Football, poetry and fables -the surprising features in BLDS African port harbour magazines

By Danny Millum – BLDS Metadata and discovery officer

There are many fascinating rabbit holes to explore in the BLDS Legacy Collection, and you often come across them in the most unexpected places. Perhaps this just shows our limited imagination, but when we first came across a run of journals relating to different African ports and harbour authorities our hearts didn’t leap with excitement. File under “worthy but dull” and move on was definitely the first reaction to a front cover like this:

Front cover of Cameroon inter-ports magazine - black and white image of a harbour in Cameroon
Cameroon Inter-Ports

And let’s face it, if you were asked what you thought lay within the pages of Cameroon Inter-Ports – Organe du Liaison et d’Information de l’Office National des Ports du Cameroun you would have been forgiven for thinking it would just be; tables, charts, reports and the odd institutional history. However, in order to catalogue these items we have to have a leaf through them, and when we did so we found a much richer and more idiosyncratic world than we could possibly have expected.

To start with, there was a sports section. The page below reports on a triumphant season for the Port Foot-Ball Club in 1981-82, winning the cup and coming second in the coastal league:

Image of sports page with black and white photo of a football match
‘Une saison sportive heureuse’ (a happy sporting season) – Cameroon inter-ports

They obviously took it seriously as well, as half the page seems to be taken up with references to how mediocre the team had been in the past, with the hope that this change in fortune augured well for 1982-83. (Please note this assessment is dependent on our extremely shaky French and corrections are welcome!) For those who want to find out how it all panned out next season we believe we have a complete run of the magazine! More surreal than this is the humour and poetry section:

Image of the poetry and humour page in Cameroon inter-ports magazine
Poésie-Poésie (poetry-poetry) and humour interports

Again, this is mostly in French, but the first gag runs something as follows:

A freighter lands for the first time in a desert island far away from the usual sea routes. The captain disembarks to do a reconnaissance. He comes upon an old man with a beard down to his knees…

‘What are you doing here?’

‘I don’t know…’

‘Why did you come to this island?’

‘To forget?’

‘To forget what?’

‘I’ve forgotten.’

It kind of feels like something may have been lost in translation here – although on the same page the poem in English about tyres is if anything, more confusing…

It soon became clear, though, that journals and content of this kind are not limited to Cameroon, and that Somalia and Tanzania could give the West Africans a run for their money.

Front cover of Bandari Zatu - East African Harbours Corporation - newspaper style
Bandari Zatu – East African Harbours Corporation

The BLDS Legacy Collection also holds what appears to be a unique run of Bandari Zetu – Organ of the East African Harbours Corporation, a journal in Swahili and English which contains a potent mix of port news sprinkled with more creative content, including this fantastic Aesopean tale, the morals of which the BLDS team have taken as a code to live by:

Image of article 'if you are unhappy'
Somali Ports – If you are unhappy

The East African Harbours Corporation seems to have been part of the East African Railways and Harbours Corporation – which itself turns out to have been immortalised in song by the great Roger Whittaker. Check out ‘The Good Old E A R and H’ here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwmb6WtyEUQ.

Obviously, we’re trapped at home at the moment, and so the only follow-up research I could do for this post is online. But the very fact that there is so little information on the web relating to the institutions, and journals described above is in itself further evidence of the importance of the collection. The long runs of port authority journals that are held for both West and East Africa are crucial primary sources for anyone wanting to write, not just the ‘serious’ history of transport, trade and commerce in these regions in the post-independence decades but also, possibly even more importantly, they are goldmines of ephemeral information relating to the culture of these workplaces and the people employed there.

It’s an obvious point, but as the examples above show, these dockworkers, engineers and sailors were not just employees, but also poets, comedians and footballers.

(First posted on The University of Sussex Library staff blog April 2020)

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Out of the box – a look at our exciting new digital collection on JSTOR

By Rose Lock – Special Collections Supervisor

Although there is a great joy and value in holding an original archival document in your hands, for many reasons this is not always possible. At Special Collections we are constantly seeking new ways for researchers to view our collections; so we are delighted to be able to share this selection of over 900 items from our archives, online via JSTOR. The selection ranges from Ludwig Marx’s poetry of exile from our German Jewish Family Archives, to the 1986 Christmas Day diaries from the volunteer writers of the Mass Observation Project’s Observing the 1980s collection, by way of some typically Sussex student material on Campaigns and Movements.

