Posted by on February 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm

History Blog 2 – Literature and History: Uncovering the University’s role in the First World War.

My name is Steven Jackson and I am currently on a three month internship, with the University of Huddersfield. During my internship, I have volunteered to help the History Department with their research, into the University’s role during the First World War. As people will know, from reading my previous blog, my knowledge and experience of history is not academic. Because of this, I feel extremely privileged to be allowed to contribute to this project, and handle genuine articles and artefacts from the time.

My first week of research, was mainly based around printed and typed documents, notably, the University’s prospectuses and calendars, from the time. From researching these, a number of interesting facts were unearthed, helping to create a more coherent picture of the University’s activities, during the First World War. My second week of research though, became much harder and really made me realise how hard academic history actually is.

From being advised by Dr Daryl Leeworthy, Dr Rebecca Gill and Lindsay Ince, my second week of research, took me to the newspapers of the time, specifically the Colne Valley Chronicle. Along with looking for more contextual information about the University, I was also given a number of side-tasks.

The first of these assignments was picture research. Because we had found so much written information about the University the previous week, it made sense to try and find some pictures, to help shed some visual light on our findings. The second task I was given was to find out some information about the Belgium refugees who came to Huddersfield. Very little is known about the Belgium refugee’s time in the Huddersfield area, so this was another way of trying to shed some light, on this interesting topic. So with these threads, I set off to see what the newspapers had to offer.

Now, before I continue, I must stress a number of things:

  1. Newspaper archives are extremely heavy and bulky, making them difficult to move and use.
  2. Newspaper archives are extremely fragile, making me much more cautious than the previous week (I could not even drink water on the same table as them, due to fear of damaging the paper).
  3. Old newspapers are full of information, so it was a slow and painstaking process reading them.

From getting those points out of the way, let me continue.

As there were so many newspapers, within the University Archive, I only got chance to look through half of one bound compendium of the newspaper. This might sound to be very little, but because of the size of the newspapers and the time I allocated myself to look in them (around 3 and half hours) I got a lot done.

The newspapers I looked at were from 1916 and 1917, as these were the years which had a lot of gaps in the printed research I did the previous week. The newspapers themselves were fascinating to look through, especially due to their age. However, as mentioned earlier, they were also extremely difficult. The amount of small text, which covered each of the pages, was quite staggering, and trying to find relevant information took time. Plus, because there was so much text, there were very few pictures, which sadly, cast a dark shadow over the picture research as a whole. So while I did not find any pictures, I did however find some more interesting facts.

I found out, that in the November 17th 1916 edition of the Colne Valley Chronicle that wounded soldiers were entertained at the Royd’s Hall Military Hospital.  I also found out, that in the 5th January 1917 edition, that a solider by the name of Lieutenant Patrick Barrett, who was a member of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (the battalion where most of the University staff were based), was in court, to do with a special act of parliament. The final and most interesting find, was in the same edition and was to do with the University. In an article, it said that Lord Haldane gave a lecture at the University and praised the University’s role in the war. I photographed this interesting article and it is shown below.

So all in all, my second week of working in the archives was sadly not as successful or as beneficial, as the first. However, while I did not really find anything related to the tasks I was given, by Daryl, Rebecca or Lindsay, I did find the whole experience of looking through the newspapers fascinating. And I am hoping to do even more research, when I get chance, to help the History Department find out even more about the role, the University of Huddersfield played in the First World War.

Lord Haldane speaking in Huddersfield – Colne Valley Chronicle, 17 November 1916

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