Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

Introduction

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

10 June 2021

Documenting the Olympics and the Paralympics, 6- 7 July

Join our panel discussions to discover more about researchers' experiences when navigating archives, as well as library, archive and museum collection policies related to the Olympics and Paralympics. This event has been organised by the British Library, the British Society of Sports History (BSSH), International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) at De Montfort University, and the School of Advanced Study/CLEOPATRA project.

sand sculpture at Horse Parade Grounds with text Olympics 2012

Horse Parade Grounds, The Mall, London 2012 Olympics, by Ank kumar - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99511834

This is a free, two day event, taking place online from 2pm- 4.30pm (BST) on Tuesday 6th July and Wednesday 7th July.  It is for researchers, librarians, archivists, curators and anyone with an interest in the Olympic and Paralympic games and the study of sporting events. 

Our speakers include Martin Polley (Director, International Centre for Sports History and Culture, De Montfort University), Vicky Hope-Walker (Chief Executive Officer, National Paralympic Heritage Trust) and Ian Brittain (Coventry University).

For a full programme, and to register, visit our Eventbrite page

What to expect

The event will feature discussion of a broad mix of physical, digitised and born digital resources relating to the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as how these collections have been used by researchers.

Participants will be able to ask questions and discuss issues pertaining to these resources and their use. The event is designed for anyone interested in the history and heritage of the Olympics and Paralympics, especially researchers and those working in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums sector.

The year 2020 was originally an Olympic/Paralympic year before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. It was also a significant milestone for the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC), of which the British Library is a founder member, as it marked 10 years since they first started archiving the Olympics. From 2012 they then started to archive both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The UK Web Archive has led collections on major sporting events, which compliment the Library's wider collections, and these can be browsed at https://www.webarchive.org.uk/en/ukwa/collection/2315.

This year, we are very pleased to bring together a great range of speakers to talk about the collections related to the Olympics and Paralympics that can be found in the UK, the challenges of collecting and the research that has been carried out across the archives. We hope that you will be able to join us. 

08 March 2021

"Just Leave Me Alone": responses to Unfinished Business

A guest post on International Women's Day by Rebecca Riddleston and Georgia Olive

In December 2020 Rebecca Riddleston and Georgia Olive, Customer Service Apprentices in the British Library’s Learning team, visited the exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s RightsGrounded in their own personal experiences as young women, here they reflect on their responses to the exhibition and some of the objects that particularly resonated with them.

During their apprenticeship, Rebecca and Georgia learnt more about the audiences we work with in the Learning team, gained new experiences, knowledge, and skills such as web editing, and provided invaluable support for a range of events and projects for school learners, teachers, families and young people, such as our National Library of Miniature Books.

 

Please note that this post contains some discussion of abortion and sexual violence.

Rebecca writes…

I felt a particular affinity with Gloria Steinem’s statement ‘The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off’ whilst walking through the Unfinished Business exhibition. A sentiment that I not only felt in the exhibition space, but one that I have felt many times whilst navigating through life as a young woman.

This exhibition evokes pride, solidarity and anger, but the main emotion that hit me was exhaustion. As we got further and further in, the main phrase that came to mind was ‘just leave me alone’. It may not be a particularly profound sentiment, but many of the exhibition objects reminded me of just how many times I've been driven to exhaustion just by simply having to exist as a girl and woman. Why does that person care what I’m wearing? Why won’t that man leave me be? Why is it that seemingly every choice I make, is one that’s inherently based in my gender?

A few items particularly stood out to me as being exemplary of my feminine fatigue, namely the No More Page 3 t-shirt and the Consent Zine.

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No More Page Three campaign t-shirt, worn by Dr Caroline Lucas MP at a debate on media sexism in 2013. © Parliamentary Recording Unit

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Caro Berry of Pretty in Punk, ‘Towards a Pro-Consent Revolution’. London, 2013. © Caro Berry

I remember my first time seeing a Page 3 spread was when I was barely pubescent and I found some copies of The Sun in my friend’s bathroom. It was one of those things that I knew existed but had been so normalised that I hadn’t really processed how it affected me and the way I perceived myself. As puberty started I knew that I was already being seen as a sexual object, but at that point I had absolutely no idea what the male gaze was.

