Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy and peaceful holidays to all our readers!

A lot of our bloggers are, or will be, away for the holidays, so the blog will also be having a little rest. Here's hoping you all have a happy Christmas and a peaceful new year. I'll leave you with this image from the United Nations Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC), which be launched early next year. It's in tandem with the Road to Copenhagen initiative on climate change and citizen participation.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Don't drink and fly...

The Department for Transport's report on disruptive behaviour on aircraft shows it's not just roads that enrage us - it's being in the air, too. The report shows that consumption of (too much) alcohol adds to the problem, and that many more men indulge in such behaviour than women. The stats seem to show that the most likely trouble-maker is an alcohol-imbibing male, in his 30s and travelling in a group.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Cabinet Papers online 1915-1977

The National Archives have made another great resource available, The Cabinet Papers Online. A JISC funded digitisation programme, it's packed with information, photographs and maps on the workings of cabinet government at a fascinating period of UK history.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Commission on Scottish Devolution

(or Calman Commission) has produced its first report . The Commission was set up after a debate in the Scottish Parliament in 2007, and had its first meeting in April this year. It's tasked with looking in detail at how devolution has worked in Scotland since 1998.

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Eddies! (Edublogs awards)

Edublogs hosts hundreds of thousands of blogs for teachers, students, researchers, professors, librarians, administrators and anyone and everyone else involved in education, definitely worth a look. They have awards for the best blogs in various categories every year.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

World Aids Day

Monday December 1st is the 20th World Aids Day,and the message seems to be that, while great advances have been made, this is no time for complacency.
We collect publications by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (or UNAIDS), just search our catalogue - choose search type "Author", then type in Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Influenza in India 1918

While I was working in the stacks on the India Papers Collection I had a look at some of the Sanitary Commissioner's annual reports from 1918, when influenza swept the world and killed millions. Thousands were killed in the Madras Presidency; in some districts as many as between 30-50,000 people. One problem was the superstitions of the people, particularly in rural areas:"Several people, mostly in the interior, were averse in the beginning to resorting to a medical treatment under a superstitious belief that the epidemic was a visitation of the Goddess or Amman and that no treatment by drugs should be attempted." (Annual report of the Sanitary Board, the annual report of the Sanitary Commissioner and the annual report of the Sanitary Engineer, Madras 1918)
Meanwhile the European Army in India had 19,308 men admitted to hospital and 775 deaths. As in the rest of the world, the second wave in autumn 1918 caused high mortality amongst sufferers.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Road safety week 10-16 November 2008

This week is the Road Safety Week campaign.
One of the House of Commons parliamentary papers I have recently catalogued is "Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety Beyond 2010, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence" (HC 460).
In it , you'll find out that the first motorway in Britain was opened fifty years ago in December. There were just over seven million vehicles licensed in Britain in 1958, and 6000 deaths resulted in that year. Not suprisingly, the number of vehicles licensed have increased by 400% by 2007; however, the deaths on the road have gone below 3000 which I find incredible.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Scottish Cemetery

Off a busy street in Kolkata lies a little corner of Scotland - the old Scottish cemetery, containing the remains of hundreds of Scots who made their home in what was the heart of Imperial India. The decaying cemetery is now the subject of a project by our heritage colleagues from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). At the invitation of the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage and the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust, RCAHMS staff are on their first field trip there to assess the damage and draw up a restoration plan.
Names from the interment register will be added to a database, and the team will not only restore the monuments, but help create a green space for the city.

You can follow the team's progress in their very entertaining blog!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Deadly flu

It is 90 years since the end of World War I, in which millions of people died. But did you know that it is also 90 years since another event killed millions more? Beginning as a first wave in spring 1918, “Spanish Flu” infected an estimated third of the world’s population and killed vast numbers (estimated at 50 million worldwide), mostly those who were between 20-40 years old. It reached its peak with second and third waves in autumn 1918 and winter 1919, just when peace was settling on the countries torn apart by warfare.
Even today no one knows why it was so fatal despite teams of scientists working to try and understand the origin of the virus. This may be crucial in preventing another devastating pandemic.
There are many Official Publications dealing with the threat of another influenza pandemic which include a Scottish framework for responding,Oral Evidence from the House of Commons, and NHS Scotland public health advice for travellers.
The Guardian's interactive feature, showing news articles and adverts from when the 1918 flu struck the UK, is very good and worth a look.
Meanwhile, Google is using today's search engine technology to track flu trends in the USA.
Photo of influenza virus credited to CDC/Dr. F. A. Murphy[via pingnews]

90th anniversary of the Armistice

The Armistice with Germany was signed at 5 a.m. on the morning of 11th November, 1918. The Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, rose and made the announcement to the House of Commons. He then read the conditions of the armistice. In conclusion, he said:
"I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars."

