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 www.scotreferendum.com 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 www.scotreferendum.com 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?

Friday, 14 June 2013

Emily Davison

The 14th June 2013 marks the 100th year anniversary of the funeral of Emily Wilding Davison the suffragette who died after walking in front of the King’s horse on Derby Day in 1913.
UK Parliament has an interesting website about the suffragettes at


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

100 years ago!

On the 4th June 1913 Emily Wilding Davison was knocked down by the King's horse at Epsom during the derby. The militant campaigner for women's right to vote died of her injuries four days later.

I have chosen various Hansard quotes for the display cabinet but surprisingly I could not find anything in Hansard about this incident. However, I found this quote from Hansard in 1997/98 vol. 307. Mrs Eileen Gordon (MP Romford) states:

Historically, women have had to fight to achieve equality. However, it is so annoying to most of us to have to make a point that is self-evident. Mention has been made of the suffragette movement, and I hope that all women Members have made a pilgrimage to the store cupboard in the Chapel, where in 1911 Emily Davison hid away to try to get her name on the electoral register at this place. She later died under the hooves of the King's horse at the Derby, giving her life for her beliefs. We should remember those who went before us, who fought for rights that we now take for granted.

Friday, 31 May 2013

"Is there a place for women?"

Mr Grant an MP in 1913 mentioned in Hansard “…in controlling a vast Empire like our own, an Empire built by the mental and physical capacity of men, and maintained, as it always must be maintained, by the physical and mental capacity of masterly natures. I ask “is there a place for women?”

There is a display outside the Reading Room in the Library's George IV Bridge Building, featuring books from the Official Publications Collection on the subject vote for women.

There is also a related podcast recorded earlier this year at

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

What will it bring?

The new UK parliamentary session 2013-14 will start tomorrow (8th May 2013) with the State Opening of Parliament.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Art in Official Publications

I was recently checking the official publications request slips for April and noticed without a doubt that April was definitely the month of the art book; whether it was about Degas, Lady Butler (battle artist), origins of chintz or even costumes in Scottish portraits.
I am used to and expect to see readers consulting publications on parliamentary papers, journals of the House of Commons/Lords, United Nations publications etc. but April was very much to do with art.
The Official Publications collection has a wealth of art books as the National Galleries and Museums are under the remit of the official publications collection as they tend to be funded by Central Government.

Friday, 19 April 2013

British army, navy, air force lists online

Military lists can help if you are researching ancestors who were in Britain's armed forces.

These publications can provide information about the units that individuals served in, but you should be aware that most of these directories only list officers.
At the National Library of Scotland we hold:

The official Army List from 1714

The Navy List from 1804

The Air Force List from 1919

Some militia listings

The muster roll of the Jacobite Army.

You can use these lists in conjunction with published regimental histories and the 'London Gazette', 'Edinburgh Gazette' or 'Belfast Gazette', which list officer commissions and awards for gallantry.

If you get fed up with flicking through these, the good news is that some of the British military lists are now online.
They provide details of officers who served in the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force during the First and Second World Wars.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lady Thatcher's funeral

Number 10 Downing Street have announced ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral arrangements
Contrary to speculation, she will not receive a state funeral but a  ceremonial funeral with military honours.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Reshaping of British railways

Last night on the news there was a report on the Dr Beeching’s controversial report into the reshaping of the British railways. This was published 50 years ago and a copy of this report is held in the Official Publications in the National Library of Scotland, the shelfmark is GTD.1/1.

In the foreword I noted this paragraph

“In general, people who wish to base a choice between alternative modes of transport upon consideration of quality of service and the cost of obtaining it. It must be recognised, however, that in the transport field more than in many others, the judgement of some quality factors is largely subjective, that individual convenience and total social benefit are not necessarily compatible, and that competing forms of transport cannot be costed on strictly comparable bases. For these reasons, none of the major proposals for reshaping the railway system which are made in this report is based upon attempted close judgements between ratios of quality to cost for competing systems of transport.”

This report is in two parts, the first being the report, the second containing maps including the proposed withdrawal of passenger train services.

Meet me and my microbes

Wednesday 10th April is when I will be giving my final talk dedicated to the fine collection, the Medical History of British India. Exploring the more gruesome aspect of life in British India, the talk explores the diseases the British attempted to combat and how their medicine moved into the lives of the indigenous population. Come along to the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge at 6pm and meet me and my microbes! Book online here. It is a free event.

