Spanish Civil War 2016: Pamphlets

July 2016 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. The Miners’ Library has a varied collection on the conflict in which Welshmen (many of whom were miners) joined the International Brigade in Spain to fight with the People’s Republic against Franco and his Nationalists. As well as the soldiers, Welsh medical personnel volunteered to treat the wounded, while communities at home campaigned politically, organised aid and welcomed refugees.

 

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The majority of our pamphlets contain articles, narratives and accounts from those supporting the Republic, both from within Spain and internationally.  Many left-wing organisations published anti-nationalist tracts, such as the Communist Party of Great Britain, (Spain Fights for Victory, Spain and the T.U.C.), the London Trades Council (The Truth Behind the Spanish Rebellion) and the National Council of Labour (What Spain is Fighting For). These critique anti-republic propaganda, the influence of other fascist states and non-interventionist policies implemented by other European countries. The story of Thora Silverthorne is also included in our collection as part of an article in Nursing Times [1970]. Thora worked at a field hospital during the War, returning home to organise the nursing trade union, The Association of Nurses, in 1937.

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What is Happening in Spain? is an account by Fernando de los Rios, then Professor of Political Law/ Rector at the University of Madrid and Spanish Ambassador to the United States of America. He attacks many of the dominant assumptions surrounding the War, particularly the idea that the rebels are fighting on behalf of Catholicism.

Narratives from the Nationalist side of the War offer an alternative perspective on events, allowing insights into the motives and ideologies of those fighting for fascism.  I Was a Franco Soldier is an autobiographical account by Seumas MacKee, an Irishman who fought for O’Duffy’s ‘Irish Brigade’, on the side of Franco. The pamphlet recounts his growing disillusionment with the politics and rhetoric of nationalism. The author of Memoirs of a Spanish Nationalist, Antonio Bahamonde, was the chief Propaganda Officer to General Queipo de Llano. His governmental position is an excellent vantage point from which to record the nationalist perception of events and critique their propaganda.

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Historical analyses of the War form a bulk of our pamphlet collection, specifically those focusing on responses by the industrial communities of South Wales. Hywel Francis has written a number of articles which offer insightful research on this subject, including Rhondda and the Spanish Civil War: A Study in International Working-Class Solidarity and Welsh Miners and the Spanish Civil War. [We also hold several copies of Dr. Francis’s book on the Spanish Civil War, Miners Against Fascism, in our main collection].

Pamphlets produced after the war demonstrate that, though overshadowed by the global conflict a few years later, its significance and consequences continued to reverberate. Pamphlets on Franco’s post-war regime, such as Youth Against Franco and Murder in Madrid, highlight the continued suppression of dissident politics.  Murder in Madrid is an account of communist Julian Grimau’s violent death at the hands of Franco’s regime. It offers a concise account of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, as well as passionately advocating for the end of Franco’s dictatorship. Several of our pamphlets also reflect the subsequent desire by communities to memorialise their lost soldiers. There are pamphlets from Ammanford, Neath, Swansea and Cardiff documenting the unveiling of stones or plaques for the fallen International Brigade soldiers. In the latter decades of the twentieth century, when many of the surviving soldiers had passed away, memorials such as these serve to commemorate the conflict and ensure the personal and political losses are not forgotten.

Our pamphlet collection highlights the diverse range of responses that the Spanish Civil War provoked, including personal narratives, political and economic reports and retrospective analyses. They demonstrate that many communities in Britain (particularly communist, socialist and other left-wing organisations) were galvanised by the War and the propagation of their literature– both during and after the conflict – reflects an international desire to be informed of and engaged with the implications and repercussions of the conflict. In an era before modern means of global communication, the pamphlets functioned as weapons that could be used by communities, organisations and institutions in order to project their narratives and gather support.

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Local & Community History Month 2016

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“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” – Michael Crichton.

