Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Research guides from the United Nations Libraries

The UN Libraries in New York, Geneva and Vienna have an impressive selection of research guides on a variety of topics available. I would like to highlight a couple of useful guides from the extensive list UN Documentation: Overview UN Documentation: How to Find UN Documents

Friday, 17 April 2015

Prsions in Scotland 1854

Sixteenth report of the General Board of Directors of Prisons in Scotland (1854)
This report is a very interesting read on the state of the prison service in Scotland.  I have only picked out a few informative facts. 
Library -“The Chaplain reports that the books in the library, consisting of standard popular and instructive works, well adapted to incite and gratify a desire for mental, moral and religious improvement, are read with advantage and are in good order.  Every prisoner who can read is supplied once a week with a religious and secular book.”
Exercising -The average time for exercise is 72 minutes daily.  The exercise pattern has been changed from the 7th November and the prisoners that were to be kept in strict separate confinement no longer walk in single file or wear masks.
Rules for the Governor -No. 27 “He shall see that the Prison is at all times quite secure ; and shall not allow any trees to grow against any of the walls…”
Uniforms -The male dress consisted of a “jacket, waistcoat, with sleeves, trowsers [sic] shirt, pocket handkerchief, shoes and stockings, neck-handkerchief and cap when necessary, a belt, (when the prisoner has been in the habit of wearing one.  In winter serge drawers, and the waistcoat to be lined with serge, and for those who require it, an under waistcoat of serge.”
The female dress was “striped shortgown, twilled cotton under petticoat, blue plaiding under petticoat, bodice of stout twilled cotton, shift, pocket handkerchief, shoes and stockings, neckerchief, cap when necessary, other necessary articles.  In winter a drugget upper petticoat , instead of a cotton one.” 
Sickness - In total 96 persons have been placed on the sick list out of these forty seven have been “seriously and dangerously ill, and forty nine more slightly.”  In total 9 prisoners died from various illnesses- such as consumption, progressive general paralysis (a disease to which the insane are peculiarly liable) and a severe nose bleed.
However, there was an incidence of diarrhoea in the prison but out of all the inmates only two died and these “were those of two Insane prisoners, who obstinately refused all medical assistance.”

Saturday, 11 April 2015

70th anniversary of the United Nations

The United Nations Library to commemorate the 70th anniversary has produced a website 70 years, 70 documents presenting an exploration of the seventy key documents that have shaped the United Nations and our world. I recently put together a display in the National Library of Scotland demonstrating the range and depth of the library's Official Publications collection. I chose to do this by selecting one year, in this case 1948. UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948 in Paris and I chose to include this in the display. It also appears in the UN's 70 years, 70 documents as the key document for that year.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What happens if there is a hung parliament?

We are now in the official run up to the 2015 General Election. Find out what will happen if the election results in a hung parliament. This is when the election results in no single political party winning an overall majority in the House of Commons, this is also known as a situation of no overall control.

Friday, 27 March 2015

What the Washerwoman saw!

This is from the minutes of evidence taken upon the second reading of the bill intituled

“An Act for dissolving the Marriage of John Worrall, Esquire, with Sophia Mariner his now wife, and for enabling him to marry again; and for other purposes therein mentioned”
“Then Sarah Jackson was called in and having being sworn, was examined as follows:

(By Counsel) Are you the wife of Mr Abraham Jackson of Leeds?
Have you known Mr and Mrs Worrall?
Did you ever live in the Family, or were you employed as their Washerwoman?
I was employed as their Washerwoman.
Do you remember Mr Sanderson coming to the house?
Yes, very well”…

It continues…
"Did he visit while Mr Worrell was away?
Do you remember Mrs Worrell going away?
About what?
About her being in the family way by Mr Sanderson”
As an aside, whilst reading the minutes, I noticed that when a woman was called to give evidence she was asked if she was the wife of whomever, but when a man was called he was never asked if he was a husband of somebody.   

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Chimney sweeps and sooty warts!

