October 28, 2010

'Deserving' or 'undeserving' poor?

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/modules/docs/city/


Arguments over whether recipients of state aid or charity are 'deserving' of assistance (or are in fact exploiting the system) have been raging since at least the 1601 Act for the Relief of the Poor. This week's document is a mock application form for charitable relief from the Whitehall Charity Organisation Committee, filled in on behalf of Jesus Christ by Father Charles Marson in 1886. Marson was a Catholic priest and had served as a curate in the East End of London. Through the form, he satirises the Charity Organisation Committee's methods of assessing charitable cases according to their perceived worthiness, rather than purely by their financial need.

The application form is included in the Modern Records Centre resources for the History module 'The Victorian City'. The website also includes examples of the opposing point of view - notably extracts from a speech by Rev. E. Gurdon, Rector of St Anne's, Limehouse, to a meeting of the Council of the London Charity Organisation Society, in which he complains that "careless and indisciminate relief" has resulted in the replacement of the independent East-Ender with a "professional whiner and loafing cadger".

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October 21, 2010

Cuts: so what's new?

Anti-cuts handbill

"We must combine the support of all sections of the community if the present disastrous course of Government policy is to be reversed."

Here is an illustration of  the fact that the cuts in public expenditure which were recently outlined in the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review, and the opposition which they have aroused, are just the latest manifestations of a recurring theme in British political history. 

This punchy handbill is one of a number of items collected at a national lobby of Parliament held on on 17 November 1976.  It forms part of the Modern Record Centre's extensive miscellaneous series of political ephemera.  The cuts were the price demanded by the International Monetary Fund for the large loan which the Labour Government had sought in order to address the country's economic difficulties.  As in 2010, one of the main arguments made against such cuts was that a contraction of the public sector would have a damaging knock-on effect on the wider economy.  The role of the money markets was also a controversial issue then as now. 

On the other side of the handbill the remedies proposed by the Trades Union Congress that September are summarised.  They included selective import controls, the tightening of exchange control regulations to limit speculative movements of capital, the encouragement of manufacturing investment by increased public expenditure through the National Enterprise Board, increases in taxation on higher earners, and the extension of public ownership, including the banks and key financial institutions.

Document reference: MSS.21/880((link to on-line catalogue)

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October 14, 2010

Grants vs. loans: The debate over H.E. funding

aaaThe publication of Lord Browne's report has meant that university funding is again in the news, particularly its recommendation that there should be a large increase in the cap on student fees (and by implication an increase in fees).

Arguments over the amount that students should pay for a university education have been rumbling on for decades. The leaflet on the left dates from 1987, when students still received government maintenance grants and didn't have to pay undergraduate tuition fees. It objects to the proposed introduction of student loans and reduction of student grants by the Conservative Government of Mrs Thatcher (described as the "privatisation of our education"), and was produced by Watford and Cassio Student Union and Watford Labour Party Young Socialists (linked with the Militant Tendency).

This is one of several documents relating to post-war Higher Education included in the online resources for the module 'The Sociology of Education'.

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October 07, 2010

An MOT for the TARDIS?

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/images/warwickscience

The machine

The recent announcement of the award of the Nobel Prize for physics to two researchers based at Manchester University has prompted me to assert the scientific credentials of our own institution. This splendid photograph from the University Archive is one of a number we currently have on display both on-line at the above address and in the showcases in the Modern Records Centre foyer. The details we have on some of these are sketchy so perhaps scientific alumni can provide further enlightenment to a mere arts graduate like myself.

We have put on the display as part of the national Archives Awareness Campaign on the theme of 'Discovery - archives in science, technology and medicine". Another strand to this is Pioneers, our exhibition of archives about innovators in science and technology, including Sir Frank Whittle of jet engine fame.

Apologies for the frivolous heading for this picture. This is actually the crossed beam instrument used in the study of the detailed reaction dynamics of gas-phase ion molecule reactions in the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences. Minding the machine (we think) are Dr David Hirst, a member of the department from 1965 to 2003, Martin Jarrold and Keith Birkinshaw (on the left).

