Read More: The Thirty Years War (1618-1648)

  • by Antony Ramm, Information and Research, Central Library

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

2018 will mark the significant anniversary of a dreadful European conflict, one fought by many of the continent’s major powers, costing millions of lives and causing untold devastation to the land. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) may be sufficiently far in the past that most Europeans will pay its anniversary little attention but, in many ways, the conflict was even more terrible than the First World War. For that reason – and because, during August, the people of Augsburg mark the Peace of Westphalia that brought an end to the Thirty Years’ War – we thought this month a fitting time to draw your attention to some resources relating to these fascinating events. All the books described below are available from our Information and Research library.

Destruction of German locales

Destruction of German locales

Table showing some of the destruction of German locales during the Thirty-Years War – taken from Documents of German History (ed,. Louis Snyder)

The Thirty Years’ War can be confusing for the modern reader to follow and it is useful to read a general history of the conflict before exploring the detail. While the most recent history (Peter H. Wilson’s Europe’s Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years’ War) is available elsewhere in our service, the Information and Research department also holds loanable copies of some slightly older – but no less informative – histories, including those by J.A. Polisensky, G. Pages and S.H. Steinberg. However, perhaps the most interesting history available in our collection is that by the German poet and philosopher Frederic Schiller. Our edition is from 1828 and is available to view by asking staff.

History of the Thirty Years War in Germany

History of the Thirty Years War in Germany


Title page of Schiller’s History of the Thirty Years War in Germany: Volume I. Volume II is also available.

Just as the First World War ultimately centred on what rule Germany would have over other European states, so the Thirty Years War was fought to settle the question of who would rule Germany. Not yet a unified nation, 17th-century Germany instead consisted of various sub-units, principalities, duchies, counties and other domains, all owing nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire, but all claiming varying levels of sovereignty; and it was the balance of power between Empire and state, especially in matters of religious conscience, that was to be the originating issue of the conflict. The 1913 work by James Bryce is still among the most useful guides to the dizzying complexities of the Holy Roman Empire.

Just as in the First World War, conflict soon drew in the other major European powers, foremost among them France and the two Habsburg branches of Spain and Austria. The Dutch, British, Swedish and Danish would all become involved in time, and to varying degrees, as the Thirty Years’ War became folded into conflicts such as the Anglo-Spanish War, the Eighty-Years War and the Habsburg-Bourbon rivalry. Loanable studies of combatants during this period – such as the Netherlands, France, Spain and the Habsburgs – are available from the Information and Research library, while a volume of essays debating the Dutch-Spanish rivalry is also present in the department’s collection. Other borrowable books of relevancy include biographies of Cardinal Richelieu of France and Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Also relating to Adolphus is an intriguing volume entitled the Swedish Intelligencer from 1632; reckoned to be the world’s first example of an illustrated newspaper, our copy of this work (which includes Parts 3 and 4 of the whole) contains an eyewitness account of the Swedish king’s death at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632. This incredible item is available for viewing by asking staff.

Extract from the Swedish Intelligence

Extract from the Swedish Intelligence

The war was notorious for the involvement of soldiers without a direct connection to the cause or country for which they were fighting. Our Gascoigne collection of militaria includes a volume detailing the records of Scots Brigade troops in the service of the Netherlands during this period and a biography of Sir Edward Cecil, commander of an English regiment in Dutch service from 1627 to 1629.

Image of Sir Edward Cecil, taken from the 'Life and Times of General Sir Edward Cecil; Viscount Wimbledon'

Image of Sir Edward Cecil, taken from the ‘Life and Times of General Sir Edward Cecil; Viscount Wimbledon’

The most famous commander of the whole conflict, however, was not a mercenary: Albrecht von Wallenstein, a Bohemian military leader and politician, who fought on behalf of the Holy Roman Empire. Together with a relatively modern (1976) – and loanable – narration of Wallenstein’s life, our collection also includes an 1840 biography of this great military leader. That book – and the items from the Gascoigne collection – are available to view by asking staff.

