Tag Archives: Books

Library of Birmingham’s Black History Collection

During the existence of Birmingham Libraries, the Library of Birmingham has, over the years amassed a large collection of books which has been given the designation of the Black History collection. As the name suggests this collection does indeed contain material relating to black history but it also includes other topics including Asian History, Culture, Arts, the Black and Asian experience in the UK, and other diverse topics such as the climate and topography of the Indian sub-continent. The collection currently contains over 9000 books.  The Black History collection has grown from previous collections held within past departments of the library including Central Lending, Information Services and Archives and Heritage, with the library continually adding material to the collection. The collection is currently housed within the Archives and Collections Department of the Library of Birmingham.

This collection covers diverse subject areas including the history of Black footballers, for example Colouring Over the White Line by Phil Vasili [796.33408900] and Pitch Black by Emy Onuora [A796.334089];

Colouring Over the White Line by Phil Vasili [796.33408900] and Pitch Black by Emy Onuora [A796.334089]

and the history of well-known Asian politicians such as Nehru and Ghandi.

India from Curzon to Nehru by Durga Das [964.035 DAS], and an extract showing Ghandi with Lord and Lady Mountbatten

The collection includes Gazetteers, articles on the religions and customs of indigenous peoples and geographical descriptions and illustrations from numerous countries such as Africa, the Caribbean, India and the Indian Sub-continent, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal etc. For example, this illustration from the book Tunis it’s land and people by Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg from 1882 [961.109] shows the harbour of Tunis.

Tunis it’s land and people by Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg from 1882 [961.109] showing Tunis harbour

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More New Additions

Part of the Birmingham Collection, Level 4

The following items have recently been added to AHP’s bookstock collections.Items in the Birmingham collection or located on level 4 or level 3 are available on the open shelves without an appointment. Any items whose reference is prefixed L, LF or LP need to be requested from staff at the customer service desk on level 4.


1.Albutt, Roy.
Stained Glass Window Makers of Birmingham School of Art.
L 54.1 ALB.

2.Clancy, John.
The Secret Wealth Garden : Re-writing Local Government Pension Funds back into Regional Economies.
L 41.71CLA

3.Collins, Fran & Martin.
Bridging The Gap. US Army Rehabilitation Centres in Warwickshire & Worcestershire during World War II.
75.9 Birmingham Collection

4.Collins, Fran & Martin.
Return to Duty. An Account of Brickbarns Farm, Merebrook and Wood Farm U.S. Army Hospitals in Malvern, 1943 – 45.
L 98 MAL

5.Dixon, James.
Out of Birmingham : George Dixon (1820 – 98). ‘Father of Free Education’.
78.1 DIX Birmingham Collection

6.Evans, Karen.
A Grim Almanac of Birmingham.
42.021 EVA Birmingham Collection

7.Grupas, Aldona.
Lithuanian Community in the West Midlands After the Second World War (1947 – 2012).
21.85 GRU Birmingham Collection

8.Harriman, Bill.
Cavendo Tutus – Safety Through Care. A Short History of the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House, 1813 – 2013.
LP 65.56 HAR

9.(Ed.) Harrison, Michael.
Lander’s War: The War Diaries of Lt. Charles Herbery Lander, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
75.7 LAN Birmingham Collection

10.High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill, Explanatory Notes.
LF 47.34

11.(Ed) Jaffa, Richard.
A Letter from Oggi : The Letters of Olga Franklin.
L 78.1 FRA

12.(Ed.) Jones, Brian.
People, Pens & Production in Birmingham’s Steel Pen Trade.
67.24 Birmingham Collection

13.Lambert, David.
Westbourne Road Leisure Gardens. Report on the Historic Landscape. Vols. 1 & 2.
LP 44.51 LAM

14.Limbrick, Gudrun.
Unlocked. Hidden stories of the lives of Birmingham women 1900 to the present day.
LP22.7 LIM

15.(Ed.) Lockett, Alexandra.
Pigeon Talk : Tales From The Fancy, Birmingham Pigeon Archive. (2013).
L 25.45

16.Mitchell, Elaine.
Duddeston’s Shady Walks & Arbours, Vauxhall Gardens, c 1745 – 1850.
LP 91.4 DUD

17.National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies.
Record of church furnishings at St. Michael & All Angels, Cofton Hackett.
LF 14.44 STM

18.National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies.
Record of church furnishings at St. Peter, Harborne.
LF 14.22 STP

19.Norton, Mark.
Birmingham New Street Station Through Time.
47.35 NOR Birmingham Collection

20.Powell – Read, Finella.
The Shocking Fate of the Street Musician’s Daughter : Being the Untold Story of Selina Powell, Madame Geneive (Female Blondin). (2014).
L 78.1 POW

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Guest Blogger: new book on Birmingham’s African heritage

Birmingham Parade, 1953 [LS: Misc Photos/WW2]

The starting point for the Heritage Lottery Funded project NewAfrican Leaders Contributions of Africans in Birmingham from 1950 was the issue of a lack of knowledge about modern African migration and integration in the city of Birmingham.

This project was developed by working closely with the Outreach team at Birmingham Libraries and Archives (Izzy Mohammed and Dr Andrew Green), and with Dr Lisa Goodson, lecturer at the Institute of Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham. The support provided by our partners helped in the development and delivery of the project.

Birmingham Libraries and Archives’ senior archivists, Corinna Rayner and Rachel MacGregor, provided important support around archive skills training. Thanks also to Brigitte Winsor for her advice regarding our exhibition. The project also received training from the Oral History Society which helped in the collection of interviews from members of the community. The combination of all this support led the project to eventually deposit a collection of over 30 oral histories. This was a very important moment for the project and the community.

Front cover of this new book

‘NewAfrican Leaders Contributions of Africans in Birmingham from 1950’ by Frederick Ebot Ashu

Delivering this project means that we can support the further integration of the community, and contribute towards a more cohesive city and society. The archive offers an impressive collection of material and learning sources through the individuals I have talked with regarding why they – or their parents – came to the United Kingdom, their experiences when they arrived, their subsequent experiences of settlement and integration, as well as, their achievements and contributions within their adopted society.

The project produced a book, which looks at the migration and integration of the African population in Birmingham, an exhibition and online  material.
For more information please see: www.caassuk.org/heritage/

Frederick Ebot Ashu (CAASS UK Project Manager)

Guest Blogger: Birmingham Town Hall Book Launch

Birmingham Town Hall

The potential form of the street-front elevation of  Birmingham’s Town Hall – as envisaged by Mr C. Fiddian (Birmingham Independent, 1st December 1827)

Birmingham Town Hall – the focus of an engaging and handsome hardback to be launched on 16th September – by Anthony Peers:

Having started searching in the Library’s Archives and Heritage department way back in 1999 – my new book now brings to light a wealth of new facts about the Town Hall; its origins, design, and historic evolution. For instance the study of Joseph Moore’s papers (MS 1292/8/6) alerted me to this philanthropist’s lofty goal of securing for Birmingham a public concert hall equal to any in Europe. Further broader research has enabled me to establish the fact that at the time of the Town Hall’s construction (1832-34) there did exist a handful of public concert halls elsewhere in Britain. However, the largest of these had capacity for a maximum of only 800 concertgoers. Designed to seat 3,000 and capable of accommodating 10-12,000, the book confirms Birmingham Town Hall’s standing as the country’s first great purpose built concert hall.  

Town Hall Book Cover

In a discussion of the building’s origins the book looks at the factors and pressures which prompted the commissioning of the building and identifies the various places considered as potential sites for the Town Hall. One such was on the east side of the High Street on a plot which looked down New Street. The book features a copy of an illustration (see above) – published in the Birmingham Independent in 1827 – of the building envisaged for this plot. This design for the Town Hall is of interest not least because it was penned more than three years before the architectural competition was held to establish which architect would win the opportunity to see their designs for this prestigious commission realised.

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Dickens in Birmingham

An image from A Christmas CarolCharles John Huffam Dickens was born in 1812 on 7 February and thus 2012 marks 200 years since the birth of this distinguished novelist, widely considered to be the greatest of the Victorian era. Continue reading

Yet further additions

An image of the shelves.

A number of new acquisitions made to the Birmingham Collection and the Genealogy bookstock. Why not have a look below:

1. Birmingham City Council.
Housing Department, Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Action Plan.
LP 21.85 BIR Continue reading


(Ref: WK B11 8531)

We can scarcely trust ourselves to think, much less to write, of the calamity which has befallen Birmingham, by the destruction of its great library of reference, with the special collections, of priceless value, included in it. The occurrence was so utterly unlooked for, the danger so remote and the loss so complete and absolute, that it is hardly possible to realise what has happened.

(Birmingham Post Monday 13th January 1879)

January 11th 1879 was a grim day for Birmingham library as a huge fire ripped through the building destroying most of the 50,000 books in the Reference Library.  Stories of daring rescues of precious volumes abounded – but only a handful of its unique manuscript collections were saved, notably the Guild Book of Knowle, a fifteenth century illuminated manuscript, which is still preserved in our collections here at Birmingham Archives and Heritage.  Amongst those things which were lost was the manuscript containing the Coventry Mystery Plays.  A fund to establish a new library for Birmingham was established shortly after the fire and the second Birmingham library opened in 1882. The third library followed in 1974 and we look forward to moving to the fourth library in 2013.

You can find out more about this on our history of the central library pages and read the latest 1889 news through nineteenth century newspapers online (free to use in any of Birmingham’s Libraries).

Rachel MacGregor