Telling the time and temporal rhythms

Evidence from the MOA Autumn 2017 directive One-day diary: organising and experiencing time

By Clare Holdsworth, Keele University

Writing a one-day diary is a key activity of being a MOA correspondent. One-day diaries are often used in directives, including the annual request for 12th May diaries. These diaries can provide an intriguing glimpse into telling the time by analysing references to clock time included in a sub-set of diaries. This includes how clock time is recorded by MOA correspondents and daily rhythms in noting time. This analysis showcases the varied ways in which researchers can interpret the data collected in MOA diaries and their contribution to the illusive and fascinating study of time.

The Autumn 2017 directive used the one-day diary format to collect accounts of time pressure. Correspondents were asked to write about a day when either they or their partner was at work. If no one in the household was in work correspondents were asked to choose any day This directive specifically asked correspondents to recall clock times, particularly those associated with time squeeze. These dairies are particularly suitable to analyse how correspondents tell the time throughout the day.

Writing a Diary

Before we examine how MOA correspondents tell the time in the diaries it is interesting to look at how MOA correspondents write their diaries. One of the fascinating, and equally frustrating, qualities of MOA diaries is the variety of responses received. There is no standard format for submitting a MOA response. There are 137 responses to the Autumn 2017 directive, though three correspondents did not submit a diary. Of the 134 diaries, one quarter of the diaries are handwritten, and one diary is a cartoon.  The diaries vary in length from half a page to 15 pages and the modal length is 3 pages. 31 correspondents include images, all photographs except for the cartoon and one correspondent who provides two sketches. The choice of day is evenly distributed throughout the working week (10 correspondents write about a weekend, mostly Sunday), though there is a slight bias towards the start of the week, with Monday the most popular day (28 responses) and Friday the least common (20 diaries).

There is not a set way of writing a MOA one-day diary, though most correspondents adopt one of two style formats. The first format is to use a time-structured approach: the diarist divides the day into specific time points detailing activities at each time. Some of these time-structured diaries use a table format and all confirm to a stylistic devise of noting the time on the left-hand side of the page. The second format is to write a time-narrated diary in which the narrative of the day is dictated by activities rather than temporal structure. These diaries usually take the form of a long essay, though some might identify key time points in the margin. References to clock time include deterministic (activities happen because of the time, such as leaving the house to go to work) and incidental (activities happen at certain times, such as a meeting starting or finishing). A few time-narrated diaries have no specific mentions of clock time.

Of the 134 diaries collated in the 2017 Autumn directive I classify 36% as time-structured and 64% as time-narrated. There is no significant difference by gender, however age and occupation status are related to diary format (see figure 1). Older and retired correspondents are more likely to write a time-structured diary, while younger diarists and those in paid work tend towards the time-narrated method.

Figure 1 image of table showing MOA One Day Diary Format by Gender, Age, and Employment Status of Diarist
Figure 1 MOA One Day Diary Format by Gender, Age, and Employment Status of Diarist
i P value for pearson chi-square test is .61 i.e. not significant
ii P value for pearson chi-square test is 0.05 i.e. significant at 95% confidence level
iii P value for pearson chi-square test is 0.01 i.e. significant at 95% confidence level
Source: Authors’ analysis of diary format: Mass Observation Archive (University of Sussex): Replies to Autumn 2017 directive One-day diary: organising and experiencing time

Telling the Time

While the use of clock time to demarcate the day varies between the diaries there is a discernible pattern to how correspondents tell the time. In order to explore this I have extracted all references to clock time in the diaries and collated these in a database. There are 2052 clock times in the 134 diaries (an average of 15 clock times per diary). Most clock time references refer to specific times (e.g. 08.00) even if the activities written about are not necessarily happening at this precise time. Some are vague (e.g. a diarist may write ‘at about 9 o’clock’). These approximate times have been recorded as the exact time in the database. Temporal references can also be for a time period (e.g. a diarist may write between 8 and 9am) and for these both clock times (i.e. 08.00 and 09.00) are returned in the database of clock times.  Times noted more than once in the diaries were only recorded once in the database

