Friday, 16 February 2018

Indian Nationalism by Alex Jubb

The current exhibition to be found in the cases in the Harry Fairhurst corridor at the University of York Library tells the story of the road to Indian independence. The exhibition uses books and archives from the university’s collections and themes include the relationship between coloniser and colonised, and Indian literature.  Highlights include a telegram from Gandhi, and books that belonged to former Prime Minister Clement Attlee. The exhibition will remain in the cases until the end of March 2018.

Alex Jubb worked on the India project as an intern in 2017 and has written several blogs (Aug 2017#1)(Aug 2017#2)(Jan 2018) about the collection and the history of the Independence movement. Here he examines the theme of Indian literature in more depth.

Indian Nationalism

Image: Commemorative Postage Stamp (1967), India Security Press. 
The movement to free India from British rule manifested itself through a variety of different mediums. Indian poets, writers and artists provided the inspiration to many ordinary Indians to develop sympathies towards the nationalist cause, particularly as the twentieth century progressed. It became obvious to political commentators of the early twentieth century that there was very little in the way of a unifying identity amongst the peoples of India. In addition to the many political and economic works published to aid the nationalist cause, both inside and outside India, scholars that have studied the causes of Indian independence in 1947 believed that by the 1920s and 1930s, literature had come to occupy a central role in the Indian nationalist movement.

Image sourced from India Online

Raja Rao, an Indian novelist who participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942, was the prime mover in the formation of a cultural organisation, Sri Vidya Samiti, devoted to reviving the values of ancient Indian civilisation. Although deemed a failure by many, his nationalist beliefs were clearly reflected in his first two books; ‘Kanthapura’, an account of the impact of Gandhi’s teaching on peaceful resistance against the British, was followed by ‘The Serpent and the Rope’; the serpent being illusion and the rope being the reality of independence. Rao borrowed the style and structure form Indian vernacular tales and epic fold stories. Rao’s winning of both the third and second highest civilian awards in India following independence signified the impact Rao had on Indian nationalist thinking. According to Ulna Anjaria, a modern day historian of pre-independence India and Pakistan, ‘Indian writers of literature began to imagine cultural unity through their fictional and poetic works’. It is clear that she was correct in her assumption.

Whilst words on a page inspired many Indians to strive for independence, the role played by artists skilled enough to conjure up great nationalist imagery in their works can surely not be understated. Indian artists sought to maintain an ‘Indianness’ representative of their newly independent nation. It became clear that, as Rebecca Brown describes, an ‘emergence of a self-conscience Indian modernism’. Post-independence art showed the influence of Western styles, but was often inspired by Indian themes and images. One particular group, the Progressive Artists’ Group, was established shortly after independence and was intended to establish new ways of expressing India in the post-colonial era. Most of the major artists of India in the 1950s were associate with the group, and the Indian ethos was further cemented by these influential artists and painters.

© Susleriel, 2009. Image: CC-BY-SA
Moreover, a further aspect of Indian culture that the newly independent nation states sought to use to break from their colonial past was architecture. Shortly after independence in 1947, India employed Le Corbusier (a Swiss-French pioneer of modern architecture) to design Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. The American architect Louis Kahn was invited to design the capitol complex at Dhaka (the modern-day capital of Bangladesh). Indian architects developed a revivalist style of bold architectural gestures, anchored in India’s past, particularly as they planned the Ashok Hotel and the Vigyan Bhavan Conference Centre in New Delhi. Seeking alternative visions after independence through foreign expertise, meaning anything not made by British hands, became a main priority for the new leaders of both India and Pakistan.

Independence was not simply brought about by the work of politicians, economics and those in power in Britain, India and Pakistan; the works of cultural leaders meant just as much to Indian nationalists across the continent. The works of many of these individuals can be found within the Library at the University of York. These works contributed to the cementing of a strong, unified Indian identity both before independence and in the following decades. Nationalist works, for many ordinary Indians, mean just as much in the modern era as they did at the turn of 1947.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Anniversary of Gandhi's Assassination

By Alex Jubb

There is scarcely a name more recognisable in the history of India than that of Mahatma Gandhi.

Image used courtesy of, under a Creative Commons Attribution only licence.

Gandhi, the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule and ‘father of India’, famously led Indians in challenging British rule wherever possible and he was a crucial component of the Indian movement for independence. However, independence came at a price; January 30 of this year marks the seventieth anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination by the right-wing Hindu nationalist Nathuram Vinayak Godse.

