Parliamentary Documents on Slavery and the Slave Trade

In the course of researching ‘slave codes’ in the British empire, I came across mention of a five volume set named ‘Parliamentary Documents on Slavery and the Slave Trade.’ It was digitized by the University of Georgia, U.S.A., sometime around 2007, and is a collection of reports printed by the Parliament of Great Britain between 1788 and 1793.

Unfortunately, all links to it were dead, and Google only returned secondary references, not the books themselves. However, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine had mirrored the site, and a bit of digging led me to the complete series.

I don’t know how much of this material is available elsewhere on the web; I do know that the particular document I required, a collection of Caribbean slavers’ legislation, is not openly accessible, but sequestered behind Gale’s and Proquest’s paywalls. Other parts of it can probably be found in Google Books, but only after some exertions given its poor metadata for parliamentary publications.

As I believe that all historical material should be freely, easily and lastingly available to any who wish to use it, I have now uploaded all 5 volumes to the Internet Archive. A brief summary of contents, and links to both the ‘original’ Wayback and newly-uploaded Archive copies are given below. The Internet Archive generates its own OCR of each item; this is in general rather poor, but here, due to the use of the long s and eighteenth century ligatures, it is worse than usual, despite the high quality of the digitization.

There is a great deal to say about these documents, about their contents and context, and I hope to do so in the future. For the moment it will suffice to state that although all historical sources require careful reading, that they are never transparent, this is especially true in this case. These documents are saturated in racism, both embodying it and describing it. There is not a single Black voice, not one enslaved or freed person of African origin, giving direct testimony here. The statutes making up the first part of the first volume, all of which I have read, are truly disturbing; the other reports contain similarly repugnant material.

British documents on slave holding and the slave trade, 1788-1793

Catalogue: Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. List of and links to all five volumes

Volume 1: Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. A large collection of many different documents, including eighteenth century Caribbean statutes concerning slavery.

Volume 2: Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. Contains the Report of the Committee for Trade and Foreign Plantations on the Slave Trade, 1789.

Volume 3: Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. Contains Minutes of Evidence given to a Committee of the House of Commons, 1789-1790.

Volume 4: Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. Contains Minutes of evidence taken at the House of Lords, 1790 and 1791.

Volume 5: Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. Contains Minutes of evidence taken at the House of Lords, 1792 and 1793.


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Dropbox on Lubuntu 18.04

My prefered Linux distribution these days is the lightweight Ubuntu variant Lubuntu. As I mainly use my linux laptop for writing and running fairly intensive text-processing scripts, I need something that doesn’t have extra bells and whistles and their corresponding overheads. It’s generally a very smooth, intuitive experience and does what I want, but there are a few rough edges requiring attention. One of these is installing the popular file back up and sharing app Dropbox, which isn’t quite as easy as it should be. For starters, there are a number of dropbox apps in Ubuntu’s repositories and it is not clear which should be used. Another is that after installing, the toolbar icon is broken. So here are clear, step-by-step instructions for getting it working.

1: Install the package ‘nautilus-dropbox’ via your prefered package manager (Lubuntu comes with Synaptic and Software Updater, both under ‘System Tools’ in the menu), or through the command line via:

sudo apt-get install nautilus-dropbox

This will also install various dependencies, mainly Python 2.7 packages. Note that it is the nautilus package, even though Lubuntu uses a different file manager, PCManFm. And note that it is not the actual Dropbox app but a helper program.

2: Once installed, go to ‘Internet’ on the Lubuntu application menu in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. Then click on the Dropbox icon in the submenu. This will bring up a ‘Download Dropbox’ dialogue; follow the instructions to download and install the proprietary app, and then sign in to your account. Hereon, whenever there’s an update, Dropbox should upgrade automatically.

3: So far so good, but there’s a problem with the icon. In the system tray on the bottom right hand side there’s a white squre as a placeholder, and no menu appears when you click it.