Image of title page of Ludwig Marx's 'Living at the farm' includes a black & white watercolour image of the farmhouse through trees'
Title page of Ludwig Marx’s ‘Living at the farm‘ Ludwig Marx Papers – part of German Jewish Family Archive SxMs91/2/2/13

My personal highlights include:

From the Observing the 1980’s ephemera collection, girls in ‘male’ jobs?: a research report 1987 from the Young Women’s Christian Association of Great Britain, which seeks to encourage and aid ‘young women in non-traditional training and work’ such as engineering and construction. It looks into the experiences of women working and undertaking apprenticeships in male dominated areas and the general trends in what were thought of as ‘male’ or ‘female’ jobs.

Photo of cover of 'girls in 'male' jobs?
Girls in ‘male’ jobs?

Home-made flyers, such as the one below, from the University of Sussex – Student campaigns and movements collection are an anachronism these days, making us assess just how quickly the world has turned digital. Advertising an Open Forum on Latin America, its handwritten title and poor copying jolts us back to 1976 and reminds those of us old enough; to remember just how difficult it was to advertise small events.

Image of the flyer 'Open forum on Latin America'
Open forum on Latin America SxUOS-5-5-1-3

And my favourite thing of all, is that they are free to access for all!

If you would like any further information about these collections, or any of our archive collections then please do visit The Keep website or email specialcollections.supervisor@sussex.ac.uk 

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Chloe Dobson: my favourite online collections

By Chloe Dobson – Collection Development Librarian

Part of our role in Collection Development is to find online resources which support the teaching of the University. I am going to be highlighting two of my favourites in this week’s blog post (to discover your own search our Online Resources A-Z or Online Subject Guides).

Screenshot of the University of Sussex's Library online resources homepage
The Library’s online resources home page

Along with my colleagues I get excited when we discover an online resource which is packed full of beautifully scanned images of incredible collections, like Nineteenth Century UK periodicals and the Women’s Magazine Archive, both of which provide a unique insight into our social and cultural history via articles, adverts and stunning hi-res imagery.

Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals is a joy to use and covers 90 titles published during the popular magazine publishing boom of the 19th Century. It is strong in publications aimed at women and children from all walks of life and includes intriguing titles such as; The British Mothers’ Magazine (1845-1863), the Girls’ Own Paper (1880-1900) Myra’s Journal of Fashion and Dress (1875-1900) and the Union Jack: Tales for British Boys (1880-1883)

Screenshot of Nineteenth century UK periodicals front page
Nineteenth century UK periodicals

Searching with keywords is straightforward and you can limit by type of document, or publication, which is great for looking at adverts, illustrations or editorial pieces, as well as allowing users to compare and contrast their results across publications.

The Women’s Magazine Archive is another gem, featuring seven leading publications with a U.S focus spanning the entire period from the late 19th century to the early 21st. Issues are scanned cover-to-cover, with excellent image quality and full-text searching. They are an amazing resource for both advertising, and articles. We have been known to spend many an hour getting lost in the world of corset advertising (but don’t tell anyone).

Screen shot of Women's Magazine Archive front page
Women’s Magazine Archive

The publications available in this archive include Better Homes and Gardens (Jul 1922 – Dec 2005), Good Housekeeping (May 2, 1885 – Dec 2005), Parents (Oct 1926 – Dec 2005) and, the Ladies Home Journal (Dec 1885 – Dec 2005), which provide detailed insights into home life, fashion and culture of the times. As a compliment to this fabulous online resource we are lucky to hold printed copies of Woman’s Own magazine (1941-74) which can be consulted in the Reading Room at The Keep. Special Collections’ Rose Lock has written about the collection here which includes a link to the full catalogue record.

For students to be able to easily access authoritative content online has always been incredibly important to us, but the events of this year have further highlighted how valuable they really are – so do check out our full Online Resources A-Z or Online Subject Guides to find out what the Library has to offer.

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Silk, society and scandal: the archive of Jeremy Hutchinson QC

By Richard Wragg – University of Sussex Library Collections Manager

We are pleased to announce that the archive of Jeremy Hutchinson, Baron Hutchinson of Lullington QC (1915 – 2017), was allocated to the University of Sussex earlier this year through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. The Scheme provides a mechanism by which nationally significant cultural property can be sold and made available to the public in lieu of the owner paying an inheritance tax.  

Jeremy Hutchinson was a celebrated barrister, considered by many of his generation to be the finest silk in practice at the criminal bar. He famously served on the team defending Penguin Books over their publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The archive contains Hutchinson’s annotated court transcripts from the trial, his lists of witnesses, and correspondence. Also included is a rare signed first edition of Lawrence’s novel inscribed ‘In remembrance and honour of the great victory’ which was gifted to Hutchinson by his mother Mary.

