Posts Tagged ‘Social history’

Browsing Booth

December 20th, 2013 by Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant

The catalogue for the Booth collection is now available on the Archives online catalogue. It has long been available to search via the Booth Online Archive, but is now available to browse and view in its full hierarchical structure on the Archives catalogue.

Charles Booth undertook a survey into the life and labour of the people of London, the work for which started in 1886 and took until 1903, culminating in the publication of 17 volumes of results. The Booth collection held at LSE Archives & Special Collections contains the original survey materials, including the “poverty maps” and survey notebooks.


Booth Poverty Map, Sheet 6 (BOOTH/E/1/6)

There were three focus areas of the investigation: poverty, industry and religious influences. The team of investigators, which included Beatrice Potter (later Webb) and Clara Collett, interviewed School Board visitors, employers, trades union leaders and ministers. The collection also contains questionnaires returned by employers and reports on visits to churches.

The collection is a wealth of information on the life and work of London’s inhabitants at the end of the Victorian era. It is a popular resource for family history researchers whose ancestors lived and worked in the industries and geographical areas covered by the survey. The poverty maps have been featured in the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ series, most recently with Strictly Come Dancing’s Len Goodman discovering the poverty his Bethnal Green ancestors would have lived in. Other interesting sources of information in the collection include the police notebooks, which contain reports of investigators’ walks with policemen around their beats and interviews with the policemen about the locations in which they work. They paint a vivid picture of life and conditions of the time:

Again south & into Albion Square. Good 2 1/2 storied houses round it, but a very badly kept square. No gates, no flowers, only mud heaps & trenches dug by street boys who were playing in them. 40 or 50 year old trees, remnants of former care, & a dilapidated iron railing round were the only things to show it had once been cared for.

- George H. Duckworth, Walk with Inspector James Flanagan, District 13 (South Hackney and Hackney), 2nd September 1897, BOOTH/B/347.

The collection is also used by academic researchers studying the social, economic and industrial history of the period, or the research methods used to collect data, as well as geographers interested in the classification scheme used to describe the social status of particular streets.

A browse of the catalogue is as rewarding as searching for something (a street, a name, a business) so please do go and have a look and see what you can discover. Click on the + symbols to expand the hierarchy for each series and then click on the file titles to view catalogue records for each file.

The police notebooks, Stepney Union casebooks and some material relating to the Jewish community have been digitised and are available here: police notebooks, Stepney Union casebooks/Jewish material. The 12 maps descriptive of poverty have been digitised and are available to browse and search.

This will be the last blog post from me as I am leaving LSE Library today. I do hope my posts have been interesting and informative to read. Have a merry Christmas everyone!

‘Frances Margaret Taylor, a pioneering nurse in Camden’: help from the Charles Booth archives

March 15th, 2013 by Nick White, Assistant Archivist

Paul Shaw (SMG Central Archivist, St Mary’s Convent, Brentford) has kindly written a blog post on his experiences of using Charles Booth’s notebooks for his researches into the history of the Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God. The notebooks were created during Booth’s fifteen-year study into poverty in London which was eventually published in 17 volumes in 1902 as, ’Life and Labour of the People in London.’ The notebooks can be accessed via the LSE Archives reading room and more information about the survey is available on the Charles Booth Online Archive. Paul writes:

In December 2012 I had the pleasure and privilege of delivering a presentation at Holborn Central Library on the Theobalds Road, in the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, at the invitation of the archivist, Mr Tudor Allen. My subject was Frances Margaret Taylor (1832-1900) (shown below), a Roman Catholic Religious Sister, who founded an order of nuns in London in 1872 to work with the London poor, the ‘Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God’.

Frances Margaret Taylor

Painting of Frances Margaret Taylor portrayed as a nurse during the Crimean War, c.1855. Reproduced courtesy of the Generalate of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God.

As the central archivist for the congregation, I frequently give talks and presentations on the history of the organisation, and on the archive collections, and there is particular interest in the founder. By any measure, Mother Magdalen Taylor (as she was known in religion) had a remarkable life and career: she served as a volunteer nurse during the Crimean War, where she converted to Roman Catholicism; she was also prominent in Catholic writing and journalism, authoring one of the standard first-hand accounts of Crimean nursing.

On her return to London, she took up work to help the poor of London. She had a particular concern for the many Irish Catholic labouring families, who often struggled with the instability of the London labour market and the high rents in central London, and the Catholic inmates of the workhouses. Along with her friend and mentor, Cardinal H E Manning, who was noted for his opposition to the orthodox ‘laisser-faire’ economic nostrums of the day, she sought to assist the Catholic poor and to campaign, through her journalism, for their rights to be recognised. She had a particular concern for women’s employment; as the historian David R Green has noted, in his study of the notorious St Giles Rookery, poor labouring women had many less sources of employment than their male counterparts, and could frequently be forced into prostitution. Following the establishment of Frances Taylor’s religious order, the work of her Sisters was focused upon the worst slums of central London, mainly in the area around St Giles and Soho, on the borders of the present-day Boroughs of Westminster and Camden, where she worked with the parish priests of a number of Catholic Missions.