One of the most poignant items we have in our collection is Soldiers Died in the Great War, especially the page (above) listing all those killed and injured on the day of the Armistice itself.

Monday, 10 November 2008

The Great War

With the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I approaching, we've been looking at some of our official publications from that time. From
Notes from The Front, and The field service pocket book we found some diagrams of the trenches, not only British, but German ones, too. The German trench even has a figure of a soldier with his trademark pointed steel helmet, and what appears to be a handlebar moustache. There's a lot of detail on construction and materials used, and also signs for sketching routes and battlefields, such as roads, woods, villages and churches.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

UN Audiovisual Library of International Law

The Audiovisual Library describes itself as:
"a unique, multimedia resource which provides the United Nations with the unprecedented capacity to provide high quality international law training and research materials to an unlimited number of recipients on a global level. The Audiovisual Library consists of three pillars: (1) the Historic Archives containing documents and audiovisual materials relating to the negotiation and adoption of significant legal instruments under the auspices of the United Nations and related agencies since 1945; (2) the Lecture Series featuring a permanent collection of lectures on virtually every subject of international law given by leading international law scholars and practitioners from different countries and legal systems; and (3) theResearch Libraryproviding an on-line international law library with links to treaties, jurisprudence, publications and documents, scholarly writings and research guides. The Audiovisual Library is available to all individuals and institutions around the world for free via the Internet."

It's got some useful resources on it, and easily findable

Wellcome Library blog

I am pleased to see that Wellcome Library which is part of the Wellcome Trust has a new medically themed blog. I have used the site quite often in my medical history research and the blog is a useful addition to that. See video clips, learn about the latest digitisation projects, browse images and subscribe to feeds. The Wellcome Trust is the funding body for all 3 phases of the Medical History of British India Project.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Too little, too late?

In 2007 the Australian commonwealth, state and territory governments commissioned Professor Ross Garnaut to investigate the potential effects of climate change on the economy. The final report is now ready, and it includes criticism of the lack of urgency from other governments around the world to cut back on carbon emissions.

P.S. And in the same week WWF publishes its Living Planet report which outlines the terrifying scenario of dwindling resources and too many people using them up.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Medical History of British India Project on microfilm

All 136 volumes from the Medical History of British India project Phase 2 have all been microfilmed and are available to view at the Library. To view what’s on each reel, including Phase 1, enter Mf.IP in the search box on the main NLS catalogue and then select the shelfmark option. The volumes themselves will be returning to the shelves by the end of November; some will be undergoing conservation treatment first, however.
The digital images are undergoing renaming, sorting and conversion to Jpeg format. Then they will be processed by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) so that you can fully search them when they are online next spring . I can’t wait for that, especially to look for names of Indian Medical Service officers.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

I spy ...

Captain Hamilton Bower's Diary of a Journey Across Tibet, published in 1893, details what was essentially a spying mission for the Intelligence Branch of the Quarter Master General's Department in India. He and his party endured bad weather, difficult terrain, stolen horses and "infuriated Tibetans, who had big stones in their hands and were dancing about in a threatening manner".

The first European to cross Tibet - "a huge white blank on our maps" - he received the Royal Geographical Society Founder's medal for his achievement, and the story of the journey is packed full of incident, with photographs and sketches of the scenery and locals.

It is the same Captain Bower who, on a trip to Turkestan in 1890, found the set of manuscripts which now bear his name.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

World Food Day 2008

Today (16th October) is the FAO's (Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN) World Food Day. The event considers ways to tackle food production and the effects of climate change, global food security, and general awareness raising about world hunger (923 million under-nourished people at the last count...)

A little bit of politics...

