Author Archives: katiedflanagan

About katiedflanagan

Rare books and special collections librarian

Life vs fiction research seminar

The Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing (BCCW) presents a session on the relationship between fiction and autobiography inspired by the Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiographies held in the Special Collections of Brunel Library. Philip Tew will discuss writing about his relationship with his working-class father in his new novel, Afterlives, and Nick Hubble will talk about the relationship between working-class autobiography and proletarian autobiografiction revealed by his British Academy-funded research on the Burnett Archive.

This event will feature Brunel MA Creative Writing students opening the evening with readings from their work, as well as complimentary refreshments and free admission – please register here.

It will be held in Bannerman Centre 226 (in the library) Wed 20 March 2019 17:30.

Philip Tew’s debut novel, Afterlives, published in February 2018, is about university lecturer, Jim Dent, who, nearing retirement, is inspired by the death of a friend known in the 1970s, writer Sue Townsend, to review various premature deaths over the past fifty years of others once close to him, and recollect their lives. They include a school-friend, his working-class father, and other talented chums all denied their creative potential. Among scenes featured are his work with Sue on a local arts magazine on her stories of Nigel (later, Adrian) Mole, and a trip with an oddball scholar of the Beats to interview poet, Basil Bunting. Afterlives is no old man’s lament, rather a poignant and yet comic narrative of eccentric, talented people whose lives are celebrated. Commenting on the novel, Fay Weldon said “The father’s episode is a fine and moving piece of writing.”

Nick Hubble’s latest book The proletarian answer to the modernist question is out this month in paperback from Edinburgh University Press.

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Colour Our Collections 2019

From 4 – 8 February 2019 libraries across the world will be involved in Colour Our Collections Week. Brunel’s Special Collections invites you to take part by downloading, colouring and sharing a picture from our unique and distinctive collections of rare books and archives.

Pictures are available to download below, or on the Colour Our Collections website and hard copies are available near the library’s help desk in the Bannerman Centre.

Please share your finished creations with us using the hashtag #colourourcollections and by tagging us @BrunelSpecColl (Twitter) or BrunelSpecColl (Instagram)

This year’s featured pictures are all part of our Transport History Collection.

Horse Monday and the Jubilee Polka are both from S.T. Richardson’s The world’s first railway jubilee  (1876), a book of cartoons (black and white, photo-lithographed) featuring the Stockton and Darlington Railway, offering a humorous look at the first 50 years of rail travel in Britain. (ref.: Clinker 1059)

Download Horse Monday

 

Download Jubilee Polka

 

Download Two Penny Tube

 

The Two Penny Tube is from The train scrap book published by E. Nister in c.1910 and intended to be a children’s book about railways, including the London Underground and international railways (ref.: Clinker 1088)

Using Special Collections for your dissertation

You’ve chosen your dissertation topic because it’s something you’re really interested in – now it’s time to delve into the sources held within Brunel’s special collections to take your research to the next level!

Recent topics that students have researched using our Special Collections include:

  • Politics under Churchill and Attlee
  • London during the First World War
  • Communists during the 1920s and 1930s
  • Clothing of the poor
  • Literary cultures of Victorian railway workers
  • Perceptions of fascism in the inter-war period
  • Motherhood and bereavement in the First World War
  • Feminism under Thatcher
  • Presentation of women in the media
  • Colonial and post-colonial writers at the BBC

Find out about our collections

Special Collections is home to a huge array of material that can support your research. You can find out more by consulting our:

Using Special Collections

Our collections are kept in closed access so you will need to make an appointment in order to come and see them. If you haven’t used Special Collections or archival material before we have a guide on our blog.

Dissertation drop ins

You can drop into these sessions at any time to find out more about using Special Collections in your dissertation. These sessions will be held in BANN 328 (access via main stairs/lift).

Monday 21 January 2 -5 pm

Tuesday 22 January 2 -5pm

Wednesday 23 January 2 -5 pm

Happy Christmas from Special Collections

ILN xmas treeA reminder that we will be closed between 20 December and 6 January inclusive. If you would like to make an appointment to use our collections please email us and we will respond as soon as possible when we reopen on Monday 7 January 2019.

