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  • One small step…or 50 years ago (almost) today

    One of my very earliest memories is sitting underneath the table in our living-room when I was a tiny child. It was the middle of the night, I’m sure I’d never been up so late before. The reason I was … Continue reading →
    Timestamp: 19 July 2019 - 8:45am
  • The moon in fact and fiction

    As the 50th anniversary of men first setting foot on the moon is observed across the world, it is only right that this blog highlights some of the European moon-related items in our collections. First is Sidereus nuncius by Galileo, … Continue reading →
    Timestamp: 17 July 2019 - 12:31pm
  • Commonwealth universities

    Presentation Day, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, 1960s, Y3011WW_1

    Several fascinating personal memoirs have been donated to the Royal Commonwealth Society Library recently and the latest to be catalogued online was written by the physicist and pioneering university administrator Sir Norman Alexander (1907-1997).  ‘Commonwealth Universities’ is the unpublished draft of a book in which Alexander summarises his own academic career, and provides a frank personal account of his experience in establishing new higher educational institutions in developing countries of the Commonwealth during the 1960s and 1970s (RCMS 401).

    Alexander was born in Mangapiko, New Zealand, and graduated from Auckland University with first class honours in Physics in 1927.  He won a two-year scholarship to Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory in 1930, studying with his distinguished compatriot Ernest Rutherford, and worked as Demonstrator in Physics at King’s College, London, while completing his doctorate.  Alexander includes some interesting anecdotes of his time in Cambridge, noting how Rutherford shut the lab at 6 PM, as ‘you must get out and do some thinking.’ He mentions the Foolosophical Society, a mock imitation of the famous Philosophical Society (subject of a current UL exhibition) which met at the end of the first term to present parodies of scientific papers, such as ‘The relation between hell and absolute zero.’  There was also a bicycle polo match against Newnham College.

    Changi internment camp nominal roll, 1943, RCMS 103_12_22_2

    In 1936 Alexander was appointed Professor of Physics at Raffles College in Singapore, where one of his research projects involved assisting the Royal Navy in establishing a network of radio direction-finding stations.  Alexander was interned at Changi Gaol and Sime Road civilian internment camps following the fall of Singapore to Japan in 1942.  In Changi, he contributed to the construction of a salt evaporation plant and the production of medical supplies for the camp hospital.  The acquisition of Alexander’s memoir is particularly welcome because of his presence in the RCS’s civilian internment archives, where he co-authored a report on the notorious Double Tenth incident of 10 October 1943.

    Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, 1960s, Y3011WW_3

    Alexander returned to Raffles College after the end of the Second World War, then in 1952, became Professor of Physics at Nigeria’s University College, Ibadan, an internal college of London University (later Ibadan University after Nigeria’s independence in 1960).  Alexander and the department conducted significant magnetic and ionospheric geophysical research.  In 1959, he was appointed first Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Northern Nigeria.  Creating this new university was a mammoth undertaking with capital duties not shared by his British counterparts:

    Ahmadu Bello University Library, Nigeria, 1960s, Y3011WW_2 Y3011WW_2

    ‘None of the great planners realised that a VC of a university in an undeveloped or developing country had in fact also to be the Mayor of a small town. The University had to provide on campus housing for the entire staff – a community of some four hundred houses; which meant provision for sewage services – so our own sewage plant; our own rubbish collection and disposal.  Because of the unreliably of the national water and electricity supplies we had our own stand-by plants; a bore-hole in an adjacent stream-bed, with pumping and water-treatment plant for emergency supplies; our own stand-by electricity generators for emergency; our own motor transport section, with our own system of vehicle maintenance; our own building and grounds maintenance.  On another front, a resident Medical Officer and two nurses; a primary school and teachers for the children of staff; a mosque and a Christian chapel – none of these the responsibility of a British University.’

    University of the West Indies, Barbados, 1970s, Y3011WW_4

    Alexander left Ahmadu Bello in 1966 and from this time, offered advice and support for the establishment of other universities within the Commonwealth, including the University of the West lindies in 1966 and the University of the South Pacific in Fiji (1966-68). In 1970, as an Advisor to the Ministry of Overseas Development, Alexander authored a report on the development of a federal university for Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, combining higher education with vocational and teacher training.  He was also part of missions to universities in Mauritius, Zambia, Ghana, India and Sri Lanka.  In 1971, Alexander joined the Governing Body of the School of Oriental and African Studies, from which he retired in 1973.

    Alexander’s memoir neatly complements the photograph collection of the Inter-University Council, Y3011WW, which is already held by the RCS.  Originally formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, the council promoted the development of universities in independent countries of the Commonwealth and beyond, before its amalgamation with the British Council in 1981.  The Inter-University Council’s collection of glass plates has been digitised and may be viewed on Cambridge Digital Library (Y3011KKK).





    Timestamp: 17 July 2019 - 10:48am
  • The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, 1919 Part III: Maynard and his mother: Florence Ada Keynes by Sue Woods

    Florence was devoted to her son, Maynard, and took enormous pride in his achievements. In her collection of family scrapbooks, she carefully stored all the press cuttings and reviews tracing the successful careers of her three children, Maynard, Geoffrey, and Margaret. Bound in these scrapbooks were hundreds of articles featuring Maynard’s publication of the Economic Consequences of the Peace, including his letters to newspapers as well as the reactions of his readers.  Florence and Neville, Maynard's father, set up their home at 6 Harvey Road, Cambridge, where they enjoyed the relatively affluent lifestyle of the Victorian academic family. With three young children, Florence shared her children's interests and ambitions, so that she was always there for them, ready to help. Portrait of Florence Ada Keynes, by courtesy of Cambridgeshire Collection

    Maynard's friends referred to her as "the good mother Keynes" [1] and although she was committed to so many good causes, her family always came first and she would drop everything to help them.
    Florence was immensely proud of Maynard, and in a letter to him in August 1917, when he was serving in the Treasury, Florence wrote:“How exciting it must be for you to attend the Cabinet meetings.  Indeed, it seems to me that you are having such experiences as will make the whole of life pale afterwards.” [2]
    Just 2 years later, when attending the Peace Conference in Paris, Maynard relied on his mother for support.  They corresponded regularly, with Maynard relating his many meetings with the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, as well as his frustrations at the lack of progress.  Despairing of the failure of the Peace Conference, Maynard was on the point of resigning his post at the Treasury, and wrote to his mother regretting that he had been “an accomplice in all this wickedness and folly.[3]  Florence reassured Maynard and tried to console him, writing on 19 May, “… perhaps things are not quite so desperate”[4].  Maynard felt unable to continue and wrote to the Prime Minister on 5 June to resign his position.
    Even when working all hours on writing “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, Maynard took the time to write to his mother, “… managed to keep up my average of 1,000 words fit for the printer every day, seven days a week; but there are still some very difficult bits to do.  I hope to finish by the first week of October and have it actually published before the last day of the month.” [5] By 23 September 1919, Maynard had sent the first five chapters to the printers, but had not yet started the two remaining chapters and reckoned that he was ten days behind schedule.  He wrote again to Florence from Charleston, “They weigh rather heavily as I am stale and should like to take a month off…. But I suppose I must persevere.”[6]
    Florence tried to persuade Maynard to tone down the personal passages in "The Economic Consequences of the Peace", as she was concerned about the offence they might cause to Wilson and Lloyd George. She considered his references to Lord Sumner as possibly libellous and hoped that he would remove the "nasty hits at Lloyd owe some loyalty to your Chief, even if you don't agree with him... Also spare the President where you can...Don't call him 'poor'. Broadly speaking it is really important to be careful about international susceptibilities, so don't call the French demands perposterous, or call any 'great' man wicked or wanton. The work will gain, not lose, by restraint."[7]. Maynard heeded some but not all of his mother's advice and removed some of the references. 
    REFERENCES[1] Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. Volume 1. London: Macmillan, 1983[2] Letter: FAK to JMK 1 Aug 1917[3] Letter: JMK to FAK 14 May 1919[4] Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. Volume 1. London: Macmillan, 1983[5] Letter: JMK to FAK 3 Sep 1919[6] Letter: JMK to FAK 23 Sep 1919[7] Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. Volume 1. London: Macmillan, 1983

    Timestamp: 16 July 2019 - 9:27am
  • Be prepared: 2019 Yerushah Lecture

    Banner for 2019 Yerusha Lecture: Michael Rosen, 15 May 2019, 5pm, Runcie Rm., Divinity Faculty, University of Cambridge

    The 2019 Yerushah Lecture will be given by Prof Michael Rosen (Goldsmiths, University of London) at 5pm on Wednesday, 15 May, in the Runcie Room at the Divinity Faculty. He will be speaking on ‘So They Call You Pisher!’: An exploration of a secular Jewish identity. In anticipation of this lecture, here are some of the publications which might be useful for preparing for this lecture.

