THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

3 posts categorized "Black & Asian Britain"

17 September 2019

Bogle-L’Ouverture publishing house

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In October 1968 the activist and author Walter Rodney, returning from the Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Canada, was declared persona non grata by the government of Jamaica.  He was banned from resuming his teaching position at the University of the West Indies.  In Kingston, students and other activists participated in what became known as the Rodney Riots, and there was considerable activity amongst Caribbean communities in the UK and the US.  Out of that struggle, the publishing house Bogle-L’Ouverture was founded in London by Jessica and Eric Huntley.  2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of their first publication, a collection of Rodney’s lectures entitled The Groundings with my Brothers

Cover of The Groundings with my Brothers by Walter RodneyCover of The Groundings with my Brothers by Walter Rodney - Artwork for cover design ©  Errol Lloyd

Named for the leaders of the Morant Bay Rebellion and the Haitian Revolution, Bogle-L’Ouverture, alongside New Beacon (founded 1966) and Alison & Busby (founded 1967), soon became an integral part of progressive independent publishing in London.  Their publications provided a space for radical black thought to be distributed and read in the UK.  In 1972, Bogle-L'Ouverture published one of the key early post-colonial texts in Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.

Cover of How Europe underdeveloped Africa by Walter RodneyCover of How Europe underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney - work in copyright

The Huntleys founded the Bogle-L'Ouverture Bookshop in West London in 1974, and the space became a key venue for political meetings, talks and readings.  In 1980, following Rodney’s assassination in Guyana, the bookshop was renamed in his honour.  The physical space of the bookshop mirrored the fact that Bogle-L’Ouverture was an example of community publishing in the true sense, with publications often financed by friends of the Huntleys, and collaboration central to their work.  It was out of this sense of collective struggle that The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books was established by Bogle-L’Ouverture, New Beacon and Race Today.  There were twelve Book Fairs held between 1982 and 1995 and they were intended, as John La Rose stated, 'to mark the new and expanding phase of the growth of radical ideas and concepts, and their expression in literature, music, art, politics and social life'.

Programme of International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books 1985 featuring photograph of Malcolm XProgramme of International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books 1985 featuring photograph of Malcolm X - work in copyright

The programmes from each of the twelve book fairs have all been reprinted in A Meeting of the Continents: The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books – Revisited.  Looking through them one is made aware of what important and creative accomplishments these events were.  Yet, rather than evoking nostalgia, the editors hoped to offer inspiration for others to act.  Indeed, longstanding publishers such as Hansib, Karnak House and Karia Press were founded in the wake of New Beacon and Bogle-L’Ouverture, and Peepal Tree sold their first publication, Rooplall Monar’s Backdam People (1985) at the book fair.  More recently, innovative publishing concerns such as Own It!, Jacaranda, and Flipped Eye have also begun to build on the tradition established by the Huntleys more than half a century ago.  Yet their legacy extends beyond the publishing world – the Huntley archives are held the London Metropolitan Archives, which since 2006 has hosted an annual conference reflecting on their life and work.

Laurence Byrne
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Andrews, Margaret Doing nothing is not an option: the radical lives of Eric & Jessica Huntley, Middlesex, Krik Krak, 2014 [YK.2015.a.1141]
Sarah White, Roxy Harris & Sharmilla Beezmohun (eds). A Meeting of the Continents: The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books – Revisited, London: New Beacon Books/George Padmore Institute, 2005 [m05/.29879]

 

16 April 2019

An Easter vacation for Indian cadets at Sandhurst

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In the India Office Records there is a file dedicated to Easter vacation arrangements for Indian gentleman cadets at the Royal Military College Sandhurst in 1920.  Some cadets wanted to stay with family or guardians in the UK whilst others had more ambitious plans.  Letters between the Military Department of the India Office and the College show a wish to take account of the cadets’ wishes balanced with a duty of care for the young men.

Cover of  file on Easter vacation arrangements for Indian gentleman cadets at the Royal Military College Sandhurst in 1920IOR/L/MIL/7/19051 Noc

Military Department official William Henry Swain sent Sandhurst a proposal that Captain Conrad Bertie Lochner of the Indian Army should take Madanjit Singh and Tek Bahadur Shah to visit the occupied territory in Germany.  Madanjit Singh wrote a polite letter to Swain thanking him for arranging a stay in London and the trip to Cologne, but questioning whether it would be worth going to Germany for only a week.  He was keen ‘to see a few Theaters’ in London. 

Faiz Muhammad and Khan Sikandar Ali Mirza wished to stay together in London without a guardian. Instead it was suggested that they stay in Harrow on the Hill with Mrs Ellen Stogdon, a widow in her late 70s. Faiz Muhammad Khan wrote to Swain that although Mrs Stogdon had been very kind to him on a previous visit, he was keen to stay elsewhere. 