...for all you political animals out there. Edinburgh's 12th Radical Book Fair starts on 29th October, with an opening talk by Mark Thomas.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Mad dogs and elephants

I have just started adding metadata for each volume of the Veterinary medicine material (from the India Papers), which forms Phase 3 of the Medical History of British India project. These 146 volumes will be online in late 2009. The first batch is about veterinary diseases and includes books on elephants. Elephants were used in India in the timber trade and also for transporting goods. It was vital that these animals, like many others employed by the government or army, were kept in good health, and these books give much detail about care and handling of elephants as well as how to treat elephant diseases. I wasn't aware until recently that elephants could contract rabies. Here is an account of a rare incident from A treatise on elephants by G.H. Evans (1901):"A mad dog, about five years ago, appeared in the elephant lines at Hyderabad. During the night it attacked an elephant when asleep and bit it on the trunk. The bite marks having been distinctly observed the next day, a little oil was applied, but nothing more was done and nothing particular occured till a month after the bite. During the first three days the [elephant] took food, ratib, and water, but afterwards took nothing. It did not appear to be afraid of water, as it drew it into its trunk and squirted it about, but did not drink any. It continued furious for two days, not allowing even the mahout to approach, after which it fell down and died suddenly."
The picture above shows "probably one of the finest workers in the Province [Burma]" and comes from the same volume. It appears as though this elephant was nearing the end of his life, which could have spanned eighty years or more.

Monday, 13 October 2008

You give me fever...

I heard on the World Service news over the weekend that an international team of scientists have deciphered the genetic code for Plasmodium vivax, one of the four parasites which cause malaria. This is said to be a huge breakthrough in understanding the life cycles in both mosquitoes and humans and could lead to "malaria-resistant" mosquitoes in the future.
Looking back to early research on malaria, it was Ronald Ross(pictured,1857-1932), who joined the Indian Medical Service in 1881, who made the discovery in August 1897 that malaria was transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902. You can read two volumes by Ross here on the Medical History of British India web feature

Friday, 10 October 2008

What is Prorogation?

This marks the end of a parliamentary session. This is the time between the end of one session and the State Opening of Parliament which begins the next session.
This year the State Opening of Parliament for the 2008-09 session will take place on Wednesday 3rd December 2008.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Celebrate Edinburgh's libraries!

There's a week-long celebration of Edinburgh's libraries starting on Saturday 8th November. There's something for everyone in the programme, with walks, tours, hands-on sessions, poetry readings, politics, films, music and meet-and-greet-the-author sessions. Oh, and there'll be an Official Publications person (Elaine Simpson) to help you at the launch!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Are we headed for another Great Depression?

Maybe not yet, and maybe never, but arguments about government's role in regulating the financial sector raged pretty much as they're doing now when President Roosevelt introduced his New Deal in 1933, including reforming banking practices such as pushing through the Emergency Banking Act. The Library of Congress has a great resources page on just about everything you wanted to know about the New Deal.

Scottish Government spending plans

During the global economic slowdown/crash/financial meltdown/end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it/crisis/credit crunch/mess it's worth having a look at the Scottish Government's draft budget for 2009-10 to see what their spending plans are and where they may affect you most.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Who'd have thought root-blight was so pretty...?

At last our Medical History of British India leaflets have arrived. We distributed 200 of these at the recent Society for the Social History of Medicine conference in Glasgow, and will be leaving a trail of them wherever we go....

They're very eye-catching and the cover features what looks like a flower in bloom - it's actually root-blight in solanum melongena (aubergine), from Scientific memoirs by Medical Officers of the Army of India, Part X published in 1897.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Sex, lies and red tape

The Lock Hospitals were part of a system to control the spread of venereal disease amongst troops in India in the latter part of the 19th century.
There are 5 volumes of reports on the working of these hospitals in the Medical History of British India project and they have returned from being filmed and scanned. Of all the collections in the project I find this the most extraordinary, giving lively and unrestrained accounts of the Imperialist implementation of the Indian Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864 and 1868.
To protect soldiers from disease prostitutes were encouraged to register and be examined weekly. However, some did not bow to the authorities and continued to ply their trade any way they could: “a woman, believed to have been a source of much mischief, was found in the lines, living in a rum-barrel.” (North-Western Provinces, 1878) Click on the image that accompanies this post to see the full page containing this quote.
The authors of the reports did not disguise their feelings about the native women, many of whom were driven to prostitution through poverty and addiction: “It is worse than useless retaining these hags on the register; they should be turned out of cantonments, and a younger, less repulsive class of women substituted. Until something of this kind happens the Lock Hospital is not likely to prove a success.” (R. M. Edwards, 1877)
Anyone interested in governmentality, colonial medicine and power, history of prostitution and military health will find these reports fascinating. Lock Hospitals were not just used in India; the London Lock Hospital opened in 1747 and as recent as the 1940s there was one on Fantome Island, North Queensland, which treated Aboriginal people.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Serving by the Code