We are very fortunate that a substantial amount of material survives in the archives of the congregation in Brentford relating to this work, including photographs of some of the early convents and Sisters; detailed printed reports published by the Sisters to publicise their work (below); internal accounts and statistical analyses of the work; and correspondence both internal and with priests and others (a summary of the content and work of the archive appeared in ARC – Archives, Records Management & Conservation, August 2007).

Cover of the "Report of the work done in some of the poorest missions of London", 1897. Illustration reproduced courtesy of the Generalate of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God.

Cover of the "Report of the work done in some of the poorest missions of London", 1879. Illustration reproduced courtesy of the Generalate of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God.

Increasingly, academic researchers are taking great interest in the expanding work of religious sisters at this time, but nonetheless useful references to their work outside of contemporary Catholic publications and convent archives can be difficult to find. I was very pleased, therefore, to take the advice of Nick White, one of the LSE archivists, that the Booth poverty maps and the archive of Booth and his surveyors might provide useful material for my talk, and perhaps for future presentations and papers. This indeed proved to be the case, and information available on the LSE Library website greatly assisted me in identifying relevant material.

In addition to using slides of the Booth poverty maps (1889 edition) from Camden archives in my power point presentation, I quoted from an account by Canon Vere, parish priest of St Patrick’s Church in Soho Square, who noted that 8 or 10 of the nuns ‘Poor Sisters of the Mother of God’ [sic] worked in the parish and ‘a larger house is being taken for their accommodation’ (BOOTH/B/210) This was the convent in which Frances Taylor died in June, 1900. The error in the title of the order is typical: but the Booth surveyors did better than the census enumerators who usually simply described any Catholic or Anglican Religious Sisters as ‘Sisters of Mercy’ or ‘Sisters of Charity’! The account by Fr Vere, dating from 1898, also gives fascinating accounts of the social conditions and cultural outlook of the poor in the Soho area, which is often lacking from internal convent archives, and which greatly helps in providing context to the Sisters’ work. I also ‘sampled’ some of the ‘police’ notebooks describing the very streets in which the Sisters worked, a fascinating and slightly eerie experience (eg BOOTH/B/354).

It is clear, particularly from Canon Vere’s account, that the experience of the poor in central London was in fact changing at this period, and that the improvements introduced by the metropolitan authorities at the period was greatly improving housing conditions, whilst at the same time leading to a further increase in rents. This perfectly coincides with the experience of the Sisters at this time, who were often forced to move out of properties in poor neighbourhoods of London, due partly to demolition and urban improvements, but who found it very difficult to find further properties amongst the poor which they could afford to rent! My use of the Booth notebooks has shown generally how they may be used in conjunction with the archives of religious orders working with the poor to cast light upon the circumstances in which they worked, and the problems of the labouring poor in central London which they were attempting to mitigate.

Touching the Past – Women’s History in Archives

March 13th, 2013 by Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant

Student in the Library, 1981 (IMAGELIBRARY/524)

Yesterday saw us attending ‘Working with the Past’, a panel discussion organised by the Equality & Diversity department in conjunction with ourselves and the Gender Institute that explored the use of archives in studying women’s history. The panel was chaired by Professor Mary Evans and the speakers were Professor Sally Alexander, Dr. Kate Murphy and Professor Barbara Bush.

Sally talked about Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement, housed at the British Library, and her experiences both using an archive and being part of an archive. Sally was interviewed for the project and has also deposited her archive papers at The Women’s Library. She talked about how she went into the interview with a clear idea of what she was going to say, but also what she was not going to say, but that it all went out of the window in the face of the very skilled interviewer, to whom she found herself opening up and revealing information she hadn’t imagined she would.

Student in the old library, history reading room, 1964 (IMAGELIBRARY/139)

Kate related her experiences using archives and how they changed her life, with her interest in women’s history and the discoveries she made in archives like those of the BBC and The Women’s Library inspiring her to do a PhD. Kate also told us about her advocacy of The Women’s Library and women’s history, being very proud that she was able to highlight the stories of inspiring women as producer of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. ‘The Long March to Equality’ exhibition that has just closed was curated by Kate and she talked about having to choose the “treasures” that would be featured in it from all the brilliant items that are house in the collections.

Barbara told us about her quest to discover the invisible slave woman through archival research and talked about how historians are so often preoccupied with official records, which cover only a very small part of the history of communities. She also talked about her use of the archives at LSE, those of Audrey Richards and Phyllis Kaberry and the changing face of anthropology after women were able to undertake fieldwork.


Audrey Richards, c1975 (From RICHARDS/19/2)

It was a very interesting event to a student of archives. The speakers touched on subjects such as the concepts of truth and memory and how they are represented in archives. Barbara also mentioned how ephemeral materials are just as important to a researcher as official records, especially in disciplines such as the social sciences. Appraisal and what is kept in archives was also questioned and Sally pointed out that we’ve never kept everything and things like phone calls have never been preserved.

One of the audience members brought up the issue of activism having moved online, to blogs and Twitter and other Web 2.0 applications. They asked who was collecting these materials, which is a pertinent question and interesting that non-archivists are thinking about it, especially to me as I have just finished a module on my archives degree course looking at the preservation and management of Web 2.0 records. It’s such a new area, but moves so fast that archives need to act fast in order to lose as little material as possible.

The discussion ended with the panellists and members of the audience expressing encouraging views on the movement of The Women’s Library to LSE, highlighting the crossover in collections and the commitment of LSE to maintaining and expanding the collection.

Mary McIntosh (1936-2013)

February 5th, 2013 by Sinead Wheeler

I recently joined LSE as archives assistant, and one of my first tasks has been listing and describing additional papers of the sociologist and activist Mary McIntosh for addition to the Archives. It’s been an interesting and enjoyable job (although very sad, following news of Mary’s death – see Sue’s message below). Mary’s research and activism covered a great deal of ground, and the papers reflect this – hence the long-ish post here. Mary made an initial deposit of her personal archive with us in 2001, and last year made two further deposits; the most recent, in November, was prompted by a general sort out in preparation for a house move. Below I’ve outlined some of what’s included; it’s also worth noting that beyond the documentary facts of her work and activism, the notes and correspondence (both personal and ‘business’) carry a lot of Mary’s good humour, energy and determination.

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15 - original GLF activists Mary McIntosh (far right), Juno Jones (left) and Nettie Pollard (centre) at the 1995 anniversary event for the first Gay Liberation Front protest

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15 - original GLF activists Mary McIntosh (far right), Juno Jones (left) and Nettie Pollard (centre) at the 1995 anniversary event for the first Gay Liberation Front protest

Spanning 1955 to 2004 the papers, including correspondence, research notes, campaigning materials, journals and pamphlets, document her time as a graduate student (and protestor) at Berkeley; research into the sociology of homosexuality, and the homophile movement; research into prostitution and prostitutes’ rights campaigns; involvement with the women’s liberation movement and socialist-feminist groups; gay rights activism and time with the Gay Liberation Front; and race equality campaigning.

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15: Sticker with logo of the Womens Liberation movement, and poster promoting the '5th Demand'

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15: Sticker with logo of the Womens Liberation movement, and poster promoting the '5th Demand'


70th anniversary of the Beveridge Report: more documents online

November 29th, 2012 by Nick White, Assistant Archivist

The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services (Cmd 6404), commonly known as the Beveridge Report, was published on 1 December 1942. To mark this event more documents from the Beveridge papers held here at LSE have been digitised and are available online via the Archives catalogue:

  • First draft of the Beveridge Report, c.July 1941 (BEVERIDGE/9A/41/1)
  • BBC Postscript, script for talk on the Beveridge Report, 2 December 1942 (BEVERIDGE/9B/55/1)
  • “Social security and the state”, script of talk with Maurice Webb for Westminster and Beyond, 7 December 1942 (BEVERIDGE/9B/55/1)
  • Diary of visit to the USA and Canada, 2 May – 15 July 1943 (BEVERIDGE/11/36)
  • “The health aspects of social security in Britain”, summary of address by Beveridge at the Hotel Waldorf Astoria, 3 June 1943 (BEVERIDGE/11/31/1)
  • “Security with freedom”, summary of address to the English Speaking Union, 4 June 1943 (BEVERIDGE/11/35)
  • “Some questions on the Beveridge Report”, points from address at United Nations lecture at Washington, 5 July 1943 (BEVERIDGE/11/35)
  • “Can unemployment be prevented?”, script of talk by Beveridge, BBC broadcast on 11 October 1943 (BEVERIDGE/9B/56)
  • “Beveridge on Beveridge: recent speeches of Sir William Beveridge”, pamphlet published by the Social Security League, c.1943 (BEVERIDGE/9A/79)
  • “Full employment in a free society: a summary”, pamphlet by Beveridge, November 1944 (BEVERIDGE/9A/79)
  • “The Beveridge Plan ten years after”, summary of two lectures at Rodding, Jutland, 3-4 August 1953 (BEVERIDGE/9B/40/2).
  • “]Illustration from the pamphlet, "Beveridge on Beveridge: recent speeches of Sir William Beveridge", published by the Social Security League, [1944]

