BOOK FOR THE GUIDED TOUR
Book for the guided tour As part of my portfolio of activities ['he hasn't got a proper job''>more... I lead historical study visits, in Britain and Europe, for continuing education departments and private organisations. On such tours the normal procedure is that I give guided tours of towns and cities, castles and cathedrals, monasteries and monuments. Usually, therefore, I am the dispenser of knowledge and wisdom, deciding on the routes to follow and the particular points of interest and importance to consider. For this reason it is interesting to me, as a practitioner, to be on the receiving end of guided tours in places where, for one reason or another, it isn't feasible for me to do it myself. I take a professional interest in the quality and quantity of information, the style of delivery, and the level of impromptu explanation or parrot-fashion recitation. Once, in Paris, a trip down the Seine on a batteau mouche was enlivened (made leaden, perhaps) by a desperately bad commentary from a professional guide, who helpfully pointed out Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower (just as well, for they are such unobtrusive and unmemorable buildings) and told us the weight of every bridge under which we passed. Though captivated by history, I could barely raise a flicker of interest on learning that the Pont Alexandre III weighs 3000 tonnes. Hoping that this was a purely Parisian quirk, we not long afterwards went on a guided tour of the chÃ¢teau of Monbazillac in the Dordogne. No bridges there … but instead we were told the weight of every wardrobe. C'est incroyable! In Poland the guided tours can be equally intriguing. A couple of years ago we were on a bus trip from Zakopane, in the mountains, en route to the Dunajec Gorge to go white-water rafting (no, don't even ask!). The tour guide told us genuinely interesting information about the landscape and local history, and then revealed that the house we were about to pass was 'where Norman Davies's first mother-in-law used to live'. That may not mean a great deal to some readers, but Norman Davies is a significant English historian and, far more important, is the leading historian of Poland. His magisterial works, translated into Polish, are now the standard history textbooks in Polish universities, an extraordinary honour for someone born in Bolton! So celebrated is he that even his ex-mother-in-law's former dwelling is deemed a tourist sight. It's hard to imagine that on your average coach tour of England. This summer my students and I had a guided tour of the royal palace in KrakÃ³w. The delightful girl who showed us round was hurried on by the grim-faced custodians, sour ladies who kept looking at their watches and turning lights out, so all we received was a torrent of names and dates. Heads began to spin with all the kings called Zygmunt or Jan, August or Kazimierz. The splendour of the building rushed past in a blur and we gladly escaped into the sunlit courtyard. In contrast, the equally enchanting young lady who showed us round the medieval buildings of the Collegium Maius, the heart of the Jagiellonian University, gave us all the time in the world, allowed us to ask any questions we wanted, replied with lengthy extempore answers, and was even gracious when, insufferably, I showed off my own trivial knowledge about arcane aspects of the building's history. Yes, I am a very bad example of the worst sort of person to have on a tour. In Britain things are no less unpredictable. The worst tour ever was in a castle in Pembrokeshire, where a national park guide showed us round and told us nothing except ludicrous ghost stories, improbable historical anecdotes which were demonstrably unfeasible in terms of dates and people, and made errors which all the students identified and responded to with a shuffling embarrassed silence. More recently, in a Scottish palace, the guide was excellent but assumed such a vast and intimate prior knowledge of the family that most students were left bemused and bewildered. At that place of enchantment, Culross on the shores of the Firth of Forth, the deeply-knowledgeable palace guide was herself researching aspects of the building's history, and was so warmly enthusiastic that everyone was full of praise. Here was no dry recitation, but a spontaneous and lively presentation. But for me the absolute winner, in many years of watching others in the trade, was the tour of a beautiful stately home in the Scottish Borders. It could have been so very dull ('This is a portrait of the 12th earl by an unknown artist. That is a table given to Lady Catherine in 1804 by the Marchioness of Morningside. Note the ormulu inlay. And that is a Japanese ginger jar of the Gong dynasty which was brought back by the 11th earl's heir, Lord Kenneth … ). But no, the lady in question (twelve years on, I remember her name: it was Heather) gave us a wonderful tour, because while she knew all those 'catalogue' facts, she was also the lady's maid to the current mistress. That in itself seemed like history, and it was fascinating: 'And that chair is where my lady often sits to have coffee in the evening', and 'my lady chose the pattern for those cushions because she felt that it would match ….', and 'my lady uses this room for …'. History and the present came together, and both came alive. There was just one defect in Heather's tour. She did not tell us what my lady weighed!
