Wool, Weaving and Motor-cars: discover Bradford Technical College Archive online

For the first time ever, the wonderfully rich story of Bradford’s Technical College, its staff and students, and their links with local industries, can be discovered online – via a new catalogue of BTC’s archive (available in Word or PDF on its web page).

Half of a 200 H.P. compound engine made in the Engineering Department for its own use, on the back of an open horse-drawn cart (Archive ref: BTC 2/5/8)

Half of a 200 H.P. compound engine made in the Engineering Department for its own use, on the back of an open horse-drawn cart (Archive ref: BTC 2/5/8)

The College was created to meet the training needs of Bradford’s textile industries in the mid-19th century.  The first building of the Technical School was opened in 1882.   Transferred to local Council control in 1899, the College grew and developed to supply high-level technological expertise nationally and internationally.  A long-running campaign for University status paid off when the higher education side became Bradford Institute of Technology (a College of Advanced Technology) in 1957: this later became the University of Bradford.

The surviving records of the College tell its story and introduce us to many interesting people.  Photographs illustrate its buildings, we see the activities and works of its staff and students, who received prizes, and the impact of war and changing society on the institution.  We have enriched the original typescript 1970s finding aid for online publication, for instance by indexing many names.  Revisiting the archive in this way has shown us how much the College was part of the city.  There is so much still to discover.

A Mind at Work: Notes and Notebooks

Originally posted on The Eleventh Hour:

NAF 1-7-2-14-2 Visual example of DM Notes

Dimitrije Mitrinović’s working papers form an important part of his archive, and have been the focus of my cataloguing recently.  The Foundation charged with caring for Mitrinović’s legacy and encouraging the study of his ideas, the New Atlantis Foundation (now the Mitrinović Foundation), kept over 80 notebooks of all sizes and shapes, alongside boxes and boxes of loose sheets of handwritten notes. They contain Mitrinović’s thoughts on a whole range of subjects, names of authors whose books he was reading and people in his extensive and ever-shifting networks. Some have drafts of poems or a few bars of music sitting beside notes of petty cash expenditure!

NAF 1-7-2-14-1 Music

At some stage after Mitrinović’s death, possibly in the late 1960s, the New Atlantis Foundation sorted the many loose sheets of notes into categories according to their completeness and length. They range from drafts of recognisable pieces of work (e.g. articles for New Britain Quarterly), to an…

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Why did Napoleon gamble all for victory?

Dr Munro Price, of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, has published a book which explores the downfall of Napoleon.  Napoleon: the end of glory.  Oxford University Press, 2014.  Using a remarkable range of under-explored European archive sources, Dr Price shows us how and why Napoleon failed to compromise with his enemies in the period immediately before his first exile.   Contrary to popular belief, Waterloo was just a postscript to a career that had already failed.  I won’t summarise all Dr Price’s arguments: you need to read the book for those & it well repays a read.

Napoleon

Beautifully produced and very well priced for an academic work, this book would make a lovely Christmas gift for anyone interested in military history, politics or reconciliation/peace studies …

Fan Mail from Bloomsbury

Originally posted on The Eleventh Hour:

A charming letter for the Eleventh Hour this time. John Herbert Sprott (1897 -1971), known as Sebastian, was a member of the Bloomsbury Set. Sprott studied the moral sciences at Cambridge, and would ultimately become a distinguished professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Nottingham University, writing influential works on sociology. He is now perhaps chiefly remembered as one of John Maynard Keynes’ lovers, maintaining a friendship with Keynes and keeping his links with the Bloomsbury group, particularly E.M. Forster, even after his departure for Nottingham.

NAF 1-8-1-4 Letter to Mestrovic from Sebastian Sprott 1919 [cropped]

In 1919 Sprott was a young man who attended an exhibition in Brighton of the works of the Croatian sculptor and architect Ivan Meštrović, and was almost completely over-awed to meet the artist himself. Sprott gathered his nerve to write this piece of fan mail that survives as part of the Mitrinović Archive. Mitrinović and Meštrović were good friends, and on occasion Mitrinović lectured on…

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“I’m wholly with you on the question of nuclear disarmament”: Storm Jameson biography published

Originally posted on Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes:

Jacquetta and J.B. Priestley make many appearances in a new biography of their friend, Margaret Storm Jameson. Born in Whitby, Jameson (1891-1986) was an essayist, novelist, and campaigner for peace and social justice.

life-in-the-writings-of-storm-jameson

Life in the Writings of Storm Jameson, by Elizabeth Maslen, (Northwestern University Press) is based on research in many archives, including ours. Links with the Priestleys, and with our other collections, can be seen throughout the book: for instance Jameson joined J.B. Priestley’s 1941 Committee and championed writers as he did through PEN.  The quotation above comes from a letter to Jacquetta, who persuaded her to join the CND Women’s Committee (Jameson agreed with the cause, but was cautious because she felt she might be of little use and had so many other calls on her time – earning money for her family etc.).

Maslen’s biography will prove an invaluable and impeccably researched resource for…

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Waste Not, Want Not: Scrap Paper in the Archive

Originally posted on The Eleventh Hour:

Many documents within the Mitrinović collection were written on scrap paper, which enriches the archive in sometimes surprising ways. I’m reminded of a medieval palimpsest, where a piece of parchment has been scraped and reused in such a way as the original text remains legible, or an early modern book binding where the spine has been padded with pieces of an earlier manuscript. Scrap paper can almost feel like a two-for-the-price-of-one deal!

I’ve chosen a few bits that show some of what can be gleaned from the scraps used by Dimitrije Mitrinović and his circle, usually to record lecture notes. The scraps include pieces of letterhead, as in this example from the shadowy and apparently short-lived Balkan-British Corporation.NAF1-6-2-12-8 Balkan-British Corporation Logo

Letterheads make a useful resource for historians and archivists generally, as they show changes of an organisation’s official name, addresses, often logos, sometimes (as here) names of significant people involved or dates…

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An Experiment with Time: Priestley and Dunne on Radio 3

J.B. Priestley, like many of his Great War veteran contemporaries, was a time-haunted man.  He was intrigued by the work of J.W. Dunne, not only to provide plots and ideas for his plays, but because he sought answers to deep questions about time and the meaning of life.  You can hear more about Dunne and Priestley and time in I Have Been Here Before, a recent BBC Radio 3 documentary.

Dunne, Experiment

The broadcast highlights an extraordinary part of the J.B. Priestley Archive here at Bradford.  Lecturer and author Katy Price discusses the “Time” letters written to Priestley by members of the public in response to his interest in precognition, dreams and other time-related phenomena.  The letters show how people trusted Priestley, pouring out experiences and thoughts they had never shared with anyone else.

Further reading: Dr Price recently published an academic article which uses the evidence in the letters to explore mid-20th century mentalities and psychiatric experiences: Testimonies of precognition and encounters with psychiatry in letters to J. B. Priestley.