All entries for July 2010

July 29, 2010

Afghan Woes

afghanistan_refugees_mss.292d.956.2).jpgAppeal for donations to assist Afghan refugees in Pakistan, 1980

Now is not the first time that troubles in Afghanistan and Pakistan have had an impact beyond the region.  This circular from 30 years ago describes how the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had forced about a million Afghans to seek refuge near Peshawar in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. 

The recipient of the circular, Len Murray, the general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, replied expressing his organisation's sympathy and reporting that it had supported a recent contribution made by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The file containing these documents includes further evidence of the concern felt by trade unionists around the world over the Soviet Union's military intervention in Afghanistan.  Unsurprisingly, the responses of Soviet labour organisations give a rather different interpretation.  In a letter to the British National Union of Mineworkers, the secretary of the Soviet Coalminers' Union accused the United States and China of trying to undermine the Afghan "antifeudal revolution" by setting up bases in neighbouring countries for arming and training "counterrevolutionary gangs" (possibly the same people described as "freedom fighters" in this circular).

Click on the 'thumbnail' for a larger image.

[Document reference MSS.292D/956/2 (link to on-line catalogue)]

July 22, 2010

'Red Octopus'?: Spying in the USA

Writing about web page

Red OctopusThe exposure of an alleged 'deep cover' network of Russian spies in the United States last month (accompanied by coverage that appeared to owe more to 'Heat' magazine than to John le Carre), acted as an odd reminder of the height of Cold War paranoia.

The image shown here is of the front cover of a pamphlet of anti-Communist propaganda included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress. It was published by the Economic League, a fervantly anti-'Red' and pro-free enterprise British pressure group, in 1950, and warns against the "tentacles of the Red Octopus" spreading across the globe. The publication reflects heightened fears of Communism during the period of the Korean War (one of several times when the Cold War turned "hot").

This is one of 17 documents included in the Modern Records Centre online exhibition on the Cold War . Other subjects covered include the division of Germany, fear of McCarthyism, the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, alleged torture at the US base at Guantanamo (in 1963), and the convictions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg - in a period when accusations of spying for the Russians could mean death.

Click on 'thumbnail' for a larger image.

July 13, 2010

Welcome to Yesterday's News Today

This blog will be brought to you by the archivists at the Modern Records Centre. It will show that our archive holdings contain many past echoes of today's issues and events. We will draw on the 'Topical Document' feature on our website to look at earlier perspectives on phenomena such as banking crises, recession, flu epidemics, drink-driving, conflict in Afghanistan, proportional representation, coalition governments and cuts in public spending.  We also have a number of online archive exhibitions and resources specifically tailored to Warwick undergraduate modules which can be used to illustrate the differences and similarities between then and now.

The Modern Records Centre is one of the things which make Warwick unique. We were founded in October 1973 with the principal objectives of locating and preserving primary sources for modern British social, political and economic history, with special concentration on the national history of industrial relations, industrial politics and labour history. We are the leading repository in the country for the archives of trade unions and employers' organisations, and we also have important holdings relating to pressure groups, radical politics, cycling and the British motor industry.

July 2010

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