One of my absolute favourite items that I have worked with in the Medical History of British India project is Code of medical and sanitary regulations for the guidance of medical officers serving in the Madras Presidency. This two volume work, published in 1870, gives copious detail about the career and duties of medical officers. There are details of pay and leave, travelling on duty, sanitary regulations, medical stores, hospital supplies, transport of troops and dress regulations. Click on the image to view a soldier's medical history form.
If your ancestor was a medical officer in Madras around this time then these books give a full picture of their working conditions. To those interested in colonial medicine the appendices give examples of forms used by the Government to collect information and aid administration.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Still Sexy and Powerful?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission's report on women and society, "Sex and Power", makes fairly depressing reading. It reveals that the advancement of women has slowed considerably in the last few years. In fact, one of the most startling facts is that "A snail could crawl the entire length of the Great Wall of China in 212 years, just slightly longer than the 200 years it will take for women to be equally represented in Parliament."
What's stopping us? Greater recognition of the importance of flexible working (enforced by legislation) may not yet have had a chance to kick in, but there are wider issues. Maybe we just don't want to "have it all" anymore, after all it's hard work being a career woman, mum, lover, housemaid, cook, cleaner, chauffeur...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Brave New (Digital) World…

The move in publishing to digital from more traditional print methods is reflected in OPU’s growing number of electronic and other non-print resources.

These include:

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Military menus

Today, while tidying some shelves, I found the Indian Manual of Military Cooking. This is dated 1906 and was prepared at the Indian Army School of Cookery.
I was surprised to find that some of the culinary choices were attractive, a far cry from the jail dietaries and hospital menus I have seen in other India Papers volumes. For example, there are recipes for Irish Stew, Hot Pot, Sea Pie, Toad-in-the-Hole, Rissoles, Roast Goose with Stuffing and Omelette with Fine Herbs.
There is a wide range of soups - tomato, pea, barley, lentil, vegetable and rice. Mrs. Lockhart's recipe for chutney consists of apples or apricots, raisins, onions, ginger, sugar, red chillies, garlic, salt; it may have proved a tasty accompaniment to the Turkish Pillau. The Army enjoyed plenty of desserts, including Plum Pudding, Apple Pies, Treacle Pudding, Current Rolls, Muffins, Pancakes, Jam Rolls and Arrowroot Blanc Mange.
Perhaps the aggressive TV chefs that we see lately should follow the instructions given to the Sergeant Cook on the first page: "Patience and tact are required, especially with young soldiers, in training them in their duties as cooks."

Civil Veterinary Departments of British India

We've worked successfully with our partners at the Centre for the Social History of Health & Healthcare in Glasgow for several years now, and our most fruitful enterprise has been the Medical History of British India website (see also past posts on this blog). We have a postgraduate student to work with us on our civil vet papers and publications (phase 3 of the website project) again generously funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Cholera and cricket

If you are searching for an entry point into the Medical History of British India project I can recommend the Indian Medical Review. Written in 1938 by Major-General E.W.C. Bradfield, Director-General of the Indian Medical Service, this volume covers hospitals and dispensaries, medical education, tuberculosis, maternity, medico-legal work, medical societies, pharmacy and drugs control. There is a fascinating section on medical research in India, describing work carried out on key diseases such as malaria, cholera and leprosy, and also giving the histories and activities of medical institutions, some of which feature in the Medical Colleges collection. The Indian Medical Review features at the start of this collection and is at shelfmark IP/QB.3. In his leisure time I have discovered that Earnest William Charles Bradfield was a keen cricketer, so not only did he contribute to the British Empire's spread of medical practices but also to its sporting ones. He played for the Europeans (India) team from 1906-1923 in several Bombay and Madras Presidency matches. I would love to see some footage or photographs of those games!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

New Lives for Old

There's a great new book published by the National Archives (Kew) about poor children sent overseas to all corners of our old Empire (Australia, New Zealand, Canada). These kids were from workhouses and slums, sent by charities and other organisations to have a (hopefully) better life elsewhere. It's full of first-hand accounts, pictures and letters and is a moving story about a practice which didn't end until the second world war.

You can read it here at the Library, shelfmark GRO.2008.4.1.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Historic maps online

Ordnance Survey maps are official publications, but we send them all to our map expert colleagues over at Causewayside. You don't have to go there, though, to see them all. You can now access the OS 6-inch maps online. These particular OS maps date from 1843 to 1882, when Ordnance Survey carried out its earliest comprehensive survey of Scotland. They're significant because they illustrated a very wide range of natural and man-made features for the first time and they were the most detailed series covering the whole of Scotland.

