Twenty-five years on


The first issue of Local History Magazine was published in July 1984. We thought it might be interesting to look back at what was making the news at the time and some of the other matters making our pages. The big news story was 'Government Cuts hit Local History'. We reported that 'The decision by the Government to impose cuts on the activities of the Workers Educational Association and university extra-mural and continuing education departments is likely to affect the level of local history provision made by these services, particularly in rural areas'. We went on to say: 'To make matters worse, the WEA is also suffering at the hands of some local authorities, who are cutting support to outside groups as a result of similar Government cuts. So the WEA is losing out on three fronts: direct cuts, loss of joint courses (with universities) and LEA cuts as well'. We could run the same story in 2009 and no one would be surprised.

On a lighter note, Paul Sturges of the Department of Library Studies at Loughborough University (long closed) and then Secretary of the Library Association's Local Studies Group posed the question 'Are British Local Studies Libraries the best in the world?'. After examining the evidence, Paul concluded that 'What we have in Britain is an extremely high level of service and very well stocked collections right throughout the country, in virtually all local authorities. We are not wealthy enough to match the best in America and our public libraries are not old enough to have acquired some of the riches of their French counterparts, but there is a case for saying that we have the liveliest and most comprehensive service in the world'. How have things changed in the last 25 years? Like so much else in the local civic arena, we suspect Paul's successors would not share his conclusions and optimism if they considered the same question in 2009.

Our lead article was 'Victorian Self-help and the Local Community' by David Neave, then a lecturer in regional and local history at Hull University. His focus was on the Ancient Order of Foresters, which was celebrating its 150th anniversary in 1984, and he ended his article with an appeal that local historians, archivists and librarians everywhere should make every effort to locate and preserve the records of old and defunct friendly societies. Today, the talk is of 'social enterprise' and self-help groups somehow mimicking the private sector, but like so much else in life, those who run small credit unions and community owned centres are really little more than the past dressed in different clothes.

We will be back with a look at Local History Magazine No.2 in the next issue. If you have a copy of LHM No.2 still, perhaps you would like to compile the next 'Twenty-five years on' entry for us. All you have to is to write up to 500 words (maximum) and send them to the Editor.

23 October 2009

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