Monday, 28 September 2015

Cow-dung and water

In appendix no. 1 of the Army Medical Department Report for the year 1871 there is a very interesting report about hygiene.  It has a section on the spread of cholera which mentions the latest discussion in Germany about that disease.
There are many views on how cholera is spread and Pettenkoffer replied to another doctor about his own changes of opinion “and believes such changes to be inevitable with everyone.  He rates our knowledge of Cholera low, but wishes to define his present views as carefully as he can.” 
I was particularly struck by the following incident 
 “On the 20th November a man named Doolla died of cholera, as was subsequently ascertained. …the discharges had flowed on the earthen floor of the room in which he died; this floor had been cleaned, it was said and washed with cow-dung and water.  On the 26th November, a burial feast was given in this room by his brother.  The food – rice, lentil, ghee, sugar and spices all of good quality – was cooked in this room on the previous day and night and the moist and hot rice was spread on an open mat laid on the earthen floor….The feast took place at midday on the 26th November, and a few hours afterwards there was an outbreak of cholera among those who attended.”

The full report can be found in the Army Medical Department Report for the year 1871 in the House of Lords Parliamentary paper session 1873 vol. 34. 

Friday, 18 September 2015

Army Medical Department

Army Medical Department Report for the year 1871
House of Lords Paper 1873 vol. 34
Whilst working on the House of Lords Parliamentary Papers the overwhelming impression is the amount of detailed information in each report.  The amount of work to collate all the tables and material when there were no computers to help is quite staggering and must have been so time consuming.
In this report there are 6 pages of contents, starting with the health of the troops serving in the United Kingdom in 1871.
One example of this is “Of Infantry Regiments the 2nd battalion 16th, at Canterbury and Aldershot, had the highest ratio of admissions, the excess being chiefly in cases of febricula, bronchitis and tonsillitis, gonorrhoea, skin diseases and accidental injuries; the 82nd Regiment at Portsmouth and Aldershot, the highest ratio of deaths.”
They are also detailed accounts of the health of the troops overseas such as China, Japan, India and Mauritius to name a few.
An account from Japan states “local diseases – there was a reduction in the prevalence of diseases of the circulatory and digestive systems, and a very marked one in cases of gonorrhoea, included with diseases of the urinary system; and there was a moderate increase in diseases of the respiratory and cutaneous systems.”
I particularly like the written examinations held at the Army Medical School, Netley.
Questions range from subjects such as medicine, surgery, botany, languages and military hygiene such as :
“What are the chief points to which you would direct your attention in examining whether the ground, round and under any habitation, is likely to be injurious to health?”
And “what are the methods of examining air?”  What amount of air should be given per hour to a healthy man?  On what principle is this rule based and how is the amount attempted to be given in barracks in England?”
This is just a tiny sample of the amazing and detailed amount of information that can be found in the reports from the House of Lords Parliamentary Papers.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Lunacy in scotland

In the thirteenth annual report of the General Board of Commissioners in Lunacy for Scotland there is a wealth of detailed statistics, tables and reports covering all aspects.  A few examples of the tables are:  number and distribution of the insane, causes of the increase of Pauper Patients, Proportion of Private to Pauper Patients, and return of expenditure on account of Pauper Lunatics during the year 1869.
One table is about the number of deaths, it states
“The number of deaths of both sexes is greatest in winter; but the tendency to death is in summer greater among females than males.  This is shown in the following table

We have not the means of ascertaining whither the difference which this Table shows to exist between the male and female mortality in asylums in summer and in winter extends to the general population.”
It continues that if a comparison was done “it would probably be found that in winter there are more deaths from pulmonary disease among males than among females; and in summer more deaths from abdominal disease among females than among males.”
There is a description about the functions of attendants in the asylums.
“Attendants, however, are frequently not trustworthy and are occasionally even guilty of harshness and cruelty.  Nor is this surprising.  The life of an asylum attendant is one which presents few attractions, and its rewards are inconsiderable…..Many dislike the work, or their health suffers and they leave after a short trial.  Others are soon discharged for incapacity, inattention, drunkenness, insubordination, cruelty, or some similar cause.”