Shot in the arm for Medical History website

A new collection of medical documents from the British Raj is now available to browse and search on the Medical History of British India website. 'Medicine - Vaccination' shows British efforts to vaccinate the Indian population against smallpox using the latest 19th and 20th century western scientific techniques. Over 60 reports reveal the complex nature and the scale of ambition of the vaccination programme in India as well as the conflict between western colonial medicine and indigenous society, culture and systems. The project was generously funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Who lets the dogs out!

As supposedly a nation of dog lovers, with over 8 million dogs kept as pets, it is worrying to read that over 100,000 strays are found each year, plus a rising number of incidences of cruelty and neglect, with many dogs out of control.

In a year there are about 210,000 people attacked by dogs in England, this includes 6,000 postal workers. The cost to the NHS of treating severe injuries caused by dogs is over £3 million and since 2007 seven people including five children have been killed by dogs in home.

These facts come from the House of Commons paper “dog control and welfare” the seventh report of session 2012-13 by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

This publication highlights many problems, from dog attacks on private property, which means the person attacked has no recourse to the criminal law provisions which apply to attacks on public property. There are also the problems of attacks on assistance dogs such as guide dogs, which impacts on the disabled person. There is also a problem with dogs that attack livestock, the legislation needs to be updated to include livestock such as llamas and other camelids. There is also a major concern about so-called “puppy farmers”

This parliamentary paper is well worth a read.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Farewell to India

After five and a half years I’m hanging up my Digitisation Manager’s hat and saying goodbye to the Medical History of British India.

I’ve had a brilliant time and have been privileged to work with such amazing material and a group of very talented colleagues across the National Library. Special thanks must go to the procurement staff and the Digital Team, plus to Jan Usher who was one of the co-founders of the project.

I’ve been to some great places to talk about the project, including the Wellcome Collection in London and Brisbane, Australia, and have met some wonderful researchers along the way.

Most of all, I have been immersed in a world long gone but preserved in our reports, British India. I have met doctors and patients, pioneers of medicine, witnessed the horror of death and disease and the role of medicine in colonial power. From prostitutes who lived in rum barrels, to bowel gangs and rabid badgers, medical students, veterinarians and lunatics, it has been a colourful experience!

These reports are all still available for free on the website and on April 10th I will be giving a talk called Painful Tales from the Raj at the National Library’s George IV Bridge Building at 6pm.


I’m doing another podcast on the asylums and mental hospitals and will be promoting the vaccination reports which are due online next month.

I have a new post as Digital Projects Officer, still in the NLS, working to bring more of the Library’s collections online.

The Library is applying for more funding to add further reports to the website so this may not be the end of the journey….

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Don't doodle on books!

I was checking the consolidated list of Government Publications for 1930 and when looking through the index I came across this drawing. These publications are kept within the Official Publications Unit and therefore it must have been a member of the OPU staff that actually drew on a book!

I wonder which member of staff did it and who were they portraying in the doodle?

It looks like it is a woman, middle aged and with bags under her eyes. Now, I have been in OPU for 25 years and I don’t recognise her. Is it a self-portrait or were they sketching someone in the office...?

I wonder why they drew this picture - were they looking for inspiration to find an answer to an enquiry perhaps?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Stop for horses: horse meat scandal

The Food Standards Agency has information on the horse meat scandal, including a timeline of events and a list of answers to "your horse meat questions".

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Palace of Westminster

The lavishly illustrated “Palace of Westminster Official Guide” by the Houses of Parliament arrived on my desk this week. It is a very informative book on the Palace, full of interesting facts and illustrations.

The history of Parliament is a fascinating one and I liked the quote on the back cover

“We may be proud that England is the ancient country of Parliaments. With scarcely any intervening period, Parliaments have met constantly for 600 years, and there was something of a Parliament before the Conquest. England is the mother of Parliaments.” John Bright, British politician and orator, 1865.

The book describes many interesting historical facts about Parliament, from the beginning of parliament, when Hansard was formally established, to what is Hansard, to the Suffragette/suffragists period, gunpowder plot and much, much more.

One particular fact jumped out at me, it was the assignation of Spencer Perceval. I didn’t realise that at 5.15 pm on 11th May 1812 the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was fatally shot as he entered the House of Commons Lobby.

The assassin was John Bellingham, who was a merchant and felt he was entitled to compensation by the British Government for being wrongly imprisoned in Russia. He was hanged for murder the following week.

There is a very interesting timeline at the back of the book, which compares the Palace of Westminster to British parliamentary and constitutional history to major events.  I noticed that in the timeline the trial of Warren Hastings in 1788 is mentioned. The trial started the year before the start of the French Revolution.
It’s a fascinating book full of information and gorgeous illustrations.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Thursday, 10 January 2013