Anniversary of the publication of A Christmas Carol

175 years ago this month Charles Dickens’ book A Christmas Carol was first published – it sold out by Christmas Eve! We are celebrating the anniversary in Special Collections by holding a drop in on the anniversary itself, 19 December (12 noon – 2pm), where you can encounter Dickens’ works for yourself. This is free to attend and open to all.

“superstitious pies and porridge, ransacking pots, robbing ovens, and stripping spits”

DSC00429 - CopyYou will be able to see an account by Charles Dickens of the time when Christmas was banned in England. As well as writing A Christmas Carol, Dickens published articles on the history of Christmas in England and made observations on the traditional ways in which Christmas was celebrated around the world. He published these in All The Year Round, a literary  magazine founded and owned by Dickens. In Special Collections we hold every edition published between 1869 and 1979 (part of our Rare books and periodicals collection).

The December 1870 edition of All The Year Round included a piece on the prohibition of the celebration of Christmas in the 17th century and the methods by which the Puritans attempted to enforce this ban. During the first half of the 17th century England was ruled by a Puritan parliament, headed by Oliver Cromwell, who put huge amounts of time and effort into reforming the moral and spiritual character of the country. The festival of Christmas came into their firing line as it was not seen as a Christian or religious festival for two main reasons

  • it was a time of feasting, drinking and extravagance, whilst the Puritans advocated fasting and sobriety
  • it was a Catholic festival, and Catholicism was viewed as an heretical strain of Christianity by the Puritans. In 1642 the Puritan parliament abolished Christmas and ordered that it should instead be “observed as a day of fasting and of humiliation”. (Dickens, All the Year Round Vol. 5, December 1870 p. 101).

“Holly, ivy, mistletoe, bay and rosemary were accounted branches of superstition. To roast a sirloin of beef, to touch a collar of brawn, to bake a pie, to put a plum in a pottage-pot, to burn a big candle, or to lay one log more upon the fire for Christmas’ sake was enough to make a man be suspected and taken for a Christian and punished accordingly.”

DSC00430 - CopyDickens describes the measures the Puritans would take to enforce this ban and what actions they considered as breaching their legislation. He writes that on Christmas Day officials would search the entire city of London, looking for “superstitious pies and porridge, ransacking pots, robbing ovens and stripping spits” (ibid.), believing that these things were wicked and against Christianity. Religious observance was equally unacceptable and all churches were ordered to close over Christmas, with anyone who tried to preach or give a sermon served with an arrest warrant.

Despite all this, the people of England found means to celebrate and make merry, one way or the other. It might be a small personal rebellion, such as making a Christmas pudding or singing a carol. Sometimes there were larger, public, rebellions. Riots would break out, mobs would form and attack the officials working for the Puritan parliament. Dickens describes an incident in 1647 involving forbidden festive decorations and how they were fiercely fought for by the people in the local area. He tells us that Cornhill conduit had been dressed in evergreens, holly and ivy, rosemary and bay were set on top of the tall building. The city marshall and his men were set to pull down the decorations, but the decorated building was defended by local lads, who attacked the marshall and caused his men to flee for their lives. Although some men were seized and sent to prison for the day, there was still a feeling of triumph as the Christmas decorations remained upon the building. (Dickens, All the Year Round Vol 5, December 1870 p. 101).

Also on display will be illustrations of Christmas festivities from 1870s England:

1870 Ill London News

to 1950s America:

Santa's Cooky shop LHJ

and you can discover when the Christmas tree first came to England.

ILN xmas tree

 

#Elfonalibraryshelf

Elf on a shelf 7Elf on a library shelf is being very busy in Brunel University Library in the run up to Christmas. He started appearing on Saturday (1 Dec). Elf will be spending half his time in the main part of the library, and the other half in Special Collections. You can follow him on our social media channels every day up to Christmas. #ElfOnALibraryShelf

Twitter: @Brunel_Library

Twitter: @BrunelSpecColl

Instagram: BrunelSpecColl

Armistice centenary

Today we are commemorating 100 years since the signing of the Armistice that ended the First World War by launching our new topic guide to the war. This is intended to help students to find material from Special Collections relating to the war – do let us know if there is anything you would like to discover more about.

