Tag Archives: Times

Interesting times (1)

As 2016 draws to a close, we have probably all read our fill of celebrity obituaries. Many of us will also have seen other, more local or personal losses. While the argument rages on about whether this was indeed an unusual year or just appeared to be so, we’re likely to have found ourselves thinking or wondering about some of the people whose deaths have been reported in the news – people we’ve heard of, people we’ve not (but feel we should have), and people whose summarised lives turn out to be a whole lot more interesting and varied than we originally thought.

If you want to find out more about a person and their life, use the library. Below, librarian Owen uses Fidel Castro as an example to show the amazing resources Westminster Libraries members have at their fingertips for researching history and biography, but you could apply the same principles to find out more about any of the people below, lost in 2016:

Owen writes:

We recently saw the death of former Cuban leader and revolutionary Fidel Castro. He was seen in death – as he was in life – as someone to celebrate and support, but also someone to despise and oppose, a great leader or a terrible dictator. We can look at how his death was met in newspaper stories, obituaries and images from around the UK (eg: through NewsBank) and around the world (eg: through Library Press Display which includes some newspapers from Florida).

However, your delve into newspaper articles does not have to end there. Why not look back further? Newsbank goes back a good 30 years for a start. But go back further still and you will find yet more. Have a look in The Times Digital Archive; you will find it interesting to see how events in Castro’s life unfolded eg: 1956 saw a failed revolt (the final revolution came in 1958/59). Ironically, considering some of the celebrations recently in Florida we see that on 12 November 1958 people were caught attempting to send Fidel Castro arms to support the uprising.

Don’t stop there though, have a look as well in the Guardian and Observer archive and continue on to the missile crisis (1962 – you can search by date on all databases). In 1968 it begins its article Ten years of Fidel Castro with

‘It’s hard to believe that Fidel Castro’s regime has now been in power for ten years.’

All this can be found via our Online Resources: Newspapers section accessible in any Westminster Library and from home with a Westminster Library card. The newspapers are a great way to get started, but – depending on the person’s field of activity and nationality – take a look too at the Quick Reference, Art & Design (especially Oxford Art), Biography or Music & Performing Arts (especially Oxford Music Online) sections. You never know what you might find!

[Owen]

Read all about it! The Times Digital Archive

NewspaperImagine if you could pick up a newspaper from over 200 years ago and see what people were saying. Wouldn’t that be difficult? I mean, you would have to find a good reference library with a pretty decent collection of backdated copies…
Surely there is no other way?

Of course there is, the clue is in the title of this blog!

A few months ago, my colleague Francis talked about how addictive searching the Oxford Database of National Biography can be. While I do agree, I am going to say that The Times Digital Archive will give him a run for his money.

Recently I have been visiting libraries and talking with members of the public about some of the Online Resources available to anyone with a Westminster library card. The Times Digital Archive (TDA) is a fully searchable database containing facsimiles of all of the Times newspapers from 1785 to 2009. Here are three points I like to show our customers while highlighting some useful features of the TDA:

Founding of the Newspaper

I like to start at the very beginning. Not only does it make sense chronologically, it also shows just how far back the Digital Archive goes. The Times was first released as The Daily Universal Register for 3 years until 1788 and would set you back 2 ½ pence for 4 very large pages of content (the very definition of a broadsheet newspaper).

The first entry in the TDA is actually the second edition of the paper, you can see under the left hand ‘Printed Logographically’ banner. I like to point it out when demonstrating the TDA as well as to show off this rambling explanation from the editor:

Snippet from The Daily Universal Register, 3 January 1785

“An unfortunate accident having prevent the publication of the first number of this paper in as early an hour as the proprietor intended, and the hawkers having taken away so many papers, that he was not able to supply his numerous friends and others, according to the promise, he thinks it proper to reprint his address to the public, that those who have not yet seen it may have an opportunity to form a judgement of his plan.”

