Monthly Archives: December 2015

Smile for the camera – it’s Christmas!

Sending photographs to loved ones at Christmas time has always been popular and there are some fine early examples in the Special Collections at the University of Southampton:


MB2/C3/185: (inside) group photo of Prince and Princess Henry of Prussia and their young family, Christmas 1902

This charming family photo show from left to right: Prince Waldemar (seated), Princess Irene (standing), Prince Henry (seated, with little Prince Henry on his lap) and Prince Sigismund (standing, dressed in a sailor suit). The photo is attached to a Christmas card which bears the embossed image of a sailing ship and the words:

“Viel Gluck zum Weinacht und Neujahr!”

The children in the photograph are Lord Mountbatten’s cousins – his mother, Princess Victoria, and Princess Irene, were sisters – daughters of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and the Rhine and his wife Princess Alice, a daughter of Queen Victoria. Irene has signed the card herself and written “In remembrance of Kiel on these days” – recalling memories of happy holidays in Germany.

There are many photo albums in the Mountbatten collection and there is plenty of evidence for cold snowy winters and holiday fun:


MB2/C7/4 Princess Louise of Battenberg tobogganing with her brother, Prince George

Here is a photo of Mountbatten’s sister, Princess Louise of Battenberg (nearest the camera) tobogganing with her brother, Prince George, probably in the grounds of Heiligenberg Castle, c.1908-9. The nineteenth-century castle, in Hesse, Germany, was the home of their grandparents and a favourite holiday destination.

This week we wish you all ‘happy holidays’ – a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


The giving of gifts

As Christmas approaches and Chanucah has arrived, thoughts are probably turning to gifts, the custom of giving presents being associated with both festivals.

The first Duke of Wellington was very much a celebrity of his day and as such he found himself the recipient of numerous gifts at all times of year. These ranged widely: porcelain and china from the King of Prussia and the King of Saxony respectively; food such as a boar’s head sent all the way from Saxony and French produce including a flan, a turkey, two pairs of wild ducks, a brace of partridges and a brace of woodcocks; the skins of animals killed in Africa, including a lion that had attacked and partly devoured eight people; to a husky and samples of two-year-old biscuit and preserved meat carried on a ship that had sailed to the North Pole.

Wellington became so inundated by gifts of published works that he took the decision to order his servants not to receive packages without his orders. While this might be an inconvenience to those seeking to send gifts to Apsley House, as the Duke noted in a reply to Thomas Anstey: “I assure him that any inconvenience he may have suffered does not equal one tenth of that which I suffer daily from this description of intrusion.” [Wellington Papers 1/798/2] This did not stop the flow of publications sent to Wellington and the Wellington Pamphlet collection at Southampton is made up of a wide range of pamphlets sent to the Duke throughout his lifetime.

Inscription to Wellington Pamphlet 1215

Inscription to Wellington Pamphlet 1215

We wish you great joy both in the giving and the receiving of gifts, whatever these might be.

Human Rights Day

Today, 10 December, is Human Rights Day. Observed by the international community every year it commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It was a milestone document in the history of human rights. Proclaimed as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations, it sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

We would like to take this opportunity to share with you a significant collection which relates to human rights. The philosopher Jorge (George) Santayana (1863-1952) famously said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; the preservation of archives is crucial to the maintenance of our collective memory.

Jewish children, probably from Czechoslovakia, c. 1946 [MS 241/4/2/2]

Jewish children, probably from Czechoslovakia, c. 1946 [MS 241/4/2/2]

The need to record and preserve is illustrated by the founding of the Institute of Jewish Affairs (IJA) in February 1941 as a research institute to provide analysis of political, legal and economic issues affecting Jewish life. It was launched and sponsored by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the American Jewish Congress. In 1994 it was re-established in London as Institute for Jewish Policy Research. The Institute’s founder Dr Jacob Robinson argued that Jewish leaders, struggling for the interests of the Jewry after World War I, were hampered by the lack of up-to-date information and by the lack of research.

The Special Collections holds over two thousand four hundred archive boxes of material generated by the IJA providing an extensive source for the study of Jewish peoples in the mid and late twentieth century. Topics covered include various aspects of human rights and civil liberties, genocide and war crimes, as well as extradition, torture, terrorism.

The image above comes from a file relating to Dr Stephen Barber’s “children’s scheme” providing assistance to Jewish children, many of them orphans, in the years following World War II. This file relates to Czechoslovakia. In his papers Dr Barber describes a scheme to send 100 children, many of whom were suffering from TB, to Switzerland to recuperate. He gives details of orphanages which were being established for the children and he makes a particular appeal for clothing for them.

20,000 students gathered in a rally of solidarity with the Jews of the Soviet Union, 2 December 1969 [MS 237/3/159 f1]

20,000 students gathered in a rally of solidarity with the Jews of the Soviet Union, 2 December 1969 [MS 237/3/159 f1]

By the mid-1950s, state persecution of Soviet Jews was a major human rights issue. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, large numbers of Soviet Jews applied for exit visas; while some were allied to leave, many were refused permission to emigrate; they unofficially became known as refusenicks. This photograph comes from a file of press service cuttings giving information on protests in the name of the refusenicks including details of the work of the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

The plight of the Czech orphans and the Soviet Jews are just two of many human rights issues covered by the IJA papers in the Special Collections.

Food, Glorious Food: culinary resources in the Hartley Library Special Collections

On Wednesday 9 December, the Special Collections, Hartley Library, will hold the next in its series of open afternoons, allowing visitors to explore material from the holdings and to meet the curators.


The theme for this open afternoon will be food. Material will range across the cultivation of food, food preparation, household management, food supplies and the consumption of food. Come and find out how what was on the menu for the Patagonians visited by William Mogg during his voyage on the Beagle in the early nineteenth century.

The visit to Special Collections will be followed by a talk given by Professor Chris Woolgar and rounded off by tea.


1530-1700: Visit to Special Collections

1730-1830: Talk by Professor Chris Woolgar, Professor of History and Archival Studies, whose latest book The Culture of Food in England 1200-1500 will be published by Yale University Press in the spring of 2016. The talk will be followed by tea.

Visitors exploring material relating to the natural world during our last open afternoon

Visitors exploring material relating to the natural world during our last open afternoon

We would be very pleased to see you at this free event; please book your place using Eventbrite: