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In the Spotlight

Spotlight highlights 2012-2013

Earlier issues of In the Spotlight are available below:

The First World War and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Collection

by Emma Booth, Special Collections Project Cataloguer

Title page of 'The official record of the United States' part in the Great War' (1920) with commemorative medal placed on top.In anticipation of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in August 2014, the Foyle Special Collections Library is currently running a project to catalogue materials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Historical Collection that relate to the causes, course and aftermath of the Great War. This month’s ‘In the Spotlight’ focuses on a few items in this collection; a more in depth overview of First World War materials is available on our web pages.

Much of the material relating to the First World War in the FCO Historical Collection focuses upon Britain and the other European Powers, the effects that the war had upon British and European foreign policy and diplomatic relations, and the peace processes that followed the conflict.

There are, for example, many items produced by the Foreign Offices of various nations involved in the war, including diplomatic documents and correspondence from the German Auswärtiges Amt, the French Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, and the Dutch Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

The collection also contains an abundance of resources that reveal how the war expanded outside Europe and reached far across the globe, involving and affecting countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. These items demonstrate how the Great War was a conflict of Empires and alliances; a struggle for political and territorial power that grew from small beginnings in Europe, to involve the world. 

Whilst the war began in Europe, with the Allied Powers of France, Russia and Britain fighting against the Central Powers of the German, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, countries outside Europe were drawn into the conflict either as part of the Empires that were fighting one another or because their national and political interests favoured forging an alliance with one side or the other.

'Number of troops sailing from American ports and landing in France and England.' Diagram from 'The official record of the United States' part in the Great War ' (1920)

The United States, for example, became part of the conflict after over two years of maintaining neutrality and being guided by economic interests not to favour one side of the conflict over the other. Between 1914 and 1916, the USA allowed unlimited exports to belligerents across the Atlantic, including trading armaments with both the Allies and the Central Powers. By mid 1916, however, Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare had caused the sinking of several American ships and the deaths of many Americans; opinion was then turned against Germany. In January 1917, a secret message from Germany approaching Mexico to form an alliance was intercepted by the British and shown to the US government, which began to reassess its position regarding entering the war. In April of that year, the USA joined the Allies in the war against Germany.

Front cover from 'The official record of the United States' part in the Great War' (1920). Binding in beige cloth with title blocked in black letters and seal stamped in black and gold.

The following item from the collection reveals the role that the United States played in the First World War, covering the recruiting, training and transportation of the four million American soldiers who served in the war. The volume also details each of the thirteen battles that American forces were involved in, the casualties sustained and the medals awarded to serving men. Complete with tables, charts, maps and statistical information about the war, this volume also commemorates the bravery of the men who served and gave their lives during the conflict.

The official record of the United States’ part in the Great War : the government account of the thirteen American battles and the recruiting, training, equipment, transportation, finances, health and casualties, incident to the army of four million men prepared under the instructions of the secretary of war ; illustrated with eighty-five government diagrams, maps and tables. Complete official stories by the adjutant general’s office ... Complete official register of awards ... Bibliography of the Great War. (1920) [FCO Historical Collection D570.A4 UNI] 

Other items in the FCO Historical Collection that reveal the far-reaching effects of the First World War are materials relating to the establishment of the League of Nations after the war had ended. During the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, delegates from around the world decided to create an international organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. The primary goals of the League of Nations, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament, and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. The Covenant of the League of Nations was drafted by a special commission, and the League was established by Part I of the Treaty of Versailles. On 28 June 1919, 44 states signed the Covenant, including 31 states which had taken part in the war on the side of the Central Powers.

Front cover of a Treaty of Versailles (1919)

The League was given the responsibility of overseeing the redistribution of power over the former German colonies in Africa and the Pacific, and the several non-Turkish provinces of the collapsed Ottoman Empire. During the Peace Conference, it was decided that that these territories should be administered by different governments on behalf of the League of Nations. This system of national responsibility, defined as the mandate system, was subject to international supervision and adopted by the ‘Council of Ten’ (the heads of government and foreign ministers of the main Allied powers: Britain, France, the United States, Italy, and Japan) on 30 January 1919, and then transmitted to the League of Nations during its first council meeting in Paris on 16 January 1920, six days after the Treaty of Versailles came into force.

A few examples of documents related to the foundation and the work of the League of Nations are:

In The Library by Charles Paul Renouard

An original drawing by the artist Charles Paul Renouard has been identified in the records of St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School (TH/ILL1/5) held at King’s College London Archives. The collection holds many surprises, with illustrations ranging from anatomical to architectural. 

In the Library - a drawing by Charles Paul Renouard

The pencil drawing shows students of St Thomas’s studying in the library. It was published in The Graphic, on 2 Oct 1886, with other sketches of medical students at work.

In the Library is a featured work selected for Line and Form, an online exhibition of drawings selected from collections in King's College Archives and the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives.

Paul Renouard (1845-1924) apparently started his career as a decorator before studying at L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  In 1875 he collaborated with his teacher and mentor, Isidore Pils, on the interior of the Paris Opera including the ceilings and frescos.  Renouard’s debut exhibition was at the Salon in 1877. He was influenced by Degas and Manet, which can be seen in his studies of dancers and actors, but also gained the admiration of van Gogh.

He is probably best known for his pencil drawings and prints, in particular a series of pencil drawings, The Royal Academy, 1885, and a series of etchings, L’Opera, in 1892.  He produced illustrations for a number of publications in England, as well as France, including the Illustrated London News and The Graphic

Examples of his work can be found in collections across the world including the Royal Academy of Arts and the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Further reading

Baron-Renouard, Paul Renouard’s grandson:

The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow:

Examples of his work

The Royal Academy of Arts:

National Portrait Gallery:

Tokyo National Museum:

The Falkland Islands: a question of sovereignty 

Antoine-Joseph Pernety. The history of a voyage to the Malouine (or Falkland) Islands, made in 1763 and 1764: under the command of M de Bougainville, in order to form a settlement there. London: printed for T Jefferys [1771]

 Foyle Special Collections Library, FCO Historical Collection F3031 PER

By Adam Ray, Special Collections Library Assistant

Throughout the recorded history of the Falkland Islands, there have been competing claims in regard to its sovereignty. In this item, a late 18th century account of a French voyage to the islands, the map shows the varied nomenclature as given to the islands by the English, French, Dutch and Spanish.

Map of the Falkand Islands

Following the Dutch explorer Seebald’s noting of the existence of the archipelago in 1600 and the British claim of 1690, the French were actually the first European power to establish a colony on the islands, which were seen as a strategic outpost in the southern Atlantic Ocean. 

This account of a voyage to the islands and the first establishment of a settlement there was written by the naturalist Antoine-Joseph Pernety (1716-1801), who took part in the voyage. As well as describing the geographical features and wildlife of the islands, Pernety gives an account of the symbolic laying of the first stone of the settlement:

Mess de Bougainville and de Nerville had, on the 21st [of March 1764], laid the first stone of the base of the pyramid, or kind of obelisk, intended to be erected in the center of the fort. A round silver plate, about two inches in diameter, was deposited in the stone-work of the foundation; on one side of which was etched with aqua fortis, the draught of that part of the island where the fort and habitation were situated; on the middle, the obelisk with these words for the exergue, Tibi serviat ultima Thule (p.217).

The Latin phrase can be translated as: ‘The ends of the earth serve you’, a particularly apposite sentiment due to the island archipelago’s remote location. The narrative also records that the inscription on the other side of the obelisk records details of the voyage, the ship’s company and the volunteers on board. Researchers interested in the archaeological history of early Falkland Islands’ settlements should consult the work of Robert A. Philpott, who has worked in conjunction with the Falkland Islands Museum.

Explorations of intent

A view of Fort St. Louis at Acarron Bay including a settlement in the foreground and some sailing ships in the bayWorks documenting European exploration and discovery of the new world are a major strength of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection and this work records French observations from such an investigative voyage. Fort (or Port) Louis at the east point of the islands was the name given to the first French settlement and is detailed on a map showing both a plan and view of the bay and area. It was later abandoned – after recording the islands’ first marriages and births – and the capital eventually developed in what is now Port Stanley.

A plan of Acarron Bay indicating the location of Fort St. LouisThe illustrations of Fort Louis demonstrate how, in this case, French explorers saw the islands as a potential settlement and strategic outpost. Drawings and plans of ports and harbours feature strongly in works such as this – they were often made by Europeans in anticipation of future colonial development by their respective countries.

Documentation and discovery
Detail from plate depicting sea wolves.

The recording of scientific observations and the documenting of newly discovered plants and animals also feature strongly in accounts of voyages and exploratory journeys. Pernety, as a naturalist, is concerned with such matters and his descriptions of the wildlife, both on the actual voyage and on the islands, is in depth. 

As the voyage passes the line of the equator a bird called the Frigate is sighted and Pernety records his observations in an extended passage which includes the following observations:

This bird is frequently found at four hundred leagues distance from the land ... the males have a red granulated membrane descending from their bill ... [and] it is said, that he pursues the gull and other sea birds, to make them disgorge the fish they have swallowed that he may seize upon them himself.

Pernety’s observations are informed by references to the bird he has found in other texts, which he cites (p.24). The dissemination of scientific knowledge through the printed word has been a defining feature of the existence of ‘the book’ and this is an example of such an interchange of ideas. His fellow scientist had also found (perhaps questionably) that if the bird is cooked and its fat mixed with brandy, a grease can be created which is a useful treatment for sciatica. The bird Pernety refers to is from the Fregata family of seabirds, also commonly known as 'Man of War’ or ‘Pirate’ birds.

Detail from plate depicting sea birds, plants, penguins and insects.

The penguins which inhabit a part of the archipelago named ‘Penguin Island’, suffer an even worse fate, much to the chagrin of Pernety. Monsieur De Bouganville, as a prelude to a future settlement, decides to burn the island:

M. de Bouganville imagined, that by destroying this useless herbage he was doing a piece of service, as it would save trouble when these lands were cleared.

Unfortunately ‘upwards of 250 [penguins] perished in the flames’ (p.190).

The voyage across the sea

As well as further observations on flora and fauna and the harsh landscape of the islands, Pernety also describes the interaction of the ship’s crew and the age-old sea-going rituals they undertake on the voyage, including those enacted upon members of the crew crossing the line of the equator for the first time.

The voyage stops en route to the islands on mainland east coast South America, this being the land mass in closest proximity to the Falkland Islands. Here, Pernety encounters some particularly dubious quackery at a theological seminary outside Montevideo, where the superior ‘informed me of some remedies, the success of which he had seen in repeated experiments’. For treating cancer and ulcers, he is advised to:

Put a large live toad into a new earthen pot, and over it put two ounces of rolls of sulphur in powder. Lute the pot well, and calcine the whole. Apply the ashes to the cancer (p.156).

