PAST Thematic Overview: Modern Global History & Biography

Date / time: 2 May, 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The study of global and transnational history is inextricably linked to the history of the mobility of individuals. What kind of sources and techniques are necessary to pursue biographies that span continents? This half-day workshop will provide an overview of the most useful records and methods for this type of study.

The records at the National Archives of the United Kingdom offer a uniquely rich insight into the histories of the global movement of people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These records reflect the values of personhood held by the British state in relation to race, class and gender, however, a richer variety of individuals are ‘legible’ in our documents than is sometimes realised. This workshop focusses on groups whose lives are less well documented but whose journeys are nonetheless captured by our collections.

The workshop will offer:

Case studies exploring the range of TNA records that facilitate biographical study. We will explore case studies related to lives of Chinese indentured labourers, the globally recruited sailors of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, working class British migrants, and the African political elite.

Demonstrations and exercises in using the most fruitful sources for tracing individuals. The workshop will focus on types of record that are not always familiar to academic historians, such as passenger lists, crew lists, and census data from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Introduction to specialist tools and techniques for researching biographies. We will provide guidance on how best to search and use these rich but complex sources for identifying and tracing individuals, including advice on how to adapt tools designed for family history, and getting beyond ‘dead ends’ in the archive.

A ‘sandbox’ session where you can explore these tools in relation to your own research projects. We will give time for you to explore these records and tools in your own specialist areas with a chance to reflect and share notes with TNA staff and other attendees.


Image: Wiki CommonsCreative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license