Some highlights from the guide are featured below, and there is also a chance to see them in person by visiting Special Collections (BANN 328) on Tuesday 13 November between 12 and 2pm. This event is free and open to everyone.

William Belcher – naval diaries

Serving in the navy between 1903 – 8 and 1914 – 19, Belcher was then an electrician from 1919 onwards. Much of the interest in his autobiography lies in the supporting documents that accompany his notebooks: his school certificates, shorthand qualifications and his naval career record. His autobiography is part of the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies (BURN 1:53)

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John Hammerton & Herbert Wrigley Wilson, ed. The Great War: the standard history of the all-Europe conflict (London: The Amalgamated Press, 1914-19).

GreatWar1

The first volume of this work was published in 1914, and sets the tone with the first sentence: “The greatest war of modern times, and perhaps in the whole history of the human race, was begun by Germany using the crime of a schoolboy in Bosnia as her excuse” [Volume I, page 3]. The work claims to be “a standard history” but, written so soon after the individual events it narrates, cannot give a truly balanced view as there was no way for the authors to be in possession of all the facts surrounding them.

The great interest of this work lies in its immediacy. It shows what the general public in Britain knew about the war during the war, and what they were encouraged to think. The tone and content reflect the attitudes and social structure of the time, as when prominence is given in lists of casualties to those men who were related to peers. Naturally the text is full of patriotic language – chapter titles make frequent use of words such as “glorious” and “triumphant” – and admiration for British troops’ bravery and skill, and for the design of their ships, planes, and weapons; but recognition is made of the German forces as a formidable enemy with admirable qualities.

Title page from Volume I

The volumes are, as the title-page indicates, “profusely illustrated”. There are maps and plans to show defences and strategy; photographs of events and of key people; diagrams of submarines; illustrated spreads on forces joining the war from overseas; and, most poignantly, drawings of battlefield scenes based on sketches sent by eyewitnesses.

As well as the narrative of the war itself, there are chapters on broader topics including “Influence of the war on English Literature” [volume XII], and “Marvels of the British Transport Service on the Western Front” [volume VIII], to address wider and longer-term issues.

This series is part of the Rare books and periodicals collection.

Through the Dardenelles

On the 26th March 1915, J. T. Haskins was first informed of the mission that would earn him a Distinguished Service Medal. He worked as the leading Stoker on the E.14 submarine, the first submarine to steer through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara and back again. They went through enemy subs, torpedoes, minefields just to get to there.

His diary (part of the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies) tracks the whole mission. The diary starts with him receiving orders “to prepare for long trip” all the way to the end of the mission and hearing about the Distinguished Service Medal.

The Dardanelles is a dangerous narrow strait in northwest Turkey that connects the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It separates Europe from Asia and, on a side note, also holds the site of ancient Troy. This mission was part of the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I. It was first conceived by Winston Churchill as a way of supplying the Russians through the Black Sea. In the same swoop Churchill intended to drive the Ottoman Empire out of the war. Unfortunately it was a loss.

The Campaign has now become one of the Ottoman Empire’s greatest victories and a major defeat for the Allied forces. Yet the success of Haskins’ Sub shows a glimmer of triumph for them leading Haskins to end his entry on the 19th May 1915:

“I was with the E.14 through the Dardanelles”

When corpses fell from the Nottinghamshire sky

One of our autobiographies from the Burnett Archive  featured in the Independent’s series on A history of the First World War in 100 Moments. When corpses fell from the Nottinghamshire sky  is based on the account of Lottie Barker, who worked in a munitions factory in Beeston, Nottinghamshire during the war. She was one of the ‘Canary Girls’, who made shells in the factory and for whom repeated exposure to toxic chemicals turned their skin orange-yellow like a canary.

On the day of the explosion she wasn’t on shift, but was at home washing up, and felt the house move and saw a huge column of smoke. The explosion caused the loss of 134 lives, although the full extent wasn’t made clear at the time as the news was suppressed. Lottie’s account includes details of the aftermath of the explosion.