4: To fix the icon,open the terminal and run:

sudo lxshortcut -i /usr/share/applications/dropbox.desktop

You’ll be asked for your password, then a window will open up. Click on the tab labelled ‘Desktop Entry’ and replace the text in the box labelled ‘Command:’ from ‘dropbox start -i’ to ‘dbus-launch dropbox start’.

5: Open a terminal and run:

dropbox stop

This stops Dropbox; although you could restart dropbox through the command line, using the command just entered into the dropbox.desktop file, just to check everything is working go to the applications menu > Internet > and click on Dropbox. It should start with icon and menu working. Similarly, after rebooting, Dropbox should start automatically with icon and all.

Updated 17 September, to add sudo to the first instruction. Thanks to Jon Cat in the comments.

This article is licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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Making the TCP texts accessible, part 3: An Index

I have previously posted about the vast collection of early printed texts released by the Text Creation Partnership. To recap: the TCP have released vast numbers of early modern, eighteenth century texts. But they are not easily discoverable or downloadable. So I have put the 6 different sets up on Github. The sets are:

ECCO: 2,473 eighteenth century publications in XML.

EEBO: 32,853 texts in XML.

Evans: 4,977 early American texts in XML.

Navigations: 1,482 texts relating to travel, in XML.

TCP Plain Texts: the first set of texts released, 2,188 of them in plain text format.

Unfinished: 628 texts that haven’t been proofread of checked, in XML.

(I’ve also created two further sets, of the Lampeter Corpus and of TCP texts I am transcribing via 18th Connect. But here I only discuss the collections released by TCP.)

This doesn’t actually add up to 43,973 different texts. (Not least because every time I count I get a different total.) Some publications fall in to two or more collections: generally because there is an XML and a plain text version, but it seems that there are different XML variants in different collections as well. Locating these doubles is difficult, and is just one of a number of problems. Simply knowing what’s included in these great corpuses is problematic, with the files having code names, not something comprehendable to humans. And only three of the sets actually come with any sort of inventory.

So the next step towards making these texts accessible is simply to list the contents, in .csv files that I have uploaded to Github. There is a list for each of the six sets, and an all-encompassing one amalgamating them. Three simply rejig the contents lists that came with the Plain Text, Evans and Navigations sets (the last particularly sparse). The rest I generated through an XSL stylesheet, pulling out information from the header files.

The column headers on these files are consistent:

UID: Unused as yet, will be a unique ID for each individual text file.

COLLECTION: Collection in which the file is to be found.

TCP, EEBO, ECCO: Project codes for the Text Creation Partnership, Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

VID: Reference to original page images of publication.

Book ID: Unclear.

STC: Various short title catalogue references.

ESTC: English Short Title Catalogue number.

Status: This column should be ‘Free’ throughout, as all the texts have been made freely available.

Author: Author, sometimes with years of life; missing for Navigations.

Date: Date of publication, generally year; data irregular and full of stray brackets.

Title: Title, sometimes full to overflowing, sometimes very clipped (as for the Navigations series.)

Terms: Library category headings.

Publisher: Publisher, often including the place of publication.

Pages: no. of pages; data available for only some texts.

Word Count: as it says; data available for just a few texts.

This data is very far from perfect. In fact it’s pretty poor, not to mention ugly. There are a great many missing fields, irregular and inconsistent data, typos, corrupted characters, inconsistent spelling, and no doubt further horrors I have yet to discover. But for now, it is good enough, and time allowing I will work to improve it. Errors can be pointed out and corrections made through Github’s facilities, either by forking and editing the documents, or by raising an issue.

Meanwhile, enjoy this gratuitous  word cloud of the titles of the texts.

Wordle of TCP titles

Wordle of TCP titles

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Making the TCP texts accessible, part 2 [Updated]

Nearly five years ago, I uploaded over two thousand eighteenth century works in plain text from ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collection Online) to the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Datahub. Unfortunately, in a recent server migration, the texts disappeared from that repository; I hope to replace them once the limits on file sizes are raised. In the meantime, they are available courtesy of the Early Modern OCR Project, through their Github account.