You can also see the OS large scale town plans (1847 - 1895).

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

History of medicine on TV

BBC Four's new five part series called Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery starts at 9pm tonight. Presented by the medically trained Michael Mosley, each episode covers a different branch of surgery.
I was browsing the volumes about Calcutta Medical Institutions in which doctors were evaluating Joseph Lister's antiseptic methods. The 1880 report has a section by the First Surgeon, K. McLeod in which he writes, "I have come to consider it a sacred and imperative duty to endeavour, to the best of my ability and means, to prevent every breach of surface, whether wound or sore, from becoming the seat of septic change; and if it has already done so, to correct the vice and restore it to sweetness." Click on the image to see more about McLeod's antiseptic methods in Calcutta in the mid 1880's.
McLeod came to Edinburgh in 1876 and on following Lister in his wards, realised that he hadn't been carrying out the procedure in accordance with Lister's teaching. He returned to India determined to demonstrate "strict Listerism." Mortality rates were seen to fall after surgery when using antiseptic methods. It is due to the painstaking work of doctors like McLeod that surgery was made much more effective and less fatal.
No doubt the BBC programme will show others like him, so I am very much looking forward to watching it. There is a BBC book by Richard Hollingham to accompany the series.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The founding of Australia

After my first visit Down Under in April/May this year, I'm mad on all things Aussie. I was delighted to find this fantastic resource on the website of the State Library of New South Wales From Terra Australis to Australia. It's got drawings, maps and paintings, and letters from the First Fleet which bring this historic event to life.
I'd highly recommend a couple of books to anyone interested in this period, The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, and The Commonwealth of thieves by Thomas Keneally.

Earthquakes, tidal waves... and general disasters

The National Risk Register is intended to
capture the range of emergencies that might have
a major impact on all, or significant parts of, the UK.
It provides a national picture of the risks the country faces,
and is designed to complement Community Risk
Registers, already produced and published locally by
emergency planners. The driver for this work is the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 which also defines
what the government means by emergencies, and what
responsibilities are placed on emergency responders
in order to prepare for them.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A plague on all your houses

As you can tell, we're all a little bit obsessed with things medical here! Just to continue the theme, you can see the first medical book printed in Scotland in the "Imprentit: 500 years of the Scottish printed word" exhibition. Written by Gilbert Skeyne, "Ane breue Descriptioun of the Pest" was published in 1568, the year over 2,000 people were killed by the disease in Edinburgh. The author, a physician of King James VI, exhorted the population to "returne to God" to defeat the plague.

There are, of course, official publications in the exhibition, too.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Tracing ancestors who served in India

Did you have an ancestor who served in India? Was he a surgeon or a major? Do you know which regiment your ancestor was in? If you have a starting point such as the date and occupation then by using the East India Register (shelfmark GIF.16, from 1802-1947) you can find out many details such as uniform colours, date of rank, retirement and descriptions of occupations. Some volumes contain records of births, marriages and deaths. It is possible to track someone's career through these records and build up a vivid picture of their life and work in India.
Find out about more resources by clicking on the India Papers Family History page.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

In the army now

The first part of the Army Health collection is now available on microfilm, at Mf.IP.23-Mf.IP.32. You can read reports from areas of India such as Bengal, Bombay and Madras detailing the living conditions of the soldiers stationed there.
Adjusting to life in India was hard for the British soldier and often men did not achieve two years' service. The hot and humid climate, coupled with the heavy uniforms, gave rise to many cases of heatstroke, "The men become inert, spiritless and weak, lose flesh and appetite. No medicine is of any good." (Bengal, 1874)
The soldiers were vulnerable to diseases like cholera, rabies, malaria, plague, dysentery and typhus; these were seemingly more virulent due to the heat. To ward off the depression from cool nights following hot days "men received a draught of quinine, cinchona and arsenic and the spirit-drinkers had each a small ration of rum." (Bengal, 1876)
If the men (and their families) survived disease, they could be bitten by snakes or suffer from shoebite -"The contusions were nearly all caused by bad fitting boots when on the march." (Bombay, 1872).
Exercise and diet are recorded in much detail so as to monitor the general health of the men, "Athletic exercise, wrestling, single-stick, clubs, running, leaping &tc are much practised. A few men do a little gardening." (Bengal, 1876) The native soldiers seemed, one officer notes, to take fondly to English games such as cricket and football.
You can also browse through tables of mortality rates and hospital admissions, look at sick rates and invaliding statistics for different regiments and even discover how much rain fell. Click on the image to view a statistics page listing deaths of Madras officers. These reports give us a colourful picture, not only showing us what life was like for the troops but also how the Government was trying to sustain military authority through medicine and sanitation.