'The Patagonians'. Plate depicts a Spanish settler with a Patagonian.

The dress of indigenous peoples and Spanish settlers are illustrated in the plates and their mannerisms and habits are also recorded within the narrative. When members of Pernety’s voyage encounter these indigenous peoples, the weapons they use to catch animals are of particular interest and are described as:

Round stones, whose ends are lengthened out and pointed. The round part is fixed to the end of a string composed of several narrow straps, twisted and interwoven into a round form like the string of a clock, and making a kind of sling. At the other end of the string is another stone in the form of a pear, not more than half as big as the other, and appearing as if it was wrapt in a bladder (p.274).

With the voyage complete and the boat docked, near St Malo, France, Pernety records:

M. De Bouganville having given the King an account of our expedition, his Majesty ratified the taking possession of the Malouine Islands, and immediately issued orders for the Eagle to be got ready to return to these islands’ (p.260).

In fact, plans for a permanent French presence on the islands did not materialise and the settlement lasted only until 1766. Under the terms of an agreement with Spain, France agreed to leave the islands, as their presence was seen as impinging on Spanish territorial claims. In these early days of the ‘race for empire’, the Falkland Islands were just another area seen as ripe for territorial conquest. After seeing many temporary settlements, it has since 1833 been inhabited by those who wish to remain British, as the recent referendum confirmed.

A continuing question

In the past 30 years the Falkland Islands sovereignty question has continued to be a frequent source of tension between both Britain and Argentina and its Latin American allies. On 28 December 2012 the National Archives released 6,000 documents relating to the year 1982, among them, of course, those relating to the Falklands War. Decisions made by the War Cabinet as well as efforts to avoid conflict were brought into the public domain. In March 2013, Churchill College Cambridge Archives Centre also released British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s personal papers from 1982. These showed evidence of both support and opposition from within the Conservative Party to preparations for the Falklands War.

These documents precipitated increased discussion of Anglo-Argentine conflict over the south Atlantic archipelago and indeed came against a backdrop of heightened diplomatic tension over the sovereignty of the islands, fuelled in part by jingoistic popular media on both sides of the Atlantic.

The referendum which took place on 10-11 March 2013, and which gave Falkland Islanders the right to vote on their future was condemned as unjust by Argentina even before it was held and it seems highly improbable that it has had a positive effect on relations, let alone providing the basis of a future in which conflict can be avoided.

Further reading

Title page of 'The history of a voyage to the Malouine (or Falkland) Islands, made in 1763 and 1764' by Antoine-Joseph Pernety (London, 1771)This item featured in the exhibition ‘Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed’ which ran from 17 October – 15 December 2012. The exhibition is now available to view online. Items from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection and the recently acquired Canning House Library Collection featured in this exhibition. For more information on these collections please click on the links above.

Central Office of Information. The Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. London: HMSO, 1985 [FCO Historical Collection PAMPH. BOX F3031 GRE]

Churchill College Cambridge Archives Centre (2013). ‘Release of Margaret Thatcher’s personal papers’ [ Accessed 22 March 2013]

Falkland Islands Government. Life in the Falkland Islands. Falkland Islands: The Falkland Islands Government, 1965 [FCO Historical Collection PAMPH. BOX F3031 FAL]

Falkland Islands magazine . Port Stanley, Falkland Islands:  Cathedral Press, 1899-1933 [FCO Periodicals Collection]

Falkland Islands monthly review . Stanley: printed by Joe King, 1958-1967 [FCO Periodicals Collection]

Falkland Islands Museum (2013) [ Accessed 27 February 2013]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The disputed islands. London: HMSO, 1982 [FCO Historical Collection PAMPH. BOX F3031 DIS]

Margaret Thatcher Foundation (2013). ‘Release of MT’s private files for 1982 – the Falklands War’ [ Accessed 22 March 2013]

National Archives (2013). ‘Newly released files from 1982 include Falkland Islands War papers’ [ Accessed 1 March 2013]

Bernard Penrose. An account of the last expedition to Port Egmont, in Falkland's Islands, in the year 1772, together with the transactions of the company of the Penguin Shallop during their stay there . London: printed for J Johnson, 1775 [Rare Books Collection  E162.B93]

Robert A. Philpott. The Early Falkland Islands Company Settlements: An Archaeological Survey (Archaeology of the Falkland Islands). Liverpool: Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust and National Museums Liverpool, 2007

Héctor C. Quesada. Las Malvinas son Argentinas . Buenos Aires: Secretaría de Educaciόn de la Naciόn, 1948 [FCO Historical Collection PAMPH. BOX F3031 QUE]

Royal Institute of International Affairs. The Falkland Islands dispute. London:  Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1982 [FCO Historical Collection PAMPH. BOX F3031.5 FAL]

Potato Pete's Recipe Book

Potato Pete booklet coverThis booklet was included in our new exhibition Feast, Famine and Physiology, which coincided with Feed Your Mind, King's College London festival of food and ideas 7-22 March, 2013.

Potato Pete and his comrade-in-arms, Dr Carrot, were created by the Ministry of Food to help persuade Britain to eat home grown vegetables during World War Two. 

Though fresh fruit and vegetables were never rationed, they were in short supply, and often unobtainable. Potatoes grow well in the British climate, are filling, inexpensive and nutritious.

‘Potato Pete’s Recipe Book’, published in 1941, urged housewives to serve them for breakfast, dinner and teatime, in an ingenious variety of ways, including potato pancakes, pies, salads and soups – even a rhubarb and potato pudding and, rather optimistically, chocolate scones.