If only I’d been to an exhibition like this at that age, I would’ve spotted the Laura Mulvey quote nestled in the corner that reads, ‘in a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female’. Maybe then I would’ve been able to look at the women on Page 3 (who couldn’t look back at me) and not project my own internalised male gaze through them and back onto myself, but instead thought: why the hell am I looking at softporn whilst on the loo?

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Laura Mulvey quotation as it appears in the book that accompanies the exhibition, edited by Polly Russell and Margaretta Jolly.

 

Georgia writes…

Initially I found myself frustrated and very much overwhelmed, looking up and around at all of the injustices on display in the Unfinished Business exhibition. Questions spun around in my head, many reoccurring ones such as ‘why?’ and ‘wait, what?’. In the section on ‘Autonomy’, I spotted a question that I thought at first glance seemed easily answered. ‘Do you have control over your body?’ was written on a panel at the beginning of the exhibition.

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Panel introducing the sub-section on 'Autonomy' in the 'Body' section of the exhibition.

I stood and thought about this for a moment, as if someone was interrogating me directly. Yes, I have control over my body. I decide when I am hungry, so I eat. I can wave my hand, and I can close my eyes. It is such a simple question, yet it runs deep enough to send me spiralling. The answer became abundantly clear to me as I explored the exhibition in more detail.

Being in this environment brought up a lot of personal experiences for me. It made me feel an overwhelming resentment toward the men who feel it is ok to comment on a woman’s body, or even touch it, unprompted. Instances like this made me very aware of the lack of control I have over my own body, from the way it is perceived to the way it is treated. The one sure answer I had to this question was that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.

In the exhibition I was inspired to read about the work a wonderful charity called BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) has done to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland. The abortion debate is a topic that never fails to get me worked up. It is an opinion that I’ve never been able to comprehend properly, that a woman should not get a say in whether or not she should grow a human inside her stomach, and give birth to it.

This constriction of women’s rights to their own anatomy of course extends further into their private lives. I was utterly perplexed to find out that in the UK marital rape was not even an established crime until 1991, just 30 years ago. It is unfathomable to me, that many of the people I work with, and a lot of my family, grew up in a society where a man could rape his own wife and face no consequences. To me, that sounds medieval.

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Banner on loan from Southall Black Sisters: ‘Women march against male violence’, designed by Shakila Taranum Maan, 1986 

While this information made me feel shocked and completely disgusted, it oddly gave me a sense of optimism for the strides that could be made in my own lifetime. Surrounded by the work of activists, I could see how change happens. No, I do not have complete control over my own body. But I am working on it, and I will get there.

_____________

Find out more about apprenticeships at the British Library

 

Our public spaces are closed for the moment. In the meantime, you can visit our website Women’s Rights which highlights the powerful and vital stories of feminist activism and agitation in the UK. The website invites visitors to explore the complex history of women’s rights through the voices of our contributors, and through the lens of the rich collections – from photographs, printed material, audio recordings and videos – held at the British Library.  You can also find themed podcasts, recordings of events related to the exhibition, and recordings of events held by partner libraries in the Living Knowledge Network.  

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A selection of placards displayed in the Unfinished Business exhibition.

 

 

01 March 2021

History in the Making: 40 years on from the Black People’s Day of Action

This post highlights a small selection of items in the Library’s collections of interest to anyone wanting to know more about the educators and activists behind the Black People’s Day of Action on 2nd March 1981.

On that day, around 20,000 people from across the UK marched from New Cross to Hyde Park, crossing Blackfriars bridge and bringing parts of central London to a standstill on a weekday.  The demonstration took place six weeks after the devasting New Cross fire (also referred to as the Deptford Fire) that claimed the lives of 13 young black people at a house party celebrating Yvonne Ruddock’s 16th birthday and the 18th birthday of her friend Angela Jackson.  In the face of official indifference, the march channelled the anger and grief of a community into a political action that marked a turning point for black people in Britain.

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Poster held by the George Padmore Institute featured on the Library’s Windrush Stories website. The poster was not used once the death toll of 13 became clear. Another young person who experienced the trauma of the fire died two years later.

 

There are numerous accounts of the New Cross Fire and of the Black People’s Day of Action online, including Nadine White’s extended article, which is accompanied by a short film.  The film gives voice to a survivor of the fire and three women who joined in organising the Day of Action. Commemoration leaves further traces online such as this event marking 30 years on the Black History Studies website.  This year, UCL is marking the 40th anniversary with an event, podcast, and online exhibition of photographs. 

Online events have given a wider reach to conversations and memorialisation, particularly where they have been recorded and made available for later listening.  At a recent event made available through Westminster University’s ‘Black History Year’ site, Leila Hassan Howe, who was a member of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, recalled the context to the Day of Action and spoke about her personal journey to activism.

What can resources in the Library add to the accounts available by searching online? 

For anyone wanting to go further into this history, it’s no surprise that the Library holds books written by people involved in organising the Black People's Day of Action. The Library also holds some of the newsletters and journals produced at the time. A small number of oral history recordings held by the Library and some recordings of events are available online and can be accessed while the Library is still closed.

To pick out just two accounts in books, in Black British History: new perspectives, edited by Hakim Adi and published by Zed Press, Carol Pierre describes how the fire, along with the movement of solidarity afterwards left “an indelible imprint on a community”. 

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 Black British History: New Perspectives from Roman times to the present day. ELD.DS.396110

A detailed account is also given in Robin Bunce and Paul Field’s Renegade: the life and times of Darcus Howe.  Bunce and Field describe the way Darcus Howe spoke at meetings across the north of England, accompanied by Gus John who was based in Manchester at that time.  Gus John has held professorial positions including Associate Professor of Education at the UCL Institute of Education in London.  In December 2016, Professor Gus John delivered the British Library Lecture ‘Changing Britannia through the Arts and Activism’ to mark 50 Years since the founding of New Beacon Books. This post describes the background to the event.

Renegade cover

Renegade: the life and times of Darcus Howe.  ELD.DS.110104 and YC.2018.a.2504

Nadine White’s article mentioned above shows how the organisation of the march marked a first step into political action for some of those involved.  But many of the core group within the New Cross Massacre Action Committee had worked together as part of the Alliance linking the Race Today collective with the Black Parents Movement, Black Youth Movement and Bradford Black Collective. 

Race Today cover

An issue of Race Today featuring the Black Parents Movement. P.523/84

The Action Committee emerged from a meeting on 25 January 1981 in Lewisham.  Led by John La Rose and Darcus Howe, it also included Leila Hassan and other members of the Race Today collective.  Linton Kwesi Johnson and Farrukh Dhondy were part of the collective. Each of them feature extensively in the Library’s collections.  As a group their actions were informed by an exchange of ideas and experience.  They were engaged in teaching (mainly through supplementary schools), discussion groups, research, reading and publishing. The work of Trinidadian intellectual CLR James was an important influence.

The British Library holds much of this publishing output and also fosters research on these collections, particularly those that are harder to find elsewhere.  In 2019 Emma Abotsi worked in the Library as British Sociological Association Fellow exploring independent community publications relating to education. This blog post describes one aspect of the work she did.  

Currently, UCL doctoral student Naomi Oppenheim is working with the Library on a collaborative doctoral partnership focused on Caribbean diaspora publishing and activism. Naomi is leading on a project supported by the Eccles Centre to collect oral histories through conversations about Caribbean food shedding light on wider aspects of life, history and politics. She has recently written about the ‘Caribbean Foodways at the British Library’ project.

Selected publications and recordings by John La Rose, Darcus Howe, Leila Hassan Howe and Linton Kwesi Johnson

 John La Rose

John La Rose (1927-2006), who founded New Beacon books (pictured in this Wasafiri article ) with Sarah White in 1966, was an educator, mentor and friend to the members of the organising committee.  As a poet, writer, activist and publisher, John La Rose was at the heart of key movements advancing the cause of black people in Britain, in education, the arts and culture, for four decades.  His works in the Library range from poetry, to interviews and newsletters.

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The New Cross Massacre Story: interviews with John La Rose YK.2013.a.19831.  This book is still available from the George Padmore Institute, along with The Black Peoples Day of Action 02.03.1981 (Café Press, 2020)  by Vron Ware which contains contains black and white photographs taken by Vron Ware on the day.

A. New Beacon Review No 1 Jacket

New Beacon Reviews, first collection 1968-,  P.901/409.

