historical archival research

Refugee Research in 2018

Over the course of my career as a historical researcher I have focused intently on refugee research. Most recently I have been helping undertake refugee research for a book regarding a Jewish family that were separated as a consequence of the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War Two. My role in this piece of refugee research was to help the author undertake some refugee research in London at the National Archives. This aspect was exploring how refugees made their way to the United Kingdom using a variety of different vessels to make their way to a number of British ports. Jewish refugees from the Netherlands made this journey under great duress under desperate circumstances as the Nazi authorities closed in on Jews still living in the Netherlands. Some family members in the book were found through refugee research to have met their fate in the Holocaust. Furthermore, my help in this refugee research was also helpful in identifying where some of the refugees lived during their stay in the United Kingdom.

In 2016 and 2017 it was also my pleasure to work on refugee research for a number of clients that were seeking to find out where their ancestors had migrated from. My refugee research was, once again, focused at the National Archives and the British Library in London where I explored many refugee groups that had made their way to the United Kingdom during the nineteenth century. Such refugee research was rather challenging as it focused more on political refugees from many of the revolutions that occurred in mainland Europe, especially those around 1848. Despite the United Kingdom not being one of the main reception countries, my refugee research was able to identify several important movements and highlight for my clients some of the circumstances and processes that their ancestors would have undergone to enter the country.

Some of you reading may ask when my interest in refugee research began. This was back in 1996 when, under Professor Panikos Panayi at De Montfort University in Leicester in the United Kingdom, I began to take an interest in refugee research in my undergraduate studies. Our course was rather forward thinking in terms of historical topics and it was one the first courses in the United Kingdom where refugee research, race and ethnic studies and other aspects of migration formed part of the syllabus during the mid-1990s.

One of the most interesting books on refugee research I first read is by Michael Marrus and it is called ‘The Unwanted’ which initially published by Oxford University Press in 1988. This book opened up the world of refugee research for me because it highlighted some of the main movements of refugees that had occurred and defined some of the main characteristics of study. It is a book that I highly recommend on refugee research if one would like an excellent overview. One of the most engaging aspects that I found in this book was the refugees generated as a consequence of the First World War. It was evident to me very quickly that this conflict has so many aspects that up until that I was rather ignorant of, particularly the scale of human displacement in Central Europe. Indeed, as I am sure many of you might remember, the focus of historical writing presented at pre-university level tended to be on the military aspects of the First World War and particularly trench warfare. Aspects such as refugee research were not, if my memory serves me correctly, at the forefront.

Once I had completed my undergraduate degree I opted to remain at De Montfort University for my first postgraduate Masters Degree in Modern History to pursue refugee research. One of the most enticing topics that I came across during my undergraduate studies on refugee research was the European Voluntary Worker programme following the Second World War that I discuss more fully below as it would form my PhD research and first major publication. For my main thesis of refugee research I focused on the communities in the city of Leicester that had formed as a consequence of the European Voluntary Programme. My refugee research found that the Polish, Serbian and Ukrainian nationalities appeared to be the largest groups in the city with all three having religious sites and social establishments. For my refugee research I trained in oral history and conducted a number of in-depth life interviews to get a better understanding of some of the cultural practices and histories of each refugee community. For those that are seeking to embellish their refugee research then I would highly recommend this process but one must, of course, undertake the appropriate training at a recognised establishment and proceed with as much sensitivity as possible. My refugee research on each community tended to find that the 1960s and early 1970s tended to be when each community had most cultural activity being undertaken although there had been continuous activities.

Since then I have read, worked and published in the field of refugee research a great deal. It would not be until 2011 that I would publish my first work on refugee research for Lambert Academic Publishing which was centred on Britain’s European Voluntary Worker Programme following the Second World War. The book explores how a contract labour programme selected potential recruits from among a pool of over a million refugees using a number of techniques. These hoped to select not only those that were likely to be fittest for manual labour but also those among the population of refugees that were causing political difficulties for the British occupation authorities as well as the British Government. Essentially, my refugee research found that the refugees were being used by the negotiators from the Soviet Union as a stumbling block in post-war negotiations that were determining the future of Europe. It was therefore prudent for the British Government to begin to make an indent of the issue of the refugees and provide something a further example to other countries thinking of accepting more refugees. Despite their endeavour there were a number of flaws in the programme, such as misleading information given to refugees on the number of years that they would have to work in Britain before being able to remain permanently or migrate onward, some rather tawdry employment roles and, of course, accommodation that ought to have been of a higher standard. Nonetheless, it was possible through my refugee research that there were some quite extraordinary developments in the accommodation sector, propaganda to ease social integration and some efforts with civic society that were worth uncovering.

Using Archival Researcher for your Refugee Research

If you have some refugee research that would like to undertake then please give a call to discuss your project and obtain a free quotation on 07734739167 from inside the United Kingdom and +44 7734739167 from outside or email me: dr.maslen@archivalresearcher.co.uk



Historical Researcher in 2017

As a historical researcher working in London and the United Kingdom I engage with many different topics and time periods at a variety of archives and libraries. This is owing to the fact that I work as a historical researcher with private individuals, companies and organisations on a number of diverse projects.

In the last year as a historical researcher in London my topics of research included some international history such as developments in British embassies in the Ottoman Empire, trade and shipping in East Asia in the nineteenth century and construction in the West Indies during the eighteenth century.

Some engaging research was also undertaken as a historical researcher on twentieth century Britain including developments of deportation of politically undesirable individuals, the reception of refugees, the history of block printing in England and disturbances in the prison system by inmates.

Going a little further back in time, I worked on an exciting project as a historical researcher on trade from the port of London in the fifteenth century, punishment in the British army in the eighteenth century and nursing in Britain in the nineteenth century.

As always, military history featured prominently this year as a historical researcher, with both World War One and World War Two occupying most of my time. From life in the trenches during World War One, I did some historical research on the life of several soldiers that fought on the Western Front in 1916 and 1917. Given the centenary remembrance of this conflict, it has been particularly poignant as a historical researcher to undertake this duty.

Using Archival Researcher as your Historical Researcher

If you are in need of a historical researcher and think I may be able to assist you with your project then please feel free to give me a call or for a free quote on 07734739167 or +44 7734739167 or email me: dr.maslen@archivalresearcher.co.uk

History Research

DR Hywel Maslen History Researcher

Dr Hywel Maslen History Research

Undertaking history research in London in the United Kingdom it is also important to me to spend some time exploring history research abroad.

This year I decided to leave London for the summer and spend some time in Rome to explore history research in a city seen by many as one of the most historic cities in Europe. Certainly the number of fellow tourists in Rome in August seem to share that view!

Through the quite intense heat in Rome this summer, it was possible to see how history research informs many of the main attractions and their visitors. Many of the guides that can help you explore Rome use the latest history research to embellish their tours which was very pleasing to engage with. They are constantly updating their presentations to ensure that, year on year, they can deliver the most recent developments in history research to ensure even returning tourists can increase their understanding of this wonderful city.

Furthermore, history research was evident in many of the static signs and brochures that were available in the main attractions that had been updated in the Spring of 2017 for the pending summer season when many from overseas, like myself, plan their trips to Italy.

This thirst for the latest history research was evident outside Rome. I travelled through the country from Switzerland. It was possible to see the churches in the northern lakes, at the towers in the quite beautiful city of Bologna and in the well-trodden attractions in Florence, all had taken the quieter winter months to use the most current history research to keep things fresh at their attractions and sites.

Use the Archival Researcher for your History Research

If you have a need to update the history research for your current project, organisation or attraction then please do not hesitate to contact me so that I can help you ensure that you have the most current history research.

For advice on any history research or a free quote then contact me on 07734739167 if you are in the United Kingdom or +44 7734739167 from outside the United Kingdom or please email me: dr.maslen@archivalresearcher.co.uk


Dr Hywel Maslen independent researcher image of Newark WaterfrontOver the last three years it has been my pleasure to have been working at the University of Nottingham with the Newark Heritage Barge CIO as part of the Connected Communities programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) on the project ‘Trade and Traffic on the River Trent c1850’. Dynamic work of the Newark Heritage Barge, and historians at the University of Nottingham, developed interest in researching the River Trent in more detail. For those that do not know much about the Newark Heritage Barge then you can visit the site by clicking this link here.