2005 AWARD WINNERS
Born in 1925, Brian Moody was impressed by his mother's ardent retelling of her part as a revolting peasant in the St Alban's Pageant of 1907 and, by the age of five, he was raking over Wheeler's spoil heaps at Verulamium. After education at St Alban's School and service in the army, he studied physics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1950 to 1983 he was a research scientist at United Glass and was editor of Glass Technology from 1984 to 1997. Though busy with scientific work, he maintained his interest in history, writing occasional papers dealing with pioneers in the development of glassmaking in England, including George Ravenscroft who is remembered as the inventor of English lead crystal in the 1670s. Brian also investigated the origins of ancient measures such as the 'reputed quart' used with wine bottles. Until 1965 Brian had been working and living in London but when United Glass posted him to a new technical centre in St Albans he was able to renew his childhood interests joining the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (SAHAAS) soon afterwards. In 1989 he became the Society's Honorary Secretary having been assured that very little work was involved. He doubted that claim, and was entirely right to do so. Founded in 1845, SAHAAS is still thriving today with over 500 members, many participating in local history and archaeological projects and with a programme of about 30 lectures a year. For the past 16 years Brian has played a large part in this success. SAHAAS has a long standing publication record and his research into the Society's history led to his book The Light of Other Days. Also he edited a book about the activities of eminent past members, A History in All Men's Lives, himself contributing an account of Sir John Evans, the renowned 19th century historian whose son, Sir Arthur Evans, conducted the excavations at Knossos. Brian has a deep knowledge of the historic city of St Albans, and fields many of the queries which arrive, both from this country and abroad, often making extensive investigations before replying. He actively supported a national campaign against deep ploughing on the Verulam estate that would have disturbed sites of historical and archaeological importance. The support he gathered from all parts of the world helped English Heritage secure an agreement to preserve the site. Memorials dating from World War I mounted on house walls are unique to St Albans and the citizens are justly proud of them. Two of these had been destroyed and Brian was prominent in organising their replacement. Before new stones could be engraved considerable research was needed to rediscover the names and history of the missing men. Brian Moody has been one of those who work in the background not pushing for credit, but SAHAAS members fully realise how fortunate their have been to benefit from his unpaid, but most efficient, services over the last 16 years. Now that he has retired as Hon Sec he intends to get down to some serious local history research. Having read his papers on the history of the glass industry I very much look forward to seeing the results.
WOMEN'S ARCHIVE OF WALES
Archif Menywod Cymru/Women's Archive of Wales was founded in 1997. The founders were aware that women's history in Wales was rather underdeveloped compared to other parts of the United Kingdom, so we needed to ensure that the sources for that history, documentary and material, were not lost to posterity. Our aims are: · Raising awareness of the history of women in Wales · Identifying, rescuing and preserving materials relevant to women's lives, past, present and future. · Making this resource available to present and future generations though exhibitions, publications and education. · Researching sources currently held in private and public collections, and producing a database. · Liaising with other women's archives in Britain and other countries, exchanging ideas and adopting principles of best practice, · Promoting Women's Archive of Wales as a national asset for Wales. When we set up the archive we had a number of examples in mind. Perhaps foremost was the Feminist Archive, now based in Bristol and Leeds, which had arisen directly out of the women's liberation movements of the 1970s, and the revival of women's and feminist history. The other example, close to home, was the South Wales Miners' Library and the Coalfield Collection, which had been created as a result of a research project in the 1970s, and a massive effort to rescue the records of the industry and its communities. We decided that we did not want to follow the example of the Feminist Archive, underfunded and poorly housed, splendid though its collections are, and dedicated and imaginative though its carers have been: historical materials need professional care and conservation, and must be accessible for research. We opted for what we think is the right solution for Wales: through our activities and publicity we raise awareness of the need to preserve women's records; we accept donations of records; and we deposit them in the most appropriate local county record office, or in the manuscript collections of the National Library of Wales for material of national significance. This means that material is professionally cared for in the right conditions, is catalogued and made available for research, without any additional cost to us. We have been very fortunate to have the cooperation of county archivists and the staff at the NLW from the beginning. Some idea of the variety of material we have 'rescued' or had donated can be found at our website, at www.womensarchivewales.org , by following theCollections link. AMC/WAW is now a registered charity, an all-Wales organisation, with a current membership of about 160, of individuals and organisations. It is entirely voluntary, with a committee, elected at the annual general meeting of members. The previous chair of the organisation, Professor Deirdre Beddoe, was elected as our first President at last year's AGM. Members and committee include professional historians and academics, archives, museum and library professionals, voluntary sector workers, students, teachers, and many others in all walks of life with an interest in our aims. We also have support from, and some members amongst, the members of the Welsh Assembly Government, the House of Commons and the European Parliament. Each year, we hold a half-day conference, or guest lecture, in association with our AGM, usually also accompanied by an exhibition relevant to the locality in which we hold the event. We began in 1998 by holding a conference and dinner to commemorate a Suffrage Victory Dinner held by Welsh suffragists in 1928. In 2001, we used the event to commemorate the march from Cardiff which set up the original Greenham Peace Camp, with a conference on peace movements in Wales. In 2003, we collaborated with the Women's Arts Association of Wales in an International Women's Day event in Cardiff, and with Honno: the Welsh Women's Press, for which we provided a half-day conference on women pioneers of the Labour movement in Wales, addressed by Glenys Kinnock MEP; and sponsored the launch of a collection of women's autobiographical writings. Last year, we collaborated successfully with Llafur: the Society for Welsh People's History, in an international conference at the University of Glamorgan, which addressed the issue of women's history and archives in the four nations of the British Isles. Our AGM and lecture this year will be held at the NLW, to draw attention to our deposit there of the papers of the novelist Menna Gallie, with an exhibition mounted by the library, a lecture by the eminent historian Prof. Angela V. John, and readings from the novels by the actress and translator Annest Wiliam, a cousin of Menna Gallie. More information on the website.Ursula Masson is senior lecturer in historical studies at the University of Glamorgan, and chair of the Women's Archive of Wales.
