2. Citizenship: Finding what you need

(This video can be downloaded from Media Hopper Create.)

What kinds of things are you looking for when you start the search?

The first step is to look at the databases like the Cyril Pearce database, The Imperial War Museum Database or the one held by the National Records of Scotland. A search would start by looking for dates, names, and places, which can then be cross-referenced with other records, whether these are newspapers, or other contemporary commentary of the time. It often starts with very small pieces of information being chained together. This starts to build a record of the chain of events and information around the individuals.

Then other connecting networks are brought in, like the suffragists movement, the conscription fellowship, the Labour Party, and the Red Clyde movement in Glasgow. This information comes from different sources and sometimes their own independent records, to build the bigger picture around the issue of conscription and pacifism. The challenge of course, is knowing where to look!

Is there anything in particular that you should try to find out?

One of the things that the WEA group is most interested in finding out, is how the media represented the conscientious objectors and how community groups interacted with the media to make their feelings and opinions known around the issues. It was an incredibly divisive issue then, and it still remains a divisive issue today. So, to understand how the media helped to shape and project national opinion is something that the group is really keen to understand and know more about.

Where would you go to find out about that kind of information?

To start searching for that kind of information a good starting point would be the biggest library that you have access to, to see if they subscribe to newspaper databases. The two main ones in Scotland at that time would be the Scotsman and the Times digital archives, which the NLS has in its portfolio. Getting access to subscription databases usually requires a reader’s ticket (membership), for a university or public library, but these are excellent places to start.

The other major resource, which will be key in understanding attitudes of the day, would be the UK Parliamentary Database, which was mentioned in the previous interview video.

Activity: Search Challenge

(This video can be downloaded from Media Hopper Create.)

The challenge is to investigate how conscientious objectors were portrayed in the press at the time of the Great War. To do this you will have to get access to local newspapers of the time. In most cases this will require you to get access to a library that has a newspaper archive on premises, or that subscribes to a digitised archive. This may mean that you need to join the library, and membership of most libraries, are free in the UK. You can also sign up to digitised newspaper archives yourself, but this usually requires a membership fee.

If you want some guidance on how to search a newspaper archive or if you are unable to get access to try this search yourself you can watch a demo here.

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