As many of you may know, last year The National Archives undertook a project, ‘Africa through a lens’, to digitise thousands of Colonial Office photographs of ‘life’ in the British colonies, spanning much of the colonial period.
I have worked at The National Archives for 4 years, beginning as a Researcher on the 1911 Census before it was released online and moving through various roles in our Advice and Records Knowledge and Freedom of Information teams before taking on my ideal role as a Diverse Histories Records Specialist. I have a background in History and Cultural Heritage, and so love the way my role allows me to work daily with the records, but at the same time have a lot of interaction with the public and other teams in the organisation, being involved in many different projects at any one time. I love the diversity of the records we hold and the daily surprises my colleagues tell me about – there is so much here! I hope to reflect just a few of these in my blog and share some of the hidden histories of The National Archives with you.
I’ve previously blogged about a 20th century poetic find in our collection – here’s another I came across recently from the late 18th century, coincidentally ‘echoing’ quite a similar theme…
An interesting email was passed to me a few weeks ago enquiring about searching for evidence of oral culture of those enslaved during the transatlantic trade. I expected to find very little using a simple search, as the preservation of such culture would be rare, at least without in-depth research, particularly amongst the records of the companies and governments involved in the trade for profit. However, a chance try of “slave AND song” in Discovery returned a result which sparked my interest to take a closer look.
The box that arrived is typical of uncatalogued material, bundles of papers housed together with little further information available.
With some very careful handling and the help of a colleague who passed further than “Je suis…” at school, we leafed through the papers. They belonged to one ‘Francois Lavignolle’, listed on Discovery as an administrator on a Haitian plantation, whose papers were intercepted and filed with the High Court of Admiralty paperwork.
There, amongst the accounts papers, was a little folded booklet of songs and rhymes. Continue reading »
Happy St. George’s Day!
St. George is an elusive figure in our records, but he does pop up in a place calling for national pride and strength – the National War Savings Committee posters.
He appears with the slogan ‘Lend to defend the right to be free’, encouraging households to invest in national savings certificates during the Second World War:
The suffrage movement is a common theme when talking about achievements of women in the past, and we certainly hold a wealth of information here, from the force feeding of women on hunger strike, to 1911 census forms when women refused to provide their details to a government they had no say in electing. Although there are so many achievements of women to choose from, this wealth means there is always something more to talk about!
This file, MEPO 3/203, came to my attention while carrying out some research with colleagues on the last Maharajah of the Punjab, Duleep Singh and his family in preparation for last year’s Diversity Week.
However, it wasn’t a member of the Duleep Singh family that caught my eye during our research.
We looked at a file relating to the Maharajah’s daughter, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and her involvement with the Suffragettes. This particular file contains police reports on ‘Black Friday’, 18 November 1910, when Suffragettes clashed violently with police in response to the apparent stalling of the Bill in Parliament which would have granted suffrage to women of the upper classes. One particular statement, given by disabled protestor Miss May Billinghust, describes the brutality and humiliation the protestors reported:
Welcome to day 2 of the blog! I have landed myself this illustrious spot thanks to Valentine’s Day and having stumbled upon something suitably soppy in the records. This unusual find is the perfect beginning to my blog, as the sheer variety of amazing things that are brought to the surface every day here could keep me talking forever!
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