LOCAL HISTORY IS LIVING HISTORY
Many local history projects were launched in the late 1990's with the objective of producing a result for the Millennium. This was certainly the case in Ewelme, Oxfordshire where over 5 years a small group of us captured the memories of some of the local residents on tape. The rich contents of these tapes covered the period 1900-2000 and resulted in the production of a book, exhibition, maps in atlas and CDRom format, a tapestry kit, collection of photographs which were catalogued and scanned onto a disc, a beautiful ceramic tile frieze which still adorns the village hall wall and finally (once we had the funding) a video and CDRom. My contribution to the project was to assist with the book by collating much of the information in the transcripts from the oral tapes. Having worked all my life in libraries and being interested in people and history it was a project where some of the skills developed, as a librarian could be a useful background. Over the years it has been second nature to listen and learn from people, store away those chance remarks that may come to mind later from an encounter or conversation. This can lead to knowing who could be a useful contact and where a rich source of information might be found. Getting sidetracked is a hazard to be aware of, but still can be important because the information gleaned could be referred to later on. You will find that you gather far too much material and the real problems start with deciding what is relevant and what to discard. Having a good questionnaire provides the structure for the information, it gives you content and most importantly a time-span, however, as you read through the contributions you soon get repetition, contradiction and sometimes the memories are best left unrecorded! Recording individual memories is important, but so to is gathering the social history of the period you are covering. Sourcing and cataloguing are vital elements to be done as you go along and make life much easier for whoever is going to produce the final document. Being aware of possible funding opportunities is vital as there are bound to be costs involved, some of them quite large. Although your enthusiastic team is giving their time for nothing they will also need to be reimbursed for expenses, so good fund raising ideas are called for. It is also useful to come under the wing of your Local History Group as publicity and the opportunity to report on recent developments and pleas for more information on a particular topic can be all important. I am now living in Dorchester on Thames and this attractive village with its historic Abbey and Museum receives visitors from all over the world. Much has been written about the past history but we are beginning to build up the archive of the 20th century before memories fade. Each day brings in new information to be stored in its rightful place. Visitors come wishing to trace their family history. Every community has residents with skills that need to be drawn on to capture the times. Individuals will have recollections on specific topics e.g. the local school, churches, shops etc. Even the history of a particular house or building can be a worthwhile and rewarding project. It took 6 years to produce what we did for the Ewelme Millennium Project, the video and book have produced even more information from former residents and resulted in another headache as to where to store it all. The Dorchester on Thames material is accumulating and I have enrolled on an evening class, which covers the local history of our next-door village,Warborough. It is yet another opportunity to pick up tips and ideas for further exploration of a rich local heritage. Local history is indeed living history because it never stops.