Potato Pete himself usually sports a jaunty little hat, jodhpurs and gaiters, and chews on the end of corn stalk to emphasise his healthy, outdoors origins. 

Potato Pete recalls his salad daysThe booklet is interspersed with cartoons of Pete, often addressing the reader in mildly flirtatious tones: ‘Good taste demands I keep my jacket on’, ‘You should see me in my gay salad days’, and ‘Let me be your sweetie’.

This booklet is part of the former Queen Elizabeth College Library publications collection of pamphlets, c1915-1960, on recipes and diet (ref: QAL 4/4). They include many beautifully designed samples of 1930s promotional advertising from the rapidly expanding food industry. 

Come and consult them in the King’s College London Archives, if you want to learn how to make pork shortcake, 70 things to do with a Californian prune, or the benefits of radioactive drinking waters.

The history of Reynard the Foxe

The history of Reynard the Foxe. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1892  [Foyle Special Collections Library: Rare Books Collection PT5584.E5 CAX]

Detail of decorative initial letter and textNote: This article was originally posted in February 2013. The exhibition Medievalist visions ran from 30 January - 22 May 2013. 

William Morris (1834-96)

William Morris (1834-96) was a designer, artist, poet, author and socialist who was a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement and who translated the earlier work of the Gothic Revival into a decorative form which saw it endure into the 20th century. A passionate advocate of the crafts he saw threatened by the Industrial Age, Morris established numerous projects which protected cottage industry, and made desirable commodities out of hand-made goods inspired by medieval craftsmanship and design. Morris and Co, his design company, was founded in 1861 with prominent members (and followers) of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) and Ford Madox Brown (1821-93), and it went on to revolutionise British interiors of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Kelmscott Press

The establishment of the Kelmscott Press in 1891 was the last major achievement of Morris. In a letter of 3 January 1891 to his friend William Bowden he called it a ‘typographical adventure’, a description which underlines its revolutionary nature but which perhaps scarcely suggests either the meticulous care with which Morris approached all aspects of the setting-up and running of the Press or the scale of the operation itself. This was an adventure which had a profound effect on book design and production for the next hundred years.

By the time he founded the Kelmscott Press Morris was an established and influential businessman and designer. His firm of Morris and Co, founded in reaction against what he perceived as the mass-produced ugliness of much Victorian design, had introduced the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement to the making of furniture, textiles and wallpaper. Morris was an accomplished calligrapher and had experience of printing and publishing; he edited and published Commonweal, the journal of the Socialist League. He had for many years collected early printed books and he particularly admired the work of the early Italian printers. It is not surprising that Morris now turned to the production of books and applied his principles of fine craftsmanship to that process.

Morris's aim in founding the Kelmscott Press was to restore to the making of books the craftsmanship of the early printers; he wished to create books that were beautiful in themselves, books that would be a pleasure to handle and to read. Every aspect of book production, every material used, came under his scrutiny, as he strove to re-create the methods of Gutenberg and his contemporaries. The Press was situated in a building just round the corner from Morris's London home, Kelmscott House on Hammersmith Mall, so he was able to keep a close eye on all stages of the work.

The history of Reynard the Foxe: production and design

An examination of this copy of The history of Reynard the Foxe, which is one of 300 paper copies produced (ten additional copies were printed on vellum), shows the care with which Morris approached each book produced by the Press. The paper itself was made to Morris's specification by Joseph Batchelor and Son, paper-makers at Little Chart, Kent, in conscious imitation of the paper produced in Venice and Bologna in the 1470s; it is made of pure linen. Morris designed three different watermarks for the paper - a flower, a perch and an apple - one for each size of paper produced. The flower watermark, flanked by the letters ‘W’ and ‘M’, can be discerned quite clearly on the endpapers of The history of Reynard the Foxe.

Title page and initial text page from The history of Reynard the Foxe

Morris believed that words should be set quite close together; too many snaking lines of white space on the textblock distracted the reader. For the same reason he disliked the wide margins characteristic of large paper copies, at that time the customary format for the luxury book market. Morris did not issue large paper copies, preferring to offer his wealthier customers the option of buying a copy printed on vellum; in this he emulated Gutenberg. He adopted a rule of thumb common in medieval book production for setting the size of margins; the narrowest margin was the inner margin, the top margin would be 20% larger, the outer margin 20% larger again and the bottom margin widest of all, at 20% larger again. This can be seen quite clearly in The history of Reynard the Foxe. Morris also insisted that the opening (ie the two facing pages), rather than the individual page, should be the unit on which all decisions regarding design were based. This principle was clearly applied to the beautiful opening of title page and initial text page of The history of Reynard the Foxe (illustrated above).

Morris designed the ‘Troy’ font used in this edition and the borders to this richly decorated title page. The text is William Caxton’s 1481 translation of the Flemish version of Reynard the Foxe, edited by Henry Sparling, the husband of Morris’s daughter, May. Morris said of this text:

In its rude joviality, and simple and direct delineation of character, it is a thoroughly good representative of the famous Beast Epic.