It was clear when I first visited Newark a few years ago for the project that there were already groups of people active in the community that were passionate about preserving the heritage of their local waterways.

Dr Hywel Maslen independent researcher image of Newark Waterfront

It had not always been so. Their determination to create interest stemmed from a period of stagnation. If one visits Newark it becomes immediately clear that the River Trent largely defines more than the name the town. A number of attractive bars, restaurants and modern flats either side of the castle are converted from former vessels or premises used to store and sell the goods carried on the river.

It was therefore apt that the sun shone brightly on these lovely buildings on the 27 June 2015 when the waterways heritage day took place to showcase current research and projects. The day itself was started with a morning hosted by Wendy Freer who is an expert on the life of people living and working on Britain’s waterways during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Philip Riden, who steers the project, took to the podium first to share his expertise on the history of the waterways in the East of England before 1600. His talk delivered an excellent backdrop for the audience to appreciate the extent to which these have contributed to the historical development of the region. Rob Wheeler then took the helm to guide us around the rivers and canals surrounding Lincolnshire from the start of the early modern period.

r Hywel Maslen independent researcher image of Crane for Leicester Trader

When in the water, Newark Heritage Barge can be many things at different times: a meeting point for boat enthusiasts, a floating centre for education and waterways heritage museum. This rather intriguing characteristic was not missed by the department of design at De Montfort University you can view through this link here. Rosemarie Fitton and Nicky Harding from the department explained how they directed a project whereby students submitted designs that the barge might utilise in the future. I do not think I was alone in relishing the prospect of some of the incredible designs becoming reality.

Robin Stonebridge from the Chesterfield Canal Trust then spoke about their impressive project to build Dawn Rose a cuckoo boat. This type of craft is unique to the Chesterfield Canal and was different because of the fact it used a sail to navigate up the River Trent to Torksey. Perhaps the most striking fact was that Dawn Rose was made only using hand tools as would have been available at the time similar craft were built. You can click a link to find out more information here.

After a light lunch – and many thanks to Margaret – there followed a heritage walk on the river bank to the dry dock where the Newark Heritage Barge, named Leicester Trader, is undergoing repairs. The walk itself has been designed by the Newark Heritage Barge and takes in the stretch of the river predominantly in the centre of Newark, past the castle and town lock, up towards the old Trent Navigation Company building which has recently been converted into a licensed premises.

Dr Hywel Maslen independent researcher image of Les Reid

Leicester Trader is currently out of water having some significant repairs. For those not in-the-know, a boat has to undergo an inspection every 7 years for safety and insurance reasons. I was immediately struck at how big she looks out of the water. Skipper of the Leicester Trader, Les Reid, then took us through the process in detail.

It remains to me to thank everybody that attended and, of course, cross my fingers that such interest can be maintained once Leicester Trader returns to the River Trent. I am sure any of you that are reading this blog and are interested can get in touch with me here, at the University of Nottingham or the Newark Heritage Barge directly. After several years of the project there are hopes that it can continue. I shall, of course, keep you informed of any progress here.

It is not often that I stray from talking about things other than archive research on this blog. However, over the last few months there have been a number of personal connections to the terrible effects of the earthquake in Nepal.

I thought it might be not too out of place to mention that there are numerous wonderful charities and organisations that are working to help those affected by the tragedy. One of these is the International Disaster Volunteers who are working with a number of communities in areas that have been struck hard by this quite staggering natural disaster.

Two of my personal friends are working for the organisation and I thought it would be a nice thing if I put a link on this blog so that people can see their work and, hopefully, make a contribution to it. Andy and Emma – I hope your work goes well.


There has been little respite in discussions in recent years regarding the proficiency of the English language that immigrants should possess or attain, as well as the consequences for the United Kingdom should large numbers of immigrants fail to learn the language. Politicians have been at the forefront of the debate that has continued into the current period of General Election campaigning in 2015.