Report from the Committee on Employment of Boys in Sweeping of Chimnies [sic] : together with the minutes of evidence taken before the Committee and an appendix.
House of Lords paper 16 Vol. XCI 1817

This report is  "to examine the several petitions which have been presented to the House against the employment of boys in sweeping chimnies."
The minutes are quite harrowing to read as they describe the treatment of the boys in this trade, the age of the children going up the chimneys can be as young as a four year old, the deformities, the diseases and the ill treatment are dreadful.  The following are some extracts from the minutes.
One of the questions from the minutes of evidence is “Had you any information how often they were washed, or if any care was taken that they should be washed, by those persons who were not considered as respectable masters? – We found that among the less respectable class of chimney sweepers the boys were taken to the New River of a Sunday morning in the summer season. “
The same question was asked about the winter months the answer was “we had reason to fear there was not, and which would account for the disorders generated by remaining longer that the week in their filthy garments.”  The main disorder was a cancer that affected the scrotum, known as sooty warts!
One respectable chimney master states that in cold weather they do let the boys wash in warm water.
The chimney sweeps would have sores, bruises, wounds and burns on their thighs and knees and “sometimes they get burnt by chimnes partly on fire”.  If a boy is unwilling to go up a chimney the masters will use a rod or the threat of being sent back to their home. They use pins in the feet to force the boy up the chimney. Apparently they don’t light straw under them to encourage them to go up the chimney, although one person has heard of a case that they do.  They have deformities of the spine, legs and arms and once they have grown too big for the job they are cast out without being taught a trade or having any other means to make a living.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Butcher Birds

I found a beautiful little book in our Official Publications Indian  paper collection called "Bird friends and foes of the farmer."
The author a Mr P. Susainathan has devoted years to the observation of bird life.  In the preface it states  ”It is unnecessary to emphasize the extent to which birds affect all those engaged in farming : but apart from their importance to the agriculturist in this respect they are of absorbing interest in themselves.  We all need recreation of some kind”
I particularly like the Shrikes or Butcher-birds.  This bird impales its prey on acacia and cactus thorns before commencing to make a meal of it.  This bird is beneficial to the farmer!
Another bird is the Hoopoes which like rubbish heaps and termite mounds!  The call of this bird resembles the sound “Hoop-hoop” repeatedly.   This bird should be encouraged and protected as its love of eating insects helps to reduce the dreaded mosquito.
A bird which is also useful to the farmer and people is the vulture, in particular the smaller White Scavenger Vulture which is a foul feeder on human excreta and dead animals.  This bird should be encouraged in towns and villages.   However, the parrot family includes a number of bird-pests to agriculture which are a constant menace to standing crops!
This little book full of information and illustrations can be found at IP/25/AD.1.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp liberated 27/1/1945

Today marks the 70th year of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein issued the following statement to mark this International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Seventy years ago on this forever solemn day, Auschwitz-Birkenau – the largest killing centre of the Nazi concentration camps – was finally liberated.

We continue to be haunted by the fate of the millions of Jewish men, women and children, as well as Roma, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war and other prisoners and deportees from all over Europe, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and dissidents, who suffered and were killed by this ghastly extermination machine. The memory of well over a million Jewish children, and thousands of other children, who were put to death is particularly unbearable. Both personally and as a representative of the United Nations, I bow to every woman, man and child who was forced to endure such terrible suffering.

The Charter of the United Nations – which also commemorates its 70th anniversary this year – was shaped in response to the atrocities of the Holocaust and the Second World War. The Charter seeks to establish a new "vision of what the world should be". It should be a world in which all people are able to exercise their human rights in freedom, dignity and equality, in full accordance with international human rights law.

And yet the toxic influences of discrimination and racial and ethnic hatred can still be felt among us, and the catalogue of atrocities runs on and on.

Discrimination and hatred kill and wound thousands of people. They also harm each one of us. They negate the wonderful diversity of individuals and cultures within our shared membership of humanity, and our fundamental and universal human rights.

In memory of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and the pain that many others have since endured, I believe that it is urgent for us all to strengthen our moral courage. We must resist discrimination of every kind so that all may live in liberty, with respect, equality and justice.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mary Slessor and the evils of drink

Mary Slessor died 100 years ago on the 13 Jan 1915 aged 67.
She was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria.

I checked the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database to see if she was mentioned and found the following information.

She was called and examined on Friday 21st May 1909 to give evidence for the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Liquor Trade in Southern Nigeria (Command 4907). 

There are quite a few gruesome facts she mentions in the inquiry and one example is about the ordeal of oil, which she could see from her window every morning.

