The archival record is the foundation on which are built all our histories, with their many and varied voices…
– Archives for the 21st Century
With the Centre closing to the public on 6th December and the movers booked for mid-February, our move to Central Library (as part of the Archives+ partnership) is starting to feel very real. We keep trying to imagine what it will be like having so many more visitors into the library every day… it’s going to be amazing, but we need to think about how we balance the demands of greater access with preservation of the collection.
The Roving Reader Files
I often wonder how books find their way into the Centre. Sometimes it’s simple, but sometimes it’s not so straightforward. I’m always intrigued when individual items bear marks which give a little glimpse of their story. Here’s an example.
A New System of Slavery. The Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1830-1920, by Hugh Tinker, was published by Oxford University Press for the Institute of Race Relations, in 1974. It was the first comprehensive survey of how and why populations from the Indian subcontinent were resettled around the British Empire, providing the indentured labour that produced plantation crops after slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century.
There is a tendency to see the history of Black people in Britain as a 20th Century history, and certainly the post-war period saw a large number of West Indian (not to mention African, Asian, European) migrants arrive here, what we call the ‘Windrush Generation’. And this period is the focus of our own archive – a repository for recent histories and living memories.
But a trip to the Lancashire Archives (for a CILIP Black History day school) has really put this into perspective for me.
As an addendum to my last post, did you know that Basil Davidson once walked the hallowed corridors of Manchester University?
He was appointed a senior Simon Research Fellow for the academic year 1975/76, doing library research for another book on the Centre’s shelves – his Africa in Modern History: The Search for a New Society, published in 1978. How intriguing that he may have spent many hours on campus, in the Main Library and perhaps the Dover Street Building (where the Department of Sociology was then based).
Nice to know Manchester played its part in helping Basil restore to Africans their history and culture, don’t you think?
If anyone bumped into him and has any memories to share, do let us know…