    By Michael Rosen:

    By others:

    • Place in modern Jewish culture and society / edited by Richard I. Cohen,
      [Oxford] ; New York : Published for the Institute by Oxford University Press, [2018], @Woolf Institute:  BM729 COH  ; @DivLib: 4 COHE 22
    • Beyond belonging : the Jewish identities of moderately engaged British Jews : highlights of the UJIA study of Jewish identity / Steven M. Cohen and Keith Kahn-Harris. London : Design and Promotions Ltd, 2004 ; @DivLib: 4 COHE 19  ; @Woolf Institute: DS143 COH
    • Israel and the politics of Jewish identity : the secular-religious impasse / Asher Cohen and Bernard Susser,  Baltimore, Md. ; London : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. @ DivLib: 4 COHE 18 ; @SPS Library: 28.16.COH.1a
    • In and out of the ghetto : Jewish-gentile relations in late medieval and early modern Germany / edited by R. Po-chia Hsia and Hartmut Lehmann. Washington, D.C. : German Historical Institute ; Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1995 ; @ 514:6.c.95.329  (North Front, Floor 3) ; @DivLib: 6 HSI  ; @Seeley Library: DS135.G31 I5 1995

    For a list of previous lectures in this series, please go to


    Timestamp: 7 May 2019 - 4:30pm
  • Another low turnout – now to the analysis!

    Small people, Photo by Matt From London, on FlickR (CC 2.0)

    Every year we try to elicit feedback from our library users in a survey. As last year, when I wrote about the low turnout, I could again reflect negatively on this, question whether the incentive of 5 vouchers of £25 isn’t high enough, and maybe dare to do a comparison to local election turnouts and participation in library surveys.

    I won’t do this, for various reasons, but would just like to add that one reason for us for having continued with the library surveys in the current form is that the qualtitative data, i.e. the responses to two open questions is a useful exercise. The two questions are:

    • If you could change one single thing in the Library, what would this be?
    • I would really like to make the following comment about the Divinity Library, its services or provisions.

    Asking the first question is obvious, and – whilst we cannot change everything suggested (not least because one user’s request sometimes would also be the direct opposite of what someone else suggests), we have some good observations and ideas thrown at us. We have only included the second question for the second year running – before I deemed this too much like fishing for compliments – but this was primarily due to a lot of people giving us praise in the first question. Still: some people explicitly tell us that they wouldn’t change anything!

    In the coming weeks, we will focus again on listing our readers’ suggestions and comments, and responding to them here. Why haven’t we done so yet? (We just had too much to do with reclassmarking a lot of our books – which has brought tangible benefits to us and our borrowers:

    1. Secondary books on one writer/theologian being shelved together means that more of them can be found quickly (as opposed to in different areas of one section, or even several sections across the whole library).
    2. When our borrowers return books, we can shelf them more quickly too.
    3. Serendipity! Discovering books which might also be of interest, by them being placed together, might lead to more books being borrowed, and our library being deemed more helpful.

    Thank you for your patience, whilst we are changing the classmarks of the remaining ca. 40,000 books!


    Timestamp: 3 May 2019 - 9:48am
  • Old Testament new acquisitions, 2018-19

    Book covers

    The Library has acquired a substantial number of new titles in Old Testament (section 3 + commentaries in section 2) so far this year, and these are listed below. This has been due in part to the receipt of a series of several supervision reading lists which have allowed us to fill gaps in the collection. Many are also the result of requests and recommendations from students and staff.

    As well as acquiring titles not previously held, we have also added second copies of texts if they have been identified as being in particularly high demand (these can be identified by the number in brackets at the end of the classmark).

    The Library’s new acquisitions as a whole can also be seen on the LibraryThing website ( by date of acquisition.

    Members of the University can recommend titles to the Library for acquisition via the following online form [Raven password-protected]:


    Author Title ISBN Publisher Date Classmark Aitken / Marlow (eds.) The city in the Hebrew Bible 9780567678904 T&T Clark 2018 3 AITK 3 Barton & Wilson (eds.) Reading Genesis after Darwin 9780195383362 OUP 2009 3 BART 8(2) Berlin Lamentations [Old Testament library] 9780664229740 Westminster John Knox 2004 2:20:23 Blenkinsopp History of prophecy in Israel 9780664256395 Westminster John Knox 1996 3 BLEN 3b(2) Blenkinsopp Creation , un-creation, re-creation: a discursive commentary on Genesis 1-11 9780567372871 T&T Clark 2011 3 BLEN 9 Brown Seven pillars of Creation : the Bible, science, and the ecology of wonder 9780199730797 OUP 2010 3 BROW 3(2) Brueggemann Hopeful imagination : prophetic voices in exile 9780334025283 SCM Press 1992 3 BRUE 8 Byun The influence of post-biblical Hebrew and Aramaic on the translator of Septuagint Isaiah 9780567683557 Bloomsbury 2018 3 BYUN 1 Chrétien Symbolique du corps 9782130549864 P.U.F. 2005 3 CHRE 1 Collins Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (3rd ed.) 9781506445984 Fortress Press 2018 3 COLL 6 Cook Ezekiel 38-48 9780300218817 Yale UP 2018 2:24:22B Dell (ed.) Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually 9780567667908 Bloomsbury 2016 3 DELL 11 Doak Consider Leviathan: narratives of nature and the self in Job 9781451469936 Fortress Press 2014 3 DOAK 1 Faust Judah in the Neo-Babylonian Period 9781589837256 Society of Biblical Literature 2012 4 FAUS 1 Firth 1&2 Samuel 9780830825080 Apollos 2009 2.101.9 Gerstenberger Theologies in the Old Testament 9780800634650 Fortress Press 2002 3 GERS 1 Goldingay Psalms 1-41 9780801027031 Baker Academic 2008 2:113:23A Goldingay Psalms 42-89 9780801027048 Baker Academic 2008 2:113:23B Goldingay Psalms 90-150 9780801031434 Baker Academic 2008 2:113:23C Green David’s capacity for compassion: a literary hermeneutical study of 1-2 Samuel 9780567684929 T&T Clark 2018 3 GREE 8 Gzella, et al  (eds.) Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, Band IX 9783170303539 Kohlhammer 2016 3 THE-WOR 1.9 Haines Gender in Solomon’s Song of Songs 9781498288453 Wipf & Stock 2016 3 HAIN 1 Hillers Lamentations [2nd, rev. ed. ; Anchor Bible] 9780300139471 Yale University Press 2009 2:24:7Ab Kalmanofsky Gender-Play in the Hebrew Bible 9781138385146 Routledge 2018 3 KALM 1 Kim, Jichan The structure of the Samson cycle 9789039000168 Pharos 1993 3 KIMJ 1 Koole Isaiah, part 3, vol.1 [Historical commentary on the Old Testament] 9039001731 Kok Pharos 1997-2001 2:112:31A Koole Isaiah, part 3, vol.2 [Historical commentary on the Old Testament] 9042906790 Peeters 1997-2001 2:112:31B Koole Isaiah, part 3, vol.3 [Historical commentary on the Old Testament 9042910658 Peeters 1997-2001 2:112:31C Kurtz Kaiser, Christ, and Canaan 9783161554964 Mohr Siebeck 2018 3 KURT 1 Lee The Greek of the Pentateuch (Grinfield lectures on the Septuagint 2011-12) 9780198816133 OUP 2018 3 LEEJ 1 Longman & Enns Dictionary of the Old Testament: wisdom, poetry and writings 9781844743063  IVP Academic 2008 3 DIC-OLD 3 Mason Eternal Covenant’ in the Pentateuch 9780567027184 T&T Clark 2008 3 MASO 5 Middleton The liberating image: the Imago Dei in Genesis 1 9781587431104 Baker Publishing Group 2005 3 MIDD 3 Nelson The historical books [Interpreting Biblical texts] 9780687008438 Abingdon Press 1998 3 NELS 2 Peters (ed.) XII Congress of the International Organization For Septuagint and Cognate Studies 9789004151222 Brill 2006 3 PETE 5 Sasson Jonah 9780300139709 Yale UP 2007 2:24:24B Schmid/Person (eds.) Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch, Hexateuch, and the Deuteronomistic history 9783161510083 Mohr Siebeck 2012 3 SCHM 16 Seitz The Elder Testament 9781481308281 Baylor University Press 2018 3 SEIT 1 Sneed (ed.) Was there a wisdom tradition? 9781628370997 SBL Press 2015 3 SNEE 1 Van der Merwe & Naudé A biblical Hebrew reference grammar [2nd edition] 9780567663337 Bloomsbury 2017 1G HEB-BIB 1b Van Seters Pentateuch : social-science commentary (2nd ed.) 9780567658791 Bloomsbury 2015 3 SETE 1b Vanhoozer Dictionary for theological interpretation of the Bible 9780801026942 Baker Publishing Group 2005 2 DIC-THE 1 Wagner God’s body : the anthropomorphic God in the Old Testament 9780567655981 T & T Clark 2019 3 WAGN 1 Westermann Lamentations: Issues and Interpretations 0567292266 T & T Clark 1995 3 WEST 21(2)



    Timestamp: 8 March 2019 - 3:25pm