The aim of “Local & Community History Month” is to raise awareness of local history and the community resources that promote it. Since its inception, the South Wales Miners’ Library has cultivated and maintained ties with various community projects, collaborating with schools, historical associations, charities and foundations in order to encourage engagement and participation. Our links with local schools are particularly valuable in fostering an early interest in local history; working with Maes-Y-Coed led to the creation of a banner and exhibition which toured various local venues. Similarly, Maes y Dderwen School, as part of the Connected Communities project, used our facilities to research the history of mining in Swansea and the impact of the First World War.

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The Banner + Exhibition created by the pupils of Maes Y Dderwen

We have extended links beyond our immediate communities to those across international lines. Professor Helen M. Lewis, of Clinch Valley College, Virginia, used the Miners’ Library for her research on the similarities between the Amman Valley and the Appalachian Coalfields. A delegation of South Wales Miners also visited the Appalachian Coalfields in 1979, reporting on the history, culture and industry of the area and comparing it to their own. Other international connections include the Japanese coalfields in Hokkaido and Joban and annual visits from the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.

 

One of the most valuable resources for studying local history is our Oral History collection, which primarily focuses on the lives of ordinary people and their communities. There are accounts of life in Swansea and the surrounding areas from varied points of view, describing locations, employment and events that shaped the local area. The collection began as the result of two Coalfield History projects, but has since expanded considerably. In 1974, the Library participated in the Swansea Heritage Year, organising an 18 week Oral History Tape Recording class. For those specifically interested in women’s history, Phillipa Dolan deposited over forty tapes of interviews which focus on women’s experiences of domestic service, industry and family life.

 
The Miners’ Library also manages exhibitions that, having previously toured the country, now reside here and are available for use and loan within the community. The “Let Paul Robeson Sing!” exhibition was donated by his son, Paul Robeson Jr., in 2007. The exhibition showcases Robeson’s extensive career and lifelong political activism, highlighting his support for workers’ rights and campaigns against racial prejudice. The exhibition includes information on ‘Race & Racism in Wales’, which links Robeson’s activism with contemporary issues of discrimination. The Robert Owen exhibition toured Wales in 2008 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of his death. This bilingual exhibition contains display boards, fact sheets, props and games, encouraging an engagement with the managerial practices and co-operative principles that marked Owen as a radical employer and thinker.

 

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Several items from the Robert Owen exhibition were used for our Fairtrade Fortnight display

For those interested in research their own local/family histories, there are a number of books and journals at the Miners’ Library to provide assistance, support and examples of past and present research. We subscribe to journals such as Llafur, Local Historian, Minerva and Morgannwg; our book stock titles include Writing Local History: A Practical Guide (DA605 >DYM), Local History: Objective and Pursuit (DA600 >FIN) and Nearby History, Exploring the Past Around You (E180.5 .N98 2000). It is a good idea to make use of our catalogue (ifind.swan.ac.uk) in order to see the full extent of our resources. Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any further questions!

LGBT+ History Month @ the Miners’ Library

The film Pride (released in 2014 and the subject of one of our previous blogs) is a comedy-drama that recounts the links forged during the 1984/5 miners strike between mining communities in South Wales and the London-based support group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – or LGSM for short. With an impressive cast of both established actors and newer talent, the film features a mix of fictional and real-life characters. Jessica Gunning plays miner’s wife and future MP Sian James, Ben Schnetzer portrays LGBT activist and socialist Mark Ashton and Imelda Staunton is community stalwart Hefina Headon. Since arriving in stock early last year, our copy of Pride has been consistently borrowed but it is not the only item we hold in relation to the events of the film. The Miners’ Library has a wealth of books, oral histories, posters, flyers and banners connected to Pride and, as we are in the midst of LGBT+ History Month, this is the ideal opportunity to draw attention to a relationship that -until recently – had received relatively little historical attention.