Update, July 2011: Having come across this 'blog' entry, Keith has kindly provided us with the following information about the instrument and how it came to Warwick:

The photograph shows a crossed ion-molecule beam ‘machine’ built originally at Shell’s Thornton Research Centre. It allowed a detailed study of collisions between single ions and molecules but experiments required much care and attention to detail because the scattered ion intensity was very low. In 1976 there were several such machines around the world but none working in the UK. Professor Keith R Jennings at Warwick University asked me if I would be interested in taking over the Shell Thornton machine in the Warwick Dept of Molecular Sciences (now Chemistry), after I had worked in Prague from 1972 to 1974 with Dr Zdenek Herman (a leader in crossed-beam research). After examining the machine and talking to John Rosenfeld at Shell I arranged for it to be dismantled and moved to Warwick (1976). I worked for about a year until it was functioning and then was joined by a PhD student Martin Jarrold. David Hirst was a theoretical chemist and the permanent member of university staff assigned to the project but did not get involved in the research.

In 1978 I was offered a permanent position in the Physics Department of the University of Wales Aberystwyth which I accepted. When Martin Jarrold left Warwick I believe there was insufficient expertise to continue running the experiment successfully.

Collisions and reactions between atoms and molecules were of great interest from a fundamental research perspective and also because they occur widely in nature. Collisions between uncharged atoms and molecules were difficult to carry out, partly because of detection of the low intensity scattered products. However, ion-molecule collisions can be studied more easily since ions can be dispersed according to mass, energy, velocity etc. using magnetic and electric fields. Since they are charged they be easily detected electronically and can be individually counted. Ion-molecule reactions occur in the upper atmosphere and in interstellar space. They also occur in high-temperature environments on the surface of the earth e.g. in flames and electric discharges although at atmospheric pressure they are more complex than the single collision observed using a crossed ion-molecule beam machine.”

Keith Birkinshaw, 22/7/2011.

September 30, 2010

Resurrection of the Red Peril?

To WomenThe election of Ed Miliband as the new Labour Party leader has been portrayed by many as a break with New Labour centrism and a return to a more socialist or left-leaning Labour Party. One aspect of the press coverage has been a return to old-style "Red Peril" coverage - with the party leader being regularly described as "Red Ed", the union's friend.

This 1925 parliamentary bye-election leaflet, issued by the Unionist Party candidate for Walsall, provides a less subtle example of 'socialist threat' propaganda. Aimed at the recently enfranchised women voters, it declares that "socialism destroys marriage", will end the monarchy, stamp out religion, destroy the home, make divorce freely available, and introduce compulsory military and industrial conscription for all.

This "cool, dispassionate statement of the Socialist [i.e. Labour Party] Programme" was produced only eight years after the Russian Revolution and reflects fears of a revolutionary uprising in Britain, as well as portraying the Conservative and Unionist Party as the defenders of 'the institution of marriage'.

This document is included in the new resources for the History undergraduate module 'Gender, History and Politics in Britain'.

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September 23, 2010

Whither banking?

Banking handbill

"Bankers have created over £7,000,000,000 of money by owing what they lend or spend"

Banking really hit the headlines in 2008 when, apparently, the entire global system came close to collapse, and debate about what to do about banks and bankers has rumbled on ever since, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg being one of the latest contributors.  This document, which dates from 1945, illustrates the fact that it has often been a controversial matter in the past as well.  Its author was Edwin Wright, who described himself as a "Socialist ever since 1890".  Between 1952 and 1954, he sent three copies to the headquarters of the Trades Union Congress, each of which had a different set of annotations by Wright and was accompanied by further typescript and manuscript exposition in his rather idiosyncratic style.  One of these sheets is headed "our fraudulent banking system about which the Socialists have been fooled", and one of the handbill annotations reads: "nationalisation of the Bank of England has not altered this silly system.  Why not nationalise all banks!"  There is no copy of a reply from the TUC on the file and a note on one of Wright's letters suggests he was just sent a brief acknowledgement.

