Friday, 7 March 2014

Pancake race 2014

House of Lords Library

I was on a visit to the House of Lords Library on the same day that the pancake race took place.
It is annual event held in Victoria Tower Gardens near the Houses of Parliament.  It is set up to raise money for the Rehab charity, which helps people with physical and mental disabilities.
The race is against members from the House of Lords, the House of Commons and the press park.
It was highly entertaining to watch the race and as I was visiting the House of Lords Library I was pleased that the Lords won.

Friday, 31 January 2014

American Art

 Browsing through the American items in the Official Publications Collection, I am amazed at how many wonderful art books are held in this collection, although the book “The Charters of Freedom “A New World is at Hand”” is not from the obvious galleries such as the National Gallery of Art or the Smithsonian Institute, it is a lovely book with beautiful pictures in it. 
This book is based on an exhibition in the National Archives Rotund for the Charters of Freedom, the exhibition opened on September 17, 2003.
But what are the Charters of Freedom? They are the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, these have guaranteed the rights and freedom of Americans for over 200 years.
The book gives glimpses of the story on how the Charters were created, plus the course of history in the United States and around the world.  The Declaration was announced to the world on July 4, 1776, and stated that the thirteen British colonies in North America were leaving Great Britain to form a separate nation, ”the Declaration articulates the highest ideals of the Revolution, beliefs in liberty, equality, and the right to self-determination.”  The Constitution drafted in 1787 was the practical scheme of the government to promote the welfare of all its citizens and the Bill of Rights in 1791 went on to explicitly protect the freedom of speech, of the press, of religion and of assembly among many other freedoms.
The book is full of wonderful pictures and snippets of information about these three documents.  I particularly love the pictures of the two murals that grace the curved walls of the Rotunda.
You can find the book at shelfmark F1/SE.4/220

Friday, 24 January 2014

American History

An Outline of American History
Delving further into the American collection held in the Official Publications I thought that I should start at the beginning of the collection and I found this lovely book.
It was published in 1953 and distributed by the United States Information Service.  In the introduction it states “This booklet is an attempt to supply some of the answers in a concise and convenient form and to trace some of the major currents of thought and development in the nation’s growth.”
It has 7 chapters: the Colonial period, the winning of independence, the formation of a National Government, Westward expansion and regional differences, sectional conflict, the era of expansion and reform and ending with America in the modern world.
The chapters are easy to read and have many interesting points.   In the chapter titled "Westward expansion and regional differences", there is a small section about women’s suffrage.  Interestingly the unmarried women in most respects apparently enjoyed the same legal rights as men, apart from voting, but as soon as she married (and the custom was to marry early) then it changed.  It states that “the awakening of women began with a visit to America of Frances Wright, a Scotswoman of advanced views.  Her appearance before audiences to deliver lectures on theology and women’s rights shocked the public.”
The biggest chapter is on the Sectional Conflict
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free” Abraham Lincoln.
There is a picture in black and white showing the Confederates firing upon Fort Sumter which began the Civil war on the 12th April 1861.  There also is a small  map of the battle area of the Civil War.
This book is only 146 pages but full of very fascinating facts, and well worth a read.  You can find it at shelfmark F1/AA.4.24


Friday, 17 January 2014

Sanitation and War

The Sanitary Commission of the United States Army: a succinct narrative of its works and purpose.
I was admittedly quite fascinated with this title.   It was published in 1864 in New York for the benefit of the United States Sanitary Commission.
In reading the introduction it stated “The commission knew that the average annual death-rate in armies in our former wars had been exceedingly high, and that an army of volunteer forces is most liable to fatal diseases.  In our vast armies of volunteers, the problems of sanitary science were to be wrought out as a national and patriotic work….Can the average sickness-rate be kept at a minimum point? Can the average death-rate from disease be reduced to a fraction of that which was registered in the Mexican war?  This result the commission believed possible.”
This is a fascinating book about the Commission and what they achieved, they are harrowing descriptions such as from page 33 “At the time of which I am now writing (Monday afternoon), wounded men were arriving by every train….They were packed as closely as they could be stowed in the common freight-cars, without beds, without straw, at most with a wisp of hay under their heads.  Many of the lighter cases came on the roof of the cars.  They arrived dead and living together, in the same close box, many with awful wounds festering and swarming with maggots.”  The smell apparently reduced the men that cared for them to vomit.
But it also states on page 229
“The Brigadier-General commanding gratefully recalls to the recollection of the troops of this command, and the debt incurred by them during the recent movements, to the Sanitary Commission and its Agent Mr A. B. Day.  Much suffering has been alleviated and many inconveniencies removed by the energy and promptness with which the supplies of the Commission have been paced at the control of our medical officers…”
This book is well worth a read and can be found at shelfmark F1/DA-I.4/3.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Scottish Government's White Paper on Independence

On Tuesday 26th November the Scottish Government will publish the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence. This important document is available online in PDF, HTML and in the eBook formats ePub and Mobi at as well as in print. From Wednesday 27th November libraries throughout the whole of Scotland will start to receive 5 printed copies of this important publication. Libraries will also receive the eBook and PDF files for inclusion in e-lending and also to be given away to those who wish to download their own copies. The eBook and PDF files of the white paper on independence are DRM free and can be given away and borrowed as often as you wish. There are no restrictions. In addition, libraries can advise members of the public to visit for more information and to download their own copies. Members of the public who require a printed copy should contact 0300 012 1809.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Referendum hub

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre has launched its Referendum Hub
for those seeking information on Independence for Scotland, and on the debate around the Referendum. Material has been selected by impartial researchers within the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, who have made every effort to ensure both sides of the debate are fairly represented.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Where were you?