Sikandar Ali Mirza also sent a letter to Swain saying that he did not like the idea of staying with Mrs Stogdon.  There was absolutely nothing to do there and ‘besides I have an impression that Indians are not very welcome at Harrow on the Hill’ although ‘Mrs Stogdon herself is very kind’.   He believed he was old enough to take care of himself and to distinguish between right and wrong. 

Swain suggested to Major-General Reginald Stephens, Commandant at the Royal Military College, that Madanjit Singh and Sikandar Ali Mirza might be allowed to make their own arrangements for the holiday as both would soon be fully-fledged officers.  Stephens advised against letting them loose in London alone for a fortnight.  It was agreed that Major J W H D Tyndall would take charge of Madanjit Singh, Sikandar Ali Mirza, Faiz Muhammad Khan, and Edris Yusuf Ali at the Russell Hotel in London.

Minute on arrangements for Easter vacationIOR/L/MIL/7/19051 Noc


The file records that it was very difficult finding suitable officers to look after some of cadets.  The terms offered by the India Office were not sufficiently attractive. Hitherto it had offered pay plus 10s per day.  It was proposed to increase this to pay and allowances plus £1 per day and also a reasonable sum for travel and incidental expenses for officers whilst the cadets were in their charge.  Taking the young men to theatres and other places of amusement involved the officers in considerable extra expenditure.  In some cases the India Office was having to make advances to cadets for vacation expenses and then recoup this from parents or guardians in India.  There is a comment by General Sir Edmund George Barrow, Council of India, that in his opinion none of the vacation expenses should fall to Indian revenues as the cadets’ parents should provide financially for all aspects of their sons’ care.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/7/19051 Collection 430/42 Indian cadets at Sandhurst: arrangements for Easter 1920 vacation.

 

06 July 2018

New black Britain and Asian Britain web pages launched

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The British Library holds rich resources for the study of black Britain and Asian Britain. A new suite of web pages highlights the wide variety of material available, including printed, archival, visual, music and oral history collections.  The development of these web pages is discussed in the Asian and African studies blog.

The collections of the former India Office Library and Records, which are held at the British Library, illuminate the long history of South Asian people in Britain.  They document the stories of people from all walks of life including Indian seamen, known as lascars, soldiers and others providing vital support during both world wars, workers, servants such as ayahs (nannies), entrepreneurs, campaigners, students, lawyers and doctors, politicians, sportsmen and Indian royalty.  The people featured below are just a small sample of those whose lives are recorded in the collections at the British Library. 

  Portrait of Sake Dean Mahomed , 1826Portrait of Sake Dean Mahomed , 1826 (T 12646)

Sake Dean Mahomed started his varied career in the East India Company’s Bengal Army.  He left for Ireland in 1782 with a Captain Godfrey Baker. After marrying an Irish woman in 1786, he wrote a book about his travels.  His next venture was the Hindoostanee Coffee House which he set up in London.  When that failed, he moved to Brighton where he created a thriving business as a ‘shampooing surgeon’.  Dean Mahomed’s children lived in Britain and pursued successful careers.

 

Dadabhai Naoroji was the first Indian MP in Britain.  Photograph of Dadabhai Naoroji Dadabhai Naoroji -- Mirror of British Merchandise, 1892 (14119.f.37)

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was born in 1876 in Suffolk, the sixth child of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the deposed ruler of the Punjab. Proud of her Indian ancestry, Princess Sophia was a generous patron of causes which helped Indian people in Britain. Today, she is best remembered as a passionate suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote.

Sophia Duleep Singh selling 'The Suffragette' 1913Sophia Duleep Singh - The Suffragette, 18 April 1913 IOR/L/PS/11/52, P1608, f.273

The photograph shows Princess Sophia selling The Suffragette newspaper outside Hampton Court Palace, where she lived in an apartment. 

The Bevin Training Scheme was established in 1941 with the support of the British Minister of Labour, Ernest Bevin. The Second World War increased demand for skilled engineers in the Indian industries engaged in war-related work. The scheme aimed to provide practical training for young Indians who otherwise would not have the means to travel to Britain. This booklet was produced by the Indian Government as part of an essay competition for Bevin trainees to stimulate public interest in the scheme.

Front cover of Ambassadors of Goodwill - two Indian and European men shaking handsAmbassadors of Goodwill - Essays by Bevin Trainees, 1940s IOR/L/I/1/978 f.30

We hope that you will be inspired to look at the new web pages and discover more about our collections relating to the history of black and Asian Britain.

Penny Brook and John O'Brien
India Office Records

Further reading
Asians in Britain
Paper bag reveals forgotten history
Award of Victoria Cross to Khudadad Khan
A tribute to forgotten heroes of the seven seas 
Indian princess in suffragette march
Bevin Indian trainees during the Second World War