Since my original post, the Text Creation Partnership have released many more early modern texts under an open license, from the EEBO, ECCO and Evans collections. (The first two are early modern and eighteenth century British texts; the last is of early American texts.) There is also another collection, EEBO-TCP Navigations, a selection of early travel literature. Note that it is not the entirety of these collections that have been freely released; many texts are still only available with a subscription of some sort, and are not downloadable in bulk.

The free texts are marked up in XML, rather than plain text, and can be access in various ways: as text displayed online through the University of Michigan, with a variety of useful tools for advanced searching; and downloadable in bulk through Github repositories.

ECCO web interface

ECCO on Github

EEBO web interface

Evans Collection web interface

Evans Collection on Github

Navigations on Github

The EEBO collection is on Github via the TCP, but not as a single repository downloadable in one zip file. The TCP do offer a script ‘‘ to download them all.

The ECCO, EEBO and Evans collections are also accessible through the Oxford Text Archive, which holds both the freely available and the restricted access texts, filterable through the menu bar. The Navigations collection doesn’t have a web interface yet; apparently one is coming via Michigan ‘in early 2016.‘ Those are available at the Oxford Text Archive, but only with a subscription. Other ways of accessing the texts, generally via subscription, can be found at Heather Froehlich’s very handy post Ways of accessing EEBO(TCP), which has links to many other useful resources, and materials relating to her talk on 10 things you can do with eebo-tcp phase 1.

So there’s lots of texts available, more or less organised, from multiple sources. As to the remaining texts, and the TCP project as a whole, the outlook is unclear. After asking on Twitter, it seems it is currently dormant, ‘not dead just resting’:

Neither the TCP twitter account nor their website been seen any activity since December 2014. Better news is that over one hundred thousand texts have been uploaded to 18th Connect, through which the OCR can be corrected, whereupon the text will be made freely available. But this is going to be a long and painstaking task, reliant on volunteers with the patience to go through large volumes line by line. I seriously doubt anyone will get through the 500-odd pages of mind-numbing legalese contained in a single volume of Statutes At Large.

There are other problems to be aware of. With multiple repositories, and without a cannonical set, co-ordinating corrections and additions is going to be very difficult. Consequently, citation becomes more important and more difficult. The arbitrary division into EEBO, ECCO and Navigations collections is problematic, especially as there may be different versions of the same texts. This is to a considerable extent a consequence of different private companies digitizing the material, and as such not one with an intellectual grounding. (Evans seems entirely self-contained, but I could be wrong about that.)

Taken together, these are obstacles to building community resources around the texts. The reason for my interest in these texts is that I have my own personal itches to scratch, most immediately as to how debt was discussed in the eighteenth century. To use these corpuses for such an investigation requires a considerable amount of preparatory work, that takes time and effort, and can be a discouraging prospect. A community can ameliorate this to some extent.

In due course, I will follow this post up with a survey of the ways these texts can be manipulated, the tools that can be applied to them, and – a long way off yet! – what can be found through them of debt in the long eighteenth century.

As an addendum, some other sources of digitized English early modern and 18th century printed works, which may hold items not openly available, or not even within the EEBO and ECCO collections at all.

Google Books, Hathi Trust and the Internet Archive are the obvious first ports of call, but are bedeviled by poor OCR, lousy metadata and, for Google and Hathi, access problems.

English Broadside Ballad Archive is a magnificent collection of printed songs.

Project Gutenberg has some pre-1800 texts, some of which are post-1800 editions. It can be found on Github, courtesy of Gitenberg. As yet, I haven’t found a way of extracting those texts from the collection.

The Wellcome Library has a large digital collection of medical, in the widest sense, materials, including eighteenth century texts.

Update: I have found some other early modern and eighteenth century text archives. The Lampeter Corpus contains 120 texts spanning 1640 to 1740. A complete run of the London Gazette is online and searchable, notwithstanding the usual OCR problems. More ballads are available via the Bodleian.

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The United Suffragists’ Women’s Club in Borough Road, 1915.

For International Women’s Day, my second post on the radical history of Southwark is on the United Suffragists’ Women’s Club during the First World War.

The United Suffragists were formed in early 1914 by those disenchanted with the direction of the Women’s Social and Political Union. It admitted men as well as women, and unlike the WSPU continued to campaign for universal suffrage during the first world war. The club was opened in November 1914, at  92 Borough Road (see it on Google Maps), with the firm intention of not being a philanthropic institution bestowed by middle class women on working class women:

It is not a “charity,” in the ordinarily accepted sense of that misused word. It is not a club run for one class of women by another class of women. There are no artificial distinctions of that kind at 92, Borough Road. Women of all classes and kinds meet there for recreation and rest, for mutual sympathy and help, for conversations and refreshment, and all the usual things for which one meets in clubs everywhere. Naturally, the Club members, who are women of the workers’ class, predominate; and although what they contribute to the funds is as much as they can afford, and therefore equal to what the wealthier women helpers and friends of the club contribute – for they also give as much as they can afford – the sum total is not sufficient to meet all the expenses of rent, heating, lighting, and general upkeep.


These tensions, of the U.S. being outsiders, from across the Thames, across class boundaries, are apparent in the account of the opening day:

We hoped above everything that the Club looked like a club, and not like a philanthropic institution, and that our guests would see us as friends, and not as interlopers.

But the women of Southwark put their minds at ease, and proved the need for it:

“The neighbourhood is in raptures about it,” said one of the early arrivals, when we flung open the doors of the U.S. Women’s Club for the first time last Saturday afternoon.


“What I like about it”, said one of our guests – we opened with a tea party – “is that it’s just like a West End gentlemen’s club.”


There was a great crowd of women there, but scarcely one of them who had not a relative at the front or in the camps here. In many cases they had not heard a word from their man since he left home in August. A very human touch was contributed by a poor, sad mother of eight children, who was brough by a friend to be cheered up, because her husband had just enlisted in Ireland.

“I didn’t mind so much at first,” she told me, “but when all his clothes came home to me to-day, it fairly got me! There they all were, looking so like him – his coat and his weskit [waistcoat] and his blue tie – it made me cry, it did. It’s worse than a death, that’s what I say, because you never know in this war what’s happening to ’em.”

Votes For Women

This article was signed “E.S.”, probably the club secretary Evelyn Sharp, author, window-smasher and, during the war, tax resister. A year later she reviewed the progress of the club, and the puncturing of some presumptions about what the local women wanted:


Shortly we shall be celebrating the birthday of our Women’s Club in Southwark. Just a year ago, as our readers will recall the United Suffragists took a house at 92, Borough Road, Southwark, painted and papered it as brightly as they could, furnished it, with the help of many kind friends, to look as unlike an institution as possible, and threw it open, hopefully, to the women of South London at a membership fee of 1d a month. Throughout the year we have had an average membership of eighty or so, and this number does not include the many friends who are brought in to enjoy the hospitality of the club for an afternoon or evening, but who do not become regular members, or numbers of others who join for a time and then drop off. Of course, we made some mistakes at first. We thought, for instance, that the one thing needed by these tired and overworked members of the community would be quiet. So we tactfully arranged a quiet room on the first floor, where members could use the writing tables to correspond with their friends at the front, and sit in the comfortable armchairs by the fire and doze, or read the paper or an amusing book from the shelf on the wall. But our quiet room was a complete failure. What our members really like to do is to congregate in the ground floor room adjoining the restaurant, set the gramophone going, and under cover of its cheery optimism discuss everything under the sun, from the war to the Lord Mayor’s Show, and from Mrs Hampshire’s new hat to Mrs Lloyd’s new baby. And I don’t blame them! In these dark days I know nothing that cheers me up quite so much as to join that group of mothers and daughters and sisters and wives, who meet at our club of an evening and manage to keep their spirits up in the face of rising food prices and continued anxiety about their menfolk who are away, and all kinds of daily worries and hardships. As for our quiet room, we have found a much better use for it in the meetings and concerts that are held up there every week. I think that was our only real mistake, and it was a fairly excusable one. The restaurant has been a definite success from the very first. We supply simple food at the following tariff (cost price):