Title page of 'The life of Wallenstein; Duke of Friedland'

Title page of ‘The life of Wallenstein; Duke of Friedland’

Finally, as with the First World War, the Thirty Years’ War inspired a multitude of creative writing. Fiction related to the conflict that is available from our collection includes loanable copies of novels by Hans Jacob Cristoffel von Grimmelshausen (who actually fought during the conflict itself), Alessandro Manzoni and Gunter Grass, as well as plays by Bertold Brecht and Frederic Schiller. Foremost among these items, however, is a 1751 edition of Daniel Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier, which was actually printed in Leeds. Again, this volume from our special collections is available to view by asking staff.

Title page of the Leeds [Leedes] - printed edition of Defoe's Memoirs of a Cavalier

Title page of the Leeds [Leedes] – printed edition of Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier

 The books described here are just a small sample of the 90,000 titles belonging to our Information and Research library, many of which are available to loan. See our library catalogue for a full list of all titles and login to your library account, or contact your local library, to reserve any Information and Research books.

Read More: Novels of the First World War

  • by Antony Ramm, Information and Research, Central Library

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

This week on the Secret Library we wanted to highlight some novels set during the First World War, all of which were written in the years immediately following the end of that conflict; these are all available to loan from our Information and Research library (speak to staff in your local library to arrange a reservation of these titles). If you are looking for other novels set in the First World War please check our catalogue and our sister blog, Leeds Reads.

A. P. Herbert – The Secret Battle

The earliest novel listed here (1919), Herbert’s story of Henry Penrose was largely autobiographical and tells the story of a man for whom war causes as much damage mentally as  it does physically. Herbert was one of the first writers to challenge the Army policy of executing deserters.  Our edition includes an introduction by Winston Churchill.

The Secret Battle

The Secret Battle

Jaroslav Hasek – The Good Soldier Svejk

First published in 1923, following its author’s death, this seminal Czech novel interprets the First World War as a series of absurdly comic episodes, designed to highlight the futility and pointlessness of all conflicts.

The Good Soldier Svejk

The Good Soldier Svejk

R.H. Mottram – The Spanish Farm

Originally published in 1924, The Spanish Farm was the first entry in a loosely-connected trilogy and tells the story of British experiences with the local populace in Flanders. Based on Mottram’s own experiences during the War and featuring a preface by his friend John Galsworthy.

The Spanish Farm

The Spanish Farm

Richard Aldington – Death of a Hero

Death of a Hero by Richard Aldington was first published, heavily censored, in 1929. It is the story of a young artist, George Winterbourne, who enlists in the Army during the outbreak of World War I.  Our copy is the unexpurgated text, published by The Hogarth Press in 1984.

Death of a Hero

Death of a Hero

Frederic Manning – Her Privates We

Originally published in 1929, in an anonymous and limited-numbered edition entitled Her Middle Fortunes, this novel is a vernacular account of the war from the viewpoint of ‘ordinary’ soldiers. Much admired by, among others, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, EM Forster, Arnold Bennett and TE Lawrence.

Her Privates We

Her Privates We

Henry Williamson – The Patriot’s Progress

Another novel showing the First World War from the viewpoint of an ‘ordinary’ soldier, Patriot’s Progress was published in 1930 and written by the author of the later Tarka the Otter. Williamson based the novel on his own experiences.

The Patriot's Progress

The Patriot’s Progress


A ‘Little’ Journey

London, Switzerland, Germany… What do all these places have in common? The answer is: you can find them all within the Leeds-Bradford area.

Today we thought we’d take a little journey through Europe, Secret Library style. We’ll start in the well-known Leeds suburb of Little London, before calling in on the city’s other Little London, then chug past Little Switzerland to end up in Little Germany, by which time we’ll be in Bradford. Why? Well, it’s a nice day for a trip out – even if it’s only an imaginary one – and we’ll get to see some interesting resources from the Local and Family History department along the way. All aboard!

Stop 1: Little London, Leeds

History books – of which we have many – generally agree that the name Little London began as a nickname for the area around Lovell Park Road, Claypit Lane and the Oatlands, just north of Leeds city centre. Historian John Gilleghan, puts it down to this once being a “fashionable area with interesting architecture and expensive mahogany used in many houses, comparable with parts of London” (see Leeds: An A-Z of Local History, shelf mark: L 942.819 GIL). While we’re here, let’s have a quick look at two offbeat items from our collection, both relating to the area.