Morris took just as much care over the editorial side of the Press as he did over production. As a rule, the 66 titles produced at the Kelmscott Press fall into one of three categories: works by Morris himself, medieval texts or established classics of English literature. Morris was a good businessman and made sure that he balanced lesser known works with easy sellers, such as The poems of William Shakespeare (1893), a copy of which is also held by the Foyle Special Collections Library. The proof-reader and principal editor to the Kelmscott Press was Frederick Startridge Ellis (1830-1901), a retired publisher who had himself published works by both Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Ellis went on to produce his own metrical version of Caxton’s translation of The history of Reynard the Foxe, which was published by David Nutt in 1894 with illustrations by Walter Crane. A copy of the 1897 edition of this version is also held in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

The British expedition to the Crimea

Sir William Howard Russell. The British expedition to the Crimea . London: G. Routledge and Co, 1858  [St Thomas’s Historical Collection DK214 R971]

by Brandon High, Special Collections Cataloguer

William Howard Russell: origins and career

Engraved portrait of William Howard RussellWilliam Howard Russell’s reporting of the Crimean War (1854-6), in his almost daily reports for The Times, has acquired almost the same mythical status as the exploits of Florence Nightingale or Tennyson’s poem on the Charge of the Light Brigade. However, as with the other two cases, Russell’s historical significance has to be disentangled from the myth.

Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907) was a soldier manqué with a frustrated desire for adventure, and something of an outsider in the Establishment circles in which he moved. His father, an Irish Protestant, was a failed businessman, who could not provide for his family; Russell was looked after by his grandparents for much of his youth. His choice of journalism as a career arose partly from his unwillingness to settle down into domestic life (he was unhappily married) and into a ‘respectable’ profession. Through the influence of a relative he did freelance reporting for The Times, concentrating on Daniel O’Connell’s nationalist political campaign and the Irish famine. It seems that he was a natural reporter from early on; when covering the violent Irish general election of 1841 he guessed correctly that most of the potential interviewees could be found in hospital, because of injuries sustained during the campaign.

Although Russell continued to report on all the major conflicts from the Crimea until the Zulu War of 1879 and is regarded now as having invented the role of ‘war correspondent’, he did not regard himself as such, but more as a journalist who happened to report wars. However, the extreme demands which wars make on journalists (the necessity of ensuring one’s personal safety so that one can continue reporting co-existing uneasily with the desirability of witnessing combat) existed in Russell’s time as much as they do in ours, and affected his journalism.

Constantinople, as seen from the Galata Tower

Woodcut depicting Constantinople, as seen from the Galata Tower

The newspaper for which Russell wrote, The Times, enjoyed a circulation at the time of the Crimea War which was greater than those of all its rivals put together. The Times’s editorial policy was favourable to the Government’s strategic objective in the War, that of curtailing the growth of Russian influence in the Ottoman Empire. It blamed the Government’s lack of success in fulfilling this objective on aristocratic influence in the British Army. This assumption found an echo in Russell’s reporting of the War.

Russell as war correspondent

As is apparent from this book, which is a somewhat amended version of the original reports, Russell specialised in rather breathless, blow-by-blow reporting of battles, not in elegantly composed analysis. Russell’s view of the British Army was coloured by his conversations with officers, who shrewdly entertained him well and despised the first commander of British forces in the Crimea, Lord Raglan. Russell did not make clear to the British public that the sufferings of the army were disproportionately borne by ordinary soldiers. This was because he obtained most of his information from friendly conversations with officers. They would give him food and drink and he would adopt their views. The ordinary soldier would not have shared Russell’s condemnatory view of Lord Raglan nor his curious blind spots about conditions in the British Army.

The Guards at Scutari

The Guards at Scutari. Woodcut depicting guardsmen in camp standing outside their tents.Russell’s very jaundiced view of the leadership of the Army had its origins, perhaps, in the off-hand way in which it treated him; it refused him transport to the Black Sea or, for the first month, quarters and rations. After this, the Army allowed him to wear an officer’s uniform and to carry a gun. The post of war correspondent was so novel that it did not occur to the Army to censor him. Journalists were, in the words of the Duke of Wellington, ‘a damned nuisance’ who, if they were completely ignored, would not be able to damage the Army. The unofficial policy of the Army toward journalists during the Crimean war was to avoid giving them positive assistance, while not doing anything much to hinder them. Therefore, Lord Raglan did not attempt to contact Russell or to communicate his opinions in any way to him and did not prevent Russell from disclosing anything, but complained about him vociferously to government ministers.

Although Raglan was antagonised by Russell’s personal criticism of him, he knew and cared about the soldiers’ privations and lack of supplies, but could do little about them, as the Commissariat was not under his command. The senior officers were more concerned that Russell was inadvertently divulging sensitive information about troop dispositions to the enemy. For Russell, this concern was merely a pretext in order to deflect attention from shortcomings and abuses.

In fact, even if Russia did derive any information from Russell’s reports, it would not have been of practical use. The decisive factors in Russia’s lack of military effectiveness were the poor quality of her ammunition and leadership.

Many of Russell’s reports (for example, that which exposed the destruction of the museum at Kertch by allied forces in May 1856) were embarrassing to the Army rather than serious compromises of security. Russell’s insistence on describing the unpleasantness of war, which was far ahead of contemporary pictorial representation (as shown by the pictures of Constantinople and Varna in this book), helped to improve the effectiveness of the British Army. He pointed out problems and suggested remedies: the absurdity, for example, of insisting on impractical and decorative uniforms; and deficiencies in logistics.

Varna, on the Black Sea

Woodcut depicting Varna, on the Black SeaHowever, Russell had established a notorious relationship with the Army which was never to be erased, and which affected its subsequent relationship with journalists. At the time of the Zulu War in 1879, the commander, Sir Garnett Wolseley, angered by Russell’s criticism of one of his decisions, said that he, ‘has behaved like the scoundrel and low snob he is and always was.’ After the Crimean war, the Army preferred to take no chances. They censored journalists’ reports, and kept them on a short leash.