Gas & electricity bills....

The House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee's investigation into the utilities market
"Energy prices, fuel poverty and Ofgem" throws up some interesting facts about why gas and electricity costs have risen so sharply recently. Concluding that the utilities companies haven't actually been fixing prices, nevertheless having only "6 big players" in the market makes it harder to introduce much in the way of competitive pricing.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Out for the count

With advances in surgery and medicine happening all the time, have you ever considered what the early days of surgery were like? To relieve some of the pain of, for example, having a limb amputated or a bladder stone removed, patients were given opium, alcohol or simply knocked unconscious with a blow to the head. Nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) was used to knock out patients during dental work in the mid 1800s and this was followed by the first surgical use of ether in 1842. Chloroform had been around since 1831; in 1847 James Young Simpson of Edinburgh found out about its quick acting properties when he sampled some and ended up under his dining room table.
The India Papers contains the Report of the Hyderabad Chloroform Commission from 1891, when Edward Lawrie was investigating the alleged dangers of chloroform. Deaths had occured under chloroform and scientists at the time were attempting to discover whether fatalities were due to heart or respiratory failure. The report covers over 400 detailed animal experiments and 54 human surgical trials. It also contains much correspondence from doctors via The Lancet. Dudley W. Buxton wrote in 1890: "Without fear or dread must he [the anaesthetist] be prepared to give one or the other anaesthetic, but he must be keenly alive to all the possible contigencies of each, and not live in a fool's paradise that if he only obeys certain rules and directions he and his patient are safe."

Thursday, 24 July 2008


In June 1948 the ship Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks bringing the first Commonwealth immigrants from Jamaica to the UK. Seeking a new and better life, it was the start of a changing Britain enabled by the British Nationality Act.
There's an exhibition, online exhibition and related events at the Imperial War Museum, London, to mark this anniversary.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

When you've got go, you've got to go...

... but how and when you do it has become a matter for heated debate. The Department of Health's new strategy for England now gives adults a choice.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Make do and mend...

During these days of rising costs and the so-called credit crunch there's a growing trend to "make do and mend". Our wartime collection can teach us a lot about making do, growing our own veg., and generally stretching meagre resources that little bit further. Our website Propaganda: a weapon of war has lots of information on these publications.

Childhood memories

I found the following little gem while dealing with an enquiry relating to free orange juice for children in the early fifties. Being a child of that era it brought back lots of happy memories. Cod liver oil was also provided to combat rickets.
Kids of today would have a problem relating to the typical menu as shown, "but it did me no harm"!!!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Education education education

The Medical College and Research Institutions collection (Batch 2) is now available on microfilm at shelfmarks Mf.IP.15-Mf.IP.22. It starts with the Indian Medical Review which gives a wonderful overview of disease control, scientific discoveries and institutional achievements. You can view striking accounts of life at important medical institutions such as Central Research Institute, Kasauli, the Pasteur Institute at Coonoor, plus a wealth of statistical information from various Calcutta Medical Institutions. The Government objective was, in some cases like Lahore, to train native doctors in order for them to aid with vaccination administration and sanitation measures whilst ensuring that Western medical practices spread into local Indian life. The reports document examinations taken, castes of students, curricula followed, teaching staff, donations from beneficaries, even sports played. It cannot have been easy for many students; they needed to learn English and some required a good command of Urdu. Many were ill and some indeed died. Much is made in these volumes of student conduct, how to discipline them and their progress. However, in Nagpur (est.1867) W.B. Beatson sadly wrote,"The pupils showed not only indifferent progress, but an utter want of intelligence."

There is much to discover in this collection of almost 8,000 pages, and I find it has been a sheer pleasure to work with it.

The photograph that accompanies this post shows the Harcourt Butler Institute of Public Health, Rangoon, and is one of the few photographs from the collection.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Piper Alpha Disaster - 20 years on

Twenty years after the disaster, have lessons been learned? You can find out more about this major event here at the Library. "The Public Inquiry into the Piper Alpha Disaster" (the Cullen Report) is here, shelfmark: P.P. 1990-91 Cm 1310. We also have the transcripts of the proceedings. Ask for "Piper Alpha public inquiry [proceedings] held at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen before the Hon. Lord Cullen", shelfmark: GEK.58. You can also read the Health & Safety Executive's report into the implementation of Lord Cullen's recommendations: "Implementation of Lord Cullen's research and development recomendations / J.G. Krol ... [et al.]", shelfmark: GHI.1997.2.25.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Aussie founders

Anyone out there with a convict ancestor? If they were transported to Queensland, Australia, now you can search for them on the State Library of Queensland's new database.