In our Oral History Collection (the subject of our most recent blog), there is an interview with miner  Dai Donovan. Portrayed by Paddy Considine in the film, Dai describes the significance of his first meeting with  what would eventually become LGSM:

“I think that was a very fortuitous and important meeting for our group, certainly. And I think for them as well…”

Banners play a significant role in the narrative of Pride, functioning as symbols of working-class solidarity and the values of the strike. You may not be aware that a number of these banners were loaned from our collection for use in the film, specifically the final scenes. The Seven Sisters banner below can be see seen clearly during the march at the end:

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We also hold literature produced by LGSM during the strike that explains their cause and encourages others to join. One flyer summarises their mission statement succinctly:

We want to demonstrate to the lesbian and gay community the vital importance of supporting the strike and the reasons why a victory for the miners will be our victory also.

Another of the pamphlets from this collection functions as an abridged history of the movement, with brief accounts of its origins, its off-shoots (Lesbians Against Pit Closures), and key events from its history like the Pits and Perverts concert. It features short narratives from specific individuals involved with the organisation: Steve Browning, Stephanie Chambers and Nigel Young. The Pits and Perverts concert was a fundraising effort by the LGSM held at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Taking their title from a derogatory tabloid headline, the show was headlined by Bronski Beat and was advertised by Kevin Franklin’s striking poster, of which we have a signed copy in our collection. (With the permission of the LGSM, we featured the poster in our Advent Calendar 2015 and it proved to be one of the most popular items).

We also hold two issues of the magazine Gay and Lesbian Socialist from Summer 1984 and Spring 1985, which offers fascinating insights into the LGBT political landscape of the 1980s . The 1984 issue is particularly useful for understanding the political context of LGSM; the hotbed of LGBT-led socialist organisations in London provided the conditions for such groups to thrive once the strike was truly in full swing. The 1985 issue features an article by Tom Swann which discusses the impact of LGSM thus far and the common bonds of oppression that link the LGBT and mining communities.

One of the most recent additions to our main collection is Mrs Hellfire: “You Said It!”, an account of the life of Hefina Headon written by her daughter. Imelda Staunton’s portrayal of Hefina in Pride was widely praised and this book functions as both a biography of Hefina’s life and a valuable insight into the repercussions of the strike on individuals and communities. We also hold Hywel Francis’s History on Our Side which chronicles the events of the strike.

LGSM reformed in 2014 and are currently dedicated to developing archival material on their website that documents their history and impact. They are also available on Facebook and twitter.

National Libraries Day 2016

 

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To celebrate National Libraries Day 2016 (#loveyourlibrary), the Miners’ Library is drawing attention to its Oral History Collection. This collection is often utilized by historians and researchers at the Library but may not be as familiar to some of our other students and borrowers. This is why, beginning on February 6th, we have prepared a selection of clips from the extensive collection so that anyone can get a flavour of the collection and the variety of stories told within it. This selection, along with some informative posters and photocopied transcripts, will be available in the reception area of the library for those interested in learning (and hearing) more.

The Miners’ Library began its Oral History Collection as a result of two Coalfield History Projects that ran from 1971-4 and 1979-82. The projects were tasked with collecting a broad range of sources that included oral testimony . Over 1175 hours of audio and video interviews were recorded as a result of these projects, which documented the lives of ordinary men and women. The interviews offer insights into the individuals struggles of these people, as well as affording glimpses into the larger social, cultural and political contexts in which they lived. Subsequent recordings have been added in the years since the original projects, adding to the breadth and scope of the collection.

The interviews vary in length. Some last for several hours while others are around forty-minutes.Reflecting the bi-lingual nature of the coalfield, approximately 10% of the interviews were conducted in Welsh. Many prominent figures in the south Wales coal industry have been interviewed, such as Dai Francis, Emlyn Williams, Phil Weekes and Will Paynter.

Please let us know if you would like further information on the South Wales Coalfield Collection.

Or go to: www.swansea.ac.uk/swcc 

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day 2016

 

“There is a danger that we shall forget those things which are better not forgotten. Certainly, some things should be permanently recorded, so that posterity shall know what we would rather erase from our memories.”