BRITISH POSTAL MUSEUM AND ARCHIVE
The Royal Mail service has been an integral part of our lives for nearly 400 years. Since King Charles I made his own postal system available to the public in 1635, the Post Office has been through numerous stages of innovation and development, constantly finding new ways to help people communicate. The objects and documents that tell this fascinating story are held by The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA). Established as an independent charitable trust last year, the BPMA was given the collections of the former National Postal Museum (which closed in 1998), and The Royal Mail Archive. The history of the postal service is a wonderful resource as it provides a different way of looking at all aspects of British history over the last four centuries. The monarchy, the Second World War and the Olympics have all been immortalised on stamps, and staff records and magazines reveal a great deal about working conditions and local post offices all over the country. Today the museum collections are housed in a Store in Debden, Essex, which is open to the public on selected Saturdays throughout the year. The store contains several thousand unique objects from Rowland Hill's desk to Postman Pat's van, and from mobile post offices to 1960s motorbikes, along with an astounding assortment of letter boxes. The objects also reveal the behind-the-scenes nitty-gritty of mail sorting and delivery. The Royal Mail Archive Search Room is open to the public to use and enjoy. The Archive contains business files relating to all aspects of the General Post Office and Royal Mail including staff records, maps, posters, artwork and photographs, as well as the world's most comprehensive collection of British postal history. It is an internationally important resource for social – and postal – history. As at one time the General Post Office was the largest employer in the country, it is no surprise that a large portion of visitors are family historians. However the Archive is also an essential resource for academics, local historians, design students, philatelists and Royal Mail employees. The Search Room contains a small exhibition area for the philatelic collection. Earlier this year The Victorian Era of British Stamps, told the story of British stamps in the nineteenth century from the Penny Black in 1840, to the 'Jubilee' issue from 1887. Queen Victoria had reigned for just three years when her head appeared on the world's first stamp: the Penny Black. The display was based on part of the world-famous RM Phillips collection, an internationally important collection of stamps and postal history dating from Victorian times. The current exhibition, which runs until April 2006, isVictorian Innovation looking at improvements in the postal service during Queen Victoria's reign. There are three themes - The Postage Stamp, Postal Innovations, and Revolutions in Postal Transport. The BPMA wants to make postal history accessible to the widest possible audience, and is reaching out with an annual programme of varied special events. So far this year the public have enjoyed a film screening and music concert at the Royal College of Music, a special lecture about the World War II Enigma machine, preservation workshops and much more. One of the highlights of the events programme for this year is the Autumn Lecture Series. Starting in September, a series of experts have been presenting free evening lectures about key aspects of postal heritage. These include the postal service from 1100 to 1635 (27 September), and the Mail Coach Era (18 October). On 15 November, the celebrated artist David Gentleman spoke about stamp design. He has had over 100 stamps issued, visualising themes from social reform to swans, and this was a very exciting opportunity to hear about his work. The Royal Mail Archive is located at Freeling House, Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DL. It is open to the public Monday – Friday, from 10am – 5pm, and until 7pm on Thursdays. For more information on exhibitions and events, including Museum Store Open Days, and visiting the Archive, call 020 7239 2570, or log on to www.postalheritage.org.uk Emma Roberts is Marketing Officer in the Learning and Outreach team for the British Postal Museum and Archive
HAVE YOU HEARD OF ALHT?
The ALHT? Have you heard of the ALHT? I first came across the Association of Local History Tutors when, having finished my Master of Studies (part time M Phil) at Cambridge, I was asked by the course tutor Dr Evelyn Lord to give a talk, not about my thesis, but about a group of amateur landscape historians to which I belonged who were endeavouring to uncover the origins of the village of Thriplow in south Cambridgeshire. I described how we had worked with schools and other groups to tell them about our discoveries. I thoroughly enjoyed giving the talk and it eventually led to the work of the group being put on the BBC History website. The ALHT were having their annual conference that year at Madingley Hall, home of the Institute of Continuing Education of the University of Cambridge. Among the other subjects I remember was a fascinating talk about the origins of Letchworth Garden City followed by a visit there. This year, 2005, the Conference was held at Swindon, the once great railway centre dominated by the personality of Isambard Brunel, and the activities took place in the former GWR site, a huge area covered with railway lines and enormous workshops and engineering buildings. Brunel also built houses, a hospital, and pubs for his workers (who at one time numbered 14,000). Some of the workshops had been converted into a retail outlet, and others were occupied by the National Monuments Record (NMR), the archive of English Heritage, an amazing place, home to thousands of aerial and other photographs. The National Trust is also moving shortly to the site and there is still plenty of room. The organizer of the conference was Jane Golding of English Heritage and the theme of the conference was 'Building Communities'. She gave the first talk about a project undertaken to record the living history of those who lived in the community built originally for the railway workers. She was followed by Sharon Lambert, who had single-handedly started a project to record the memories of those living on her estate in Lancaster, a working class district with a bad reputation among those who knew nothing of the people who lived there. It took time and perseverance, but the classes Sharon started are now in their fifth year and flourishing. From the most unpromising material had come a book and more importantly a sense of community and self worth which at first glance would have seemed impossible.