Cup of tea and two slices of bread and butter, or jam             ½d
Cup of coffee or cocoa and one slice of
bread and butter, or jam                                                                 ½d
Slice of cake, or one little cake                                                        ½d

The food, thanks to generous gifts from country friends and others, is of excellent quality, and is enormously appreciated in consequence. We find that this kind of substantial tea is what is preferred, both afternoon and evening, and have therefore given up another early idea of ours in connection with sandwiches and soup. We do not set out to be instructive in our club, the object of which is primarily to be recreative; but having found that certain ways of passing the evening were popular, we have arrived at the following weekly programme:

Monday.—Afternoon: Mothers’ working party, and children’s creche. Evening: Dancing.
Tuesday.—Suffrage meeting.
Wednesday.—Rehearsal of play for younger members- Reading aloud to older members.
Thursday.—Concert and entertainment.
Friday.—Sewing and knitting taught by an expert.
Saturday.—Rehearsal of play.

The Monday afternoon programme is an innovation, and promises to be very successful. The idea is to keep the babies and children amused in one room (milk and sponge cake are supplied for ¼d per head), while the mothers are helped over their sewing and are read to, in another room.


Aside from accounts in the United Suffragists’ newspaper Votes For Women, and a couple of anecdotes in Sharp’s autobiography, I have found out very little about this club. I don’t know a simple detail like when it closed, never mind who the local women who frequented it were. Which is one more example of why we need International Women’s Day.

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The Austrian Butcher visits Southwark

Plaque commemorating the attack on General Haynau by the draymen of Barclay and Perkins Brewery, Southwark, 1850

Plaque commemorating the attack on General Haynau by the draymen of Barclay and Perkins Brewery, Southwark, 1850

In preparation for leading a history walk round Southwark sometime later this year, centred on my work on debtors’ prisons and sanctuaries, I have been assembling material on other aspects of the Borough’s radical history. As well as walking these places, I’ll be blogging them too, starting with an international incident in a brewery.

Park Street in Southwark hosts one of London’s most unique plaques, and not just for being – unlike the standard plain blue – illustrated. It is one of the few plaques to commemorate a riot. The occasion was the visit of General Haynau, ‘The Austrian Butcher’, to Barclay and Perkins Brewery in 1850. Renowned for his brutality in repressing the risings in Italy and Hungary during the 1848 revolutions, and especially for whipping female prisoners, he was considered by many as the veritable embodiment of tyranny, which explains the glee in Reynold’s Newspaper’s account of the visit:

The Miscreant Haynau in London

Well and nobly have the high-spirited fellows employed at Barclay and Perkins’s brewery displayed their disgust and horror for a ruffian who has dared pollute our shores by his presence, and thrust his scoundrel person amongst us. The following description is given of his reception at the large brewery, where he was introduced as Rothschild’s friend:-
On Wednesday morning, shortly before twelve o’clock, three foreigners, one of whom was very old and wore long moustachios, presented themselves at the brewery of Messrs. Barclay and Company, for the purpose of inspecting the establishment. According to the regular practice of visitors, they were requested to sign their names in a book in the office, after which they crossed the yard with one of the clerks. On inspecting the visitors’ book the clerks discovered that one of the parties was no other than Marshal Haynau, the late commander of the Austrian forces during the attack upon the unfortunate Hungarians. It became known all over the brewery in less than two minutes, and before the general and his companions had crossed the yard, nearly all the labourers and draymen ran out with brooms and dirt, shouting out, “Down with the Austrian butcher!” and other epithets of rather an alarming nature to the marshal. A number of the men gathered round the marshal as he was viewing the large vat, and continued their hostile manifestations. The marshal being made acquainted by one of the persons who accompanied him, of the feeling prevailing against him, immediately prepared to retire. But this was not so easily done. The attack was commenced by dropping a truss of Straw upon his head as he passed through one of the lower rooms; after which grain and missiles of every kind that came to hand were freely bestowed upon him. The men next struck his hat over his eyes, and hustled him from all directions. His clothes were torn off his back. One of the men seized him by the beard, and tried to cut it off. The marshal’s companions were treated with equal violence, They, however, defended themselves manfully, and succeeded in reaching the outside of the building. Here there were assembled about 500 persons, consisting of the brewer’s men, coal-heavers, &c, the presence of the obnoxious visitor having become known in the vicinity. No sooner had the Marshal made his appearance outside the gates than he was surrounded, pelted, struck with every available missile, and even dragged along by his moustache, which afforded ample facilities to his assailants, from its excessive length, it reaching nearly down to his shoulders. Still battling with his assailants, he ran in a frantic manner along Bankside until he came to the George public-house, when, finding the doors open, he rushed in and proceeded up-stairs into one of the bed-rooms, to the utter astonishment of Mrs. Benfield, the landlady, who soon discovered his name and the reason of his entering the house. The furious mob rushed in after him, threatening to do for the “Austrian Butcher;” but, fortunately for him, the house is very old-fashioned, and contains a vast number of doors, which were all forced open, except the room in which the marshal was concealed. The mob had increased at that time to several hundreds, and from their excited state Mrs Benfield became alarmed about her own property as well as the marshal’s life. She accordingly despatched a messenger to the Southwark police-station for the assistance of the police, and in a short time Inspector Squires arrived at the George with a number of police, and with great difficulty dispersed the mob and got the marshal out of the house. A police galley was at the wharf at the time, into which he was taken, and rowed towards Somerset House, amidst the shouts and execrations of the mob. Messrs. Barclay have suspended all hands, in order to discover the principals in the attack. It appears that the two attendants of the marshal were an aide-de-camp and an interpreter. He had presented a letter of introduction from Baron Rothschild. who had therein described him as “his friend Marshal Haynau.”


Our own reporter, who visited Bankside on Thursday, ascertained that the general had a narrow escape from death, as his captors exhibited a strong inclination to extend towards him the same full measure of vengeance which he had so often exercised towards the unfortunate patriots of Hungary. In flying from his pursuers, he, as stated above, entered the George, where, after seeking vainly for some outlet by which to escape, he found his way into a small pantry, in which was a door. This door the general opened with the energy of desperation, and was half-way through it, when he found there was no hope of escape that way – the conqueror of Hungary had taken refuge in a dust-bin. As he stood looking around him, half in the pantry and half in the dust-bin, his pursuers overtook him; and, as he stood in a stooping posture, had a good opportunity of thrashing him with their various weapons, one of which, a bean-stalk, about an inch and a quarter in thickness, was used with such hearty good will, that it was broken upon his back. He was then seized by half-a-dozen of his assailants, some of whom had hold of his coat, while others less tender of his person, grasped his long moustachios, and dragged him back along the passage towards the street: but watching his opportunity, he managed, with the help of two labouring men, who were ignorant of his name, to break away from his captors, and rush up-stairs. His newly-found champions closing the door at the bottom of the staircase, and mounting guard outside. The general and his two foreign friends who had accompanied him, tried to escape by a window in one of the bed-chambers, but not succeeding, were compelled to remain in “durance vile,” until the arrival of a strong detachment of police enabled them to leave the house with safety. The general’s outer man had been so damaged in the fray, that he was glad to accept the loan of a coat, and that from a pitying bystander. The two men who had so gallantly defended the “Saviour of the Austrian Empire” against his assailants, were magnificently remunerated; the one receiving 4s. 6d , and the other 2s. 10d. for his services. The landlord of the George, upon inquiry at Morley’s Hotel, Trafalgar Square, on Thursday morning, was told that the general “had gone back.” Several dismissals have, we are told, taken place in Barclay’s brewery, but the obnoxious name of Haynau, together with those of his two companions, have been carefully obliterated from the visiting book.

Transcribed from Reynold’s Newspaper, hosted at the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required).

The attack quickly became an international incident between Britain and Austria, exciting a schism in government between the Prime Minister Palmerston and Queen Victoria, becoming a cause celebre in the newspapers, and initiating a bizarre debate on the morality of misogynistic violence as the defenders of Haynau accused the draymen of being wife-beaters and the press compared the flagelatory practices of Haynau with those of the Duke of Wellington.