50 years ago (22nd November 1963) John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.   One of the many books about JFK the library holds is “Homage to a Friend a Memorial Tribute by the United Nations for President John F. Kennedy”.
The speeches made in the General Assembly at the special commemorative meeting held on 26 November 1963 are bound together in this book alongside excerpts from President Kennedy’s own speeches in which he made reference to the United Nations.

I was very much struck with H.E. Mr Carlos Sosa Rodrigues, Venezuela (President of the eighteenth session of the General Assembly) who said

“John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, is dead.  He fell at his post, in the service of his country.  The treacherous act of the assassin, inspired by the hatred and fanaticism against which he fought so hard, has struck down in its prime a life full of achievement and full of promise for his country and for humanity.  Not only America but the whole world mourns his passing, for by it they have lost one of those rare human beings in whom energy and generosity join to produce glorious and fruitful activity in the service of the noblest ideals.”
This book can be found at shelf mark UN-I.1.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

As the 50th anniversary of the murder of JFK approaches (22nd November), there is a plethora of tv programmes, books and news articles to add to the already vast amount of reportage, speculation and conspiracy theories. To help you make up your own mind, you can read the Warren Commission report here at the Library, or use the electronic resource link to the on-line version.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Scotland's Census : shaping our future

Scotland's census: shaping our future
Here is a nice visual tool from the National Records of Scotland that allows you to compare the population in Scotland from 1911 to 2011.
It is part of a larger website to be launched this week called Census data explorer

Monday, 4 November 2013

National Crime Agency

The National Crime Agency (NCA) will formally begin work in October 2013.  Its remit is to develop and bring together intelligence on all types of serious and organised crime, prioritise crime groups according to the threats they present and in conjunction with the police, then lead, coordinate and support the operational response.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Clocks go forward

In the Report and Special Report from the Select Committee on the Daylight Saving Bill with proceedings, minutes of evidence, appendix and index 1908, the “paramount advantages the committee find to be the greater use of daylight” were

(1) To move the usual hours of work and leisure nearer to sunrise.
(2) To promote the greater use of daylight for recreative purposes of all kinds.
(3) To lessen the use of licensed houses
(4) To facilitate the training of the Territorial forces
(5) To benefit the physique, general health and welfare of all classes of the community…..”
I was very much struck by the third reason!

To read the whole report it can be found at PP 1908 vol. VII page 73 or see the electronic version online, if you are a registered reader, in our licensed digital resources.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.

"This year again, we saw the United Nations come together on armed conflict, human rights, the environment and many other issues. We continue to show what collective action can do. We can do even more. In a world that is more connected, we must be more united. On United Nations Day, let us pledge to live up to our founding ideals and work together for peace, development and human rights. "
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Did you know that the UN vaccinates 58 per cent of the world’s children, saving 2.5 million lives a year?

The National Library of Scotland is a UN Depository Library and as such has a wealth of information on the work of the UN.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Did you know that the United Nations has 120,000 peacekeepers in 16 operations on 4 continents?

The National Library of Scotland is a United Nations Depository Library and as such has a wealth of information on the work of UN.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

It's all in the mind

Mindfulness-based therapy
In Hansard on the 4 December 2012 there was a very interesting speech by Chris Ruane, he was talking about Mindfulness-based therapy and unemployment.
The statistics he mentioned were staggering “the World Health Organisation states that by 2030 mental health will be the biggest cause of burden of all health conditions, including heart conditions and cancer.”
He also mentioned that the number of prescriptions issued for antidepressants have gone from 9 million to 46 million over the past 10 years. That by the way is a 500% increase.

He states that some 25% of UK citizens will suffer mental illness, there are many theories about this - some state it is to do with the rampant individualism brought on by the 1980s, some by the rise of advertising in the post-war period has promoted consumerism. Others state that it is the social breakdown and people retreating to their home, the television, or spending 3 hours a day commuting or computing.
Mr Chris Ruane states that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said that mindfulness was a better way to treat repeat-episode depression. It is a proven and scientifically accepted way of improving mental illness.

But what is mindfulness, it is an integrative mind-body based approach that helps people to change how they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware of them, less enmeshed in them, and better able to manage them. It uses breathing to slow the mind and the body down – it uses breath as an anchor to help us to live in the present moment.

It was a very interesting debate and worth having a look at it. It can be found in volume no. 554 shelfmark GHC.5.