P.M. Gordon Brown says "stop wasting food"...

So say the headlines - but there's more to the Cabinet Office's report than that. It addresses issues of global food security, climate change and the way it affects food production, food and health, and ... food wastage.

Friday, 4 July 2008

NHS 60

Our National Health Service is 60 years old. The National Archives at Kew have a great "Citizenship" website, with a history of the welfare state.

Monday, 30 June 2008

India Papers on microfilm

Phase 1 of the Medical History of British India project is also available on 35mm microfilm. Simply go to the National Library of Scotland catalogues, click on main catalogue and type in Mf.IP., choosing the shelfmark search and you will find a list of the Phase 1 titles. The shelfmark for these runs from Mf.IP.1 - to Mf.IP.12.

Batch 1, Medicines, from Phase 2, is also available to view on film here in the Library. Type in Mf.IP.13 and Mf.IP.14 to view the titles. These notably include the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report (volumes vi and vii) from 1894 and the Hyderabad Chloroform Commission Report from 1891, as well as titles on opium use and cinchona cultivation.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Equality Bill

The Minister for Equality, Harriet Harman, announced her department's "Framework for a Fairer Future: the Equality Bill, sparking a "What is discrimination?" discussion in the media.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Zimbabwe elections blog

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website has a blog by British Embassy staff in Harare. It gives a fascinating, if rather depressing, insight into what's going on there.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Vets in India

Our India Papers collection continues to take us down unexpected paths. Not only do we now have a publisher producing facsimile reprints of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report with their unique sepia photographs of hemp users but the website Medical History of British India is now well into phase 2 (look out for our Digitisation Manager Francine’s fascinating blog entries about this).
We’re pleased to announce that the Wellcome Trust has approved funding for phase 3 of the project, which will see our veterinary reports digitised and added to the site. This project has helped enormously in the success of a Collaborative Doctoral Award from AHRC, with the Library and the University of Strathclyde as partners. The post-graduate student will begin his study of the Civil Veterinary reports in October and he’ll contribute to the text for the website, enabling greater understanding of the content of this important collection.

Do you want to be in my gang?

The King Institute of Preventive Medicine in Guindy undertook a variety of medical work and its annual reports have just been microfilmed. Through checking the films this week I have been re-acquainted with one of my favourite institutions.
This is because the reports give a lively and vivid snapshot of life at the institute between 1906 and 1932, not to mention that prominent figures in the medical field worked there.
The Bacteriological Section produced vaccines, including prophylactic cholera and combined typhoid and paratyphoid (T.A.B.) vaccines, anti-meningococcus vaccine and anti-influenza vaccines, the numbers produced appearing in these reports. Investigation units were engaged in the field and reported on outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, relapsing fever, gastro-enteritis, glandular fever, malaria and chicken pox in both settlements and jails.
It was in the 1922-23 report from Alipuram Jail, Bellary, that I came across the term “bowel gang.” 1,250 men were found to be suffering from latent dysentery: “These men were constituted into a “Bowel gang” housed separately; dieted and treated for their conditions. They were given suitable work in their own enclosure, and were not allowed to mix with the rest of the convicts.” (page 31, click on the image to view the paragraph from the report) This system seemed to work and cases of dysentery were reduced within 3 months, although I shudder to think of the indignity of being a member of such a gang. I wonder, also, if the members knew of the designation that was given to them to aid medical research and disease control.
The King Institute of Preventive Medicine is still in operation. Visit its website at

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


It's the 60th anniversary of the World Health Organisation. To mark this occasion they've got a nice potted history, plus an online photo exhibition of their work.

Binge drinking

The Scottish Goverment set out its plans to help curb the so-called binge drinking culture.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Treaty of Lisbon

The Irish people rejected the Treaty in a referendum last week. What does it all mean? Read the official response to the rejection, and what other countries think about it.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Refugee Week

Refugee Week is on from 16th to 22nd June. Check the NLS events pages for what's on here at the Library.

It's a good time to take a look at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) website, there's a fascinating pictorial history of the organisation and its work.

42 days later...