There was an explosion of ephemera about the incident. Innumerable prints and satires were published, and at least 4 songs written to commemorate this mobbing, three of which can be found online: General Haynau, Haynau’s Retreat, The Southwark brewers and the Austrian butcher. There was even a ‘Commemorative Handkerchief’, printed with a scene of the ‘Escape of Marshal Haynau from Barclay and Perkins Brewery, London.’ It is upon this that the illustration on the plaque is based.

Hankerchief commemorating the Escape of Marshall Haynau from Barclay & Perkins's Brewery

Hankerchief commemorating the Escape of Marshall Haynau from Barclay & Perkins’s Brewery


Hankerchief commemorating Haynau’s escape from Barclay & Perkins brewery, detail.

Source: Museum of London

Haynau left London a few days later, but did not leave his troubles behind. The Evening Standard [paywall] of the 16th September 1850 reported:

The Zeitung fur Norddeutschland of the 11th inst., announces the arrival of General Haynau at Hanover, and the outbreak of some petty disturbances in consequence of a mob wishing to attack the hotel in which the marshal had taken his quarters. Several arrests took place, and it was found necessary to disperse the crowd by means of the civic guard.

Further reading:
Open Plaques record.
Hammerton, A.J., Cruelty and Companionship: Conflict in Nineteenth Century Married Life,  on the sexual politics of the Haynau Riot.
Kurtl, L., The Women-flogger, “General Hyena”: Images of Julius Jacob von Haynau (1786-1853), Enforcer of Imperial Austria

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Wikimania for Historians

Coming to the Barbican in London this weekend (August 8 to 10) is Wikimania 2014, a great gathering of people involved in Wikipedia and its many related projects. There are hundreds of panels and talks, and as an attendee and contributor with predominantly historical interests, I’ve been sifting the program for relevant sessions. Below are a list of those that in some way touch my own interests as a historian; mainly they concern making useful tools for research than the actual investigation of the past.

Note that there is a whole ‘GLAM‘ (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) track as well, which should cover historical matters in some part. The talk on Saturday afternoon about crowdsourcing transcription listed below is part of it.

Obviously there are many other intriguing sessions, and many that can be considered useful to the historian – such as dealing with copyright (and staying out of jail). For the whole lot, go consult the program.

Friday August 8th

10:00, Fountain Room: Free Our Research – Reaching out to academics from the good folk at the Open Knowledge Foundation

14: 30, Frobisher 456: Transforming Wikipedia into the timeline of everything!

5:30, Auditorium: Peter Murray-Rust on Machine Readable Scholarship PMR is doing great work on getting data out of PDFs, that, although centered on scientific literature, could be used to liberate all sorts of historical data.

Saturday August 9th

9.30, Fountain Room: Maps The cartographical session of most interest to a historian.

11.30, Hammerson Room: Humanitarian Mapping The other cartographical session.

12.00, Frobisher 456: The Old New Thing Crowdsourcing the transcription of a historical text, in this case an early c20th Hebrew dictionary.

Sunday August 10th

9.30, Frobisher 123: Wikidata Could be very interesting for ‘big data’ historians.

10:30, Frobisher 456: The Full OA Stack – Open Access and Open Source Panel on getting free software into the Open Access world, featuring Martin Eve of the Open Library of Humanities.

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Records and Music

Old hoarding exposed by rennovation work at 52 Stoke Newington Road, N16.

Old hoarding exposed by rennovation work at 52 Stoke Newington Road, N16.

A piece of urban history recently uncovered by the remorseless redevelopment of Dalston is this old shop hoarding, ‘Records and Music.’

A search on Google Books for 52 Stoke Newington Road reveals it was the headquarters of Sci Fi promoter John Carnell and the ‘International Fantasy Award Committee’; that it sold albums of sound effects;  and in the 80s, under the name ‘Phase 3 Records’ , sold Nigerian vinyl. Most recently it was a Turkish TV and video shop.