    Illustration from the pamphlet, "Beveridge on Beveridge: recent speeches of Sir William Beveridge", published by the Social Security League, [1944

    Beveridge’s philosophy is particularly outlined when he was interviewed by Maurice Webb on “Westminster and Beyond” on 7 December 1942:

    • “Government”, Beveridge says, “is a means not an end and the object of government is, or should be, the happiness of citizens. They can’t be happy if they are in need”
    • He defines social security in a very narrow sense: “security of income up to a minimum”, but that “social security in my sense cannot be satisfactory unless you also maintain employment and avoid mass unemployment and also do many other things that are part of a full social policy”
    • He is asked, “What part is the State to play in social security?”. He replies, “… social security must be achieved by co-operation between the State and the individual, that the State’s function is to establish a national minimum, but to leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family”
    • The interviewer says, “I suppose you’d say that most men’s wages now are enough for themselves and a wife and at least one child”. Beveridge replies, “I believe that in fact they are and I’m certain that they ought to be – by minimum wage legislation if necessary”
    • Beveridge is also asked about what the national minimum, or subsistence level actually meant: “The rate of subsistence benefit of £2 a week for man and wife as I’ve worked it out in my Report is meant to cover food, clothing, fuel and rent. The State might say that everyone at all times ought to be able as well to have a radio or a paper or tobacco, or might raise its ideas as to what was needed for clothing or fuel… It can change and improve like everything else in a progressive society”

    The Future of LGBTI History – Amsterdam 2012

    August 8th, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist

    I am just back from the LGBTI Archives, Libraries and Museums conference which was hosted by IHLIA and held in the wonderful Amsterdam Public Library which boasts pianos for visitors to use on several floors. This was the fourth conference and the first to be held in Europe with the 102 participants from Europe, USA and Africa representing a wide range of institutions from national archives and museums to small community groups. One presenter from the June Mazer Lesbian Archives in California called it ‘the Olympics for LGBT history – but you have to collaborate rather than compete!’

    An elephant in the stacks, Amsterdam Public Library

    An elephant in the stacks, Amsterdam Public Library

    We had three very full days of meetings and to make sure as many groups got to speak as possible the conference had an interesting format – papers have been published on the LGBTI ALMS blog to be read before the conference and presentations were limited to a strictly timed ten minutes followed by break out sessions for further discussion and questions. The format worked well and the break out sessions has some excellent discussions which doesn’t often happen in a large conference theatre. Discussion was also aided by the welcoming 7th floor cafe with its roof terrace views over Amsterdam.

    With so many presentations over the three days we covered a lot of ground but a few themes did emerge including:

    • How can LGBT community groups partner with more mainstream organisations to share skills and resources while retaining their identity and community focus? Tamsin Booker of the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive gave an interesting paper on their partnership with the Bishopsgate Institute and the Pride Library at the University of Western Ontario in Canada was another example.
    • The need to continue to identify gaps in our collections. Several organisations noted gaps in documenting lesbian lives and experiences and the final day keynote speaker, Professor Stephen Whittle spoke about recording the transgender community including collections like LSE’s recent acquisition of the Press for Change archive.
    • The issues that arise around collecting homophobic and transgressive materials along with the difficulties of gathering materials created on the edge of society – ephemeral material intended to be disposable which becomes very collectable eg zine collections.
    • The challenge of the digital world for smaller institutions. It was clear that many of the groups were making great use of social media to promote collections and develop audiences but were struggling to preserve and provide access to digital media. LSE Library’s recent experience in supporting community groups in providing long term preservation and access to oral histories perhaps provides one model.

    From among the keynote speakers Joseph Hawkins from the One Archives at the University of Southern California talked of conflicts between archiving and activism – and arguing that sometimes archiving should take precedence and Richard Parkinson of the British Museum gave an fascinating account of his work in introducing a LGBT history trail through the museums collections.

    Browsing the exhibition, Amsterdam Public Library

    Browsing the exhibition, Amsterdam Public Library

    Access and findability was discussed on the final day – while many of the groups and institutions were doing a great work on outreach and events, many were finding it hard to catalogue and digitise their collections. IHLIA’s project Open Up! has been supporting groups in Eastern Europe, particularly Czech Republic and Hungary to digitise magazines and archives and the Hungarian archives are making interesting use of wikipedia to promote their work.

    Perhaps one gap in the programme was the scope for using LGBTI archives to reach audiences beyond the community although the Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Florida talked about its educational work with schools across the USA.

    All these and many more are accessible on the LGBTI ALMS blog.

    Beyond the conference theatre the city of Amsterdam hosted a canal trip and we piloted a new museum app following an LGBT history walk around the city which provided some much needed exercise. We hope that the conference blog will develop as a forum to develop ideas and share experiences until the next conference in 2014 in Florida.

    Lighting in Amsterdam Public Library

    Lighting in Amsterdam Public Library