The Library holds a recording (C1172/14 and C1172/15) of John La Rose interviewed by Ron Ramdin (author of The Making of the Black Working Class in Britain, 1987, reissued by Verso in 2017).  He can also be heard giving the welcome address, introductions and thanks on recordings from the International Book Fairs of Black Radical and Third World Books.  These were ground-breaking events that John La Rose organised jointly with Jessica Huntley of Bogle L’Ouverture Publications between 1982 and 1995.  (The Library also holds an oral history interview with Jessica Huntley and Eric Huntley, who jointly founded Bogle L’Ouverture publishing.)

On 2 March 2021, the George Padmore Institute launched its new website with a film about the Institute’s New Cross Massacre Action Committee archive collection

The film Dream to Change the World: A Tribute to John La Rose, directed by Horace Ové can be viewed online.

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Dream to change the world: the life and legacy of John La Rose.  YK.2019.b.783 

Darcus Howe

Born in Trinidad, Darcus Howe was a broadcaster, writer and racial justice campaigner. He edited Race Today and was chairman of the Notting Hill Carnival.  Steve McQueen’s film Mangrove, part of the Small Axe series available on BBC iPlayer, dramatises Howe’s experiences as one of the 'Mangrove Nine', charged with “inciting a riot” following a demonstration in defence of the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill which had been targeted by police raids.

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Darcus Howe: a political biography. Held by the Library at ELD.DS.79837 and YC.2014.a.8855. Bloomsbury have made this book available free online.

Many of Darcus Howe’s publications are held by the Library along with sound recordings from conferences and events. Although the Library tries to collect UK and Irish publications as fully as possible under Legal Deposit, some books are missed, as are many small-circulation magazines and newsletters.  In writing this post, I have come across a small number of titles from the prolific output of people around Race Today, the Institute for Race Relations and the George Padmore Institute that the Library still needs to add to its collections.

 

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From Bobby to Babylon was originally published in 1988, but is not held by the Library. It has recently been reissued and will be added to the collections when we return from lockdown.

Outside the Library, on British Library Sounds, you can listen to Darcus Howe discussing the work of CLR James with Farrukh Dhondy, recorded in 1992.

 

Leila Hassan Howe

Leila Hassan Howe can be found in the British Library catalogue under the name Leila Hassan. Her writing for Race Today is featured in the magazine and in an anthology published in 2019 by Pluto Press, and a booklet authored by Farrukh Dhondy to which she and British Black Panther member Barbara Beese contributed.  The Library also holds poetry recordings introduced by Leila Hassan on behalf of Creation for Liberation Society and the Poetry Society. Recorded in London in 1985, they feature the poetry of Amryl Johnson, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. Sadly, these fascinating recordings are only available in the Library.

Here to fight  RT

Here to stay, here to fight: a Race Today anthology. ELD.DS.456429 and X.529/70862

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The Black explosion in British schools, by Farrukh Dhondy with Leila Hassan and Barbara Beese. X.529/70862  63 pages.

 

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton Kwesi Johnson was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize in 2020 in recognition of his work.  In making the award, the judges said:

 ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson is a poet, reggae icon, academic and campaigner, whose impact on the cultural landscape over the last half century has been colossal and multi-generational. His political ferocity and his tireless scrutiny of history are truly Pinteresque, as is the humour with which he pursues them.’

The presentation event, including an introduction by Paul Gilroy, was hosted by the British Library and can be viewed on the British Library player

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Voices of the Living and the Dead  YD.2009.a.903

In 1974 Race Today / Towards Racial Justice published Linton Kwesi Johnson’s first poetry collection, Voices of the Living and the Dead.  Between then and now his poetry has been published in print and recorded, performed over dub-reggae.  These recordings (also held by the Library) were mostly in collaboration with producer and artist Dennis Bovell.

This exceptionally rich blog post by Sarah O'Reilly includes selections from her oral history interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson, held by the Library. 

Dread poetry and freedom

Dread poetry & freedom. ELD.DS.333758

 

I have flagged up just a few of the many publications held by the Library that shed light on the events of 1981, but for now the Library is closed and many of these books cannot be accessed. A number of independent bookshops feature an impressive range of titles available to buy or to access through public libraries.

New Beacon Books

Screengrab showing small selection of the non-fiction books available from New Beacon books.

The Londonist published a list of black owned bookshops in London, some of which sell online, and across the country members of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers may also stock these items.  Presses such as Pluto and Verso sell online. 