There are tables about the nature of accidents and in which asylum the accident occurred.  One such accident was in Argyll where there was an unintentional suicide by drinking carbolic acid.  Another one from Stirling was "fracture of the fourth metatarsal bone in trying to kick another patient."
There is an extensive amount of information in this report and the report can be found in the House of Lords papers, session 1871 volume 45.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Battle of Britain

On the BBC news this morning it was reported that there was going to be:
Battle of Britain: Flypast for 75th anniversary of 'Hardest Day'
Prime Minister Mr Winston Churchill stated on the 20th August 1940 in the House of Commons two days after the “Hardest day” the following:
We hope, we believe that we shall be able to continue the air struggle indefinitely and as long as the enemy pleases, and the longer it continues the more rapid will be our approach, first towards that parity, and then into that superiority in the air, upon which in a large measure the decision of the war depends. The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and by their devotion. 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, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Provincial workhouses

When working with the House of Lords parliamentary papers I keep coming across some wonderful gems and very thought-provoking facts, I think this one in particular is enthralling in a rather gruesome way.

 “Offensive and disagreeable – there are three classes of cases which should be treated under this head and placed in separate wards, viz., the cases of old people who involuntarily pass their urine when in bed, or when dressed ; those of comparatively recent sore legs, in which offensive discharges still occur ; and those, as cancer of the face, in which not only the discharges are offensive, but the appearance of the person is exceedingly repulsive to others.  The rule should be rigidly maintained that cases which are offensive to others should not be mixed with ordinary cases.
This is an extract taken from a report by Dr Edward Smith dated the 15th day of April 1867 after visiting certain workhouses.  He is reporting upon the sufficiency of the existing arrangements for the care and treatment of the sick poor in these workhouses.
The report covers and goes into great depth on
·         dealing with the sick with different illnesses, like the itch
·         the officers in charge of the sick
·         the nurses
·         the medical officers
·         the character and construction of sick wards
·         furniture and medical appliances.
This report is full of fascinating information on the state of the workhouse. The appendix is very detailed and all his observations of the individual workhouses he visited are recorded in minute detail. It can be found in vol. XVIII session 1867-68 paper number 48.
It is another example of the remarkable reports to be found in the House of Lords parliamentary papers.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Convicts in Western Australia 1863!

Browsing through this report, there is such a wealth of information to be found, there are detailed written reports from the Superintendent, the Roman Catholic Chaplin, the Protestant Chaplin, the schoolmaster and the Surgeon Superintendent to name a few.  There are also tables with information such as prison offences, crimes, prisoners in custody, ages, church parade state, punishments, diseases and time tables.  (see photograph)

The following caught my eye it is an extract from the Surgeon Superintendent’s report from the Lunatic Asylum, Freemantle January 1864.
He states “The general health of the patients at this asylum, both male and female, has, as in former years, been remarkably good; no epidemic has been present, and even the influenza which for three months was extremely prevalent at Freemantle, scarcely, if at all, affected the inmates of the asylum.  This state of health is more noteworthy, occurring as it does in spite of many influences being present which usually tend to create bad health and disease, viz., a low damp site, ill-ventilated and overcrowded wards, and the frequent presence of an overpowering stench from the beach, immediately contiguous, consequent on putrescent jelly-fish, seaweed, and other decay.”
He continues “…there is a liberal diet, and a plentiful supply of books; and for the females there is also in addition plenty of needlework, besides washing and cleaning.”  He doesn’t state what the men can do.
All this and much more can be found in session 1865 vol. IX entitled Annual reports on the Convict Establishments at Western Australia and Tasmania presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty 2nd June 1865.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Indexes to the Proceedings of the United Nations

The UN Index to Proceedings provides a window into the annual meetings of the main UN organs - General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and the Security Council.
The Index to Proceedings ceased in print version in 2011 and is now available as a free PDF download.
The National Library of Scotland is a United Nations Depository Library and as such holds a large collection of printed material from the UN and it's sub bodies. These can all be consulted in our main reading room in George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