* A talk by Audrey Linkman on teasing out the meaning behind Victorian photographs of people was fascinating and thought-provoking. I shall never look at those old sepia pictures of stately ladies and ramrod gentlemen in the same way again. And did you know that photographs of fisher girls at Yarmouth were the pin-ups of the day? The conducted tour, a regular feature of these conferences, was of the GWR works and the pin-neat cottages that had housed the railway workers. The visit was ably led by Keith Falconer of English Heritage. The last morning was a wonderful hands-on time playing with camcorders, learning to interview people and edit film and interactive whiteboards, and ending up with time spent in the archives of the NMR searching out photos and records. English Heritage were extremely generous with their time, especially as the last morning was a Sunday and Jane and her staff were still there to help us. For me, coming from a small rural village and knowing little of urban history, the lectures were an eye-opener yet entirely relevant. The techniques used to interview and tease out the history of town-based communities can be used just as well in smaller rural areas; the aspirations and experiences of all humans being basically the same. You do not have to be a teacher of local history to belong to the ALHT, only interested and curious about the people around you. For the very reasonable sum of £8 a year, why not join? Next year we are meeting in King's Lynn - what a wonderful opportunity! See you then. Useful addresses, ALHT – Dr Alan Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org National Monument Record – www.english-heritage.org.uk/viewfinder * see The Local Historian Vol 34 No 1 Feb 2004
HISTORY WRIT LARGE
Members of BALH will not need to be reminded of the value, validity and vision of learning history. The Government, I fear, is less aware of the subject's educative contribution. The Government again is currently engaged in reviewing secondary school provision in the nationlal curriculum - the primary years are sure to follow. I will look just at those primary years and the situtaion as it now stands. It is not good. At present narrow interpretations of literacy and numeracy, excluding history, have come to dominate primary schools' curricula, a result of intense pressures upon schools to achieve large 'improvements' in measurable test scores in English, maths and, to a lesser extent, science. There is a real dilema here, and BALH members should press for a new curriculum that recognises the real benefits of studying history at all ages. If gains (and some dispute the extent of the gains, but that is another story) in literacy merely results in young adults studying lottery tickets more effectively, then we should be alarmed. Surely, some BALH members will say, pupils will study history in secondary schools. That too is another story, but eleven years of age onwards is too late. People profit from learning history throughout their lives - BALH is a testament to that. If the Government cannot or will not design a sustainable history curriculum in the primary years then the Disney corporation and others will offer an informal equivalent. A programme of primary history, local and national, will offer roots and identities not least through local and family history, will engage choice and active citizenship, will promote an understanding and care for the historic environment often through fieldwork in rural and urban environments, and will give children a sense of locality, region and nation. It will of course develop skills and ideas - not least in literacy. I hope BALH members will support, lobby and cajole to ensure that the Govenment offers a real history programme for young children to practice literacy and social skills in the firm context of historical learning.Roy Hughes teaches history and education and the University of Leeds and is a member of the BALH Development Committee.
'HELPERS' WEBSITE INTERFACE
Local historians are used to using public libraries for their research, but how many venture into university libraries? The Helpers web interface (http://helpers.shl.lon.ac.uk), recently launched by Senate House Library, University of London is specially designed to assist local and family historians with their research, and has been funded as part of the Accessing our Archival and Manuscript Heritage project by the former Electronic Access to Resources in Libraries (EARL) Consortium of Public Libraries and the Laser Foundation ((http://www.bl.uk/concord/laser-about.html). The Helpers (Higher Education Libraries in your PERsonal history reSearch) web interface currently offers local and family historians over 50 description of archival and manuscript collections in the University of London and is a growing resource. Unlike standard descriptions, these illustrate the particular value of these collections for local and family history research. Many also offer digitised exemplars from the collections described. Helpers descriptions therefore complement the descriptions of archival holdings published on AIM25 (www.aim25.ac.uk) and A2A (http://www.a2a.org.uk/) with practical suggestions and tips. Researchers can post their own comments about collections, so that in time a strongly-evidenced knowledge base will be available to all users. Helpers will be particularly interesting to local and family historians who are looking for fresh resources and leads. Higher Education libraries and archives might be daunting, so further features of the web interface include tutorials covering subjects such as 'How to email an archivist' and 'Defining your research question', a glossary of technical terms such as 'provenance' and 'palaeography' and links to useful sites such as a selection of online archives. To help researchers make the most of Helpers, a special introductory seminar has been arranged. The seminar is entirely free of charge and will be held on Friday 9 December 2005, 15h00-17h00, at Senate House Library, University of London. The programme will include: · Helpers – what's in it for family and local historians? · Presentations on archival and manuscript collections featured in Helpers · An introductory tour to Senate House Library, its collections and reading rooms, especially Special Collections As places are limited, you are encouraged to make a reservation as soon as possible and not later than 30 November 2005. To make your reservation or to request further information on the project, please contact: Tom Boyd Senate House Library University of London Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU Telephone 020 7862 8477 Fax 020 7862 8480 Email email@example.com