 

Open access books : Knowledge Unlatched

I noted above the biography of Darcus Howe made freely available by Bloomsbury. The Library is committed to open access publishing and is one of 630 libraries working with Knowledge Unlatched to make books freely available online to read and download. The books that are 'unlatched' cover a very wide range of disciplines and languages.  The Knowledge Unlatched collection features some titles that are relevant to anyone interested in Britain’s black history, for example:

Heidi Safia Mirza: Young, Female and Black. (Routledge, 1992)

Colin Chambers: Black and Asian Theatre In Britain. (Routledge, 2020)

Gerald Horne: Paul Robeson: the artist as revolutionary. (Pluto, 2016). 

Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg: Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Black Jacobin in the age of revolutions (Pluto Press, 2017)

Britain, France and the decolonization of Empire – future imperfect? (UCL, 2017)

The Black People's Day of Action marked a turning point in the challenge to racism in Britain. For those of us who remember these events, the sources of information above reveal far more than was reported by a hostile press. For those born later who approach these events as history, these sources may be a starting point to find out more and draw parallels with more recent experiences.

16 December 2020

Digitised Spare Rib resource

As many of you know, back in 2015 the British Library, working closely with partners at Jisc’s Journal Archives platform and with copyright holders, digitised and made freely available the entire run of Spare Rib magazines. We are delighted that this resource, documenting a vibrant and important period of women’s activism in the UK, has been so well used by researchers and those interested in the Women’s Liberation Movement.

It is therefore with considerable regret that we are confirming that the resource, as a result of the UK leaving the European Union, will no longer be available following the end of the transition period. The decision to close down the Spare Rib resource once the UK leaves the EU was made on the basis of the copyright status of the digitised magazine, which relies heavily on the EU orphan works directive. For a more detailed account of the reasons behind the suspension please see the British Library’s blog from February 2019.

For researchers working on Spare Rib, the full run of the hardcopy magazine remains available via the British Library’s Reading Rooms in London and at Boston Spa. Furthermore, the curated Spare Rib website, with contextual essays and digital images of selected magazine content, will remain available. This has recently been updated to include an interactive research map which plots feminist activity in the UK between 1972 – 1993 based on analysis of Spare Rib letters and listings. Please see this recent blog post for more information about the map and the Business of Women’s Words research project which created it with the British Library.

While we recognise that the suspension of the digitised Spare Rib resource is a loss, we hope these other resources go some way to compensate. We will continue to liaise with the relevant Government departments to seek ways that the regulations could be updated to enable scholarship and research through an Orphan Works exception, so that this resource and others like it, can be made available in the future.

30 October 2020

New Spare Rib map resource: putting women's activism on the map

Written by The Business of Women's Words team.

Think 1970s UK feminism was a purely metropolitan affair? Ever wondered whether the Women’s Liberation Movement stretched beyond the boundaries of big cities? The new digital map resource at the British Library might have some surprising answers.

Spare rib

Spare Rib cover, Nov 1976, Issue 52 © Michael Ann Mullen

 The Spare Rib map is the first digital resource to visualise the networks and activities of the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) across the UK and Ireland. It has been created by the Business of Women’s Words project, a research partnership between the British Library and the Universities of Sussex and Cambridge funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Its data is drawn from Spare Rib  (1972-1993)the iconic feminist magazine digitised by the British Library. Based on a sample (around 30%) of Spare Rib’s listings, adverts and letters pages, the map represents a slice of the intense feminist activity that flowered during the magazine’s twenty-year run. What it shows is that the WLM was a truly national movement, with datapoints ranging from the Western Isles of Scotland to Leiston in Suffolk, and from Derry in Ireland to Falmouth in Cornwall.

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Snapshot of the Spare Rib map from 1983

The map sheds new light on the structure of the WLM and illuminates its regional centres and hubs, as well as a wider web of more isolated feminist activity. Lancaster, for example, was a regional hub that hosted a number of feminist publications, women’s counselling services, a lesbian helpline and took part in the Feminist Book Fortnight; and Bangor in Wales offered an array of feminist groups, businesses selling feminist postcards, jewellery and shoes, and alternative communal accommodation. The map’s colour-coded categories and symbols visualise the sheer diversity of activities and goods generated by the WLM, from political demonstrations to carpentry workshops to co-operatively produced clothing.