On Tuesday 4 January 1785 the editor expands on what he intends to report in this fledgling newspaper. I’ve trimmed the text but you can read the whole paragraph in the image below:

“In this paper his readers will find regular accounts of the sailing and arrival of ships, of remarkable trials, debates in Parliament, bills of entry, prices courant, price of stocks, promotions, marriages and deaths &c. in a word, no expence [sic] will be spared that may procure useful intelligence and as next to having good intelligence is to have it early, the paper will be published regularly every morning at six o’clock, even during the sitting of Parliament.”

Snippet from The Daily Universal Register, 4 January 1785

Looking through modern day Times, I can’t decide if it is meeting its 250 year old aims or not.


Important Events of our Times

While it is mildly useful to search through the rambles of the early editors and peruse the advertisements, I do enjoy showing people events that still resonate with us today. While we all know that Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, it must have been curious to read about it as the events are unfolding.

Here is one of the headlines from Monday 4 September:

The Times, Monday 4 September 1939

Today that would be the front page headline, but in 1939 before reading that the country was at war you had to skip past a couple of pages of advertisements, shipping news, sports results – association football, rugby, golf and racing all come first. Admittedly, the next several pages discussed it in depth, but I find it interesting that front page headlines aren’t commonplace at this time.

The majority of the articles related to the war’s outbreak are either very short or very long, making it difficult to find good examples, but here are a few from the same edition that I find interesting:

 

Let’s go back a little further to another war and another battle that we know through hindsight – the Battle of Waterloo:

The Times, 22 June 1815

I won’t copy the whole text now, but the dispatch is fascinating and I encourage you to go look it up.

Each description of what the army is up to has this immediacy to it – slightly ironic that you are reading about it days after the event. For example, before the Battle of Waterloo was reported you had the reports coming in regarding the minor skirmishes taking place on 16 June 1815 in the 21 June edition:

The Times, 21 June 1815

And it wasn’t until 23 June that reports of the actual battle started coming in, along with lists of dead officers (the rank and file had not yet been accounted for) and a report from Wellington himself. Here are his closing remarks:

The Times, 23 June 1815


Change of Image

The last point I want to show is not about the content of the newspaper, but how the newspaper was presented – and I might have already given it away. If you look back at the font from the Battle of Waterloo reports, to the font for the WW2 War Declaration you might see where I am going with this.

By the 1930s the Times was a 28 page broadsheet, very popular but being accused of not adhering to the times (irony?) and still using an antiquated typeface. In 1931 a new type was commissioned that would sound very familiar to you if you have used a Microsoft computer in the past 3 decades. I am talking about, of course, Times Roman.

So there we have it. There is far too much to talk about in one blog post, but I hope I have whet your appetite for the Times Digital Archive and all the history that it contains.

If you have an event in history that you would like to look up, it is simple to do so yourself if you follow these steps:

Helpfully, the Browse by Date function is on the front page.

Tome Digital Archive (TDA) header

Happy searching!

[Shaun]

Great Zimbabwe and Black History Month

Copy of Zimbabwe Bird sculptureOne of my great regrets from childhood was that whilst on holiday in Zimbabwe I was too grumpy to go on a journey to visit Great Zimbabwe. Reading through an article from the Encyclopedia of Archaeology on our online resource Credo Reference (log in with your library card number), we learn just how amazing and historically important it is; it describes the site as “possibly the largest settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

  • There are stone towers, steps and many buildings covering a wide area
  • It survived for over 500 years between 900 and 1450 AD
  • It gained its wealth from gathering local gold and other resources, and traded with other distant civilizations as far away as China

When the area was discovered by Europeans, there was a misapprehension that something so complex must have come from another outside ancient civilization (maybe China, India… some even suggesting it was King Solomon’s Mines). For a great many years the site suffered from looting and damage from those who did not place any value on the history of the site. Both these issues the article describes as attempts to strip the indigenous population of their history and archeological heritage. Indeed, acknowledgement of its origin and importance is seen as growing only in 1929/30 with the visit of Gertrude Caton-Thompson, when ideas of its creation by “a vigorous native civilization” were given some credence. It was almost as though many could not believe that the indigenous people could have been “a national organization of a high kind of originality and industry” (as quoted from the Times Digital Archive from 1929).