BEING A DISTANCE-LEARNING STUDENT
Above all, this is a course to be enjoyed. In her letter of welcome, the Course Director expresses the hope that the course will “offer the thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of understanding", and in respect of my own experience her hope was amply rewarded. For me, the course furnished me with four key opportunities. Firstly, I had the opportunity to reflect upon my own professional practice as an historian, and to engage with those areas of the discipline which had, in the ordinary run of life, passed me by. Secondly, I was introduced to a wonderful range of materials which, while of great intrinsic interest, were valuable examples of their type. Engaging with them forced me to see what I could do with them – what questions I could use them to help me answer. Thirdly, I learned how I could harness the power of the computer, specifically in the areas of statistical analysis, and of data organization and manipulation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I became part of a community of historians – my fellow students, my tutors and the support staff at Oxford. The course, of one academic year, is divided into two modules, from September to February and February to July. Each module is divided into ten fortnightly units, with each unit comprising several sessions, subdivided into sections. A section might be a topic to prepare, ponder and discuss in one of the electronic forums, or a practical exercise, or some background material. It follows that to engage effectively with the course and derive maximum benefit you need to be on the computer practically daily, and this is simply to work through the units, let alone the time you spend taking part in discussions, checking or contributing to the bulletin boards and completing one of the seven assignments. But let's get real here: this course will give you sixty CATS points: it is equivalent to half of the final year of a degree course, so, clearly, it is going to be time-consuming and it wouldn't be worth doing if it weren't! As well as all the information given throughout the course, there is a cd-rom of course resources, which includes required reading and collections of primary source material, including a complete database for the study of seventeenth-century Thame and a collection of documents from seventeenth-century Woodstock. There is also a pre-course reading list, and it is a good idea to get into the habit of reading and reflecting on local history in the months preceding the start of the course. In the first module, the topics covered include a thorough and serious consideration of what it is that the study of local history seeks to explain, and how local history has evolved from the time of the earliest writers to those of today. The whole gamut of resources from parish registers and lay subsidies, to wills and probate inventories, to directories, maps, census returns and poll books are examined, as are diaries, letters and memoirs, and the evidence of buildings. It's worth pointing out that the period under review is from the late fifteenth/early sixteenth century to the present day, primarily because the resources available to discuss the questions and issues in local history, and to practise the methods pertinent to those questions, are mainly confined to the early modern period onwards. Hence, neither Latin nor palaeographical skills are required, although opportunities are there if anyone wishes to practise reading secretary hand. Also in the first module there is an introduction to quantitative methods, using spreadsheets. In Module 2, the introduction to databases is through interrogating ready-made databases, so that when the student has to compile their own databases, they know to how to design it to facilitate interrogation. No prior knowledge of Excel nor Access are required: the instruction begins literally with opening the applications. The training takes the student beyond ECDL standard (Syllabus 4), but not as far as A-Level Computing: interrogation and manipulation of the data is done with the packages' own tools rather than with SQL (Structured Query Language). What is it like being an electronic student? Very straightforward. The units are published fortnightly, and you log onto the website and download the course material just like any other Internet resource. Once published the resources remain on the website for the duration of the course (indeed, for some weeks afterwards) and you may retain them for the objectives of the course. You don't need a fancy computer: mine is five years old, and has disk drives from the local recycling facility. You do need at least Excel and Access 97, because the training is tailored to these and later versions. There can be odd snags, peculiar to ICT, on the way – such as, in my case the demise of a power supply unit hours my first assignment was due, and, later, an ongoing battle with spyware. At times I felt like a knight in armour wrestling a monster in an Arthur Rackham wood engraving, but I made it unscathed to the end of the course. We were given anti-virus software, although from 2005 students will be referred to the excellent free version of AVG from Grisoft. In conjunction with a personal firewall such as that from Sygate this program should be safeguard enough from malware. Can you do the course on a Macintosh? Yes, if you have either PC emulation software or versions of the Microsoft packages designed for the Macintosh platform, but there is technical support only for Windows. What far outweighed these tribulations was the contact with students and teachers. You think, doing a distance-learning course, that you will be isolated, but the truth is very different. We had weekly seminars through the mechanism of a chatroom: slightly odd, because of the time taken to respond to a question or comment through the keyboard. So conversations were at one or more removes from the initial query. We didn't use txtspk, which kept discourses intelligible. In addition to the seminars we had bulletin boards on which we could post queries and get answers. The bulletin boards were there to post useful references, links we'd discovered, resources we'd created or just useful advice for colleagues. Participation in these systems is encouraged, and can be taken into consideration when final award grades are being determined. And so we come to