It is said that Hutchinson was the model for John Mortimer’s Rumpole. One highlight of a decades-long career was his defence of director Michael Bogdanov of the National Theatre, after counsel for Mary Whitehouse had complained that an actor’s penis was visible on stage during a performance of Bogdanov’s production of The Romans in Britain. A private prosecution was brought, with the director being accused of having ‘procured an act of gross indecency’ contrary to the Sexual Offences Act of 1956. Bogdanov faced the prospect of spending up to three years in prison. However, in a memorable moment, and to much laughter in court, Hutchinson thrust his clenched fist and protruding thumb through his gown and suggested that Whitehouse’s star witness may have been mistaken about what he had seen. Realising the game was up, the prosecution was dropped with both sides claiming the win – Hutchinson had ensured his client’s freedom whilst Whitehouse, believing her point made, perceived a moral victory.

When Christine Keeler was tried for perjury it was Hutchinson who defended her. He represented the drug-smuggler Howard Marks, the art forger Thomas Keating and the spies George Blake and John Vassall. Letters written to Hutchinson by Blake from Wormwood Scrubs have already been found and we hope for further discoveries once cataloguing work begins.

Away from his legal career, Hutchinson served in the Royal Navy during World War II. He was aboard HMS Kelly when it sank, an incident which inspired Noel Coward’s famous piece of wartime propaganda In Which We Serve. As the Labour Party’s candidate for Westminster in the 1945 general election, Hutchinson’s canvasing activities took him to 10 Downing Street where he asked to speak to the occupant, Winston Churchill. 

Image shows a collection of black and white photos from the Hutchinson archive
Photos from the Hutchinson archive

Married to Peggy Ashcroft from 1940 to 1965 – their courtship began in Brighton where Ashcroft was appearing at the Theatre Royal – Hutchinson was well known to many writers, artists and public figures. The various events and relationships which were significant to Jeremy’s life are well-represented in the archive. Also of great interest is the correspondence to his parents from their wide circle of friends. Mary Hutchinson was a writer, socialite and member of the Bloomsbury Group, her husband, St John, was a barrister and politician. Five letters from D.H. Lawrence to St John detail the seizure of his manuscripts, a curious foreshadowing to Jeremy’s later representation of Penguin. The names of those who are represented in the archive reads like a who’s who of twentieth century society and includes T.S. Eliot, Henri Matisse, Virginia Woolf, Stanley Spencer and Duncan Grant.

In a twist to the story, we were recently alerted to the sale of a diary dating from 1910, written by Mary and St John. We are delighted to record our gratitude to the Friends of The Keep Archives (FoTKA) for not only highlighting the sale but also purchasing the diary on our behalf.

The Hutchinson archive is very much a family collection. Interestingly, initial investigations suggest there is no clear break between Jeremy’s papers and those of his parents. Shared interests – in literature, art and theatre – are evident throughout the archive and many friendships remained in place. Jeremy, for instance, maintained his mother’s close association with the Bloomsbury Group and was a regular and welcome visitor at Charleston. These social, cultural and even legal continuities give the archive particular depth and we look forward to making it available to researchers at The Keep.

A version of this text first appeared in the FoTKA Newsletter.

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‘Like a child in a candy store’ Gerardo Serra delves into the BLDS Legacy Collection

Before the spleen of writing, editing (and re-writing and re-editing) sets in, there is a fleeting moment in which the historian is like a child in a candy store, starry-eyed and gleefully lost. I experienced such a moment when, in 2016, I walked into the basement of what was then the British Library for Development Studies (BLDS) (the library attached to the Institute of Development Studies). As a historian of 20th-century West Africa, I couldn’t believe my eyes: not only was I facing an astounding collection of postcolonial government publications and academic journals from the continent, but it was all laid out in front of me on open shelves. Each shelve shone, the dust sparkled with possibilities.

During my time as temporary lecturer at Sussex, I made extensive use of the Library. With the encouragement and enthusiastic collaboration of the wonderful Library staff, I brought the undergraduate students taking my postcolonial African history module to identify the primary sources on which to build their term papers. The results were exciting – and immensely varied, dealing with issues such as economic planning in Ghana, activism and protest in South Africa, and the social roots of Boko Haram. I spent my last week at Sussex frantically taking pictures of parliamentary debates, pamphlets on the Biafra war, and academic journals published by Nigerian and Ghanaian universities.