Little London as I knew it

Little London as I knew it

Here’s the opening of Little London as I Knew It by E.W.E. Bailey, penned in 1949. It’s a handwritten account of growing up in the late Victorian era, full of colourful detail like the songs sung by local children, and the perhaps surprising fact that most shops in the area would open from 8am to 10pm daily (but definitely not on Sundays). We particularly enjoyed Bailey’s description of early media technology:

“Not a cinema! No one even dreamed of such a super marvel. We therefore didn’t miss them. No radio – no gramophone – why, I was scared to go and hear the first ‘phonograph’ – then known, merely, as a ‘talking machine’. The first in Leeds was heard, by paying, at the end of the Big 1889 Exhibition. Black Magic! – I daren’t go in.”

Leaping a century forward, we have the Little London News, which covers the years 1972 to 1981 – an impressive lifespan for an independently-produced community newsletter! We hold a full set in Local and Family History, smartly bound and looking like this:

Little London News

Little London News

You might be wondering why anyone would be interested in such an obscure little publication. Well, that’s a fair question, considering we have access to so many well-researched history books and academic studies on our shelves. But reading an intimate little paper like this really is like wandering the streets of Little London back in the 1970s. You’ll hear about the reception given to the area’s first ever CCTV camera; the eagerly-awaited coming of the Christmas lights each year; and minor but fascinating social changes, such as the influx of ex-tenants from the nearby – and then recently-demolished – Quarry Hill Flats. It’s a perfect example of the kind of quirky, not-available-online resource we keep in the library.

Anyway, we could spend all day in this little suburb but time’s a-wasting, so let’s head over to…

Stop 2: Little London, Rawdon

How confusing that the city should have more than one London! The two places have completely different characters, however. We’ve left a densely-populated area bordered by a busy ring-road to arrive in one known for its stone cottages and protected wildlife. So why the name London? Graham Branston, in Little London, Rawdon, Leeds: The History of a Community (LQ RAW 942), explains the moniker as “the creation of a local resident, possibly Benjamin Grimshaw [a landowner], who visited London and was so impressed that he wanted to name part of Rawdon after it.”

That’s a photo from our own Leodis website ( showing some of the area’s characteristic cottages. Note the unusual bay window, built at an angle on the corner property. Most of the stone used in the building work here came from local quarries, since man and horse were the main forms of transportation at the time.

Our next stop will be a flying visit. Take a look out of the window on the left for a glimpse of…

Stop 3: Little Switzerland

Detail of 1936 OS map 203.10

Detail of 1936 OS map 203.10

We’re in northeast Leeds now, in the suburb of Gledhow. Our map comes from 1936 and is one of the many Ordnance Survey maps in our collection. Its scale is 25 inch to 1 mile, which you can see is great for making out buildings, pathways and other features. See all those trees? They might be part of the reason the area got its unusual name. We dug out the following information from a short article in the Yorkshire Post in 1973:

“Gledhow Lane, as it winds upwards from Gledhow Valley Road, north Leeds, wooded on each side, is known as Little Switzerland. The steep sides of the valley, the abundance of trees, provide a reasonable explanation of the title – but there could be another. In the 18th century there lived at Gledhow Hall one Jeremiah Dixon, who occupied a mansion in front of the present Hall and adorned it with surrounding plantations. It was he who introduced the Apherhously Pine to the neighbourhood and it may be that the pines, since superseded by native hardwood, gave the district a Swiss appearance and its title.”

With the pines of Gledhow Valley receding into the distance, then, it’s time to look forward to the final station stop on our little journey…

Stop 4: Little Germany

Past Pudsey and beyond the boundaries of Leeds, we soon find ourselves in the heart of Bradford, and it’s here – once we’ve disembarked at Forster Square station – that we’ll part ways to explore the area known as Little Germany. The Local and Family History department can furnish you with a couple of useful guides: John S. Roberts’ Bradford City Trail No. 3 (YP BRA 942) and, for that authentic retro touch, an information leaflet from 1987 – just before the area went through a major regeneration. Within, you’ll discover why all the businesses here once bore Germanic names, which former warehouse boasts a flamboyant spiral staircase, and where to go birdwatching for ornate stone eagles and pelicans.

Little Germany resources

Little Germany resources

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little jaunt through some of our resources, and encourage you to pop in and take your own whistlestop history tour soon!

First World War and Art

The First World War had a striking effect in the art world, influencing both the style and themes of many artists. Our collection at Central Library includes an impressive range of books concerning art from the wartime period. Housed in the Art Library, the books cover various art styles ranging from pencil drawings to poster art. While many of the books are modern publications, some of our more intriguing titles were published during the wartime period.

One of our earliest titles is a 1917 publication called ‘The Western Front: Drawings by Muirhead Bone’ (available for reference use). Muirhead Bone was a Scottish draughtsman and etcher who became Britain’s first official war artist. Commissioned the British Government in 1916, Bone produced eyewitness wartime images that were used for propaganda and information purposes.

The Western Front, drawings by Muirhead Bone

The Western Front, drawings by Muirhead Bone

‘The Western Front’ contains over 200 drawings, which Bone produced during visits to war-torn France and other locations such as shipyards and munitions factories. The drawings are preceded by an introduction which is attributed to Field Marshal Douglas Haig (although this may have been written by an assistant).

'The Western Front', foreword.

‘The Western Front’, foreword.

The drawings in ‘The Western Front’ cover many aspects of the wartime situation. Bone often depicted daily life on the Western Front, showing the unforgiving conditions faced by soldiers in the trenches. He also drew medical facilities and ruined French architecture, highlighting the death and destruction caused by the conflict. There are also drawings which highlight the effects in wider society. These include drawings showing the manufacture or repair of war equipment.

'The Western Front'. Dugouts.

‘The Western Front’. Dugouts.

‘The Western Front’, The Ruined Tower of Becordel-Becourt.

‘The Western Front’, The Ruined Tower of Becordel-Becourt.

Bone’s drawings employ an accurate, true-to-life drawing style which is ideal for representing the harsh realities of war. Each drawing is accompanied by a short commentary which provides context and extra details. The commentary was written by journalist and novelist C. E. Montague.

'The Western Front', A Gun Hospital.

‘The Western Front’, A Gun Hospital.

'The Western Front', A V.A.D. Rest Station.

‘The Western Front’, A V.A.D. Rest Station.


Due to Bone’s broad choice of subjects and his finely-detailed drawing style, ‘The Western Front’ provides a comprehensive, striking contemporary account of both the conflict and wartime society.

‘Images of wartime: British art and artists of World War I’ is one of our recently-published wartime art books (available for loan). ‘Images of wartime’ features over 100 paintings from the Imperial War Museum. These include paintings by prominent names such as Paul Nash and Wyndham Lewis. There are also paintings by less well-known figures, such as Richard Carline. Most of the paintings are reproduced in full colour, giving readers a realistic, vibrant rendition of the original artwork.

'Images of wartime', The Menin Road by Paul Nash.

‘Images of wartime’, The Menin Road by Paul Nash.

Alongside the paintings, ‘Images of wartime’ includes insightful commentaries about the wartime situation and its impact on the art world. The book also describes the wartime experiences of each featured artist. This provides a sense of realism which enhances our appreciation of the paintings, making ‘Images of wartime’ a rewarding read.

'Images of wartime', A Group of Soldiers by C. R. W. Nevinson.

‘Images of wartime’, A Group of Soldiers by C. R. W. Nevinso



‘Fragments from France’ is another of our early wartime art books (available for reference use). Published shortly after the War in 1919, this book features the wonderfully illustrated cartoons of Bruce Bairnsfather. Bairnsfather was a British Army officer who served with a machine gun unit on the Western Front. During his time in the trenches, Bairnsfather drew humorous cartoons which depicted the daily experiences of the average soldier. The cartoons originally saw print in the weekly ‘Bystander’ magazine, but they were quickly re-published in collections such as ‘Fragments from France’.

'Fragments from France', So Obvious.

‘Fragments from France’, So Obvious.

The cartoons in ‘Fragments from France’ are sharply observed and do not shy away from the dangers of warfare. However, Bairnsfather treats his subject matter with light-heartedness and a keen eye for absurdity. This combination of honesty and humour gives the cartoons a strong sense of humanity and determination.