In the last few weeks, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, used an audience in Heswall to stress new immigrants must speak English. He also advocates legislating to ensure all workers in the National Health Service have a sufficient proficiency in the English language. The United Kingdom Independence Party leader, Nigel Farrage, has suggested that immigrants are discouraged from learning English, in part, because official documents are printed in several languages. Owing to growing concerns, the Conservative Minister, Nicky Morgan, has recently called for an inquiry into the impact of immigration on schools where large numbers of pupils speak no English. She also reportedly told the Chief Inspector of the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), Sir Michael Wilshaw, that it was not helpful for him to warn schools regarding the ‘influx’ of immigrants.

This debate has been of great interest to me because of my research that I published into the instruction of the English language to immigrants following the Second World War. In 1947, under Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour government, a contract-labour scheme was launched to recruit workers from the inmates of Allied refugee camps in occupied Europe. The European Voluntary Worker (EVW) programme brought 100,000 people to the UK, with the majority being from countries that were being occupied by the Soviet Union, as well as Italy and Yugoslavia.

Many only tend to know that the programme imposed strict conditions on the immigrant workers which contractually tied them to government work contracts for a period of three-years. Volunteers were limited to a number of industries and prevented from changing jobs without official permission. The punishment for failing to comply with these conditions was deportation back to the challenging conditions in Allied refugee camps.

Yet the EVW programme heralded a new approach in state-sponsored immigration where a great deal was done to prevent social tension. A volunteer could only take a job if there was no British worker available. They were accommodated in state hostels to reduce tension in the local housing market. Pioneering techniques in propaganda and a favourable press campaign explained to the public why foreign workers were essential to the economy and the process of reconstruction. Social clubs were established in the government hostels,  and contacts with civic society were pursued across the country to help the foreign workers settle.

Teaching English was seen by the state as an important aspect of the programme that would help the volunteer workers to integrate into society. Classes started as soon as they arrived into one of the reception camps and continued throughout the duration of the programme. The government used a number of methods of instruction recommended by experts, with local education authorities, employers and civil society all having an input.

Although I might have missed it, there does not appear to have been any media interest in using the EVW programme in a historical context when reporting about the background of the involvement of the state in English language instruction to immigrants so I thought a brief footnote on this blog might be of interest. This also comes as a surprise to me because the themes of European migration, austerity and generally rising immigration were pertinent in 1947 as they are in 2015. True, the programme had merits and flaws which I discuss in my book. The current discussion on the issue is one I continue to follow with the focus on those efforts to ensure that greater consideration is given to pursuing an enlightened and balanced course for those effected.













Archival Researcher Website Update

Over the last few weeks I have taken a break from the archives to work on a website update my and consolidate several projects by undertaking some research organisation and analysis. As we researchers all know, the analysis has been to done before getting too much material through archival digital photography.

My website has had a few different pages added to the research services section on the top bar on the welcome to archival researcher page. Many of my clients have provided some feedback that searching for the type of research that they wanted to explore often involved making several different enquiries into a search engine such as google. I have updated my site so that the different research services that my clients said they were searching for are represented.

For those thinking of maintaining their own website, I use the WordPress system. It comes well recommended by this researcher. It is relatively easy to use and gives a clean finish to the pages. A word to the wise, however, it can take a little more time than you would expect to update a web page. It has become increasingly more common for people to access a website through a smartphone rather than a desktop or laptop. This means that one has to check all formats whilst updating. Sadly, what looks good on one device does not look so good on another.

The new pages offering different services are historical researcher, independent researcher, archival digital photography, military historian and research organisation and analysis. It is so important for me to acknowledge what the current trends are for those seeking to appoint a researcher and save people some frustration clicking on link after link after link by making my way up those search engine rankings. Nonetheless, it is still going to be some task to jump up the ratings on different search engines with terms such as “historical researcher”. My mind is made up to be patient.

It remains for me to say that I hope you find the new site easy to navigate. Please contact me if you would any more information on how I can help you with your new case, project or enquiry. I shall be waiting for you with great anticipation and enthusiasm, as always.


Researching in London

It is around ten years since I began researching in London regularly to conduct historical research at the different libraries and archives. My first few times at the National Archives were the most challenging as I got firmly to grips with the catalogue.