Although the WLM is often thought of as outside capitalist transactions of buying and selling, the map makes clear that Spare Rib, and the movement more broadly, was a site of exchange – personal, ideological, but also commercial. Businesses, from dating agencies to therapists to bookshops and publishers, were a key part of the feminist community and helped to advance the reach of the movement. The extraordinary number of women-only or lesbian B&Bs advertised in Spare Rib in the 1980s, for instance, demonstrate how women-run businesses extended the movement into some of the most rural parts of the UK, from the Lake District to the Isle of Arran, and from Piltown in Ireland to Yelverton in Devon. By drawing on letters as well as listings and adverts sent into Spare Rib, the map visualises not only the nationwide distribution of feminist events, commodities and services, but a network of (often critical) consumers and activists. It charts change over time, revealing the changing priorities and infrastructure of the movement, from consciousness raising groups to women’s centres, feminist businesses and women’s studies courses.

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Fully searchable by category, year, keyword and geographical location, the Spare Rib map is a rich interactive resource which opens up new avenues of research for historians of UK and Irish women’s movements across two decades of intense activism.

10 July 2020

Food Community in the Context of Covid

By Angela Clutton, Guest Director British Library Food Season
July, 2020

printed images of fruits, including peaches, apples and a pineapple

We so often talk about the ‘food industry’ and the ‘food community’ when what we mean is the staggering breadth of people who all play their part in ensuring there is food on the table. Chefs, restaurateurs, campaigners, retailers, writers, producers, farmers, kitchen brigades, drivers, stall holders, waiting staff, and many, many more…. Their - our - industry was overnight dealt a body-blow back in March, and I think what has struck me most forcefully since then is how quickly the community aspect of food came to the fore. It looked beyond itself to the community at large, with so many food professionals asking: what can we do to help?

The help has been very much needed as the reality of the struggles that too many families face in having food on their table have been exacerbated. The Trussell Trust - who do such extraordinary work with food banks - reported an 81 per cent increase in people needing support from food banks at the end of March, compared with the same time the previous year. Demand from children for food bank services has increased by 121 per cent.

In the face of such sobering statistics, the endeavours of so many individuals and small organisations across the food sector, who are just trying to make a bit of a difference, are heart-warming and important.

Take Barny Haughton, whose Square Food Foundation in Bristol has for nearly 20 years been doing inspiring work in their local community. When Covid and lockdown hit, they refocussed their work to provide free meals for local children and families. They have made and distributed more than 7000 meals, feeding up to 270 children and families each day. Most of those are families who rely on free school meals. Families who when the schools shut would have suddenly found themselves without that assurance of a healthy meal. For the British Library’s 2020 Food Season– supported by KitchenAid – Barny will be talking about the important work undertaken by Square Food Foundation in an event called “Beyond the Bank: Creating Community and Culture Through Food” along with Mary Brennan from Community Unity in Leeds and Jess Thompson from the organization Migrateful which runs cookery courses led by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

a cooking demonstration in a kitchen with one person demosntrating to three people

Migrateful cooking demonstration
Copyright Migrateful

Restaurant kitchens such as Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano have cooked and delivered meals for staff at London hospitals. Mary-Ellen McTague and Eat Well Manchester are harnessing their local food community to feed NHS staff, women seeking refuge and homeless people. The home kitchens of too many professional cooks to mention here have been turned into the centre of their own personal operations for helping feed local key workers.

Jack Monroe - another friend of the Food Season - rose to the challenge of Covid-induced need with a daily twitter ‘lockdown larder’ Q&A. For many people it has been a very necessary answer to what to do with seemingly incongruous ingredients. So necessary that the BBC enlisted Jack for a daily TV show on lockdown cooking.

portrait photograph of Jack Munroe

Chef and cookery writer Jack Munroe

I write this just as lockdown is beginning to ease. Food shops and cafes and bars and restaurants must now look ahead to what the future of the food industry might look like. There are many questions around food production, supply, distribution and consumption - all of which the autumn’s Food Season will be doing our best to address.

I for one can hardly wait to get back to my favourite restaurants. To actually choose food from a menu! And in so doing play my small part in the one thing that amidst all the uncertainty is certain: that for the food industry to recover, the food community will need the support of us all.