The Borthwick Archives holds two original pieces of correspondence from the man himself. The first, a 1931 telegram and letter between Irwin and Gandhi about the selection of Dr Ansari for the Round Table Conference. The second was another letter between Irwin and Gandhi, this time from 1934. The Round Table Conferences were a series of conferences organised by the British Government to discuss constitutional reforms in India. They emerged as a result of the continued demand for Indian self-rule and the fervent belief by many British politicians that India needed to move towards dominion status.

The opening of the first plenary session of the Round Table Conference. Image used courtesy of The Hindu Archives, courtesy of a Creative Commons Attribution only licence.

Telegram from Gandhi to Irwin about the selection of Dr Ansari for the Round Table Conference. July 1931. Borthwick Archives: HALIFAX/A4/410/2/51.

Dr Ansari was a fellow Indian nationalist and former president of the Indian National Congress; Ansari was a close follower of Gandhi’s teachings and, unsurprisingly, the letter comprises of Gandhi's attempts to persuade Irwin of the positive impact Ansari could have on the Conference proceedings. Gandhi’s correspondent was the Viceroy and Governor-General of India, from 1926 to 1931. In his final year as Viceroy, Irwin invited Gandhi to Britain to have a series of meetings together. By the time of the Second Round Table Conference, a settlement between Gandhi and Irwin (imaginatively titled the Gandhi-Irwin Pact) was reached that meant Gandhi was appointed as the sole representative of the Congress to the Conference. Gandhi himself claimed that this Congress alone represented political India. However, Gandhi could not reach agreements in areas such as Muslim representation and safeguards, and the fact that Untouchables were Hindus and should be treated as such. Whilst he returned to India empty handed following the Conference, his work in Britain led him to resolve many of the issues with the 1932 Poona Pact; a Pact stating that the treatment of untouchables as a minority separate from the rest of the Hindu community was entirely 

It was to be the pre-premiership Clement Attlee that was one of the main British proponents of Indian independence after the Round Table Conferences had concluded. Attlee was an individual with close ties to the University of York, as shown in recent research undertaken in conjunction with the Borthwick archives. Whilst the three round-table conferences between 1930 and 1932 achieved little in reality, Attlee continued their initial work as a member of a new joint committee on India. Attlee's interest in Indian independence began in earnest following the Simon Commission of 1927; a group of British MPs under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon and assisted by Attlee himself. Attlee toured India with the Commission in 1927 and 1928 in order to study and report back on India's constitutional progress for introducing the constitutional reforms that had been promised by the British government. 

Image used courtesy of The Robinson Library, courtesy of a Creative Commons Attribution only licence.
Clement Attlee. Image used courtesy of The Robinson Library, courtesy of a Creative Commons Attribution only licence.

Attlee’s donation of works to the University contained many important primary and secondary sources detailing the history of Indian independence. Attlee donated works such as a biography of Gandhi from 1958, numerous histories of the Indian nationalist movements, and publications from Socialists and Communist groups in both Britain and India. Attlee’s devotion to the Indian cause can clearly be seen through the scope of his donations to the new University of York in the early 1960s. Attlee became the Labour party expert on India in the 1930s, and during the Second World War he was given charge of Indian affairs. It really was to be no surprise that Prime Minister Attlee orchestrated the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947.

Monday, 29 January 2018

28 days of LGBT films

LGBT History Month ( is around the corner and we want to celebrate it by telling you about LGBT films we have in our collections. We’ll be posting one title a day throughout February 2018 on the library Twitter account (@UoYLibrary). Follow us and let us know what you think of the choices using the tag #uoylibrarylgbtfilms- have you already watched them or are they completely new to you?

2017 was a great year for cinema, and especially for LGBT stories. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, USA) managed to win the Oscar for Best Picture in a last minute turn of events out of the hands of La La Land (Damien Chazelle, USA), and deservedly so. The film had the heart and soul that its opponent lacked, and a degree of intimacy and truthfulness that overshadowed and silenced the primary-coloured brightness of the musical. But this was just the beginning of a fabulous run of LGBT cinema releases. Some of the titles that came out during the year include: the postmodern western of Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women (USA); the initiation into manhood for a group of teenage boys in The Wound (John Trengove, South Africa); the sadness of having to deal with the death of your partner and the legal discrimination of a society trying to catch up with its people in Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman (Chile); the stunning debut feature of Francis Lee God’s Own Country (UK) in which characters and landscape show their depths of beauty and tenderness; from France, Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) depicting the advocacy group Act Up Paris as they demanded action from pharmaceutical companies and the government to combat the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s; and the much adored Call me by your name, a co-production directed by Luca Guadagnino that is gathering many nominations for major awards.

