We’ve reached the point where I’ve had to make some decisions about what is possible to look at, what is not possible right now, and what is not possible. I’ll discuss these in reverse order.
1. What is Not Possible (but I hope somebody finds interesting and will run with as their PhD)
One of the main questions I had was about when, and how the decisions were made for the Admiralty to a) produce lots of different manuals, b) to categorize them into groups according to how those documents were to be controlled/made available and c) to sell some of those documents to the public.
This, unfortunately, is well beyond any possible project for me. The answers will be buried in the documents at Kew- in the Admiralty correpondence, probably. Or at Caird, or maybe somewhere else. But nobody knows. None of Andrew Lambert, John Beeler, Roger Knight, Alan Anderson or any of the really good historians who are familiar with the nitty gritty of the Admiralty and staff know. Furthermore, these kinds of documents have effectively been taken for granted by historians who use them in their work on the Royal Navy of the 20th century. This … maybe “red rag to a bull” isn’t the right phrase. But there’s a really nifty, intricate PhD here waiting for somebody. So please, somebody, come in and do it, and then tell me what you find out?
2. What is Possible, but Not Right Now
Another of my main goals was to figure out the context for the publication of the Admiralty Manuals. Frustratingly, I can create a partial picture but I have no idea how much data is missing. As I’ve discussed in the previous posts, there’s a lot more holdings at KW for BR then there is for OU- so I know there will be a problem with OU. However, there’s a good amount of data for CB – the confidential Books series.
There exists BR1- however, I can’t get to Kew or to Caird to take photos of the editions they have, unfortunately. I’ve been told (thanks to Ken Sutton at the Communications Branch Museum) that it is- at least in the edition he has- 6 inches thick. So.. its a huge source, and not one that would be simple or trivial to document/digitize. While I still very much want this information in order to understand and communicate the context for publication post-war BR series publications, I won’t be able to do this until I can either get my hands on a copy, or be able to look at them. Unfortunately, the one the Communications Branch has may still be within copyright/restricted so I may not be able to have it digitized. But, there is hope for the future. Also, hopefully I can discover that a catalogue was also published for the OU series. Unfortunately, the Naval Historical Branch cannot provide any answers. Understaffed, service tasks are priority -and apparently they don’t actually have a digital catalogue that they can export to even show what they have. Alas.
3. What is Possible, And the Steps Forward
So with this in mind, I have roughly the shape of the project as a whole (an article? maybe). But it’s definitely broken down into several distinct chunks.
These are in no order of precedence other than how they come of out of my brain as I am writing this.
A) Analysis- from the existing evidence- of the general of what I can say about how many things were published in the OU, BR and CB series, both as a sum and on an ongoing basis. This information can be synthesized from the catalogue searches I’ve scraped from Kew (The National Archives/Public Record Office, as you will). from listings on various websites including The Communications Branch museum and several other volunteer ones, as well as lists in the back of the manuals that I own, and the manuals that I have found PDFs of online.
B) Textual Analysis- thanks to Internet Archive and to sources from the Canadian War Museum, as well as other online sources (many online sources that have digitize volumes), I’m going to do textual analysis, looking at changes between editions of the same manual. This will primarily focus on the Navigation Manual, Seamanship Manual and if possible the Steaming Manual/Engineering Manual as well. I’m also going to look at how the structures changed edition to edition- what was added, what was removed, how did the number of volumes change- and what the evidence says about how each volume in a manual may have been considered very differently. I plan to use CATMA for this, if i can figure out how to get it to do the kinds of things I want.
C) Analysis of King’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions- again thanks to the Internet Archive, and to Jeff Noakes, I have texts or snippets of texts from several different editions beginning in the mid 19th century, going to the 1953 Queen’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions (As well as later, modern texts). In this particular case, I’m going to be looking how the instructions for dealing with “Returns and Correspondence”, which also includes dealing with classified and secured documents.
In the next blog post, which likely be my last on this subject until the summer (not for hiding things reasons, for I am going for my Mate 150 license and so that has to come first reasons) I will be talking about some of the things I’ve latched onto as key concepts going forward for this project, both in terms of the immediate 20th C documents and connections back to my work on the 17th Century Royal Navy. I’ll also be talking a bit about the textual analysis stuff in the hopes that somebody who actually knows what they are doing can laugh at my misconceptions and mistakes and point me in the right direction.
Thank You To:
John Beeler and Andrew Lambert for their discussions and encouragement and pointing me towards Admiralty Circulars, Simon Wall from Island Rare Books for sending me photographs from his stock, Kat and Simon Moody for their frequent help with New Zealand aspects of this, Jeff Noakes for brilliantly helping out with sources from the Canadian War Museum’s holdings, Ken Sutton of the Communications Branch Museum for being so helpful and open, and to Jenny Wraight of the Naval Historical Branch for her time.