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Under the Nazi regime, over eleven million people were killed in concentration and death camps as part of an orchestrated extermination. Six million of these people were Jewish, while homosexuals, communists, the disabled, Catholics and Sinti and Roma peoples were also murdered in unimaginable numbers. At the Miners’, we have used our two exhibition cases (located in Rooms 2 & 3) to place texts that relate to or reflect on the events of the Holocaust. We have also created an informative display board which offers an account of the events that led to the Holocaust, a description of the classification system used in the camps and more information about the religions and minorities that were targeted.

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Some of the items in the collection are contemporary to the events of the genocide. Four Weeks in the Hands of Hitler’s Hell-Hounds was published in 1933 as the account of Communist leaders Hans Beimler, which documents his arrest, imprisonment and escape from the Dachau concentration camp. Hans Beimler would go on to fight with (and die for) the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. His account here is chillingly early in the chronology of the concentration/extermination camps, highlighting that leaked information about the horrors of the Nazi regime did not lead to international political intervention.

Similarly, our copy of  A Worker’s Day Under German Occupation (from the T.J Jones Collection) begins with: “What you read in these pages is no figment of the imagination”. The pamphlet claims to use accounts, reports and materials smuggled out of Poland to depict the life of an average worker Jan Kowalski – “the Polish for John Smith”. Besides a brief mention of ‘Jewish Ghettos’, references to concentration camps are notably absent. Whether this is borne from ignorance of the atrocities or fear of speaking about them is unclear.

Other items are recollections and remembrances, both individual and collective, that emerged in the decades following the Holocaust. From our Will Paynter collection, Reminiscences of Former Auschwitz Prisoners was published in 1963 in by the Auschwitz Museum. This rare book was then translated by Krystyna Michalik and contains several different first-hand accounts of the extermination camp. I Came Back is another individual account of Auschwitz from a female perspective by Krystyna Zywulska.

We also a hold literature  from Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman. Having lived through Auschwitz, losing his wife and young son in the process, Leon dedicated the remainder of his life to educating others about his horrific experiences and campaigning to ensure that Fascism would never gain such a stronghold again. The educational resources he produced, along with audio interviews, are available to borrow from the Miners’.

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Another rare item from the collection – also from T.J Jones – is a pamphlet by A. A Milne called War Withour Honour (1940). It was a response to his earlier work Peace With Honour (1934), in which he denounced war. The pamphlet is a succinct and articulate argument for his change of mind; he repeatedly stresses that his earlier views could not have accounted for the rise of Fascism and the ruthless expansion of the Nazi empire. He states, in what serves as an apt reminder of the many who did not ‘have a place in that world’, that:

I believe that Nazi rule is the foulest abomination with which mankind has ever been faced. I believe that, if is unresisted, it will spread over, and corrupt, the whole world. I believe that no decent man, no humane man, no honest man: no man of courage, intelligence or imagination: no man who has ever had a kindly thought for his neighbour or compassion for the innocent: no lover of truth, no lover of beauty, no lover of God could have a place in that world.

If you would like any more information on these items, please do not hesitate do get in touch with us. The exhibition cases and information board will be in place for the next few weeks for students and visitors to view.

Exam/Essay stress? Tips, advice and guides from SWML.

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To all students of the Miners’ Library – welcome back!

January is usually a tense and busy time in the academic calendar. For some it involves a period of revision followed by a series of exams; for others it is the start of a new term and preparations for projects further down the line. Queries regarding study space, referencing and turnitin are all common during this time, so we thought dedicating a blog to the resources available to students for these issues would be helpful and (hopefully!) alleviate some stress.

Essays/Exams

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For DACE students, the most comprehensive resource available for upcoming assignments is the STAR handbook, which can be found here. STAR (Study Tips to Achieve Results) is a guide for academic self-improvement which divides into sections like ‘Reading effectively, ‘Making Presentations’ and ‘Grammar and Punctuation’.