Further reading

Alan Hankinson. Man of wars: William Howard Russell of ‘The Times'. London : Heinemann, 1982 [Maughan Library: UH705.G7 R9 H2]

Christopher Hibbert. The destruction of Lord Raglan: a tragedy of the Crimean War 1854-55. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 [Maughan Library: DK214.H53]

Philip Knightley. The first casualty: from the Crimea to Vietnam, the war correspondent as hero, propagandist and myth-maker. London: Pan, 1989 [Maughan Library: UH700 KIN]

Andrew Lambert and Stephen Badsey (eds.) The war correspondents: the Crimean War. Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1994 [Maughan Library: DK215 LAM]

Norman Rich. Why the Crimean War?: a cautionary tale. Hanover, N H , London: published for Brown University by University Press of New England, 1985 [Maughan Library: DK215 R37]

Edward Spiers. The late Victorian army, 1868-1902. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993 [Maughan Library: DA68 SPI]

Hew Strachan. Wellington’s legacy: the reform of the British Army, 1830-54. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984 [Maughan Library: DA68 St81]

Dickens, Scrooge and the Victorian poor

Wood engraving of a 19th-century London coffee stallOur December 2012 'In the Spotlight' highlighted our seasonal online exhibition Dickens, Scrooge and the Victorian poor, our second Special Collections exhibition designed to celebrate the double-centenary of Charles Dickens's birth in 1812.

We include an audio clip below of Miriam Margolyes reading the opening paragraphs of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, used by kind permission of AudioGO Ltd and of Miriam Margolyes.

By permission of AudioGO Ltd
(p) 2001 AudioGO Ltd
AudioGo website


Incomunicado. Bangkok: British Embassy, 1942

FCO Historical Collection

by Adam Ray, Special Collections Library Assistant

[Images copyright JM Fisher and AG Gilchrist]

Copyright JM Fisher and AG Gilchrist. Title page of 'Incomunicado' volume no. 1, 3rd April, 1942. Illustration depicts a soldier on one side of a fence, with a prisoner on the other.For members of the British Legation in Bangkok in 1942, confined to their compound by the Japanese invasion of December 1941 and held ‘incommunicado’ therein, solace (or at least the alleviation of their boredom) came with the production of a weekly newspaper.

After four months of internment, AG Gilchrist, who ‘never took kindly to compound chores, ... needed intellectual stimulation’ and after ‘playing Bach on his piano ad nauseam (so that we knew every note and the pauses required to turn over the score)’, and reading ‘everything he could lay his hands on including Gibbon’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire', decided to start this newspaper.

Prisoners' periodical

This prisoners’ periodical, produced on a duplicator in the compound, ran for three issues and the copy held in the Foyle Special Collections Library is a bound photocopy of these originals. It was copied at the British Embassy in Bangkok in 1964 by JM Fisher, one of the British Legation interned in 1941-2 and the principal illustrative contributor to the newspaper.

Copyright JM Fisher and AG Gilchrist. Lines of verse from 'Evening at Songkhla', with accompanying illustration depicting a man relaxing on a chair beside the sea at night.

In Fisher’s 1964 introduction, he states that in August 1942, before members of the Legation were evacuated to Saigon, he had ‘made a bundle of several copies of each item and hid them in the attic in the mess in the hope that they would be found after the war. They have disappeared without trace.’

The Embassy Library in Bangkok, where Fisher suggests the original newspapers resided (at least in 1964), now has no knowledge of them; neither does the National Library of Thailand. The item held in the Foyle Special Collections Library may comprise the only traceable copy of these newspapers.

The cover of the first newspaper, dated 3 April 1942 shows a bound, gagged and blindfolded prisoner and an armed guard, divided by a fence. This powerful portrait demonstrates why the frustrated and incommunicado prisoners looked to the medium of a newspaper to exercise their intellects and record their fears and frustrations.

Lamentable times

‘The Vice-Consul’s lament’ features early in this first issue – the lament being a form ideally suited to the loss and deprivation suffered by the internees.

Wine, women and song,
We hope you don’t think it wrong,
But we’re used to our beer and our gin and our greens,
We’ve had them all (most of us) right since our ‘teens
And we won’t half start again once we’ve the means!
Wine, women and song.

Andrew Gilchrist (later Sir Andrew) was the polymath responsible for most of the text in the newspapers and his own frustrated and confined intellectual capacity exudes excitedly, angrily and intensely from the pages. There are discourses on Beethoven, Greek tragedy and Romantic poetry, as well as many satirical and philosophical musings.

As illustrated in his bawdy lament, however, Gilchrist is not averse to employing the baser and more direct forms of literary transmission to entertain, one assumes, both himself and his readers. Here in a haiku-like-offering, he ridicules his fellow internee and the newspaper’s illustrator, Fisher.

Is pre-eminently
There is so much wisdom
His chin.
I suppose
That is more than you can say for
Fisher’s nose.

Fate of the cats

The animals in the compound also offered suitable subject material for the newspaper and the illustrations of a peaceful ‘Robert the cat’ snoozing in the second issue and the thoughts attributed to him offer an insight into how, constrained by an enemy of war, Gilchrist and his fellow Brits viewed the Japanese.

No thoughts of love for this old cat
A cruel master saw to that.
Food? Good Lord, no – far from it
I’m only thinking where to vomit.

Copyright JM Fisher and AG Gilchrist. Poem entitled 'Robert' with accompanying illustrations of Robert the cat.The unfortunate fate of the cats that lived in the compound (including Robert) is revealed in Fisher’s introduction. The internees were reluctant to leave them behind when they were eventually evacuated and two escaped under threat of a meat cleaver, the other was strangled - but not before his owner’s arms were ‘cut to ribbons in the process’.

The hatred of the Japanese and of the Thai leaders who have capitulated to them, understandably heightened through conditions of imprisonment, is evident. This sentiment is seen in the offering entitled ‘Rising sun’,

On Thailand’s neck he festered like a boil
And soiled his palms with dirty deals in oil;
Too late the matter gathered to a head
Thailand lay poisoned and her spirit dead.

The Japanese project of imperial expansion is also viewed with great suspicion, especially when compared with the British model. In ‘Quo vadis Nippon’, the questions are asked:

Do you not realize
That an empire of size
Is not run entirely by fear?
That there are things more real
Than your doubtful appeal
For a co-prosperity sphere?

Diversionary tactics
Copyright JM Fisher and AG Gilchrist. Title page from an issue of 'Incomunicado'. The illustration depicts a man riding a bike along a path, with a flag in the background bearing the newspaper's title.

The tradition of satire is ably and amusingly represented throughout the work. In a piece concerned with the captives’ other masters and entitled ‘Fun at the Foreign Office’, an ‘error in transmission’ is recorded in connection with an amusing Foreign Office communiqué. A message is received in London reading ‘The monks are violating their cows’ instead of ‘their vows’, on which Harold Nicolson had minuted: ‘This would seem to be a case for a papal bull.’ Harold Nicolson was a diplomatist, politician and writer, also famous for his marriage to the writer Vita Sackville-West.

These amusing asides and Fisher’s illustrations are likely not only to have entertained and provoked, but also to have kept the compound residents’ spirits up, as they recognised traits of home through text and illustration, through the familiar medium of a newspaper. Often the illustrations hold a significance to the imprisoned British in the compound: a cyclist garbed in colonial fatigues avoiding a posse of soldiers on a winding path, a ship steaming away from an oriental dock, and a gentleman enjoying a gin and tonic under a palm tree.

The epic poem towards the end of the final issue also utilises illustrations of a darker nature. It is narrated by a creepy, smiling lizard and features an angry prisoner emerging from the jungle, as well as one confined to a tiny cage watched over by a member of an oriental police force. However, in its many references to camp compatriots it continues the theme of the newspaper as a medium for promoting togetherness:

Copyright JM Fisher and AG Gilchrist. Illustration depicting a prisoner in a small cell being watched over by a guard with accompanying verse.

We’ll start with Sir Josiah first;
He went to London, where he cursed
The F.O. and the people in it.

Perhaps Gilchrist was not responsible for this poem, as he is also described therein:

Gilchrist? I’m told he lives in sin,
In lodgings next to Lincoln’s Inn,
And makes his family grow pale
By writing for the Daily Mail.

While the process of editing the newspaper for Gilchrist appears to have been an obsessional labour of love, designed to take his mind off imprisonment, contributions were encouraged and printed – albeit often with an editorial qualifier:

The Editor has already encountered that bugbear of competition-setters – inattention to the conditions prescribed. ‘Anthony’ sent the following on Nai Vanit; unfortunately it is not an epitaph but a Clerihew.

Tradesman Nai Vanit
Liked the Jappies quite a bit:
But he was even fonder
Of a Thai called Pananonda

As stated in Fisher’s introduction, Gilchrist was responsible for most of the text, so his far reaching imagination, pricked by the madness of confinement, often has a hand in such contributions. Beauty hints, editorial notes, quizzes and recipes help to fill the pages and the literary contributions are generally of a high quality and employ diverse forms.

Gilchrist, Fisher and their compatriots are no longer held ‘incommunicado’. Their contact with the outside world is no longer cut like the compound’s telephone wires on the cover of the third issue. Their fears and hopes, 70 years after the brutal Japanese assault on Southeast Asia, rise jaggedly and uncompromisingly from the pages of this work.


The variant spelling of ‘Incomunicado’ was used by the compilers of the newspaper.

Many of the compound residents are identified in Fisher’s introduction, and there is some detail on their fates after they were evacuated.


The papers of Sir Andrew Graham Gilchrist, Churchill Archives Centre. [, accessed 1 August 2012]

Edwin P. Hoyt. Japan's war: the great Pacific conflict, 1853 to 1952. New York: Da Capo Press, 1986.

E. Bruce Reynolds. Thailand and Japan's southern advance, 1940-1945. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994.

Copyright note

Every effort was made to contact the copyright holder for AG Gilchrist and to trace a copyright holder for JM Fisher.

If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material in this article, for which you have not given permission, or is not covered by a limitation or exception in national law, please contact us in writing at

English privateers and Spanish America: 1657-97

Alexandre Exquemelin. Bucaniers of America: or, a true account of the most remarkable assaults committed of late years upon the coasts of the West-Indies, by the bucaniers of Jamaica and Tortuga, both English and French. London : printed for William Crooke, ... 1684 [FCO Historical Collection F1261 EXQ]

by Brandon High, Special Collections Cataloguer

Note: This article was originally posted in October 2012. The exhibition Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed ran from 17 October to 15 December 2012. It is now available to view online.