These 2052 clock times are dominated by the 12 points of clock time (see figure 2). 96% (1970) refer to one of the 12 clock points. Of these over half, 36% and 25%, are for the hour (12) and half hour respectively (6). However the dominance of 12 and 6 for clock time is not the only pattern that emerges from this data, and the symmetry of clock time references is also striking. After 12 and 6, the next most popular clock points are 3 and 9, and these have almost identical frequencies in the database. These are followed in frequency by the remaining even clock points, 2,4,8 and 10, which all have similar frequencies, though there is a slight bias towards 10.  Finally, the least popular clock points are 5,11, 7 and 1 in declining frequency. Despite the heterogenous quality of the dataset and the different approaches that correspondents take to writing a one-day diary, it is possible to extract a symmetry in how MOA correspondents tell the time.

Figure 2 - Image of pie chart - Distribution of clock points in MOA time database
Figure 2 – Distribution of clock points in MOA time database Source: Mass Observation Archive (University of Sussex): Replies to Autumn 2017 directive One-day diary: organising and experiencing time

Diurnal rhythms

The symmetrical recording of clock time is not the only pattern that can be identified in the dataset. It is also possible to discern a linear rhythm in the distribution of recorded time over the day. In order to analyse this, I have counted the number of discrete clock times in the database for each hour. The distribution of time points over the day is illustrated in figure 3. This analysis finds, not surprisingly that the most intensely referenced hours are 07.00, 08.00 and 09.00 respectively. This is followed by a slight lull in noting time in mid-morning (11.00), an increase around lunchtime followed by a second lull in the afternoon. More references to time points are made in the late afternoon and early evening, though this does not match the intensity of the morning rush. Evening (19.00 onwards) are distinguished by a gradual decline in time references, though there are slightly more temporal references between 22.00 and 22.59 compared to 21.00 to 21.59 because the former is the modal hour for going to bed. Further analysis of the rhythm of  time references shows that diarists not in work record a more even distribution of time during the day, while for those in work the morning peak and mid-morning lull are more discernible.

Figure 3 Image of line graph showing percentage distribution of time references in each hour period in MOA time database
Figure 3 Percentage distribution of time references in each hour period in MOA time database
Source: Mass Observation Archive (University of Sussex): Replies to Autumn 2017 directive One-day diary: organising and experiencing time


MOA diaries are very heterogenous and correspondents write their diary according to how they interpret their day. For some timing matters, for others it is more incidental. While diarists use different formats to write their diaries, there is more uniformity in how they tell the time. The symmetry of time references is striking, and it follows a temporal order: hour, half-hour, quarter to/past, ten to/past, twenty to/past, five to/past, twenty-five to/past. Mornings are more temporally referenced than other times of the day. This is partly because morning routines are more predictable and easier to recall, as well as diary writing fatigue during the day. The intensity of time references in the morning also reflects how activities at this time have to be coordinated with other household members (including pets). The MOA diaries illustrate how time pressure, and thus references to time, are a collective experience.

Clare Holdsworth is Professor of Social Geography at Keele University. Her latest book, The Social Life of Busyness, will be published by Emerald in September 2021. If you would like to learn more about her research, Clare can be contacted at

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Posted in MO (Mass Observation), The Keep

Our treasure trove of printed journals

By Chloe Dobson – Collection Development Librarian

Did you know that we have a basement area in The Library which is full of printed journals from all subject areas?

Image of the rolling stacks in the basement of The Library
Rolling stacks of print journals

We provide access to tens of thousands of journals online, which is a fantastic way to reach a world of research at your fingertips. But there are benefits from looking at print journals too. Some journals are only available in print, so we keep them for that reason alone and many will be current, where we still receive a new issue regularly. For example we have current subscriptions to the Spectator (from 1928 onwards at AP 4 SPE) and Sight and Sound (from 1967 onwards at PN 1993 SIG)

Image of the journal Magazine of art, open to show pages of journal
Magazine of art (1878-1903)

Some are only partially online, so we retain print to enable access to the whole archive. Other titles have the same availability online as well as in print.. but we still hold the printed issues for areas such as the Visual Arts, Art History, Photography. Many titles are historical and consulting them can bring many benefits, as described by Thomas Elliot, one of our Doctoral Researchers in Art History:

“Print journals are a rich and important resource. They provide a privileged glimpse into the visual and written culture of the past in a very unique way. The very nature of the printed page can in itself be illuminating; what do the articles surrounding my source tell me about the topic? Where is my source placed in relation to other items? Is it a cover story or hidden away at the back? What images, adverts, reviews or op-eds accompany it? All of these considerations can provide us as researchers with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of our area of study – even if they don’t make it into our final project!”