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Radical Hackney after World War One

Spurred on by the great Radical Hackney History blog, I’ve dug out some digital press clippings on radical movements in my home borough after the first world war. The first covers an early instance of squatting, when unemployed workers unoccupied properties, the second a rent strike in Shoreditch.

These two articles are taken from the fantastic Trove, a resource built by the National Library of Australia. Most of the digitization of English newspapers has been by private companies, and consequently they are neither accessible nor usable. Hidden behind paywalls, with the most horrendous automated text transcription rendering them both illegible and unsearchable, one wonders whether they even succeed in their main aim of making money.

Trove, on the other hand, is free to view, and allows the reader to correct errors in the transcription. A virtuous circle ensues: the more it is used, the more useful it is, in turn attracting more users and sharing the heritage. Although it collects Australian newspapers, there are many news reports from the United Kingdom, even down to the local level as these two cuttings show.

Aside from the local aspect, these reports caught my eye as examples of spatial contestation in London. This city has been made and remade through conflicts over space, whether as buildings, commons, communities or customs. This is an aspect of my work on the debtors’ sanctuaries of London circa 1670 to 1724, but the long story of the struggles over the terrain of London remains to be written. It’s on my to-do list, but not near the top.

For more North London WW1 radical history, see Ken Weller’s Don’t Be A Soldier.



Seizure of Town Property.

[Australian Press Association.]

LONDON, December 2. [1920]

The increasing unemployment has resulted in much disorderly conduct in some of the London suburbs. In several instances unemployed have seized unoccupied municipal property in order to establish relief organization. The latest step has been the occupation of the town halls of Tottenham and Edmonton. The men hoisted the red flag on the building, and declare they will remain in possession until work is found for them. At Camberwell they seized the Free Library building and 21 empty houses, and at Hackney they have occupied a drill hall. The public are supplying them with rations of bread, ‘bully beef,’ and coffee. There were riotous scenes also at Dalston, another metropolitan suburb, where men out of work attempted to seize empty houses. The police were obliged to draw their truncheons in dealing with the riot. The whole problem of unemployment has become a serious question. Some boards of Poor Law guardians are granting relief to men at the rate of 10/ per week, with 10/ extra for a wife and 5/ for each child.



LONDON, September 7. [1921]

A meeting of unemployed at Shoreditch carried a resolution that no rent should be paid by those out of work until the maintenance of the unemployed had been made a national charge, and a scheme  for the provision of full maintenance for the unemployed was in practice. In order to enforce the “strike,” the   borough was divided into 16 parts, each under a marshal, who will arrange pickets to patrol the streets and give   assistance against the authorities, in the event of any attempt being made to evict a “striker.”


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As announced on twitter, I have decided that every time a paywall or an archive blocks me from reading an academic article, I’m going to tweet it with the hashtag #closed.

I’m a PhD student and so, through my university, have access to a great number of online journals; certainly far more than the general public has. Yet despite this, and despite this material being the raw material for my work, I still come up against inaccessible articles.

This is not to criticize my university’s library. On the contrary, I can fully understand why they can’t possibly subscribe to everything, given their finite budget and the price-gouging of publishers. Even Harvard finds the subscription fees untenable.

My aim is to show that academic publishing is broken even for academia itself. It does not support the work of the academics, librarians, students and researchers who actually produce and curate the content. It follows, I believe, that the best interests of academia are not contrary to those of the larger, global public, of anyone with any interest – but without formal accreditation – in the research carried out in universities. The restrictions in place are for the benefit of the publishers, not the authors, who are denied communication with their peers as well as with any wider audience.

I hope that these tweets will help expose the everyday failure of the current publishing business. Raising the curtain is the prelude to action. In connection with this, it is worth mentioning the fine article by Jeffrey Salaz “Your Paper has just been outsourced” as revealing the production process behind all those expensive journals.

Finally, I want to make a clear commitment to the growing open access movement that wants to free research and knowledge from its proprietary chains. And in this connection it is worth mentioning the forthcoming OAButton project, a tool to track who is being blocked, what is being locked up,  and where else it can be obtained.

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