Front cover of the pamphlet Somali women in socialist construction, showing statue of woman on a plinth
Somali women in socialist construction – 1975

Leaving aside the impact they had on my research and teaching, it is difficult to convey the importance and significance of the BLDS (currently being catalogued by University of Sussex Library staff) African collections. An important part of their value has to do with the sheer rarity of a significant part of the material. Compared with the holdings of other institutions, shaped more directly by Britain’s colonial trajectory, these collections stand out for the wealth of material from Francophone and Lusophone countries. As many of these countries remain severely under-studied in British universities, it is comforting to know that students could immerse themselves in sources from countries other than from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa (in my experience, some of the favourites of students approaching colonial and postcolonial African history). The systematic way in which the IDS built its collections from the 1960s led it to accumulate material on countries that remain largely absent in British repositories. Over the past few decades, several African countries have experienced a decline in their capacity to preserve historical records, the consequence of issues as diverse as conflict and lack of funding for university and institutional archives. There is a tragic irony in the fact that some records preserved in the Sussex Library would be difficult to retrieve and access in the countries that produced them. Somalia, where a protracted civil war and political instability has taken a heavy toll on the country’s institutional memory, is a case in point. I was particularly struck by the richness and diversity of the material from the Siyaad Barre era, with publications as varied as the research on camels sponsored by the Somali Academy of Sciences and Arts, pamphlets of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, and statistics of the National Banana Board.

“I have no doubts that scholars across disciplines … would also see the immense potential of these collections, and find plenty of reasons to make Sussex (alongside better known repositories, such as the National Archives at Kew, SOAS or the British Library) a key destination for scholars with an interest in postcolonial Africa.us to raise.”

However, the (ever-changing) value of all historical sources lies in the questions they allow us to raise. From this point of view, the wealth represented by these collections is difficult to convey. Firstly, these collections provide invaluable entry points into how postcolonial African states work and imagine themselves. The state occupies a central and yet contested status in our attempt to come to terms with Africa’s past. It has been depicted as either too strong or too weak, the epitome of a context-specific rationality or the triumph of excess and corruption, the inevitable evolution of precolonial and colonial structures, or the outcome of contingent factors, a developmental agent strangled by neo-colonialist forces or a criminalised and rhizomatic entity. The wide diversity in this collection allows to observe closely the multiple realms, practices and discursive formations in which the state manifests itself, and to subject it to questions and methods associated with different disciplines. Thus, these government publications can inform with the same naturalness an ethnographic study of planning and temporalities, a comparative analysis of fiscal capacity, revenue composition and public debts, a policy paper on the impact of structural adjustment policies on agriculture and child mortality, or a cultural history of ports and infrastructures.  

Front cover of Citazioni del presidente del CRS - drawing of Jalle Mohamed Siyad Barre surrounded by supporters
Citazioni del presidente del CRS – Jalle Mohammed Siyaad Barre

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to impose too strict a teleology – and thus make the postcolonial nation-state the ‘natural’ successor to colonial empires. In the years of decolonization, Africans imagined many political, economic and cultural alternatives to a world of ‘Balkanised’ nation-states. If the African Union’s (formerly Organisation of African Unity) publications represent a somehow obvious point to trace the evolution of the Pan-African imagination, these collections facilitate a holistic appraisal of the forms of institutional cooperation and the networks of solidarity envisaged in Africa in the second half of the 20th century. Indeed, these collections are a precious window onto a much more complicated and fragmented ecology that includes less studied institutions like the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Pan-African Postal Union.

Nor would it be accurate to reduce discussions of ‘decolonisation’ to the quest for alternative political and economic arrangements. The political struggle was – and is – paralleled by an epistemic one – one for ways of interpreting and constructing reality informed by the specificities of African experiences and perspectives. From this point of view, this collection remains an invaluable resource to observe closely the methodological concerns, the theoretical reference points and the empirical strategies employed by African scholars and institutions. How did they change, and why? What do these changes tell us about their perception of the relevance and the political implications of Western epistemologies? How does it speak of the political context in which these contributions were conceived? How easily did they travel outside their context of inception, and what were the epistemic and practical obstacles that prevented their further dissemination? Whether one is interested in how Burkinabé scholars discussed Marx under Thomas Sankara, in what historians in 1960s Nigeria thought about oral evidence, or in South African economists’ stance on racism and oppression during apartheid, these collections stand like palm trees waiting to be tapped.

Front cover of New era magazine - 2 black and white photos; 3 Somalian children reading a newspaper and a man in sunglasses holding a baby
New era – Waaga cusub, Feb 1973

The list of possible questions that the holdings in the BLDS Legacy Collection could help raise and address could go on. This casual attempt to convey the importance of these collections has been inevitably conditioned by my research interests. Yet I have no doubts that scholars across disciplines interested in other issues would also see the immense potential of these collections, and find plenty of reasons to make Sussex (alongside better known repositories, such as the National Archives at Kew, SOAS or the British Library) a key destination for scholars with an interest in postcolonial Africa. On the other hand, through the preservation, digitisation and sharing of some of these records with African institutions, the Collection could become a global player committed to restoring and encouraging the continent’s institutional memory.

Gerardo Serra is Presidential fellow of Economic Cultures at the University of Manchester

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