This time was precious because I had to travel to – or commute across – London. It remains for me to publically thank those friends that could put me up. All of this was in time taken from annual leave from my full-time career that I longed to leave for one that involved historical research.

At the time I remember working to improve the time it took to get to London. Car, coach and train have all since been fully evaluated.

There is no doubt that I would use the train more if I had a firm idea of when I needed to travel. Alas, I never really know when I will be researching in the capital so it proves difficult to obtain those more economical tickets.

One can still get some work done on the coach. However, I often find that unless you get the seat next to the fire escape that has a wide aisle it is difficult to get my laptop lid fully open. The biggest drawback is the additional time from central London out to the National Archives in Kew.

Despite not having any time to do any work on the way there,  the car does let me leave when I have finished and get me home a little faster on some occasions. On others, the traffic defeats you and there is nothing you can do.

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough was starting to use a laptop to make notes rather than a pencil. This might sound strange. Ten years ago laptops were, however, rather more expensive than a desktop, and did rather less. Plus the keyboards were smaller and I have wide fingers.

The other bonus has to be the camera system at the archive that allows you to take photographs that you can then download afterwards. It was good when digital cameras began to get better at storing many pictures as needed at times. Nonetheless, I sometimes felt worried that my data card might fail or that perhaps I would lose my bag and therefore all my work. With the archive system this worry was taken away. The big plus is that one can spend the time in the archive just talking photos when you know the files are the ones you want.






Sounds of the Cultural Quarter Update

The winter period has seen me busy in the archives as usual. People have really been motivated to follow up the history of the First World War since the anniversary had been highlighted in the media.

Over the last few weeks I have been helping with getting copyright of the sounds that I collected so that the project team can get an app together. This had been interesting because the it seems clear that there are certain sounds that have really fitted well with the aims of the project.

When I have heard more about how the app works I shall keep you all informed of course. I don’t know what they have in mind on how it will work. I do know that the Roman app for Leicester included a tour around some of the most important sites in the city which would be great for the Cultural Quarter too I think.

In the meantime, I must return to my research duties which are thankfully indoors. Over the coming weeks I shall be on my travels throughout the United Kingdom. Having just returned from the National Archives in London,  it is working closer to home for the coming week at Leicestershire Record Office in Wigston.

Then, however, I am making my first visit to the National Gas Archives in Warrington. This should be a fantastic opportunity to expand my knowledge in an aspect of British industrial heritage that I have not had a great deal of experience with.

The topic of gas was coincidently brought up at a dinner party recently. A friend works in the industry and said that it was likely that over the coming years we would see a gradual reduction in the use of the gas towers. My mind was instantly drawn to the backdrop to many sporting events where you could see the gas towers grow throughout the duration of a game. This, it seems, might be something of a thing of the past. That said, they are not the most beautiful things but certainly quite ingenious in the way they work I hope you will agree.


The Sounds of the Cultural Quarter in Leicester

Over the last few months I have been gathering some recordings for the Sounds of the Cultural Quarter project which is exploring the hidden post-industrial history of the area. It was brought to my attention by my former colleague Colin Hyde from the East Midlands Oral History Archive which is attached to the University of Leicester.

The Affective Digital Histories series will hold an exhibition, launch event and some apps in the near future of all the recordings they have collected of people’s work, home and leisure environments.

For me this meant being poised with my digital recorder for a few weeks to make some recordings of the area I live in. A first port of call was the hair salon Hair@1RD at 42-44 Rutland Street where proprietor Robin Dignall kindly let me record him and his staff at work. On the street I captured music at the summer festival and the ambience of chattering people using the Curve Theatre. In my flat I recorded the gate of Alexandra House closing among many other household noises.

It gave me much pleasure contacting some old friends from my days as a nightclub DJ to get some recordings from the Dielectric and Junction 21 venues during the 1990s. A big thank you to those that also helped me track them down which proved to be more difficult than I thought. Now there are hopefully going to be some snippets of hardcore and house music to add to the many other contributions that will all go to show that there has always been culture of one kind or another in the Cultural Quarter in Leicester.