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Welcome to Ruhleben Camp

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. On the day that an issue of the magazine was released a hundred years ago, Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story. 

Trafalgar Square looking to Y.M.C.A., Ruhleben Internment Camp. VIA record number olvwork427586

Trafalgar Square looking to Y.M.C.A., Ruhleben Internment Camp. VIA record number olvwork427586

Wilkommen in Trafalgar Square, Ruhleben, Germany. From here you can wander under the Marble Arch, or venture down Fleet Street to visit the offices of the local print journal.

If it doesn’t look much like London, no wonder: these flimsy, dirty wooden buildings and barren expanses of mud are the heart of Ruhleben Camp, an internment camp for British civilians erected in 1914 at a hastily vacated horse racing track outside Berlin. Over the next four years, this racetrack would house around 4,000 male British nationals, ages 17 to 55, with backgrounds ranging from saltwater tars to Society nobs, and including celebrity athletes and a future Nobel laureate in physics. Commonwealth and colonial subjects were also represented by Irish, Scottish, Jamaican, and West African prisoners, among others.

Sharing British citizenship and the fact of imprisonment, this hodgepodge would spend the course of the war transforming the bleak racecourse into a bustling barbed wire society with a civil administration, postal service, university, scientific laboratories, a garden, weekly theatrical productions, an orchestra, sporting leagues, and a full-color, illustrated magazine to serve as the camp “mouthpiece.”

Blending homesickness with a dash of dry irony, the inmates christened their dingy environs after iconic landmarks in the capitol of the British Empire. They reserved the names of areas around Berlin—Charlottenburg and Spandau—for the two latrines on either side of the camp.

The photograph above is one of hundreds housed in the HLS Library’s Special Collections, among the private papers of former internees Maurice Ettinghausen and John C. Masterman (Masterman was a hugely popular figure in the camp, and became head of counter-intelligence for MI5 during WWII). These collections also include copies of the Ruhleben magazine, written and edited by the prisoners, and professionally printed in Berlin from 1915 through 1917. This magazine offers a window into the busy life of what became a little British outpost on the Continent during the so-called Great War.

Bibliography & Further Reading

Stibbe, Matthew. British civilian internees in Germany. The Ruhleben camp, 1914-18. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

New Series: In Ruhleben Camp

I’m pleased to announce a new series here at Et Seq.: In Ruhleben Camp.

Ruhleben Coat of Arms

Ruhleben Coat of Arms, 191401818. VIA record number olvwork418594.

In Ruhleben Camp will follow the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during World War I. On the day that an issue of the magazine was released one hundred years ago, our guest blogger Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story. (Note that the first five issues won’t be covered in proper sequence, as they were printed from June through August 1915, and their anniversaries passed while Marissa was abroad, exploring the archives at the Imperial War Museum, the British Library in London, and the Liddle Collection at Leeds University, one of the most extensive repositories of Ruhleben material.)

The Harvard Law School Library also holds two major collections of materials for the study of the history of Ruhleben: : The Maurice L. Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers, 1914-1937 and The John Masterman collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp papers, 1914-1919. These collections contain manuscripts, newsletters, artwork, photographs, and other ephemera created by the prisoners, who built their own culture and society within the camp. You can explore Harvard’s Ruhleben collections at the Ruhleben: A Digital Exhibit website. Those of you who are local can view a poster for a Ruhleben cricket match on permanent exhibit on the 5th floor of the Library.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

We’re delighted that Marissa is sharing her knowledge of Ruhleben with us and look forward to reading and learning more about it. We hope you do too!

Love Your Library Fest for HLS students, September 18!

Library Fest Heart by Alethea Jones

Art by Alethea Jones

HLS Students: come to the 11th annual Love Your Library Fest Friday, September 18 from 2 to 5pm to learn more about how the Library can help you succeed at HLS!

Library Fest is one of the most fun days of the year at the Library. Visit stations like:

  • The reference desk to learn about library services and when to get help from your friendly neighborhood librarians
  • The microforms/games room, where you can give us feedback on new projects
  • Historical & Special Collections, to view a selection of unique items from HLS and legal history.

Visit three or more stations to get a free movie ticket (one ticket per law student) and for each station you visit, get an entry into our raffle for a Taste of New England gift basket (two each for JDs and LLM/SJD students)–with a bonus raffle entry if you visit all stations! 10 additional students will also win HLS Library book lamps for late-night reading.

In addition to the grand prizes, there will be plenty of candy and other giveaways!

Mark your calendars and we’ll see you there!


Today! Research happy hour at the HLS Pub, 4-6pm

Research is good for you!

Research is good for you!Come to the Library’s Research Happy Hour today from 4-6pm outside the HLS Pub. Grab a beverage and we’ll have some snacks to share.

We’ll be happy to show you some of the Library’s newest resources and cool things in our collection, tell you about services that can help you succeed, answer research questions or questions about the library, or just chat about life at HLS and Cambridge.

See you there, and mark your calendars for future Research Happy Hours the first Thursday of the month: October 1, November 5, and December 3. Future Happy Hours will run 5-6pm.

(3:57pm: Updated because the Pub isn’t open for the semester yet!)

Your Summer Reading

What are you reading?

What’s on your summer reading list?

Earlier this summer–yes, despite all the back-to-school prep happening on campus, it IS still summer–we used our bulletin board to ask you what was on your summer reading list. And you told us. It was a lot of fun for everyone here to see the huge variety of titles that everyone posted and to watch as the post-its piled up.

Here’s just a small sample of the summer reads that the HLS community and those passing through posted in our board.



The classics:

  • The Divine Comedy (the poster noted this year is Dante’s 750th birthday; happy birthday, Dante!)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • War and Peace
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Iliad
  • On the Road

And some more recent fiction:

  • The Martian
  • Doctor Sleep
  • Sophie’s World
  • 50 Shades of Grey
  • Outlander
  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
  • La Célibataire

Great non-fiction:

  • 100 Irish Lives
  • Michelle Obama: A Life
  • Silent Spring
  • Between the World and Me
  • I am Malala
  • Hooked
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Books for the young and young at heart:

  • The Cat in the Hat
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

And of course, we had a few jokesters:

  • Everything
  • Barbri books
  • TV subtitles
  • This board

We also got a few responses via social media:

  • Romola
  • Adam Bede
  • One L
  • Approaching Zion
  • Go Set a Watchman
  • Conan and the Shaman’s Curse

Thanks to all who participated both at the Library and online!

As you return to campus and arrive here for the first time over the next couple weeks, stop by the Library lobby to tell us where you spent the summer and/or your life prior to HLS!

Thanks, Heather!

heather betty rubble smart

Heather Pierce-Lopez (center) with Amelia Bingham “Seaweed” and her son

Librarians are used to getting thanks from patrons on a regular basis, but some thanks are extra special. Our own document delivery assistant and librarian extraordinaire Heather Pierce-Lopez recently reported the following meeting:

“Remember that 1665 Indian land deed I found a while back? Well a tribal elder and her son came by to thank me for finding this deed that no one has been able to locate for the last 40 years. I am honored to have met such an amazing woman. She even gave me a signed copy of her book.

“Thanks for letting me be a part of this adventure.”

German Passports and Identification Documents: A History

In browsing the library’s German stacks recently (“KK” call numbers – 3rd floor of the Lewis/ILS building) I discovered a very cool book: an illustrated history of German passports and identification documents from the middle ages to the present.

Der Passexpedient: Geschichte der Reisepässe und Ausweisdokumente – vom Mittelalter bis zum Personalausweis im Scheckkartenformat
Andreas Reisen
Nomos Verlag, 2012

Andreas Reisen (whose last name, interestingly, is the infinitive form of the German verb “to travel”) must have had a lot of fun researching this book and exploring historical and modern examples of German passports and travel/identification documents.  Some have been scanned and included as illustrations, making the book appealing even to those who don’t read German.

When I mentioned this book to one of my colleagues, she asked, “They had passports in the middle ages?”  Well, in a manner of speaking, yes.  They weren’t little books filled with border guard stamps, however.  Instead, for example, they might have looked like this:

According to the caption, this is an “accompanying letter from Kaiser Carl V for Martin Luther for travelling to Worms” from 1521.  This letter was issued during a crucial period in the course of Luther’s life, as he had recently been excommunicated from the Catholic Church and was called to appear before the Diet of Worms to answer for his criticism of the church.  Ultimately, this journey, as a result of which he was a labeled a “convicted heretic,” was a significant stepping stone toward Luther forming the Lutheran Church.

By the 1800s, statutory requirements for passports in the area we now know as Germany were coming into force.  One example of this is the 1813 Allgemeines Paßregelement of the Royal State of Prussia. According to this law, foreign nationals, “regardless of profession, age, gender and religious belief, regardless if [they] arrive by water or land, or through an official post, or otherwise by wagon, horseback, or on foot, whether [they] would like to remain in our territories or simply pass through them,” must provide personal documentation that states one of several acceptable reasons for admission into Prussia.

(By the way, the publication in which this law originally appeared, Gesetz-Sammlung für die königlichen Preußischen Staaten, is available in print through the Harvard Depository.  Harvard’s print copy has also been digitized and is available through the HathiTrust database.  Click here to see page 47 of the 1813 volume, where this law was originally published.)

Examples of passports from the various governing entities in Germany in the mid-1800s follow a common format, with the person’s biographical information listed in the left-hand column, and the description of the reason the person is travelling on the right.

60 61

Photos, however, did not start appearing in passports until the early 1900s.


The second half of the book describes and shows the evolution of personal identification and travel documentation in Germany throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.  It concludes by discussing the new personal ID card format that was introduced in 2010.

This is a fascinating historical survey of German passports and identification documents, thoroughly researched and well-illustrated with beautiful scanned images.  It’s well-worth a look, even if you don’t read much German.

852 RARE: A Controversial Execution in 1818 Edinburgh

In December 1818, Robert Johnston, age 24, was executed for robbing Mr. John Charles of some £600 in pounds and notes, plus a watch key and chain. This single crime, trial, and execution ignited a swarm of controversy – evidence of which can be found in our collections. We recently acquired a pamphlet, Letter to the Magistrates of Edinburgh … with Regard to the Execution of Robert Johnston, which joins several others in our collection that describe the trial and gruesome execution that followed.

Letter to magistrates

Letter to the magistrates of Edinburgh, 1819, HOLLIS 14401279

Opinion diverged about Johnston and the severity of his punishment. Some noted that Johnston, a 24-year-old carter, had repeatedly been in custody on various charges; in fact, he had only been out a few days before robbing Mr. Charles. Others noted that his parents were “honest and industrious,” and pointed out that Johnston had been thrown out of work due to economic distress in Scotland. These writers thought his only choice was to steal or starve.

All agreed that the punishment – execution by hanging – was severe. Other carters had recently committed crimes in Edinburgh; perhaps local magistrates wanted to make an example of Johnston. Citizens interceded on his behalf, to no avail.

On the day of the execution, a noose was slipped around Johnston’s neck, and he mounted a table, which was supposed to drop suddenly at Johnston’s signal. Unfortunately, the table did not drop completely, leaving him half standing and half suspended, struggling. As the crowd realized he was still alive, they urged the attending magistrate to halt the execution. Soon the crowd threw stones at the magistrate, overpowered the police, cut Johnston down, partially revived him and carried him off. The police eventually recaptured him, dragged him to the station, and continued their attempts to revive him before returning him to the gallows. During all this time Johnston appeared conscious but did not speak.

When the execution resumed and the table dropped once again, Johnston continued to struggle for about 20 minutes before finally expiring. The whole gruesome business lasted almost two hours.

Witnesses agreed on the sequence of events, and all were shocked at the inhumane and error-ridden execution. However, they vehemently disagreed about whether the magistrates exercised their duty to ensure a working scaffold and secure a competent executioner. Some blamed the magistrates; others blamed the crowd (which they called a mob) for cutting Johnston down and thereby prolonging his suffering.

Robert Johnston trial account

Authentic account of the trial … of Robert Johnston, 1819, HOLLIS 4390803

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh; in which the cruel and malicious aspersions of an “eye-witness” are answered, 1819, HOLLIS 4388450












For historians of crime and punishment, it is useful to consult materials like the pamphlets here, which offer multiple perspectives, reminding us that there is often more than one “truth.” These pamphlets also shine a light on issues that concerned the populace and the police nearly two hundred years ago. They show that controversy over the death penalty was, and remains, a recurrent theme in other legal systems as well as our own.

Go On A Blind Date With A Book!

BlindDateWithABookThis summer, the Harvard Law School Library Historical & Special Collections Department’s latest exhibit, “It Was a Dark and Stormy Semester … Portrayals of Harvard Law School in Literature,” is on display in the Caspersen Room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall. This exhibit highlights prominent examples of literature that reflects or is inspired by Harvard Law School. In conjunction with this exhibit, the library is also offering two ways for visitors to get involved. The first is our “Blind Date with a Book” program that encourages visitors to take a deeper dive into this literature and the second is our online display, which offers everyone a chance to contribute to our list of titles that include depictions of HLS students, faculty, alumni, or the campus itself.

In this post, Carli Spina explains a bit about these interactive components of the exhibit:

1. So what exactly is “Blind Date with a Book”?

In “Blind Date with a Book” programs, books are wrapped in plain paper to hide their titles and authors and a brief description of the book is written on the front. The descriptions focus on who might like the book and the genre and visitors are encouraged to pick a book that sounds appealing without seeing the cover or reading the synopsis. You won’t know exactly what you have until you stop by the Circulation Desk to check the book out. The goal is to encourage people to branch out into new authors and genres that go beyond their normal reading patterns. Hopefully you’ll find a book that you never would have picked up before!

2. What about this exhibit made you want to bring the program to HLSL?

Ever since I read about other libraries hosting “Blind Date with a Book” programs, I’ve wanted to bring it to HLSL. I think most of our visitors focus on Harvard’s academic collections, but HLSL and the other library’s at Harvard University also have an impressive collection of other books including ranging from mysteries, to thrillers, to graphic novels, and memoirs. With its focus on depictions of Harvard Law School across literary genres, this exhibit was the perfect opportunity to highlight this diversity. Hopefully this exhibit will introduce visitors to some of these other materials that they might not have considered in the past.

3. What types of books will I find on the “Blind Date with a Book” cart?

We’ve tried to include something for everyone on the cart. You might pick up a graphic novel, a memoir, a romance, or a historical novel. Part of the fun is not knowing exactly what you will find, but rest assured that the cart offers a wide variety of options to appeal to all tastes. The only certainty is that the book you select will have a connection to Harvard Law School.

4. Can you talk a little bit about the exhibit’s virtual components? 

In addition to the “Blind Date with a Book” cart, the exhibit also has two virtual components. First, there is a the exhibit website, which will tell you more about portrayals of Harvard Law School in literature even if you aren’t able to visit the exhibit in person. In addition, we have also created a virtual display that shows books featuring Harvard Law School that weren’t included in the exhibit. Best of all, anyone can submit other books to be added to this display, so that we can learn about books we may have overlooked!

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.40.07 AM

The cart is available in the Caspersen Room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall during normal exhibit hours. Stop by to find a new summer read!

852 RARE: Of Butchers, Bakers, and Cordwainers

Among the appeals of older books and manuscripts are the fascinating glimpses they may provide into earlier times and their inhabitants. Recently a slim volume in a plain, nondescript binding crossed my desk. The title was in typically long eighteenth century style but straight-forward: A copy of the poll, taken the eighth day of September … 1780 at the Guildhall, in the Borough of New Windsor … at an election of two representatives to serve in the ensuing Parliament … . The poll in the title refers to a fifteen page alphabetical list of voters (only men, of course) and their occupations. This seemingly straightforward list provided an unexpected glimpse of life in a late eighteenth century English town, as well as a wealth of information about its residents.

TpThe town of New Windsor (now known simply as Windsor), 23 miles west of London, was a “free borough” and during the Middle Ages one of the fifty wealthiest English towns. After a period of decline it experienced a revival when George III began renovations to the castle there in the late 1770s. The town’s growth seems to be reflected in the 1780 poll, which shows a significant number of citizens in the construction trades: carpenters, bricklayers, glaziers, painters, and stone masons, among others. The list reveals that the town was sophisticated enough to support a perfumer (Robert Calley), a jeweler (John Snow) and a watchmaker (James Turlis) and had enough overnight visitors to keep at least four “innholders” in business. The poll also reveals broad class and economic divisions, listing several labourers, along with several gentlemen. Adcock

The occupation of the very first citizen—Thomas Adcock, staymaker— sounds delightfully archaic to a modern reader. Yet there were at least three of them in New Windsor in 1780. How many staymakers are there anywhere now? Or, how many coopers, horsebreakers, rabbit sellers, cordwainers, soap boilers, collar makers, peruke makers, or tripemen? How many of today’s occupations will sound delightfully quaint (or mystifying) 235 years from now?




On the other hand, most of the occupations in the list are recognizable, even if the vocabulary has changed, and show how the necessities of life were filled for New Windsor’s residents. HsThere were several victuallers, shopkeepers, shoemakers, higlers, “taylors”, and bakers, and at least two butchers, a cheese-monger, fishmonger, brewer,  a physician, an apothecary, tea dealer, and a milkman. Among the town’s inhabitants were at least five attorneys and a gaoler (jailer), as well as a number of family businesses: Joseph and William Cantrell (bakers) and Henry and William Coombs (ironmongers). Of course, death and taxes are always with us, as they were for the people of New Windsor, verified by the occupations of Edward Edwards (collector of excise) and Charles Jarman (taylor and undertaker).

This seemingly unremarkable 1780 poll list reminds us that such routine documents are anything but dull and may, in fact, be rich resources for historical and genealogical research.