A Painter and A Petition

In late 1841, Henry Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle, received an unusual request in the post, comprising of a letter and petition from a man named as Thomas J. Williams asking for financial support to attend the Royal Academy in London, in order to hone his talents as a painter.   In the petition, which is …

Politics Gets Personal

Diaries can make exceptionally rewarding reading: they are intensely subjective, inward-looking narratives, and yet can also provide a window onto times gone by, capturing everyday experiences and sudden cataclysms alike. This duality is perhaps captured nowhere so well as in the Diaries of the 4th Duke of Newcastle, which date between 1822 and 1850, and …

All Manor of People: everyday life in Newark Court Rolls

It’s very common to dismiss manorial documents as only relating to the lords and ladies of the manor, with very little to do with the lives of ordinary men and women. In fact the documents are often packed full of information about the daily goings-on in villages and small towns, much of which was reported …

Agricultural Societies

Many agricultural societies were formed during the 18th century at a local level, enabling like-minded farmers to meet on both a professional and social level. The general aim was to share information on the latest farming methods and to improve livestock breeding. References to these societies can be found amongst the family and estate papers …

Rain Rain Go Away!

One of the main topics of conversation over the last week or so has been the truly atrocious weather, and even as I type this the raindrops are pattering against the office windows. This is in stark contrast to last year’s heatwave, which officially began on the 22nd June and lasted until the 7th August …

Family Hair-looms

Does anyone care for a short story about death, documents and hair? Back in November, we tweeted this story with the theme of #HairyArchives as part of Explore Your Archives week. It proved quite popular, so we’re re-telling a version of it here for those of you who missed it. Usually, we take advantage of the …

Looking back to get ahead: Volunteering at Manuscripts and Special Collections

This is a guest post by third-year American Studies and History student Bron Bury. Your future As a student, regardless of what stage you are at in your degree, making an conscious effort to look beyond your time in education is key in maximising your future opportunities . You may have a vague idea of …

A General History of Elections

From online voter registration to fixed Parliamentary terms, this General Election has seen a few ‘firsts’. In this post, we take a very quick tour of elections through the ages. A dull campaign? The art of eye-catching election addresses – the leaflets prospective parliamentary candidates send to people in the constituency – took a while …

What’s in a name?

It was Zsa Zsa Gabor who said “I call everyone ‘darling’ because I can’t remember their names”. Perhaps she had never been introduced to people blessed (or cursed?) with creative, unique or downright strange names. Here, in chronological order, are fifteen genuine examples of people’s names taken from the manuscripts that we have come across: Original Steele, of …

China’s Photograph Fever

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in exploring China’s history. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, the Red Army obliterated much of the country’s heritage, including photographs. Keeping archives was a subversive act; it became dangerous even for people to be caught with their own family albums. Huge quantities of …