Friday, 3 July 2015

A nice cup of TEA

“It is not, however, in the consumption of the United Kingdom alone, that a market would be found for its produce.  The whole Continent of Europe has lately adopted its use in a greater or less degree, and in many countries, such as Canada, the United States and the Barbary Coast, the consumption has become very considerable.”
This is a description of TEA conquering the world!
 From the “Copy of papers received from India relating to the measures adopted for introducing the cultivation of the tea plant within the British Possessions in India” some paragraphs jumped out at me whether for the language used in the correspendence or for the sense of history.  
The following were written by W H Macnaghten Secretary to the Governor of India in the Extract India Revenue Consultations 1 February 1834.

 ”it has been generally imagined that China was the only country where the tea plant would grow, or where it could be cultivated and manufactured.  Recent investigations have dissipated this delusion; for we shall find that the Burmese, the Japanese, and Brazilians, as well as the Chinese, have cultivated tea with success; and we may confidently state, that if in future we are not rendered independent of the Chinese, by producing tea from our own territories and colonies, it will be our own fault, and that we shall merit continuation of that insolence from the Chinese government…”
“The inhabitants of India have little or no occupation excepting that of agriculture; and the cultivation and preparation of tea would admirably accord with their sedentary and tranquil habits.  The skill of our manufacturers has not only totally superseded the introduction of muslins and cottons from India but the exportation of Manchester and Glasgow cottons and muslins to India has so deluged the Indian markets, that many thousands of the native weavers are ruined, and in the greatest distress.  Their economical habits also render labour extremely low in price.  Tea, like almost all other articles, is the produce of land and labour…the East India Company are much at a loss to provide some reasonable occupation for the natives, to promote peaceful habitats of industry amongst them.  It is also an object of great importance to the East India company to obtain facilities to bring home their territorial revenues, which at present they have imperfect means of doing; in many instances the loss in exchange has been dreadful”.
“we can scarcely doubt that, when the skill and science of the Europeans, aided by thermometers etc, shall once be applied to the cultivation and preparation of tea in favourable situations, the Chinese tea will soon be excelled in quality and flavour. “ 
A drawing of a tea plant.
Map of where tea could grow

To read the whole  paper it can be found in vol. VII of the House of Lords 1839, (paper 44).

Friday, 26 June 2015

Hill Coolies in British Guiana

Whilst working on the House of Lords paper I found the following

“Correspondence on the condition of the Hill Coolies in British Guiana.”
It is amazing that so much detail can be found in the House of Lords Papers.  When looking through this report I found very detailed tables about the situation of the Hill Coolies with headings such as name, where from, sex, height, age, on which estate located, name of proprietor of estate, employment, monthly wage, weekly rations, clothing kind and quality, colour, health and remarks.
The health information was either very brief e.g.  good health, sickly, not very healthy, dead, but occasionally more information was given such as “health good and would continue so was it not for their great propensity for strong liquors” or “sickly from the first” and even “very bad, is recovering”.

Examples from the remarks column are
“ The behaviour of the majority good; the minority of which there is a very large one, are lazy, disobedient, insolent and worthless.  Those marked with a * are suffering from the excessive use of ardent drinks, from which they cannot be kept, as they will sell the very clothes off their backs to procure it” or no favourable report can be given.
The report continues with all the correspondence which includes dispatches, letters and reports.
The following is taken from a dispatch from Governor Light to Lord Glenelg on the 11th January 1839.
“…The coolies on Mr Gladstone’s property are a fine healthy body of men ; they are beginning to marry  or cohabit with the Negresses, and to take pride in their dress; the few words of English they know, added to signs common to all, prove that “sahib” was good to them.  The magnificent features of the men, their well-shaped, through slender limbs promise well for mixture of the Negress with the Indian.  Palm oil and ghee the first for the bodies, the second for their meals, are not always to be obtained; their employers endeavour to content with some substitute.”

You can find this wealth of information in the House of Lords paper 202, 1839 in vol. VII .