Fifty years ago, in November 1965, Rhodesia broke away from the UK. The Unilateral Declaration of Independence brought to the fore racial inequality and minority rule in the country. After many years of war, independence was internationally and legally recognized and elections took place involving the whole population. The new country of Zimbabwe took its very name from the houses of stone and the culture which surrounded them. The new currency displayed images of Great Zimbabwe (I loved the image of the stone tower on the Zimbabwean dollar) and the unique artifact known as the Zimbabwe Bird is displayed prominently on the flag. Indeed, the importance of this bird can be seen through the return of several examples of them by the South African government after independence was recognized (perhaps read an article from the time such as this one from the Guardian: Rock of ages, Zimbabwe (4 February 1981).

Flag of Zimbabwe

Sadly there are still a great many problems in the country, but perhaps the history of this ancient civilization can help inspire the creation of a community which can live together for several hundred years, trading with the outside world as did those who lived there all that time ago.

Other lessons must be learnt from what has happened with Great Zimbabwe: the importance of history, seeing past any prejudices/preconceptions and aiming to learn more (including trying to learn from our past), the evils of destroying or stealing archaeological artifacts for short-term gain, there is more to history including black and African History than we hear about on a day-to-day basis… and finally, if you are young and tend to get grumpy don’t let it spoil your chances of seeing/doing something special which you will remember forever!

[Owen]

London Squares – cuttings from the past

Drinking fountain, Byranston Square 1863Westminster Archives resources range from parish records to local maps, but why not come and take a look at one of the less frequently utilised resources – our collection of newspaper cuttings? Although we hold local newspapers in our collection, the newspaper cuttings collected and collated over the years are a quick and easy way to discover historic events, changes to streets and the ongoing history of buildings in an area. Perhaps there is a historic event that you remember which is detailed in our collection?

Open Garden Squares is coming up this weekend (13-14 June) so I took a look at some of the newspaper cuttings for those in our area: Bryanston Square, Montagu Square, Belgrave Square and Eaton Square. Below are some of the articles I found – just a few of the fascinating historic articles on the garden squares of the City of Westminster.

Bryanston Square

This drinking fountain pictured above was erected at the south end of Bryanston Square in 1863, paying tribute to William Pitt Byrne (1806-1861). Byrne was the editor of the Morning Post. The fountain still exists and is now a Grade II listed monument. Unfortunately, during the years following its construction it was allowed to run dry. The Evening Standard noted this in 1974:

Bryanston Square 1974, newspaper cutting from Evening Standard


Montagu Square

Quirky tales can often be found in our cuttings. Here is Yoko Ono in 1990 reliving her time at Montagu Square, where she shared a flat with John Lennon.

Montagu Square 1990, newspaper cutting from Evening Standard

In 1982 the members of the Montagu Square Garden Trust observed resident Reginald Heaney’s 70th birthday with a watercolour of the square and garden. If you couldn’t be outside to enjoy the garden, looking at a lovely painting instead might do.

Montagu Square 1982 - watercolour for resident Reginald Heaney’s 70th birthday


Belgrave Sqaure

In 1979 the annual ‘extravaganza’ at Belgrave Square took place; a fair with top fashion designers, music and even a relay jog. The main event, the traditional Belgrave Beano, was an exuberant evening event where socialising amid dancing, food and drink was a highlight of the year.

Belgrave Square 1979, newspaper cutting from Country Life

Look out for signed architecture on the houses alongside the 4.5 acre garden at Belgrave Square. An article in the Times (1973) gave instructions on locating the Victorian architects who were proud enough of their work to inscribe their names in various places on the buildings. Can you spot George Basevi Junior’s name or Philip Hardwick’s?