 

KitchenAid text logo

British Library Food Season supported by Kitchen Aid

28 May 2020

British Library 2020 Food Season: plans to continue the conversation

Polly Russell, Lead Curator for Politics and Public Life, Contemporary Manuscripts, writes

British Library Food Season logo, with historical pictures of pineapple and plates of fruit

A few moments ago a cruel diary notification reminded me of something I’d been looking forward to all year - a talk at the British Library about the culture and history of Jewish food with Claudia Roden and Simon Schama. This was one of the 25 events on offer during April and May for the 2020 British Library Food Season, supported by Kitchen Aid. For the third year in a row the Food Season was set to celebrate the Library’s extensive food-related collections and explore the politics, pleasures and history of food. Speakers including Ken Hom, Harold McGee, Asma Khan, Carolyn Steele and Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall were to discuss subjects as diverse as the UK’s cheese history, food in crime fiction and feeding our children.

image from Mrs Beeton's Family Cookey and Housekeeping book, showing a selection of cheeses

Mrs. Beeton's Family Cookery and Housekeeping Book ... New ... illustrations, etc. [Another issue, in an altered form, of “Beeton's Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book.”] 07944.g.63. facing p. 80

Thanks to Covid-19, however, this series of talks, tastings and workshops has been put on hold but we recognise that the conversation about food is more important than ever in the current climate. The emergency has brought to the fore so many food related issues and has impacted on our shopping, cooking and eating habits. At a global level food supply chains have been challenged through interrupted distribution and labour shortages while closer to home eating out has been off the menu and home cooking has seen a surge. Research commissioned by KitchenAid found that 23 per cent of bakers have increased their repertoire but they are not just baking for themselves. According to the research almost a third deliver their creations to others, including 36 per cent to relatives outside of the home and 23 per cent to neighbours. Covid-19 has sharpened awareness of the politics and pleasures of food and so the Food Season feels more relevant than ever. We were incredibly proud of the events planned for 2020 so we are hoping that many will still go ahead in some form and we’ll be announcing details when we know more.

In the meantime, there are other fantastic food festivals and conversations on offer remotely. The Oxford Symposium for Food and Cookery, an organisation which since the 1970s has existed to explore and share food research by scholars, enthusiastic amateurs, writers and chefs from around the world, is going virtual this summer. In a normal year in July around 400 people from around the world gather in Oxford for a weekend of lectures, seminars, conversation and conviviality focussed around a selected food topic. This year the subject is “Herbs and Spices” but instead of meeting in person the Symposium has moved online. Taking place between 10 July – 2 August with 500 attendees from across the world, this interactive event will include keynote addresses, panel discussions and chefs’ videos along with spaces for virtual ‘hangouts’ and discussion boards. Follow this link for more details and registration: https://www.oxfordsymposium.org.uk/events/2020-v-symposium-registration/

Herbs and Spices - logo for the Oxford Food Symposium 2020

Closer to the British Library, Borough Market has established itself as a hub for food discussion, debate and deliberation over the last few years through supper clubs, talks and publications. Since Covid-19, Borough have been running a fantastic series of lunchtime events including, last week, a riveting account of food in cities in lockdown with award winning food writer Rachel Roddy in Rome and Yasmin Fahr in New York. Coming up on the schedule, just this month, are Sami Tamim and Tara Wigley on food from Palestine and, possibly more relevant than ever, Kimberley Wilson talking about food and mental health. Find out more at: https://boroughmarket.org.uk/events/borough-talks

logo for Borough Market talks

We’ll announce news of forthcoming Food Seasons as soon as we can but in the meantime who knows, maybe I’ll see you from the comfort of my kitchen at a virtual food happening. I hope so!