Wednesday, 17 June 2015


Reported in the House of Commons Hansard on the Friday 23rd June 1815 (vol.31 GHC.5)


Lord Castlereagh, in rising to call the attention of the House to the last splendid triumph of the British arms, was at a loss to express the feelings which he experienced in common with all who heard him. On various occasions he had had the honour to address them on the exploits of that illustrious Commander, who was the subject of the motion with which, he should conclude; but never, even among the mighty achievements which had swelled our military renown, since that exalted character was placed at the head of our army, had it been his lot to submit to Parliament a proposition founded on an event so glorious as that which called for the expression of their gratitude this day. The present was a triumph of such a character, that, without disparagement, to those actions in which his great genius had formerly displayed itself, he might say of it-it had never happened, even to him, to confer so great a benefit on his country before. It was an achievement of such high merit, of such pre-eminent importance, as had never perhaps graced the annals of this or any other country till now; and when considered, not only with a view to the immediate loss inflicted on the enemy, but with reference to the moral effect which it must be expected to produce on the war now commenced, in the issue of which the fate of this country, of Europe, and the world were so closely bound up, it must be felt that it opened to our view a prospect so cheering, and so transcendently bright, that no language could do justice to the feelings it must naturally inspire…..

(He continues for a few pages and then concludes)… 
He felt that any further attempt on his part to bring the subject under the consideration of the House, would be worse than useless, and would therefore conclude. The noble lord then moved, "That the Thanks of this House be given to field-marshal the Duke of Wellington, Knight of the most noble Order of the Garter, for the consummate ability, unexampled exertion, and irresistible ardour, displayed by him on the 18th of June, on which day the decisive victory-over the enemy, commanded by Buonaparté in person, was obtained by his grace, with the Allied troops under his command, and in conjunction with the troops under the command of marshal Prince Blucher, whereby the military glory of the British nation has been exalted, and the territory of his Majesty's ally the King of the Netherlands, has been protected from invasion and spoil." This motion was carried in the affirmative, nemine contradicente. [The Speech and Motion were followed by loud and long cheering.]

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The 125th Anniversary of the Forth Bridge

To coincide with the 125 anniversary of the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890 Tom Martin gave a very interesting talk at the National Library of Scotland last night about the building of the bridge and the men who worked on it. Built between 1882 and 1890, the Forth Railway Bridge is regarded as a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. It was designed by the engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, and the contractor for the construction was Tancred, Arrol & Co. At the peak of the construction there were over 4,500 men employed on the bridge. They worked twelve hour shifts, twenty four hours a day, 6 days a week. The risks to the mens safety were great. As well as the many injuries that occurred as a result of their work there were at least 73 fatalities. It was compulsory for the men to join the Sick and Accident Club which was established in 1883. One of the benefits of the Club was that “funerals would be paid for within reason” During 1883-1890 there were 28 quarterly inspections undertaken on the bridge. These can be found in the Parliamentary Papers collection in the National Library of Scotland or can be viewed digitally on the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database. If you have a library card and are resident in Scotland this database can be viewed remotely. The National Library of Scotland’s treasures display ‘The Forth Bridge: building of an icon’ runs until the 21st June. Digital images of the construction of the bridge can be viewed in the NLS’s digital gallery Further information on the men who built the bridge can be found on the ‘Briggers’ web site.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Chelsea Flower Show

In an article about the Chelsea Flower Show, the BBC reported that the organisers had noted “nearly a quarter of the UK's front gardens are now paved over.”  The results of a survey showed that 24% of gardens are paved, concreted or gravelled.

In the Official Publications Collection there is a small item entitled “Our Gardens” (shelfmark GHA.1/2).  It was published in 1948 and in the foreword by the Minister of Health (Aneurin Bevan) explains that “the purpose of this book is to show how much anyone who is fortunate enough to have a garden can do to add to the attractiveness of his neighbourhood….I therefore commend this little book in the hope that it will help us all to maintain in the surroundings and the settings of our homes that tradition of good gardening of which our country has always been proud.”