As well as this online resource, the Miners’ Library holds a variety of books  about planning, structuring and writing essays. Many of these can be found in the PE section of the library and include titles such as Reflective Writing (PE1014 W5423 2012), Understanding the Essay (PE1417 U54 2012) and The Student’s Writing Guide for the Arts and Social Sciences (PE1478 T38 1989). We’ve also placed a selection of these books on our display shelves next to the entrance (The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagarism, The Study Skills Handbook, etc.) so let us know if you’d like to browse or borrow any of these copies.

If any students have an exam timetable they need to access, a personalised exam timetable can be found in your student intranet under ‘Student Record’ (the intranet is accessed via your MyUni log-in).

Turnitin

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For many, the process of submitting their essays electronically can be as stressful as the act of writing them! This needn’t be the case, as both online instructions and staff should be on hand to guide students through the process. The Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching (SALT) have helpfully provided these bilingual written instructions, along with a short instructional video here.

Study Spaces

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During exam periods, study spaces are apt to get both busy and noisy. The Miners’ Library is a quieter alternative to other campus libraries because of its smaller space and secluded location. We have study areas on the ground and first floors and two PC rooms. Obviously the most exciting news of this month is that we now have a hot drinks/vending machine in the foyer, meaning a walk to the Spar will no longer be necessary for caffeine and sugar related purchases!

Wellbeing

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For students experiencing stress that is impacting on their course, Swansea University’s Wellbeing Service is a fantastic resource. The service offers advice and guidance to improve a students ‘wellbeing’, which is, according to their website:

‘the balance point between an individual’s resource pool and the challenges they face’.

Wellbeing’s services include counselling sessions, workshops and meditation groups. More information can be found here but we have also printed information sheets from well being and placed them in our foyer for students to take.

Please get in touch with us if you have any more questions on the resources raised above – and good luck!

 

Advent Calendar 2015

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To everyone who enjoyed, viewed, liked or re-tweeted our 2015 Advent Calendar – thank you! We have thoroughly enjoyed choosing the 25 items from our collection and then viewing the responses that they received online. We hope they’ve provided something interesting to look at during the last four weeks of miserable weather.

The purpose of the Advent Calendar was to showcase the wealth and breadth of materials we hold in our collections here at Miners’ Library. Rather than rely on the usual fare of books and pamphlets (as interesting as some of them may be!) we wanted to focus on other mediums and formats in order to give a fully-rounded view of our catalogue. These included audio recordings, artworks, posters, political cartoons, plaques, newsletters, magazines and banners.

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This poster for  GLC funded poetry night in aid of the N.U.M was a particularly popular item.

We also wanted to highlight that industrial history is not (or rather, should not be) purely focused on male experiences and narratives. Several of our days focused on women’s history, from banners that celebrated female figures in politics to the article written by Elizabeth Andrews for The Colliery Workers’ Magazine in 1925. ‘The Women’s Page’ is forthright and political, covering topics such as declining industry, world peace and the futility of war. She mocks the hypocrisy of celebrating Armistice Day when the country treats its veterans so poorly, succinctly summarising:

How ungrateful and forgetful the nation can be to allow the heroes of one year become paupers of another.

Many of the most popular items in the calendar were from the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. We hold a huge range of resources on this time, particularly for those interested in national (and international) responses to the strike from local communities, fellow workers, political activists and the arts. Day 10 was a signed poster for the LGSM-organised ‘Pits and Perverts’ gig in support of the Miners, an event re-created in the 2014 film Pride. The materials we hold on links between industrial communities and gay rights activists is something we hope to expand upon in our February blog, to coincide with LGBT History month.

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The Pits and Perverts poster, designed by Kevin Franklin.

We also wanted to draw attention to the materials we hold on the Spanish Civil War; the Volunteer for Liberty Christmas article and commemorative plaque were but two examples of a much wider collection. July 2016 will be the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict and our blog will be highlighting the materials available at the Miners’ for anyone interested in exploring this period.

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If you would like to learn more about any of the items that were part of the Advent Calendar, please get in touch with us!