User perspectives: Exploring student activism through the Wessex News

The Wessex News (now known as the Wessex Scene) is the oldest student news provider at the University of Southampton. Published by the Southampton University Students’ Council, now the Students’ Union, it has been in print since 1936.

Wessex News header from 31 May 1968

Wessex News header from 31 May 1968

The editions held by Special Collections form part of the University Collection and date from 25 February 1936 to 16 May 1994. The collection provides student perspectives on life at the University as well as insights into significant developments and events in the University’s history.

Danielle Eddington, a history undergraduate, provided us with a brief rundown of her experience using the collection while working on her final year dissertation.

“As a history undergraduate, I encountered the archives during the dissertation introductory session. I got to look at a range of documents that were from my specialist period, the 1970s. I had been set on studying press freedom in Britain, but with so many sources at my fingertips, I was no longer sure!

I realised that what I had really enjoyed was reading the student newspapers – they were witty and insightful. I used them in my dissertation to examine the forms of student activism at the University in the 1970s, which ranged from a sit-in at the Nuffield Theatre to scholarships being set up for victims of apartheid. They also illustrated some of the problems within the student movement, such as sexism, itself a catalyst for second-wave feminism. Without the help of the archives and the archivists, my dissertation would have been nowhere near as original or fascinating to complete.”

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