These are some of the titles we can look forward to adding to the library’s collections, but we can already enjoy many films depicting LGBT stories.This year the LGBT History Month theme is Geography: Mapping the World and we have used this as a source of inspiration to tell you about films from different countries: Hong Kong, USA, Spain, France, Taiwan, Sweden, etc. Where available, the tweet will include a link to Box of Broadcast ( and to our catalogue (  so you can decide whether to watch them online or to grab the DVD from the library’s shelves.

Use BoB to create your own LGBT films playlist.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1990. However, there are still some 70 countries that criminalise homosexuality and punish it with prison sentences or even the death penalty. The most committed cinema will never ignore this situation, and will continue to address the subject with intelligence and courage. Let’s celebrate these films and filmmakers.

Follow us on Twitter @UoYLibrary to find out what we have in store.
Enjoy the viewing.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Need some free images for your academic work / poster / presentation / website? Look no further

By Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian

We all need images for essays, presentations, posters, art-projects, and lots of other reasons, but we don't necessarily want to pay for them. Neither do we want to break the law by using copyrighted material we aren't allowed to reproduce. So where do we find them?

Public Domain images

Step forward CC0Images which have been made Creative Commons Zero (also known as CCO) by their creators, are available to use by anyone, however they like. The images are in the Public Domain and can be reproduced, incorporated into other works, modified, and reused, without needing permission and in most cases without even needing to credit the author.

There are all sorts of advantages to using CC0 pictures. Firstly you know you're not going to fall foul of any copyright rules and break the law. Then there's the fact that if attribution isn't required, you don't have to take up space on your poster / slide / artwork / website with an author credit and a link to flickr or another website. Plus if your work finds an audience and ends up being sold, for example as part of a book, CC0 images are licensed for commercial use too. It's amazing! 

Although you don't HAVE to credit the creators of CC0 works it's still courteous to do so, as is crediting the site where you found the image. If you're citing the images in an essay or report, a proper reference will be needed just like anything else. 

A number of image sites offer CCO works. They are in two broad categories - artworks, and stock photography. We've listed some great sites of both types below: all of these cost no money to use, although you may have to set up free personal accounts with some of them to download high quality images. 

Free to use stock photography

Pexels is the CC0 site I go to first when creating slides or websites. It's good on technology particularly, but covers loads of areas well, with stock photography that is far above the average stock shots. It has tens of thousands of pictures, including the ability to search by colour, and also has a sister site dedicated to CC0 video.

A selection of images from

Once you start using CC0 image sites you get used to seeing the same stock photography appearing on many of them (it comes with the territory, as the fact that the copyright has no restrictions means any site can pick them up and use them - you could start an image bank right now using CC0 images if you wanted to), but Stocksnap seems to have a few more pictures which are unique to it. Here's the 'recently added images' from today: selection (that's the actual URL as well as the name) searches through lots of other CC0 sites in one go, including the excellent UnSplash. As well searching by keyword you can browse by colour, collection, or original source.

Some of the 'glare' collection from

Finally, for some pictures that are about as far away from tired stock photography cliches as it is possible to get, head over to Gratisography. Quirky, odd images, of extremely high resolution and quality, free to use in any way you see fit. There's really nothing quite like it.

Some pics from the truly unique

Free to use art and artwork imagery

If you have any more suggestions for great CC0 sites, let us know with a comment below and we'll add them to the list.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Women in IT: a trans-cendental meditation

For the latest in our series of blog posts celebrating our "Women in IT", Teaching & Learning Advisor Stephanie Jesper follows the secret passageway back to her childhood, and wonders to what extent that childhood facilitated her route into IT.

Along with the other women in my team, I snuck into IT via the secret passage from the Library (a field where, in stark contrast to IT, women outnumber men by about four to one). We’re a converged service at York (Library, IT, and Archives all together), and the team I’m in straddles both Library and IT to provide skills support for both. In my job I provide application support and create online training like you might have seen on our Skills Guides. I also get to come up with weird and wonderful solutions to people’s technical problems. I basically get to teach, make magic spreadsheets, and fiddle with scripts for a living. Which is all pretty cool.