“Perhaps they had had a big drunk [sic.] the night before, and had all got headaches in the morning, and were accusing their wives of all sorts of things, and they have the ordeal to find out the guilty ones…"Then somebody takes a ladle of boiling oil and pours it into their hands, and of course they run away screaming. .. if the oil burnt down in this way (describing) there was no palaver, but if it did not they were found guilty.”

If they were found guilty “They were tied up with a stake with thorns on it, and with the bones of a tiger, and trussed up close, and their legs tied close together with the stick of thorns in between.” she mentioned “This was a thing of daily occurrence, and that it was caused by drink.”

You can read the full report in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database listed under licensed digital collections.  This is freely available to readers in Scotland with a National Library of Scotland readers ticket.  Or you can read the original command paper which can be found at the shelfmark P.P. 1909 vol. ix Cd 4907.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hunger in Britain today

The conclusion of The report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom was published this week. It sets out a series of policy recommendations for the government.

Friday, 24 October 2014

United Nations Day 24th October

Celebrate United Nations Day There are some great UN research guides available on many topics including the Ebola Virus outbreak to help you with your research.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Award winning government website reaches major milestone of 1 billion site visits

Launched 2 years ago, GOV.UK brings together government services and information online. As the first ever single domain for government, it replaced DirectGov, Business Link and over 250 separate department and agency websites. The top 3 most visited pages are find a job, renew your vehicle tax, and calculate your state pension.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Scottish Independence Referendum: analysis of results

We have receive a couple of interesting House of Commons Library research papers into the National Library this week. An analysis of the results from the Scottish Independence, Referendum. HC Research paper 14/50 and Unemployment by constituency HC Research paper 14/49

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Smith Commission

You have an opportunity to have your say and respond to the Commission directly via their website from the 13th October 2014. The terms of reference for the Commission are: To convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command Paper, to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cold War intelligence

Now available through the National Library of Scotland. A full-text collection of 2,360 formerly classified U.S. government documents (most of them classified Top Secret or higher) which provides readers with the declassified documentary record about the successes and failures of the U.S. intelligence community in its efforts to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Details on how to access this resource can be found on the NLS Website

Friday, 3 October 2014

Father of the House

Winston Churchill resigned from the House of Commons 50 years ago. He started in the House of Commons in 1900 as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Oldham.  He was Prime Minister twice 1940-1945 and then 1951-1955.  In 1959 he was given the title Father of the House (the member with the longest continuous service).
On the 28th July 1964 the then Prime Minister (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said “ I beg to move, That this House desires to take this opportunity of marking the forthcoming retirement of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Woodford by putting on record its unbounded admiration and gratitude for his services to Parliament, to the nation and to the world; remembers, above all, his inspiration of the British people when they stood alone, and his leadership until victory was won; and offers its grateful thanks to the right honourable Gentleman for these outstanding services to this House and to the nation.”
I thought I would check Hansard for some of his speeches from World War I and from World War II.  An example of one of the many hundreds of speeches he gave in the House of Commons is on the 27th November 1914 as the First Lord of the Admiralty where he states “But even if we were single-handed, as we were in the days of the Napoleonic wars, we should have no reason to despair of our capacity-no doubt we should suffer discomfort and privation and loss-but we should have no reason to despair of our capacity to go on indefinitely, drawing our supplies from wherever we needed them, and transporting our troops wherever we required them, and to continue this process with a strength which would grow stronger with each month the War continued until, in the end, and perhaps not at any very distant date, the purposes for which we are fighting are achieved.”
Obviously one of the most famous speeches he made to the House of Commons on the 20th August 1940 was “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day....”
All the many speeches Winston Churchill gave to the House of Commons can be found via the  National Library of Scotland's website if you live in Scotland and you have a library card. It is listed under licensed digital collections and contained in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What is an EDM?

In my last post I mentioned an EDM (Early Day Motion), EDMs are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons.  Actually very few will be debated but the EDM’s allow MPs to highlight an event or a cause.  MPs can register their support by signing the individual motions.