British Library Food Season supported by:

 

Kitchen Aid logo

28 April 2020

Finding Emmeline Pankhurst

In this blog post, Katrina Georgiades, in our Government and Official Publications team, explores our collections of Electoral Registers to find information relating to a key figure in the fight for women's right to vote.

image of title page for Electoral Register for Aldersgate Within and Without

The modern UK electoral register is published on an annual basis and provides a list of all those eligible to vote in local government and parliamentary elections. As the British Library is home to an extensive collection of registers (as well as the nation’s only complete collection of electoral registers from 1947 onwards) our holdings provide a unique starting point for anyone looking to discover more about how the democratic process has evolved over time and adapted to changes in the cultural and political climate. Inspired by the preparations for our exhibition on women’s rights activism “Unfinished Business “ I decided to learn more about how the registers can be used to demonstrate the changes in women’s rights through the knowledge they preserve about individuals and their private histories. My goal was to trace the whereabouts of one of the most famous women’s activists of all time: Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The first standardized form of electoral registration in the UK was introduced with the Reform Act of 1832. Its introduction in effect conferred the right to vote upon those whose name was included within its pages, explicitly barring all women from electing members of parliament (see Johnston, 21). From 1903 onwards Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow campaigners in the WSPU fought for the parliamentary franchise to be extended to women. It wasn’t however until the Representation of the People Act in 1918 that the parliamentary franchise was granted to (some) women over the age of 30 and the names of women began to appear on the registers as evidence of their right to vote for MPs.

Electoral registers are arranged by polling district and published separately for individual parliamentary constituencies. Entries for voters are recorded in order of address. During the First World War Ms Pankhurst established a nursery and adoption home for orphaned children near her house at 50 Clarendon Road, Holland Park. 50 Clarendon Road remained Ms Pankhurst’s dwelling until 1919 when she departed for Canada. My search therefore began with a hunt for her address. Parliamentary constituencies are by no means static and are continuously updated to include changing areas and demographics. During Ms Pankhurst’s period of residence 50 Clarendon Road in fact straddled the division between two constituencies that now no longer exist: the boroughs of North Kensington and South Kensington in London - neither register is included in the British Library’s holdings.

After the war Ms Pankhurst undertook a significant amount of travelling, lecturing and touring within the USA and Canada. Upon her return to England in 1926 she moved in with her sister Ada Goulden Bach at 2 Elsham Road Kensington. At this point she began campaigning on behalf of the Conservative party for the constituency of Whitechapel and St George’s in Stepney (again no longer in existence). By 1927 she and her sister were living at 35 Gloucester, Pimlico and by March 1928 she had moved to lodgings within her prospective constituency at 9 High Street Wapping. Sadly her health failed her before she could face the electorate and she moved to a nursing home in Hampstead less than three months later. Despite being present in the ladies’ gallery at its second reading, (see Purvis, 348) she did not live to witness the 1928 Reform Act (which granted the franchise to both sexes on an equal basis) become law later that year.

Given the substantial amount of relocating that Ms Pankhurst undertook during this time I imagined that finding a record for her in any of the registers during this period would prove a challenge. Luckily the library holds a substantial collection of electoral registers on microfilm and I was able to locate a copy of the 1928 register for Whitechapel & St. George’s Stepney Division. Instead of Emmeline Pankhurst I found entries for a Mr and Mrs Chipperfield. A letter written by Ms Pankhurst to one Esther Greg helped to explain my discovery: ‘You will be amused at my quarters over a hairdressers shop. His wife is my landlady and their name is Chipperfield. It sounds like Dickens. They are a nice couple and are good Conservatives …’ (Pankhurst quoted in Purvis p.350).

Beyond preserving print copies, the Library is actively involved in digitising its holdings of Electoral Registers, many of which are now accessible through databases such as FindmyPast. The database (which is accessible in the Library reading rooms) did not however return any results and it became necessary to expand the search beyond our collection. On the morning of the 10th March I took a trip to the London Metropolitan Archives. On their premises I was able to access digitized records from a 1918 register. Under the entry for 50 Clarendon Road, Holland Park I finally found what I had been searching for: evidence of Ms Pankhurst’s right to exercise the democratic privilege the suffragettes had campaigned so long for.

References

English Heritage, “PANKHURST, Emmeline (1858-1928) & PANKHURST, Dame Christabel (1880-1958)”, https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/. Web. 06 March 2020.

Johnston, Neil, “The History of the Parliamentary Franchise”, https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings, 2013. Web. 29 Feb 2020.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “Pankhurst [nee Goulden], Emmeline”, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/35376. Web. 28 April 2020.

Purvis, June, Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography, London: Routledge, 2002.

The British Library, Parliamentary Constituencies and their Registers since 1832, 2015. https://www.bl.uk/collection-guides/uk-electoral-registers Web. 27 Feb 2020.