Like a lot of people my age who found their way into IT, my interest started at line 10, as I began to explore the basics of BASIC. On the telly, Maggie Philbin’s deft transition from Swap Shopper to Tomorrow’s World presenter provided me with an inspirational example, opening me to a world of technology. By the time I was at uni here in York, my social circle largely consisted of a quintet of compscis; our digs strewn with network cables. I owe a great deal to this parallel education. The skills I picked up snowballed through use, play, and a lust to tinker. I gathered more as I tried (and failed) to sell records on the internet, and more still at Library School, where my IT interests found their way into my dissertation. I wouldn’t be where I am without any of that.

IT was a hobby that helped me to do my job. Now my job is finding ways for IT to help other people. I may have snuck in from the Library side of things, but my IT skills are now at the core of what I do for a living. In other words, my hobby now is my job, and that makes for a pretty delightful job indeed!

The Transgender Pride flag expressed as a spreadsheet

There’s another layer of experience that may or may not be of relevance to my route into IT. I’ve absolutely no idea if I was the only trans woman in the room at the Women in IT Excellence Awards. But as we’re sharing our routes into IT, and the obstacles we’ve faced in a sector where women are so underrepresented, I find myself asking the question: would I be here had my gender circumstances at birth been the same as the majority of the other people at this event?

I’ve dwelt on such hypotheticals often. I’ve had to, in order to formulate the very precise wording I’d need if ever I were to encounter a monkey’s paw. There’s no doubt that a cis me would have led a very different life to trans me, but would that life have led me to a similar place?

Some points of my childhood would have been constant regardless of gender, some were informed by the inkling of ‘transness’, and some were a consequence of being socially, outwardly, circumstantially male. My gender probably played little part in my father buying the family an Acorn Electron: the education-focused marketing would doubtless have been a factor in his selection of that machine, whatever gender I appeared to be. But the encouragement may perhaps have differed. And the context even more so: would cis me have turned her cabin-bed into a spaceship and set the Acorn up beneath the quilt to play Elite? Would she have been given the spaceship Lego that inspired these fantasies? She almost certainly wouldn’t have got the Transformers I received one Christmas in lieu of the stereotypically girly presents I’d asked for. My toys informed my imagination, and my imagination informed my interaction with technology.

But my interest in technology was not simply a consequence of my toys. At the same time that we got a computer in the house, the aforementioned Maggie Philbin made her switch from kids’ TV presenter to science and technology broadcaster. As I noted above, Maggie Philbin was a huge role model for me. Other scientifically minded children’s TV presenters such as Fred Harris and Johnny Ball had first piqued my interest in such things, but it was Maggie Philbin who got me watching ‘grown-up’ science programmes on telly. Meanwhile, Carol Vorderman was donning a white coat to do science experiments on the Wide Awake Club, and I bought her books so I could do my own experiments at home. By now I was aware of my gender issues, and I was looking out for female role models. But my gender trouble was also setting me out to my peers as “a bit weird”, so I saw science as a way of capitalising on this: by embracing a ‘mad scientist’ demeanour.

Maybe cis me wouldn’t have had to resort to such things. She probably wouldn’t have started consciously modeling herself on the Ghostbusters, and tinkering with electronics in quite the same way. Nor would she have been competitively programming with Paul (whose dad worked for Acorn) to see who could make the best quiz in BASIC. She therefore wouldn’t have broken her Acorn and become one of the first in the class to get an Amiga 500. And who knows, she may have been sufficiently popular at school that she didn’t spend most of her free time on her computer making spreadsheets or trying to customise her computer games. On top of all that, she possibly didn’t feel the same weight of expectation (or just plain interest) to do science subjects at A-Level, so maybe she’d’ve taken more arts and humanities subjects, and ended up on a very different trajectory as a result. As for living with a load of computer science students at uni…!

It’s all speculation, of course. Who really knows what tiny butterflies of experience would’ve driven whirlwinds through her life? Maybe Maggie Philbin on her own would’ve proved enough of an inspiration. The room full of women at the awards we attended, and the other stories we’re blogging in this strand, are testament to the wealth of possible trajectories I could have followed to arrive where I did. One common theme, though, is the extent to which gender stereotyping in early life can slide open and closed so many little doors -- doors that take an awful lot of work to reopen once they’re shut upon us. I long ago accepted that I wouldn’t be me without having the childhood and experiences I’ve had: it was those experiences which unbarred great sections of the path to where I am today. Given how much I love working in IT, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. But nor would I wish anybody else to be denied this pleasure. It’s important, therefore, that we consider the nature and roots of such denials, so that we can remove the obstacles for the future generations of women in IT.