I imagine the past couple of weeks have been pretty busy for the British Embassy to the Holy See, but they probably have nothing on 1978, otherwise known as the Year of Three Popes.
Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to step down as leader of the Roman Catholic Church – the first pope to abdicate in almost six centuries – opens the way for the unusual situation of two popes living in the Vatican at the same time.
In 1978, in the space of three tumultuous months between August and October, the Roman Catholic Church had no less than three different leaders: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II. I’ve been looking back through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) files from the period to see how British officials at the legation (as it was then) in Rome dealt with the fast-changing situation.
Poland's Cardinal Wojtyla became the third pope of 1978. (catalogue ref: FCO 33/3787)
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Mr Johnston's 'fantasy' map of Africa, showing his proposed British territorial claims in red (reference: FO 84/1750 f 54)
Some of The National Archives’ most interesting maps are not kept as separate flat, rolled or folded sheets, or even as part of atlases. Instead, they are to be found within boxes, files or volumes of official correspondence and other mainly textual records. Most such maps are not yet described individually in our online catalogue. Today’s blog post is about one of them.
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The recent passing of the eminent historian Professor Eric Hobsbawm precipitated a flurry of tributes acclaiming his qualities as a scholar and writer, as a literary and academic giant, and as an engaging conversationalist. And these tributes came from across the ideological divide, for it seems as though it is not possible to talk about Hobsbawm’s writing without talking about his Marxism. Indeed, when his own texts form a dialectic – from The Age of Revolution (1962) to The Age of Extremes (1994) – the political dimension of his view of history was never obviously repressed. A selection of files found amongst our records relating to Professor Hobsbawm show that the UK Government of the late 1960s found it difficult to look past his politics too.
'Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist philosopher and historian - FCO 61/581
April 1970 marked the centenary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, prime theorist behind the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 and first leader of the USSR in the early 1920s. Accordingly, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) decided to hold a symposium to celebrate his ‘great contribution to the development of education, science, and culture,’ to be held in Finland in April.
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As young children around the country write and draw about their holiday experiences, with concentrated stares and sticking-out tongues, I too reach to the what-I-did-on-my-holidays September staple.
General Map of Abyssinia - Africa Through a Lens (CO 1069/7/2)
Or, rather, I found inspiration from my recent trip to Ethiopia to take a look in some Foreign Office files relating to the country. My time there – alongside regular rainfall and cool temperatures (just like earlier in the summer here, really) – was dominated by the period of mourning following the passing of the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
One piece of information particularly interested me: that Meles attended the British-funded and -inspired General Wingate Secondary School just outside of Addis Ababa (which, incidentally, my father also attended, two years his senior). The school had been in somewhat of a decline but was rescued due to an injection of finances from the British Council in the early 1960s. Consequently, a number of records – mostly relating to the financing of the school – are available here at The National Archives, as a result of discussions between the British Council, the embassy, and the school itself. A quick search in Discovery provided an intriguingly titled record: ‘Wingate School, Addis Ababa: student disturbances following Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence’ (FO 1043/53).
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TS – Have you ever wondered what happened to those departments that suddenly disappeared years ago? Or perhaps you are trying to find out which department does what Department ‘X’ used to do?
'Foreign Affairs' Visualisation
We have produced the first of a series of visual representations of how government departments change over time to help you access our records and sate your curiosity.
Why is this necessary? Well, The National Archives looks after government departments’ historical records and provides access to them. Departments are created and abolished, and their functions transfer frequently between them. Many of these changes take place at seemingly random points.
Users of our records often need to have an understanding of what changes take place, when, in order to find what they want. We aim to produce accurate representations of this specialist knowledge online.
This information exists in Discovery and colleagues here at The National Archives have unique insights into this specialist area. We hope that visualising this in both a striking and accurate way will open up access to this knowledge still further.
Last year, we gathered data about changes to departments since 1997 to support our Semantic Knowledge Base project. Displaying this graphically is a whole different challenge.
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And so, England’s football team comes home. Sunday evening’s defeat in a penalty shootout at the European Championships in Ukraine followed a familiar trend where effort and determination were to the fore, but disappointment was the team’s ultimate reward. Out but not down; defeated but not beaten.
Kevin Keegan in the 1976 COI film, 'Children's Heroes'
At least, they were not beaten in the sense alleged by a previous England tour to Eastern Europe 38 years ago. Then, in June 1974, the team arrived in Belgrade from Sofia to play the Yugoslav side in a friendly (following a 1-1 draw with East Germany and a 1-0 victory over Bulgaria) but events at the airport – in what would become known as ‘the Keegan affair’ – led to some frantic diplomatic manoeuvring, the detail of which is available in a Foreign Office file available here at The National Archives (FCO 28/2657).
It’s strange and surprising what can influence record research. Last week I turned on the radio, and subsequently have had a lyric stuck in my head (‘Half of what I say is meaningless,’ as sung by John Lennon in The Beatles’ ‘Julia’). For no other reason, I decided to delve into one of the records The National Archives has relating to the most famous band the world has ever seen.
The Beatles in Japan - cover of despatch in FO 371/187127
A search on our new catalogue, Discovery, provides a number of results for The Beatles, but one in particular catches the eye: the Foreign Office record referring to the band’s 1966 trip to Tokyo (FO 371/187127).
The band arrived in Japan at the end of June 1966 on the back of a storm. Alongside the wild Beatlemania which had spread across the globe in previous years, a tropical storm delayed their arrival in Tokyo for several hours. The ‘Beatles typhoon’, as it was nicknamed, provides a neat metaphor for the band’s days in the city, as they arrived to perform five concerts in five days at the Budokan Arena.