Over the past year there has been a lot of interest in the papers of E D Morel (1873-1924), the human rights campaigner and journalist. Morel worked tirelessly against King Leopold’s rule of the Congo in the 1900s, and was a leading member of the Union of Democratic Control - a prominent peace group during the First World War and after.
One of the researchers consulting the Morel papers is Dean Pavlakis, who has kindly sent the following message for this blog:
Research for my PhD on the Congo reform movement brought me to the LSE archives in the autumn of 2009. I hope to show how the movement worked in practice and in what ways it really influenced events. I have used eight libraries in London and Oxford for this research, and archival collections at six of them. What a pleasure! The archives staff have been patient, helpful and invariably polite everywhere, and nowhere more so than at LSE.
Using the Morel collection was made easier when Nick White downloaded the catalog for me – a favor I have tried to repay by helping to improve the catalog itself. It turned out that annotating the catalog was a good way to take notes, especially for items that may be of interest later in my research.
This was my first foray into true archival research. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the variability in handwriting. I will never forgive Henry Richard Fox Bourne for his appalling handwriting, which cost me perhaps an additional week to decipher. I can’t imagine that the recipients of these letters had much of an idea of what he was writing about. Morel is almost as bad, but fortunately a much higher proportion of his letters were typed.
An unexpected benefit of using the LSE archives was meeting two other people with overlapping research interests. It did make me wonder if this kind of serendipity could be made more routine on these collections – perhaps by having a voluntary public log (on the blog-site?) where visiting scholars could note their research interests and thus make connections. A rolling log that dropped all entries older than, say, 2 years might be useful. I would sign it, though perhaps some may not want to.
I look forward to my return to LSE in the spring.
Adjunct Professor of History, Canisius College PhD candidate, SUNY at Buffalo