speakers include: Rosemary Auchmuty, (Reading University) talking about researching the life stories behind Bebb v The Law Society - a case concerning women’s admission to the legal profession, Lesley Dingle (Squire Law Library ) talking about the Eminent Scholars Archive, Guy Holborn (Librarian at Lincoln’s Inn, adviser to the LSE Legal Biographies Project and author of Sources of biographical information on past lawyers) on biographical method and the Inns of Court, Les Moran (Birkbeck) and Linda Mulcahy (LSE Legal Biographies Project) on using image in legal biography, Giles Mandelbrote (Lambeth Palace Librarian and Archivist) on Ecclesiastical court records at Lambeth Palace Library,  Jon Sims (British Library) on exploiting the library’s collections for legal biography, Mara Malagodi (LSE) on archival investigations and researching the neglected constitutional legacy of Sir Ivor Jennings in Asia,  Susannah Rayner (SOAS) and Antonia Moon (British Library) on archival resources at the School of Oriental and African History and India Office Archives, , Elizabeth Dawson (IALS Archivist) on using archival resources at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

Online Registration and Further Details: for further details and online registration for Legal Biography: A national socio-legal training day (15 May 2013, 10:00 - 17:00) please see the Events Calendar on the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies website. The cost for the day’s event, including lunch and refreshments is £30 (Student rate), £60 (SLSA members), and £70 (full price). 

 

Our 'help for researchers' pages contain more information about The British Library's Socio-Legal Studies Collections

Jon Sims, Curator for Law and Socio-Legal Studies, can be followed on twitter @SSCRLaw