Dr. Elsie Inglis a suffragist, a medical pioneer and a WWI heroine

There was an early day motion no. 341 submitted to parliament on the 12th September 2014 by Mike Crockart about Dr. Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s hospitals.
That this House celebrates the bravery, achievements and hard work of Dr Elsie Inglis and the other women who set up and served in the Scottish Women’s Hospitals; recognises that the Scottish Women’s Hospitals became one of the best medical initiatives of World War One; acknowledges that these hospitals were set up despite a severe lack of support from the British War Office; estimates that the hospitals saved the lives of tens of thousands of people all in countries such as Serbia, Belgium, France, Russia, Romania, Corsica, Corfu and Greece; notes that the 14 women’s hospitals with a staff of over 1,000 women make up a remarkable, yet unrecognised part of our history; further notes that whilst Dr Inglis and the other women who served in these hospitals are recognised as heroes in Serbia, their work and achievements are barely recognised in the UK outside of Dr Inglis’ adopted home of Edinburgh; welcomes the proposal by Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation to recognise the work of Dr Elsie Inglis and her compatriots by establishing a training fund in the name of Dr Elsie Inglis for staff to access courses which may not be available through NHS Lothian; further recognises 16 August 2014 will be the 150th anniversary of the birth of this medical pioneer, suffragist, and First World War heroine; and strongly believes that during the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, the work of the brave women who served in these hospitals should be properly recognised and celebrated.”

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


I was interested in reading what the House of Commons and Lords said in Hansard on the 5th August 1914 about the European War as it was called.
House of Commons Hansard vol.65 1914
Prime Minister…Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs- a note of which the following is a literal translation: “Belgian Government regret to have to inform His Majesty's Government that this morning armed forces of Germany penetrated into Belgian territory in violation of engagements assumed by treaty.  Belgian Government are further resolved to resist by all means in their power. Belgium appeals to Great Britain and France and Russia to co-operate, as guarantors, in defence of her territory. There would be concerted and common action with the object of resisting the forcible measures employed by Germany against Belgium, and at the same time of guarding the maintenance for future of the independence and integrity of Belgium…”
The House of Lords Hansard vol. 17 1914
The Marquis of Crewe
He reiterated what the House of Commons said about Belgium but then carried on to say …That is all, my Lords, that I have to say at this moment upon the general situation. But on the particular points of the situation as it affects us here in our daily life and the financial situation in this country, I desire to say one or two words. During the last few days the Government have been conferring at great length with the most important representatives of finance and commerce in the country, including representatives of bankers, bill brokers, the Stock Exchange, discount houses, and also with an almost complete representation of all the great industries of the country-textile, iron, docks, and the rest; and I can say that we have found an absolutely universal desire among those representatives of great interests to combine so far as possible to meet the crisis which has arisen, in the interests of the country at large. … Our main object has been that the normal life of the country should be carried on with as little displacement as is possible in the unprecedented circumstances in which we are placed, more especially as they affect the wage-earning classes. We found that both the financiers, speaking in the widest sense, and the captains of industry have been absolutely of one mind in determining that so far as possible things shall pursue their normal course, and that, so far as they are able to ensure it, money shall be forthcoming to meet the ordinary needs and concerns of life. We found that the great manufacturers are steady in determination to keep their works open so far as is possible for them, contemplating, no doubt, that in some cases they would be on short time, but with the resolve that so far as possible men or women should not be altogether thrown out of employment. They are prepared to do this even at the risk of accumulating stocks for which there may be no obvious market at the moment, and I am sure the House will agree that that is a most honourable and a most helpful determination on their part.
To read both statements you can find them either at GHC.5 for the House of Commons Hansard and GHL.5 for the House of Lords Hansard or see the electronic versions online, if you are a registered reader, in our licensed digital resources.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Hansard Society – an August day in 1944...

Seventy years ago the Hansard Society was founded amidst the turbulence of world war. With the country facing what our founder, Sir Stephen King-Hall MP, described as ‘a life and death struggle for the preservation of parliamentary democracy’, he established the organisation to ‘promote future knowledge of, and interest in, Parliament and parliamentary institutions’.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Anniversary of the D-Day landings 6th June 1944

June 6th 1944 Churchill addressed the House of Commons. He detailed successes in both Italy and the initial successes of the landings on Norman beaches by the huge allied liberating armies. His speech can be viewed on the TheyWorkForYou site You can also access Hansard from 1803-2005 via the National Library of Scotland's website if you live in Scotland and you have a library card. It is listed underlicensed digital collections and contained in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

State Opening of Parliament

Today is the State Opening of Parliament heralding the first day of a new parliamentary session at Westminster. More information can be found on the UK Parliament website. Compare todays event with this Pathe News footage from 1958.