How do we know which titles are in the Basement?

All our print journals are discoverable on Library Search. You can search by keyword and then limit your results by Availability, and then by Available in the Library to show available print titles only.

Screenshot of availability facet menu on Library search, highlighting 'Available in the Library'
Screenshot of Library Search – showing availability

Journals are arranged A-Z by shelfmark and follow the same classification system as our books, so if your subject area is usually in the PNs, target this area in the Basement.

Some examples of titles available in our fabulous print journal collection;

  • The Radio Times: Broadcasting listings, news, interviews covering 1990-2018, found at AP 4 RAD
  • Punch: The satirical magazine, packed with illustrations and cartoons, from 1841-1963, found at AP 4 PUN
  • Stuff: Guide to gadgets, technology and electronics, 2015-2020, found at TK 9900 STU
Image of the journal Conisseur, open to show pages of journal
Connoisseur (1901-1963)

At the moment there is a collection service running for titles in the Basement but once access is resumed it is a wonderful space to browse and find something new.

If you would like any further information on our print journal collections, or any of our Library collections don’t hesitate to get in touch,

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Plans… remember those? A look at the architectural plans of the University of Sussex

By Karen Watson – Special Collections Archivist

Plans. It’s a bit tricky to make any at the moment. Luckily that wasn’t the case when the University of Sussex was commissioning new buildings and renovating student residences over the past 50 or so years. In October last year, I was contacted by the Estates team who had a large cabinet of architectural plans in their offices which they thought should be looked after long term at The Keep. That’s exactly what I thought. There are lots of architectural plans already in the University of Sussex Collection dating from the 1960s and they have been used extensively by lots of researchers. Recently they were consulted by 3rd year Drama students researching the history of the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA), formally the Gardner Arts Centre.

Image of an architectural plan for a University of Sussex building
EP wing east side – to be added to the collection SxUOS1 when catalogued

I hoped that the plans in the cabinet were for buildings constructed later than the 1960s and possibly for buildings that no longer exist on campus (does anyone remember Arts E?) When the plans were delivered to The Keep, the first thing I realised was that my archive accessioning skills had got rusty whilst working from home for many months. I knew it was one cabinet of plans but I hadn’t asked how many plans were inside. The answer? Lots.

Image of an architectural plan for a University of Sussex building
Essex houseto be added to the collection SxUOS1 when catalogued

Now that the plans are safely at The Keep, I’ve been able to have a look through them. There are approximately 200 campus plans including building elevations, perspectives, heating and fire layouts, renovations. I was super please to see that the campus building plans include ones for Arts 4(D) and 5(E) which is where the Jubilee building is now. A lovely surprise is the over 80 plans for buildings off campus including student residences in Falmer village, Windlesham Road in Hove and Victoria Road in Brighton. The date span is from the late 1960s to 1990s and the plans get really big from around 1994, maybe the architectural firm got a new printer. The largest ones are 1085x820mm, the smallest around 880x590mm. These plans have been hanging up so are not creased or rolled and it would be nice to keep them that way. Storage solutions for these are on my list when I can work on site at The Keep.

Image of an architectural plan for a University of Sussex building
Windlesham road – full plan – to be added to the collection SxUOS1 when catalogued

I find architectural plans endless fascinating. They are often beautifully rendered and as you can see below, have figures in them for scale which have their own narrative.

Image of an architectural plan for a University of Sussex building
Windlesham road – close up – to be added to the collection SxUOS1 when catalogued

I also spend a lot of time working out what perspective they are from, especially ones that set the building in the landscape. The plans are not listed on the catalogue yet and there is a bit of work to do before they are available for researchers, but they are an excellent addition to the University’s own archive.