Friday, 30 August 2013

up, up and away

Aerial Locomotion

When working on an enquiry I found a very interesting item, dated 1891. It is the complete specification on Improvements in Aerial Locomotion by a Miss Clara Louisa Wells, who was residing at Pompei, Italy at that time.

Her invention “consists in the establishment of regular lines, for aerial locomotion, with stations, for the entrance and exit of passengers, or for the placing and removal of baggage, with a similar system to that used on the funicular railroads ; the aerial vehicles or balloons being attached by cable cords to rings, very much larger than the lines over which they are able to run and these rings to be protected, and the whole maintained in place, by an iron tube, grooved and open at the top, sufficiently to allow the balloon-cords free course to run, with the rings, over the enclosed cable-line.”

She goes on to say that with using this system that it will do the work “now performed, often with atrocious suffering, from over-weight, and the ever-scourging whip – by draught animals.”

She maintains that “Nor would it be difficult for private of individual balloons to add a joining branch to the more public lines, so that, a nobleman may enter his velvet-lined, balloon-car, at his very own door.”

It is titled No. 15,850 A.D. 1890 complete specification….and can be found at the shelfmark GPA.2.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Abolition of the slave trade

Tomorrow the 23rd August is the UNESCO International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

I thought I would have a quick look at Hansard to see what was being said about the abolition of the slave trade and the following is an extract from 16th March 1807.

“Mr Secretary Windham remarked, that although the overseers of plantations made use of the whip, that did not prove that the negroes were treated with cruelty; but, alter all, it was not the intention of the house to abolish slavery, but the slave trade. Therefore, when the anti-abolitionists spoke of the miserable condition of the slaves, they were arguing against themselves, inasmuch as it was no part of the present bill to abolish slavery in the West Indies. Slavery was as ancient as the days of Homer, who said, take from a man his liberty, and you take from him his virtue. Still slavery was a degrading situation for man, and it was to be wished that it could be abolished.”…The right hon. secretary proceeded to observe, that on such a question, the house ought not to go upon abstract principles of right, but upon the consideration of the consequences of the measure, and the possible ruin of the British empire resulting from it.

To read the whole debate it can be found in House of Commons Hansard 1807 vol 9. placed at GHC.5 or see the electronic version online, if you are a registered reader, in our licensed digital resources.


Friday, 2 August 2013

99 years since Great Britain entered the Great War

This Sunday, 4th August, marks the 99th anniversary of Great Britain entering World War I. Next year is, of course, the big one - the centenary year. There will be events all over the UK and Europe to mark the occasion. Is this is a celebration, a thanksgiving, a commemoration, or a re-appraisal? It is hoped that the planned events will add to the sum of knowledge on what was certainly the most devastating war ever known up to that point.

The Library will have a major exhibition next summer and autumn, and meantime you can re-visit the other posts on this blog about the Great War.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Margaret Thatcher Day Bill

A Bill to make provision that the annual Bank Holiday Monday in late August be known as Margaret Thatcher Day.
This Bill was presented to Parliament on 24 June 2013 and is expected to have its second reading debate on 8 November 2013.
The Bill is a Private Member’s Bill.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Piper Alpha anniversary

The newspapers and television are full of recollections of the horrific Piper Alpha disaster 25 years ago.

See the original  enquiry conducted by Lord Cullen into the events electronically via  the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database . Details on how to access this resource via the National Library of Scotland
We also old the print copy of the enquiry. The details required to request to view this item are P.P. 1990/91 Cm 1310.
More information on using the library here

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

IMO's Day of the Seafarer 2013 - Faces of the Sea

The International Maritime Organization was established in 1948. Its original name was the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization or IMCO but the name changed in 1982 to IMO.
Find out more @ IMO's Day of the Seafarer 2013 - Faces of the Sea
  Search the National Library's  IMO and IMCO collection

Friday, 21 June 2013

Suffragist or Suffragette?

After setting up the display about “votes for women” I have to ask myself what would I have been in the battle for a vote, would I have been a suffragist, or a suffragette?

The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society (NUWSS) was set up in 1897 under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett who wanted to achieve the vote for women by peaceful tactics which included petitions, non-violent demonstrations and lobbying of MPs.

The Suffragette movement was born out of the suffragists’ movement by Emmeline Pankhurst who becoming impatient with not getting the vote. She set up a separate society the Women’s’ Social and Political Union (WSPU) whose motto was DEEDS NOT WORDS and from 1905 onwards became more militant and violent in the methods of campaign.

After reading so many speeches in Hansard I have become quite angry and would hope to have had the courage to be a suffragette.

The following speech is from the MP Mr Dickinson quoted in Hansard vol. 170 on the 8th March 1907

“…and was unable to secure a seat. He sat accordingly on the floor, and [1162] then the Speaker called him by name; and immediately he found himself hauled on to the friendly knees of another hon. friend in order to address the Chair. But supposing on that occasion the unfortunate male had to seek similar refuge on the knees of a lady Member. The privileges of Members would be curtailed in all directions.”

So which camp would you be in?