Saving the Children in the 1930s

In 1948, United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This significant declaration is now used as a guideline for many nations around the world when implementing laws or adopting policies. As Human Rights Day commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights takes place in December, we thought it fitting to show some of the material we have in Special Collections and Archives that champions the rights of children and refugees across the world.

Eleanor Rathbone

Portrait of Eleanor Rathbone [c. 1910].

Portrait of Eleanor Rathbone [RP XIV.3.96, c. 1910].

In particular, social reformer and M.P. Eleanor Rathbone was instrumental in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of those affected by war and any subsequent geographic displacement. As she formed the Children’s Minimum Committee in 1934 to actively campaign for the eradication of children in poverty, it is perhaps very fitting that the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was further expanded in 1946, the year of Eleanor’s death. This promoted the safety and welfare of children across the world.

In the later 1930s, she was an active participant in campaigning for peace and the safety of Spanish civilians during the Spanish Civil War. Here at Special Collections and Archives we hold material in the Rathbone Collection (RP XIV.2.13) that relates to Ms Rathbone’s attempts to ensure that the British government were doing all they could to assist refugees and injured civilians in Spain. The below telegram to the future Prime Minister Clement Attlee outlines Eleanor’s attempts to persuade the government to protect refugee ships leaving Spanish and French ports.

Telegram from Eleanor Rathbone to Clement Atlee, dated 19th June 1937 [RP XIV.2.13(26)].

Telegram from Eleanor Rathbone to Clement Atlee, dated 19th June 1937 [RP XIV.2.13(26)].  “Will you consider moving [adjournment?] [Monday?] to consider Spanish petition and protest against Government’s refusal to protect ships taking refugees from Bilbao to Spanish ports and also from Santander to French ports – stop latter prohibitions…”

Telegram from Eleanor Rathbone to Clement Attlee, dated 19th June 1937 [RP XIV.2.13(26)]. "on private information [privately?] confirmed [&?] Foreign Office [It?] closes the last door as Bilbao [?] understood to be almost unusable."

Telegram from Eleanor Rathbone to Clement Attlee, dated 19th June 1937 [RP XIV.2.13(26)]. “…on private information [privately?] confirmed & Foreign Office It closes the last door as Bilbao understood to be almost unusable.”

Eleanor was also instrumental in lobbying for the safe removal of refugees from those countries whereby the threat of Nazi Germany was prominent, and further their safety and ensuring the best treatment whilst in Britain [RP XIV.2.17]. In particular, she was keen for those families that were separated across international borders to be reunited in Britain as soon as possible. Eleanor wrote to the Home Secretary in reference to the Government’s regulations on allowing refugees into the country, which she described was “as though one were to throw a child out of the top window for fear of catching cold through leaving the door open”. [RP XIV.2.17(3), Letter to Home Secretary dated 3rd February 1940].

Current support for child refugees can be found in December through Christmas Jumper Day, in aid of Save the Children. This was certainly a cause close to Eleanor’s heart, and as the page below taken from The Girl’s Own Annual demonstrates, children in the 1930s should be safe and showing off their rounders positions!

SPEC JUV 573 1935-6 Edition p. 202

SPEC JUV 573 1935-6 Edition p. 202

See here for an overview on the Rathbone Collection. As always, the material is available to view here at Special Collections and Archives. We are based in Sydney Jones Library, Liverpool University, and open Monday to Friday, 9:30am until 4:30pm.

A Summer in Spain

Special Collections and Archives are looking forward to receiving the library of Manuel de Irujo Ollo (1891-1981), leader of the Basque Nationalist party, for which he was Deputy and Minister of the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1936). His collection of around 300 volumes is to be transferred during the academic session 2013-2014, and will support Basque modules within the Hispanic Studies department.

The University of Liverpool was chosen as the library’s destination because of its existing strong Hispanic collections, notably the collections of Edgar Allison Peers, an exact contemporary of Irujo’s. These comprise 154 books (classmark SPEC Peers) and 73 pamphlets (classmark SPEC Peers (P.C.) on the Spanish Civil War which were part of Peers’s personal library and over 300 books and pamphlets (SPEC Peers.Add and SPEC Peers P.C.Add) which were bought later to enhance Peers’s collection or donated by Peers’s colleagues, including Professor Frank William Walbeck (former Rathbone Professor of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at the University) and Professor Derek William Lomax (former Professor of Spanish at the University). The Marx Memorial Library in London and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in Iowa City have also donated pamphlets to the Peers collection.

Archival materials in the Peers Collection include press cuttings, lecture notes and correspondence, relating both to Spain during the Civil War and its aftermath, and to Peers’s work on the Spanish Mystics.

Image from Nova Iberia SPEC Peers F/13

Nova Iberia (SPEC Peers F/13)

Edgar Allison Peers (1891-1952) was born in Leighton Buzzard, the son of a civil servant who, due to his work, travelled abroad frequently, which gave his young son a passion for Spain and all things Spanish. Peers was educated at Dartford Grammar School, and then went on to Christ’s College Cambridge. He gained a BA in English and French from the University of London, and a First in the Modern Languages tripos at Cambridge, and then went on to study for a teacher’s diploma, teaching Modern Languages at Millhill School, Felstead School in Essex and then at Wellington College.

Portrait of Peers from Redbrick Revisited

Peers was appointed Lecturer in Spanish in 1920 and Gilmour Professor of Spanish in 1922 at the University of Liverpool, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was quick to recognise the importance of Spanish Studies in Great Britain after the First World War and in 1923 founded the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, which included his column of contemporary analysis, ‘Spain, Week by Week’. Peers had a warm relationship with Spain, and looked upon it as a second home, spending four months out of every twelve there. He produced a number of travel books, including Santander (1927) reissued in a Spanish edition in 2008.

Map from Nova Iberia

Map from Nova Iberia

When the Spanish Civil War began in July 1936 Peers was well placed to interpret the underlying causes of the war to the English-speaking world. He did this in The Spanish Tragedy (1936), The Spanish Dilemma (1940), and Spain in Eclipse (1943). More dramatically, he also helped to bring a group of stranded Liverpool University students who had travelled to a summer school in San Sebastian safely back home after they were caught up in the outbreak of the Civil War.

Peers paper cutting
SPEC Peers IX Press Cuttings

Peers was the author or editor of some 60 books, including Studies of the Spanish Mystics (1927-1930), The History of the Romantic Movement in Spain (1940) and translations of the complete works of San Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa, as well as Spain, the Church and the Orders (1939). Under the pseudonym `Bruce Truscot’, he published two controversial and highly influential books, Redbrick University (1943) and Redbrick and these Vital Days (1945). Edgar Allison Peers died of heart failure on 21 December 1952, and his executrix gave the University their selection of books from his library in 1953.

The School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (SOCLAS) sponsors a Peers Visiting Writer in Residence scheme in honour of Edgar Allison Peers, and there is also a Peers Memorial Prize.