In Hansard from the Lords Sitting of Monday, 21st January,vol. 348 (shelfmark GHL.5) 1974
Lord Chorley states  ”I think that the English people should be particularly sensitive to the importance of their floral heritage. What have flowers meant to the English? If you go to the Chelsea Flower Show, if you go to Vincent Square every fortnight, you will see not wild flowers but flowers which have developed out of wild flowers; but for the wild flowers they would not be displayed there and our gardens in the summer would not be the lovely sights that they are. Plants have meant a very great deal to the English people, to the English way of life and to our culture. One important aspect of this I have already mentioned; namely, what flowers have meant to our poets. Obviously, our greatest poets have been as much moved by the charming little flowers in our countryside as by almost anything else, and that has meant a great deal. The inspiration to our people of our great poets-Shakespeare, Wordsworth and the others-cannot be measured. It certainly cannot be measured in money. It cannot really be measured in words. What would Wordsworth's poetry be without the flowers?”

Monday, 18 May 2015

How did Scotland Vote? – UK General Election 2015

The UK General Election 2015 was held on the 7 May. This infographic provides details on the results in Scotland. From the Scottish Parliament's SPICe briefing series.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Historic political papers to be made available online

Access is opening up to valuable House of Lords papers that go to the heart of 19th century British political history. A project to digitise the papers will give free online access to National Library of Scotland registered readers with a Scottish address. At present they can only consult this parliamentary material by visiting the Library in person.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

OECD iLibrary

OECD iLibrary is the global knowledge base for OECD’s data and analysis. It is one of the most comprehensive online resources on the world economy, society, education and environment. It contains all books and papers published since 1998 as well as a vast collection of statistics, with data going back to the early 1960s and more than 80 countries are covered. More detailed information can be found here You can get remote access to this resource if you are resident in Scotland and have a library card If you have any queries regarding this resource please contact

Monday, 11 May 2015

Bradford Stadium fire : 30th anniversary

On 11 May 1985, a fire broke out in the wooden stand at Bradford’s Valley Parade ground during a match between Bradford City and Lincoln City. 56 people were killed and hundreds of others badly burned. A Committee of Inquiry chaired by Sir Oliver Popplewell was set up under the Safety at Sports Grounds Act to investigate the causes and find ways to improve safety. The Inquiry also considered the tragedies at Birmingham City and the Heysel stadium. The Papers are the submissions and evidence gathered by the Committee from many sources, including the Fire Brigade, police, football clubs, other sports facilities, and the press. Access to these reports is available digitally via the National Library of Scotland to readers resident in Scotland by applying for a reader's card Interim report P.P. 1984/85 Cmnd 9585 and P.P. 1884/85 Cmnd 9710 Final report

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

to go or not to go - emigration in 1846

This is an extract taken from the several weekly reports made to the Governor-General by the Chief Agent for the Superintendence of Emigration at Quebec.

Dated August 20, 1846
In answer to your letter of the 14th instant, requesting me to inform you of the state and condition to which the passengers of the barque “Elizabeth and Sarah” arrived at this station… On boarding her I found the passengers in the most wretched state of filth and disease.  No order or regulation appeared to have been preserved, or any attempt at enforcing cleanliness.  Their excrements and filth have been thrown in the ballast, producing a stench which made it difficult to remain any length of time below.  I found about 26 cases of fever and received the names of 20 others, including the master, who had died on the passage…. On landing the passengers at the sheds, I had to send 50 more to hospital, where there is at this moment 76, and six have died in hospital since landing.  The remainder, though weak, are healthy at present, and have been made to clean themselves, their clothes and bedding, those of them that have any, but the major part of them are destitute of a second change of clothes....The causes which have conspired to produce disease and death among the passengers are ….
1st.   Want of cleanliness and inattention to ventilation.
2nd. Insufficiency of food and water, and that of an unwholesome quality.
3rd. Overcrowding.
These causes conspired to produce fever, and when once disease set in, the effluvium from the persons of the sick, dying, and dead, confined in the hold (the master was kept two or three weeks on board after death), soon rendered the whole atmosphere unfit for respiration."
He goes on to state that the Captain “was a man unfit, morally and physically, to take charge of a passenger vessel; he was in ill health and of intemperate habits.”
To read the whole report it can be found at
Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America
House of Lords paper 1847 vol. XV

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.