the assignments, each counting one-eighth towards the award except for the last, which counted for a quarter. These are your opportunity to engage with the material at your disposal, which, in the later stages, can include resources from your own research interests, and you are given the chance to showcase your skills. Broadly speaking, you are required to produce pieces of about 2000 words, except for the final piece, which is 5000 words. If this seems daunting, you are given lots of written advice on how to construct a piece of extended prose, there is plenty of opportunity to raise concerns on the bulletin boards or in the seminars, and your tutor will advise you while planning and writing, and give you detailed feedback when the assignment is marked and returned. Except in the assignments which are database planning exercises, you are writing “as if" for a local history journal, with one key difference. For the later assignments in each module you have to couch your title in the form of a question, and this is to ensure that your assignment will analyze and explain, not simply narrate or describe. My assignments included examinations of incomers and natives in mid-nineteenth century Ashford, the leading families of nineteenth-century Cumnor as agents of social mobility, identification of seventeenth-century Woodstock's core community, and, finally the respective contributions of the Salisbury Vocal Union and the Salisbury Philharmonic Society to the social and cultural life of late Victorian Salisbury. And now the course is over and I have heard I have passed, where do I stand, and what is the legacy of my year's study? The course has given me a clearly-defined space wherein I have been able to 'do history', and in many ways this has been a refuge and a source of self-assurance at a time when my circumstances have been trying in the extreme. I have a whole raft of projects to which my new-found skills will lend themselves, and these are in the fields both of history and the organization of information. As I had hoped when I embarked on the course, it has given me a firm foundation for further study at postgraduate level, should the opportunity arise … or I could even work towards the other five-sixths of that first degree! Would I do the course if I had my time over again? You bet I would! And would I recommend it to others? I lose no opportunity, and for further information, you should visit www.conted.ox.ac.uk/localhistory. The invitation for applications for the 2006 entry will open from the end of November this year. Bruce Purvis is Local Studies Librarian in Salisbury. His article on the Salisbury Philharmonic Society can be found in Sarum Chronicle 5 (from Hobnob Press, PO Box 1838 East Knoyle SP3 6FA)
CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
Apprenticing in a Market Town. The Story of William Harding's Charity, Aylesbury 1719 – 2000 Hugh Hanley Phillimore & Co Ltd 2005 ISBN 1 86077 324 9 £19.95 William Harding, a yeoman of Aylesbury, was a life-long batchelor. When he died in 1720 he endowed a new charity which was to be funded from a house and land in Aylesbury and other properties in the area. These would come to the trustees after the death of Harding's widowed sister-in-law Sarah who was left a life interest in his estate. Unknown to Harding shortly before he died Sarah had made a secret marriage to a bankrupt, and once Harding's will was proved the creditors descended. It was only after lengthy negotiations and the signing of a deed for the Commissioners of Bankruptcies that the trustees were able to distance themselves from the financial muddle. The first trustees were Harding's 'well-beloved friends'. They were charged with raising a sum of 40s annually to buy coats for the poor men and women of the liberty of Walton in the parish of Aylesbury to be distributed on 21 December each year, and putting out poor boys and girls of Aylesbury and Walton to be apprenticed. The trustees went into action in November 1720, buying coats for one poor man and one poor woman. Children were apprenticed in Aylesbury and London for the next two decades. In 1754 John Wilkes became one of the charity's trustees. When he fled abroad after expulsion from the House of Commons for seditious libel it was found that the £250 given to him to invest for the charity had disappeared. Further litigation and confusion followed, but the charity extracted itself and continued to apprentice children into the 20th century. By the 1970s apprenticeship schemes were in abeyance, but the land the charity owned had increased in value. The aims of the charity were altered so that it can now give generous grants to local schools and other local educational projects which now carry on the aims of William Harding who in the 18th century wished to help young people by starting to improve their chances in his home town. After beginning with a biography of William Harding and his family, eight of the twelve chapters in this book examine how the charity operated to carry out its objectives, throwing light on the economic and social issues that arose over the centuries. The methods used and the problems faced were common to similar philanthropic organisations in other parts of the country. The book was commissioned by the trustees of the charity when no one nominated William Harding as one of 'Aylesbury's most famous citizens' in a recent poll. It makes great strides towards rectifying this omission.
Preparing some reading lists for students, and typing out the titles of articles and books, I noted (not for the first time) the Strange Tendency of Some People to Use Capitals On Every Possible Occasion. I don't understand why words which would never be capitalised in normal circumstances acquire them when they appear in a book or article title. Sharp-eyed readers of The Local Historianwill have observed that I ruthlessly eliminate such intrusions, so that we have, for example, 'Making sense of the censarii: licensed traders in medieval sources', rather than 'Making Sense of the Censarii: Licensed Traders in Medieval Sources'. It's a matter of personal taste, of course, but all those superfluous capitals really irritate me these days, and I reserve my special grumpy-old-man ire for their use in little and trivial words … 'Henry Pilkington and His Contribution to The Retail Development of Much Binding In The Marsh'. Humph! Ridiculous! So, I plead for a less liberal and more appropriate use of capitals in the book, article and chapter titles. The real problem with capitals, though, is the bitter subject of when they should, or should not, be