The Government's successfully steered the "42 days detention" clause through the House yesterday. Find out more about the Counter Terrorism Bill and its associated documents.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Scientific Memoirs

This week I finished cataloguing (adding metadata to a database for each page) a series called Scientific Memoirs by Officers of the Medical and Sanitary Departments of the Government of India. This was the first Anglo-Indian publication entirely devoted to biological research. Published in Calcutta from the late 1890's to 1913, there is much pioneering medical work in these volumes.
There is still no vaccine for malaria, but in these memoirs scientist S. R. Christophers, a celebrated and lifelong malariologist, was studying the transmission of malaria (it is now known from Ronald Ross that the Plasmodium parasite was carried in female mosquito saliva and injected into its victim). There are reports of anti-malarial operations at Mian Mir, where standing water, breeding grounds of the Anopheles mosquito, were being destroyed in an attempt to control the disease.

Christophers also worked on kala azar, a deadly disease caused by the parasite Leishmania donovani, which causes fevers, enlargement of the liver and lowers immunity. It is known as Dum Dum Fever or Black Fever and is transmitted via the bite of a female sandfly.

Another microbiologist, W. S. Patton, was sure that the parasite was present in bedbugs and he spent many years studying these insects and his work is also in the Scientific Memoirs. It makes me feel itchy just thinking about his experiments!

Also in the Memoirs is a book by David Semple from 1911 when he developed his Semple rabies vaccine from Pasteur's original. There is work on cholera by D. D. Cunningham who was born in Prestonpans, and plenty of reading about snake venoms and anti-venomous sera, dysentery, typhoid fever and black-water fever.
Click on the image to see David Prain's 1904 drawings of cannabis plants.
What I find fascinating about these volumes is the scientific rigour that was applied to the work and the excitement of new discoveries. These scientists are truly amazing and as Robert S. Desowitz says, "they pursued their microbial quarry with a tenacity that by today's standards of paid-for-by-project research seems almost quixotic." (The Malaria Capers, p.41)

Friday, 6 June 2008

Medical History of British India Project

Have you heard of a bowel gang? Or why a woman was living in a rum-barrel in 1878? Do you wonder how vaccines are made? What was it like to be in the army in India in the last quarter of the 19th century? What did medical students study in Nagpur and how many passed their exams?

The answers to all these questions are contained in the Medical History of British India collection of the India Papers. The project involves microfilming the books and then digitising the film to produce images which can be viewed online. Each page of the 126 volumes will be available free of charge. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and forms Phase 2 of the web feature Disease prevention and Public Health Medical History of British India.
The items are rare, dating from ca1850 to ca1950 and are of interest to medical historians and genealogists as well as to the casual reader. The content is legible and makes for fascinating reading, not only from a medical perspective, but also from a social and geographical one. There are many tables of detailed information, plus drawings, photographs and maps. Although most volumes are in a report format, they offer an absorbing glimpse into a world long gone, and yet many of the issues resonate today. Click on the images to see a cholera map of India and patients suffering from kala azar.

As project manager and metadata creator I shall be sharing some of my finds each week in this blog. From hemp to hospitals, from monkeys to malaria, from research to rabies and from cholera to quinine, there is much to explore in this compelling collection.

Peer review

It’s surprising to learn that full sets of the House of Lords sessional papers are quite rare things; our collection is in fact only around 90% complete. A bit of history first: Lords records date from 1497, though these weren’t methodically filed until the 17th century. Printed Lords papers weren’t produced until the 18th century (though the Journal began its printed life in 1767). The disastrous fire of 1834 destroyed the Palace of Westminster, and with it a number of Lords records, though a major part of these were saved by a quick-thinking clerk throwing bundles of them out of a window into the courtyard below!

In the early 70s a project involving the British Museum (now the British Library), Board of Trade, the House of Lords Library, the Treasury, Home Office, Bodleian Library and NLS assembled as many sets of Lords papers as possible. The British Library and the House of Lords Library have complete sets; NLS has around 90%.

It is often assumed that there is little (if anything) in the Lords papers that isn’t in the Commons papers – this is not so. Some material does not feature at all in the Commons papers; for example, peers have always been able to introduce a Bill in the Lords – even if rejected, these records give an interesting insight into the concerns and influences of peers through the years. Commons and Lords can set up separate committees to examine the same subject – the evidence gathered and sources used by each may be quite different. Also, sometimes fuller versions of Commons committees may be published in the Lords papers rather than in the Commons. [1]

So, the moral of this story is, of course, don’t forget about the Lords papers! They are a huge resource, and can help to complete your research.

[1] Mallaber, Kenneth A. The House of Lords sessional papers.