Anyone interested in consulting the wonderful collection of architectural plans available when The Keep is back open, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Special Collections team – 

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A Taste of History – Travelling back in time through recipes and Mass Observation

By Dr Stella Sims

In this video project I recreate recipes taken from, or inspired by 1941 food diaries held at the Mass Observation Archive, going back in time to a moment in history to cook and taste what someone said they were eating on a particular day.  Earlier in the summer of this very strange year, during the 1st Covid lockdown and many subsequent weeks spent indoors, I was able to travel vicariously through food.  I’ve rediscovered recipe books that had gathered dust on the shelf for too long, trying new recipes, and recreating meals that reminded me of comfortable memories, family and foreign holidays.  Like smell, taste can conjure up a memory and give us a sensory leap back to a past moment in our lives.  This project expands this idea to take an imaginative journey back in time where we join a specific person on a specific day in the past to cook and eat what they ate.  With more time this year to cook and to think, the idea for ‘A Taste Of History’ arose as a perfect way to combine the pleasure of cooking with my love of bringing history to life. 

Image of Dr Stella Sims in her kitchen
Dr Stella Sims in her kitchen

I did a PhD at the University of Sussex some time ago, and I’ve used the incredible collection at Mass Observation for my academic work – I could spend hours poring over these vivid fragments and insights into everyday lives.  In more recent years I have worked in the media researching and producing history documentaries and series such as BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?  One of the things I find unique about Mass Observation material is the personal and detailed nature of much of their collection, comprising as it does of diaries, overheard conversations, personal anecdotes and daily minutiae sent in by ordinary people.  The collection often features very idiosyncratic voices – I’ve often been pleasantly diverted off topic while reading the diary, report or comments of a particularly funny or opinionated person. 

Image of Stella cutting into a Woolton pie
Stella’s Woolton pie

I wondered what kind of research had been done on food, and if Mass Observation writers had shared any recipes in their diaries, or other interesting insights to do with food.  Of course, I discovered Mass Observation had an absolute abundance of writing related to food, spanning both the earlier project as well as the newer correspondence since the 1980s.  As I browsed through various topic collections I found there was an awful lot to distract a greedy historian.  In the end, I decided to focus on a huge collection of food diaries sent in by individuals during the early years of the Second World War.  A short history series was never going to cover everything in this fascinating collection, but I managed to narrow down my focus to five peoples’ menus.  I selected these based on the fact that they were particularly interesting writers or menus which illustrated certain broader points of historical interest on food during the war: the rationing of key foods like meat, butter and sugar; the role of the Ministry of Food; famous wartime recipes like ‘Woolton Pie’ and meat-free substitutes; import problems; and campaigns such as Dig For Victory.  But what I love most about this project is how it puts the ordinary men and women at the centre of these big moments in history and shines a spotlight on these ‘unofficial histories’, particularly women’s stories.  The voices that come through are opinionated, quirky and very human, their experiences vary according to place, income and class.  In particular I enjoyed discovering the occasional very emotional response to taste, such as the woman who wrote with joy in October 1941 that she was served “two awfully good cakes with cream and jam, light, scrunchy pastry!”  These rare treats were few and far between during wartime.

Image of macaroni pudding and chocolate mould
Anyone for macaroni pudding or chocolate mould?

I was grateful for the excellent archive help from Mass Observation’s Senior Archive Assistant, Jessica Scantlebury, who provided me with a wealth of primary documents.  I’ve not only used diaries in the project: almost every document you see in the videos is held in the wartime collections at Mass Observation.  This is just a snapshot of a rich collection of wartime ephemera including newspaper clippings, advertisements, Ministry of Food pamphlets, posters for  wartime cookery classes, food catalogues from posh stores like Harrods and Selfridges, and sample menus from all sorts of places from provincial hotels to Claridge’s.  In some ways this was an ideal ‘lockdown project’ – just me in my kitchen experimenting with food.  Fortunately, I’ve got a huge collection of old recipe books and books about food history, so I was able to do plenty of research in the confines of my own home.  A lot of the time, the 1941 food diaries just mentioned a meal, not a recipe, so I was able to research or adapt authentic recipes from the time to create an approximation of what they would have eaten.  The simplicity that was forced on the filming was in some ways a plus – it meant less faffing or worrying about perfection and more just getting on with it; I was lucky to be living with a partner who valiantly (and patiently) assisted on camera and sound.  I’m certainly more used to being behind the camera, but hopefully people enjoy watching me having a go at cooking 1940s-style, and finding out if these recipes were a success or failure when they are recreated in the here and now.