Belgrave Square 1973, newspaper cutting from The Times


Eaton Square

Neville Chamberlain, who was prime minister from 1869-1940, and actress Vivien Leigh were each given a blue plaque at Eaton Square. Vivien Leigh lived at number 54 Eaton Square from 1913 to 1967 whilst Chamberlain occupied number 37 from 1923-1935. Both these famous past residences of Eaton Square and their new plaques were awarded note in our newspaper cuttings.

During the post war years, a time when Vivien Leigh was a resident of Eaton Square, the garden would have looked like this:

Eaton Square 1952, image property of Westminster City Archives

Our newspaper cuttings can be searched with a visit to our Archives Search Room. Visit our periodicals website, WULOP, to see a list of the local newspapers we hold in our collection.

Quiet London by Siobhan WallInterested in other outdoor areas of London? Quiet London by Siobhan Wall gives an excellent guide to the less frequently trodden areas of London, including some captivating hidden gardens, most of which are open throughout the year.

[Kimberly]

Mother of parliaments

It may have escaped the attention of the less eagle-eyed of you, but there’s just been a General Election. While plenty of constituencies  did change hands, Westminster residents seemed pretty happy with their MPs  (Mark Field  and Karen Buck), both of whom increased their majorities.

If you aren’t sure who your MP is, go to Write to Them for a list of all your representatives including Councillors, London Assembly members and MEPs and even Parish Councillors if you happen to live in Ambridge

Currently Parliament is in the period known as prorogation, which is the name given to the period between the end of a session of Parliament and the State Opening of Parliament that begins the next session. Usually there are only a few days between the two events but the current session of parliament was ‘prorogued’ on 26 March to give time for the election.

The next event in the life of parliament is the State Opening, this Wednesday 27 May. Even if you’re not politically-minded, it’s a splendid piece of pageantry involving the official known as Black Rod having the door to the House of Commons shut in his face to symbolise MPs’ independence. Well, maybe it’s weird rather than splendid but it’s a bit of light relief before the serious business of the Queen’s Speech.

Preparing for State Opening: checking the cellars  The Yeomen of the Guard pick up their lamps in preparation for checking the cellars of the Palace of Westminster, a tradition carried out before every State Opening of Parliament since the failed 1605 Gunpowder Plot.

You can find films of the Queen setting off the open Parliament as far back as 1952 on the British Pathe newreel site. In fact, she’s only missed two years – 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively.

Queen Victoria at the opening of Parliament, 1866

The State Opening was originally designed to give the monarch a chance for a roll-call of the lords and other representatives and the ceremony has existed since at least the 14th century. Not all monarchs have been as assiduous in attending as the present Queen, with Queen Victoria bothering to show up only 7 times between 1865 and 1901. Those interested in such things can check back through the Times Digital Archive. The language used in the past was somewhat different and I doubt that will be hearing this sort thing this year:

“The difference which exists in several important particulars between the commercial laws of Scotland and those of other parts of the United Kingdom  has occasioned inconvenience to a large portion of my subjects engaged in trade. Measures will be proposed to you for  remedying this evil”
Feb 1st 1856

For more parliamentary matters, check out the Government section of the Westminster Libraries Gateway to websites. You’ll find links to Hansard which records parliamentary debates, and while I wouldn’t recommend it as bedtime reading (though it would be a good soporific), there are occasional gems to be found. In 1993, the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Michael Portillo described Harriet Harman’s appointment as his Shadow as “like appointing Joan Collins to buy costumes for an impoverished amateur dramatic club” while veteran Labout MP Dennis Skinner is famous for his humorous injections during the State opening itself.

And if all this has whetted your appetite for more parliamentary ceremonial, you will be able to watch the whole event on BBC Parliament. It may even inspire you to arrange a visit to the House of Commons, or even get involved in politics yourself.

[Nicky]

Love a good map?

Find maps galore at Marylebone Information ServiceIn an age of extraordinary online mapping, it can still be useful to peruse a paper version – whether for the ability to view an image larger than your device screen, for the specialist focus some map collections can provide, or simply as a source when out and about that is not dependent on battery power or data signal!