Engraved portrait of Sir Henry Morganhe exhibition’s title is derived from a phrase in a letter written by Simón Bolívar, known today as the politician most responsible for the independence of Latin America. He asserted that making a revolution in Latin America was so difficult that it could be compared to trying to plough the sea.

The English attempt to penetrate and destroy the Spanish empire in Latin America in the 17th century can also be compared to ploughing the sea. Thomas Gage, whose book A new survey of the West Indies is included in the exhibition, was the chaplain with the expeditionary force which sailed in 1654  with the intention of capturing the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) but which seized Jamaica instead. Oliver Cromwell had declared himself Lord Protector only the previous year, which gave renewed Protestant impetus to the venture.

Gage had written his book with the express intention of encouraging the English colonisation of Latin America. In his view (and that of many other Protestants) the Spaniards had forfeit their moral right to possession of America through their unusually cruel treatment of the Amerindians. In any case, he argued, the cowardly and decadent nature of the Spanish made their empire ripe for conquest. Such was also the view of the buccaneer and surgeon Lionel Wafer, whose fantasies helped to promote the failed Scottish colonisation project of the isthmus of Panama between 1698 and 1700. His book, A new voyage and description of the isthmus of America, is also included in the exhibition.

The buccaneers, or privateers, were the first line of defence for Jamaica against Spain, as the English navy was at that time not large enough to guarantee official protection. Spain suspected that England’s capture of Jamaica was an intended bridgehead to penetrate the Spanish empire, and England suspected that Spain desired to re-capture Jamaica. Both suspicions were true. In addition, England and its buccaneers eyed the isthmus of Panama with envy. Silver from the Peruvian mines was transported through Portobelo and Panama en route to Spain and exchanged for goods from Europe. If the supply of silver were interrupted, Spain would have difficulty in servicing the debts which it had incurred both through defending its empire in America and Asia and through fighting costly wars in Europe. The prize for buccaneers who succeeded in capturing Panama seemed both inestimable and irresistible.

Sir Henry Morgan and Panama

This is the background to the description in Alexandre Exquemelin’s Bucaniers of America of Sir Henry Morgan’s attack on Panama in 1670 and the Pyrrhic victory which ensued. The Spanish authorities, having been forewarned of Sir Henry’s attack, put the city to the torch and ordered its terrified citizens to flee. Our copy is the first English edition of a book which was first published, with great success, in French and Spanish. When you read the text it is not difficult to understand why.

Engraving depicting the battle between the Spaniards and buccaneers at PanamaThe vivid descriptions of the buccaneers and their exploits, for whom the adjective ‘swashbuckling’ would be a euphemism, exert a certain horrible fascination on the reader. The author’s all-too-detailed account of the tortures which Sir Henry’s band inflicted on unfortunate runaway Panamanians is a case in point. The author, the French or Dutch-born barber-surgeon Alexandre Oliver Exquemelin (1645–1707) provides eyewitness accounts of many of these expeditions, and for this reason this book is an important primary source for historians.

Sir Henry Morgan and the case of libel

This book has the distinction of being the subject of the first ever case of libel in English law for having been called a ‘pirate.’ When Sir Henry Morgan read the English translation of the book he immediately instructed his lawyer to force the publishers, the booksellers Thomas Malthus and William Crooke, to retract claims which were made in the book about his past. Although Crooke complied, Malthus spread more malicious propaganda about Morgan as publicity.

Morgan demurred from taking the matter further, as he could not afford litigation (buccaneers were not rich, as they had to divide their spoils among their very numerous fellows). However, the political climate in England changed with the accession of the Catholic and pro-Spanish King James II, and Morgan decided to clear himself of an unwanted reputation as a torturer of Catholics, so he sued. He objected to being called a ‘pirate’: he was a privateer who had acted with the authority of the state. He did not object to any of the claims made about him in the book, which cast him in a very unfavourable light, but claimed that:

... there are such thieves and pirates called buccaneers who subsist by piracy, depredations and evil deeds of all kinds without lawful authority, that of these people Henry Morgan always had and still has hatred.

Morgan won his case: he was awarded £200 and £10 costs. However, Morgan’s life had encompassed the heyday of privateering: he was to die in 1688 of alcoholism. By the late 17th century, privateers were either being absorbed into the expanding navy or becoming pirates: in the absence of other prizes, they were beginning to prey on British vessels.

Engraving depicting Captain Morgan's attack on the Spanish Armada

Further reading

Peter Earle. The sack of Panama. London: Jill Norman and Hobhouse, 1981. [Maughan Library: Humanities books F1566.45 EAR]

David Howarth. The golden isthmus. London: Collins, 1967. [Maughan Library: LGF Humanities Books Store F1566 HOW]

Kris E Lane. Pillaging the empire: piracy in the Americas, 1500–1750. [Maughan Library: Humanities books E18.75 LAN]

Jon Latimer. Buccaneers of the Caribbean: how piracy forged an empire, 1607-1697. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2009.

Murdo J Macleod. "Spain and America: the Atlantic trade 1492–1720" in: Leslie Bethell (ed.)  The Cambridge History of Latin America: volume 1, colonial Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984 [Maughan Library: Humanities books F1410 B49]

Nuala Zahedieh. 'Morgan, Sir Henry (c. 1635–1688)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [, accessed 6 Aug 2012]

Nuala Zahedieh. '"A frugal, prudential and hopeful trade": privateering in Jamaica, 1655–89', Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 18:2, (1990), 145–168.

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