Image of Stella tucking into a salad inspired by an MO recipe
A stellar salad – based on the recipe of Mrs Clayton of South London

To me, the history of cooking illustrates a very social history: seeing what ingredients were available at what time; what expectations people had about food; who does the cooking; and what methods were open to them.  During Covid, Britain has again faced food supply challenges: queues at supermarkets, supply issues, stockpiling and pressure on incomes meaning people are having to do more with less.  Politically, myths of the Second World War are often called upon to serve the present – the ‘Blitz spirit’ and so on, which often go too far and miss the specific context and huge differences between ‘then’ and ‘now’.  Even during this pandemic, 21st century Britain is a land of plenty compared to Britain in 1941.  However, there are still surprising and useful lessons we can learn from those wartime days of rationing such as not to waste food, how to make the most of what you have, and the nutritious possibilities of a meat-free diet.  It’s been brilliant to take a trip back in time to see how creative people were with food during the war, though one thing I’ve definitely learned is that I think Woolton Pie should probably remain in the history books.

Watch all 5 videos of Taste of history on the Mass Observation YouTube channel

Dr Stella Sims is a cultural historian, researcher and history documentary producer with a love of museums, archives and vintage recipe books.  She can be reached on Twitter @stellastar80 or via

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Posted in MO (Mass Observation), Special Collections, The Keep

‘For security reasons it may not be prudent to unfold where I am’ – Ghana’s 1978 electoral commissioner’s letter from hiding surfaces in the BLDS Legacy collection

By Danny Millum – BLDS Metadata and Discovery Officer

Cataloguing on the BLDS Legacy Collection project has now reached Ghana, and we’ve just unearthed a fascinating letter from a dramatic time in that country’s political history.

On 30 March 1978 the country’s Supreme Military Council, led by Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, held a referendum on system of government, and whether Ghana should become a non-party state (from the perspective of the UK in 2021 that does have some appeal…). The referendum was controversial, as many saw UNIGOV (as it was known) to be a ploy by Acheampong to retain power and suspected military interference. Things got so heated that the electoral commissioner himself, I. K. Abban, was forced to go into hiding, from where he wrote the letter below which has just turned up in Box 204 of our Ghana materials.

Image of letter written on a typewriter from I.K. Abban to I.K Acheampong
Letter from Electoral Commissioner I.K. Abban to I.K Acheampong

The message is addressed to Acheampong, explaining that following previous threats from the military (which would end in ‘several deaths including me’) his office was now under siege. He diplomatically shies clear of directly accusing the Head of State of being responsible, but he certainly doesn’t sound full of trust for his boss: ‘For security reasons it may not be prudent to unfold where I am but I am safe’. Readers worried about Abban’s fate can breathe easy – he escaped and eventually became Chief Justice (again not without controversy). Acheampong on the other hand only lasted until July when he was arrested and deposed…

Anyone interested in this item, Ghanaian government publications or the BLDS Legacy Collection in general can drop us a line at

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Posted in BLDS (British Library for Development Studies), IDS

Listening to Sussex’s Special Collections

By Esther Gill – UOSH Project Manager

The University of Sussex Special Collections at The Keep archive holds extensive material relating to 20th century literary, political and social history, as well as the history of the University. In amongst the books, manuscripts and images, are also boxes of open reel and cassette tapes holding oral history interviews, music, performance and incidental sounds. These recordings capture: voices, emotion, laughter, performance, wildlife, and the everyday domestic sounds that are all around us. Some are carefully constructed re-tellings of a life-story, others are audio scrapbooks, collections of sound ‘jottings’, scraps of recordings fitted onto the end of a tape. All add depth and richness to our reading of the past. 