Marylebone Information Service has a great atlases and maps collection. We receive regular requests for World and London Street atlases. Specific Ordnance Survey Landranger and Explorer series maps are also in demand either for consulting within the library or borrowed from the lending collection.

Times Comprehensive Atlas of the WorldBut what else is on offer?

Your first port of call when consulting a world atlas should be the gorgeous Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World. This is the “grand daddy” of them all in size as well as coverage, and is a real pleasure to look at, though not to lift! In addition to country / regional maps the Atlas also includes a number of thematic maps, both political and physical, and accompanying articles on current key topics such as climate change.

Kendal, Morecambe, Windermere and Lancaster Ordnance Survey map Focusing in on Great Britain, the library maintains a reference collection of current road and national atlases.

If you require greater geographical detail why not consult reference copies of the Ordnance Survey Landranger and Explorer series maps which cover the whole of Great Britain?

With the rise of Google maps and rival mapping apps on mobile phones, as well as SatNavs on the car dashboard, one might think that the county atlases printed by Philips have had their day. However, they do still have a use as a source for town and city centre maps. These atlases also include greater detail for rural areas than that provided by Google maps. Where Google scores over the printed version is with its tie up to Streetview images so that a user can identify a specific building from the image of its façade.

National Geographic Atlas of the OceanWorld atlases, whilst good at depicting mountain ranges tend to gloss over the physical attributes of the surface beneath the ocean, depicting the oceans as blank. To discover ‘a new world of mountains, chasms and tectonic plates beneath the surface’, take a look at the National Geographic atlas of the ocean: the deep frontier, by Sylvia A Earle.

The Atlas of Endangered SpeciesThe reference collection also contains a number of other specialist atlases including

Grand Union, Oxford and the South East waterways guideHere are two examples from atlas series which include London coverage.
For boaters and towpath users, Nicholson publish regional canal guides incorporating detailed maps of the individual waterways together with practical and historical information about the waterway, adjacent settlements and features along the route.

Cycle Tours: Around London by Nick CottonFor cyclists, Philips have published a series of regional cycling maps that explore beyond urban centers using quiet roads, byways and bridle paths. Thus the Bristol & Bath volume includes routes in the Cotswolds, lower Severn Valley, the Mendips and North Somerset. For London based cyclists there are two volumes covering the adjacent counties north and south of the Thames.

In a later post I will concentrate further on London atlases and maps, especially historical sources.

[Francis]

The Great War and your ancestors

"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time" - Sir Edward Grey, August 1914

2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I. This centenary anniversary has made remembrance even more poignant.  Remembrance Sunday in November helped mark the event which brought an end to this conflict.

There is more we can do to remember though; we can look at how the war affected the lives of our families back then, which is what I and several others did at a recent session using the Ancestry Online database in Kensington Central Library. This resource is available in libraries in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Ancestry home page - accessible on library computers in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham

Ancestry home page – accessible on library computers in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham

The pictures we built were often very interesting viewing Census records as well as military records which allowed us small insights into people’s lives. But it was often also very sad – families left without sons (in one instance losing several within a very short space of time) and fathers listed and remembered on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website. It made us think of how sad it must have been for them, and their friends as well.

Luckily these online resources make it easier to look back and see what our family did during the war (and before). Whether it is from the medals they won, who they served with, or information from the CWGC website, which lists 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars.

As well as family history records for the British Isles there are other records from the same period around the world, including Canada, the USA, Germany, and France.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website can be accessed from anywhere and can provide a lot of information – more than you’d expect. And there are many instructional books available which can help you search through records and find out more about the Great War.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page

Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page

You may find newspaper resources interesting and useful in building a picture of the time and possibly a picture of your ancestors too. The Times Digital Archive is the most popular of these but there are other newspapers available in Westminster. The Gazette (official public record) also allows you to search for medals awarded.

Another online family history resource which is available in Westminster Libraries is Find My Past: this contains some different records to Ancestry.

[Owen]

This post was first published on the RBKCLibraries blog.