[From a TUC file on banking, 1931-1954, which also includes a somewhat more sober memorandum advocating the nationalisation of banking "submitted by an experienced bank official"; document reference MSS.292/452/2(link to on-line catalogue)].

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September 16, 2010

Ban the Bomb?

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/images/peace/

CNDVersions of the current debate over defence expenditure - whether to replace Trident nuclear weapons or to instead spend the money on conventional weapons - have been going on for as long as Britain has had the bomb.

This Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) leaflet reflects the opinions of the strong anti-nuclear lobby of the early 1980s, and was part of the campaign of non-violent resistance against the deployment of NATO / US nuclear missiles on British soil.

Other documents relating to peace movements in Britain, including CND and anti-war groups, are included in the online exhibition 'Protest and Survive'.

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September 09, 2010

PR in the UK

Proportional representation leaflet

Leaflet issued by the Proportional Representation Society (PRS) explaining the single transferable vote system used in elections to university constituencies, November 1918

Last Monday MPs held their first debate on the bill which would lead to the holding of a referendum in May 2011 on the introduction of the alternative vote system to Westminster elections.  'First past the post’ voting has been universal in such elections for decades, but this leaflet shows that a proportional system was tried on a limited basis just after World War I.   

The new method of voting was to be used in the constituencies of Oxford, Cambridge, the combined English Universities (Birmingham, Bristol, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield), Dublin and the Scottish universities.  In March 1919, an analysis of these elections was published in Representation, the PRS journal, under the title ’The first trial of proportional representation in the United Kingdom’.  Among the features noted were the first election of a Liberal (who was also the “Teachers’ Candidate”) to a Scottish university seat since 1885 and the first contest at Oxford since 1878, which confirmed “the testimony of other countries that there are few uncontested constituencies under a P.R. system.”  Apparently the voters did not have any difficulty with the new system, despite its comparative complexity.  This may have been due to the fact that having attended university they were, in theory at least, of above-average intelligence.  

This document is in a file about parliamentary elections in the archive of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) held at the Modern Records Centre.  Other papers in the file reflect the AUT’s concern about issues, such as higher education funding and teachers’ pensions, which are still matters of debate today.  [document reference MSS.27/3/46 (3 of 3) (link to on-line catalogue)] .

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September 02, 2010

Escape to the Country


The late 19th and early 20th century saw a boom in day-trippers choosing to explore the British countryside, aided by recently invented forms of public or personal transport such as the bicycle, charabanc and motorbike.

This is the front cover of 'Cycling' magazine for 27 October 1921, and features an advert for the Raleigh all steel bicycle. The advert emphasises the freedom that a bike can bring, but peddles a nostalgic and highly idealised view of the British countryside - filled with helpful, bonneted old crones in thatched cottages, ready and waiting to direct lost young townies along empty roads.

A rather more jaundiced view from a 1928 issue of the same magazine is included in the online resources for the undergraduate History module 'Britain in the Twentieth Century'.

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August 26, 2010

Coalition catechism

Handbill attacking Lloyd George

Labour Party handbill attacking David Lloyd George’s coalition government

The formation of a coalition government in May 2010 was a rare but not unprecedented event in British history since 1900.  And criticism of such arrangements from those not involved in them is nothing new either.

Lloyd-George's coalition was similar to the current one in that the Conservatives were easily the largest party, but it differed in that the leader and main driving force was a Liberal.  This handbill is an attempt to show the hollowness of his pledge during the 1918 general election campaign to make Britain a land “fit for heroes to live in”.   It is a litany of alleged broken promises and hypocrisy, including an accusation that ministers were not practising what they preached on the need for national economy.   The coalition had been swept back into power following its successful conduct of World War I,  but in peacetime the differences between the two parties, as well as the actions and personality of Lloyd George himself, led to the Conservatives leaving the coalition in 1922. 

From the papers in the Modern Records Centre of Reg Groves (1908-1988), journalist and socialist.  Document reference MSS.172/LA/1/8 (link to on-line catalogue).

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