Two of these collections have been digitised as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project (UOSH), preserving them for future listening, but also making them more easily accessible to more people. The two collections are the British Australian Migration Research Project oral history interviews (SxMOA25/UTK001/84 cassette tapes) and the Copper Family recordings (SxMs87/UTK009/59 open reel tapes, 2 cassette tapes, 8 CDs).

Voices of the £10 Poms

The British-Australian Migration Research Project oral history interviews comprises 33 oral history interviews, over 84 tapes, exploring the experiences of the ‘£10 Poms’: British people who emigrated to Australia for £10 under the Assisted Package Scheme (1945-1982).

Image of a box of tape cassettes from the Ten pound poms collection
The ordered cassettes of an oral history research project

Undertaken by Professor Al Thomson and Dr Lani Russell in 2000/2001, the research looks at the experiences of people who remained in Australia as well as those who returned to the UK, some coming and going a number of times. The collection explores the experience of migration, women’s lives in the UK and Australia, family dynamics, the challenges of returning to the UK. Interview transcripts and the resulting book ‘Ten Pound Poms’: Australia’s invisible migrants (Hammerton/Thomson, 2005) are available to read, but the recorded interviews and hearing the actual voices enable a much deeper ‘reading’ of the life stories being told. In the extract below, Joan Pickett’s description of how she and her friend decided to take the Assisted Package draws one in immediately with her very visual comparison between the winter of 1959 and the sunny presentation of Australia.

Joan Pickett talks to Al Thomson about the decision to go to Australia (Part 1)

Joan Pickett talks to Al Thomson about the decision to go to Australia (Part 2)

A transcript for both audio files can be found in the UOSH additional content page on this blog

Running through the interviews one hears the excitement of travel and opportunity; the details of a first sea journey; the sadness at saying goodbye to family and friends; the challenges and sometimes disappointments of arriving in a new land. All the interviews have been cleared by the UOSH team at The Keep to be streamed via a new British Library sounds website, to be launched in July 2021.

Making music with the Coppers

The Copper Family recordings held by Special Collections is a very different type of audio collection. Whereas the £10 Poms recordings were gathered as part of a structured research project, the Copper Family recordings reflect a more organic approach and were not created as a ‘collection’. The recordings comprise three distinct types of material: firstly, the 18 professionally recorded master tapes for the Copper’s 1975 release, A Song for Every Season. Secondly, interviews undertaken with Bob Copper and folk experts, talking about the role and history of the Copper Family. And thirdly, a collection of open reels and cassettes found amongst Bob Copper’s possessions after he died. The latter tapes capture home recordings, material sent to Bob by aspiring folk musicians, rough recordings of pub performances, recordings of commercial music off the radio. The collection reflects a musician’s life in sound: the clean and clear sound of a professional recording studio to the raucous, distorted sound of a pub recording to what is captured when, in a creative moment, you press the record button on a Saturday night at home.

Image of the packaging for a EMITAPE magnetic recording tape
A beautiful box from the Copper Family collection

The UOSH team is still cataloguing the Copper Family recordings and are yet to confirm what all the recordings are, but what is already clear is that the content of these tapes are an essential element of the Copper Archive (SxMs87). Alongside Bob Copper’s correspondence, writing, song books, sketches and lifetime ephemera, the recordings bring sound to the archive of a man whose life had music and sound at its centre.

Image of a small open reel tape on a reel to reel tape recorder
A tiny open reel of Bob and John Copper singing Come write me down

Once complete, the digital recordings will be stored at the British Library for preservation and listed in the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image ( catalogue. People interested in listening to them should email the Special Collections team.

These two collections have been digitised as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Project (UOSH) based at The Keep and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The recordings were identified from the British Library’s 2015 audit of sound collections across the UK as being unique and important, but also being at risk due to the loss of playback equipment and the risk of tape decay and CD rot. However, Special Collections also holds other sound collections, including interviews from the University’s 50 Voices project, celebrating its 50th anniversary and the oral history interviews of the Archive of Resistance Testimony.

For more information on Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, follow @KeepSounds on Twitter or the Keep Sounds blog

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Posted in Special Collections, The Keep, UOSH (Unlocking Our Sound Heritage)

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 –

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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Posted in BLDS (British Library for Development Studies), IDS

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 

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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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