used in the text itself. Here my editorial pen is oft-wielded though, I confess, not always with complete consistency, and the howls of outrage can be heard up and down the land. In the past it was very common to capitalise almost any noun, whether proper or ordinary. Thus, to use the form 'king', or 'queen' was considered well-nigh impertinent ('To The Tower with Him: Off with His Head'). Only 'King', and 'Queen' would be deemed sufficiently respectful. This tradition fell out of favour in the 1960s, when a more minimalist use of capitals became a sign of modernism, a break from that Old Style which had served our Forebears well for Several Centuries. Now it can even be parodied, for numerous capitals are a defining 'joke' characteristic of Olde Worlde Writing, but even today the style maintains a tenacious and stubborn existence. In a book about road-building which I am currently reviewing, a host of ordinary nouns receive capital treatment: Region, Port, Bypass, Bridge, Contractor, Engineer, Resident Engineer, Boulder Clay and so on. But the list is notably inconsistent for, although Boulder Clay is so honoured, sand, silt, shale, gritstone, limestone aggregate and reinforced concrete are treated with lower-case contempt. Why, in so many books and articles, are the Home Secretary and Prime Minister given the upper-case form, yet Ratcatcher or Street Cleansing Operative or Junior Clerk are apparently unworthy of this cachet? Methinks a certain elitism is involved. Further problems are caused by institutions and organisations. 'Lancashire County Council' is unexceptionable with capitals, but I use always the lower case in phrases such as 'he was a member of the county council'. This is strongly opposed by some readers and authors, but I am Steadfast in my Resolve. It is possible to turn to the various guides and concordances to the English language, which tell us exactly what is deemed to be proper or inappropriate, but they, too, may be merely subjective. These rules were not formed in the dim distance of antiquity, created by some higher and unimpeachable authority and passed down from Sinai. They were largely invented as formal rules by a pedantic few in the century from 1760 (read Jane Austen for her erratic spelling, split infinitives and other heinous sins, as well as her wonderful writing). And there will always be knotty and unresolvable problems: I can write about 'highway laws' or 'libel laws', but if I write about 'poor laws' I run the serious risk of being misunderstood. Still, trying to keep track of all this does at least mean that the Editor earns his Keep!
NEWS FROM SOCIETIES, ARCHIVES, LIBRARIES, MUSEUMS
Launched last month was a new suite of online services managed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. 'Enquire, Discover and Read' is available through the People's Network 24/7 (that's what the press release says) to help answer any question, guide you through the web, and explore books and reading online. 'Enquire' gives access round the clock via live chat link or email to library and information staff; 'Discover' helps people find their way through the online world, bringing together a rich range of resources, from news items to website links to collections in libraries, museums and archives; and 'Read' gives access to a range of online service related to books and reading, including a new service called reader2reader.Book a computer in your public library or log-on at home to explore. www.peoplesnetwork.gov.uk www.reader2reader.net www.mla.gov.uk Camden Local Studies Librarian Mark Aston has researched and organised an exhibition on 'Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Hampstead, Holborn and St Pancras' at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, until 14 January 2006. The area's felonious history is chronicled with an assortment of well-known and less high profile crimes spanning a period of 350 years up to 1855. Mark has also written a book of over fifty of Camden's foulest deeds and suspicious deaths which is published this month. www.Camden.gov.uk/localstudies 020 7974 6342Scottish Local History, issue 64 Summer 2005 contains an article by Alex Tyrrell on the pioneering work of Samuel Brown and Itinerating Libraries. '..it was a sign of their comparatively high educational level that Scots were well to the fore in attempts to create a reading population'. Samuel Brown's scheme for creating itinerating libraries, often described as the East Lothian or Haddington experiment, was influenced by two powerful intellectual forces of his day, evangelical religion and the Enlightenment. He devised a system of free public libraries for his own county, and then worked to extend it throughout Scotland, the rest of the British Isles, and beyond. Books were supplied in groups, kept in one area for two years, then exchanged with another set. Lockable boxes with shelves served for transport and book cases. Ships in the port of North Berwick, and prisoners in Haddington jail were also supplied with books. www.slhf.gcal.ac.uk The East Dunbartonshire Home Front Project is looking for memories, photographs, documents and artefacts that tell the story of the people in the district during the Second World War. Anyone who lived in Kirkintilloch, Bishopbriggs, Campsie, Baldernock, Bearsden, Milngavie, or Lenzie please contact Information and Archives, William Patrick Library, West High Street, Kirkintilloch G66 1AD email firstname.lastname@example.org The current exhibition atThe Women's Library, which runs until 26 August 2006, is entitled 'What Women Want'. Freedom, equality, security, adventure, domestic bliss – and more – this exhibition addresses what women have fought for and longed for, past and present, drawing on its unique collections, including photographs, banners, books and magazines, t-shirts, posters and much more. The aim is for the exhibition to keep growing with ideas as the months pass, so everyone is invited to add their views, and to visit more than once! www.thewomenslibrary.ac.uk 020 7320 2222. After 105 years Gloucestershire Collection Local Studies Library is moving across Gloucester city to join the County Record Office. The Collection will close on Saturday 3 December, and reopen in the third week of December with a restricted service. Further details will be announced in due course. Staff are looking forward to offering an enhanced service with the combined resources of both institutions. The six local studies collections located around the county at various libraries will not be affected by this move.www.gloucestershire.gov.uk 01452 426979