'Fragments From France', Our Adaptable Armies.

‘Fragments From France’, Our Adaptable Armies

During the First World War, Bairnsfather’s cartoons were immensely popular with both the troops and the public. His publications frequently sold over a million copies and were often used to raise morale. Thus ‘Fragments from France’ is a valuable piece of historical evidence, providing a fascinating insight into the attitudes and values of the wartime period.

Our collection of First World War art books also includes the following titles:

Each title is available for reference use or loan from the Art Library. A selection of images from the books can be found below.

'Posters of the First World War', The Liberation Loan Poster.

‘Posters of the First World War’, The Liberation Loan Poster.

'Joseph Pennell's pictures of war work in England’, Gun Testing.

‘Joseph Pennell’s pictures of war work in England’, Gun Testing.


‘A bitter truth: avant-garde art and the Great War’, Springtime in Flanders by Erich Heckel.

‘A bitter truth: avant-garde art and the Great War’, Springtime in Flanders by Erich Heckel.


Read More: Marking the Centenary of World War I

  • by Antony Ramm, Information and Research, Central Library

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

Today, Monday 4th August, marks a century since the entry of Britain into the First World War. While the Leeds Library and Information Service has many history books to help you understand the roots and causes of this conflict, we would now like to show you items from our holdings that show something of the thoughts and actions of contemporaries during the tragic rush to war. All of the resources mentioned below belong to the Information and Research library and are available to view by asking staff.

One week prior to the British declaration of war, Austria had declared itself at war with the Serbian nation it accused of organising the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The period between the assassination (June the 28th) and the formal declaration of war (July the 28th) – known as the July Crisis – was marked by furious diplomatic negotiations between all the European powers as tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia ebbed and flowed throughout the month.

Photographic gallery

Photographic gallery

A photographic gallery from the Manchester Guardian History of the War: Volume 1, showing some of the leading figures in the diplomatic manoeuvres of the ‘July Crisis’

Among the most interesting items in our collection are the reproductions of diplomatic correspondence during July 1914. These volumes were put together by each government once war had begun in an attempt to avoid the blame for starting the conflict; taken together, the volumes are a fascinating record of the diplomacy taking place – largely away from public view – during this tense period. Collections from the French, Austrian, German, Russian and British governments are available to view in the Information and Research department.

Diplomatic correspondence between Austria Hungary and Serbia

Diplomatic correspondence between Austria Hungary and Serbia

Diplomatic correspondence between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, June-July, 1914. From Collected Diplomatic Documents Relating to the Outbreak of the European War

When diplomacy failed, conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia became inevitable.

Austrian Red Book

Austrian Red Book

Image from the Austrian Red Book, showing the telegram sent from the Austrian-Hungarian foreign minister, Count Leopold Berchtold, to the Serbian Foreign Office, in which the official declaration of war by Austria-Hungary to Serbia was made

From a British perspective, our Hansard collection (Hansard being a verbatim record of everything said in the Houses of Commons and Lords) allows the reader to trace the thoughts and reactions of government to continental events on an almost daily basis. Interestingly, relatively little mention was given to those events until Austria-Hungary presented Serbia with an ultimatum on July the 23rd.  Even at that stage, the hope was that the conflict need not draw in other European powers, especially Britain. The image below shows the comment made by Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary, regarding the Austrian ultimatum:

Edward Grey comments

“As long as the dispute was one between Austria-Hungary and Servia [Serbia], I felt that we had no title to interfere”: sadly, for Grey, from this point events escalated quickly, as Germany and Russia both entered the conflict on the side of their allies (Austria-Hungary and Serbia respectively). Part of the German war plan involved an attack on France (itself a Russian ally) and this necessitated a route through non-aligned Belgium. Consequently, in the early days of August Grey felt it necessary to make a speech outlining the British position on Belgian neutrality, guaranteed as it was by a treaty of 1839:

Edward Grey Speech in the House of Commons

Speech by Edward Grey in the House of Commons on August the 3rd, 1914. From War Speeches: 1914-1917 (collected by Benedict Ginsburg)

Just one day later, on the 4th of August 1914, Britain presented Germany with an ultimatum, after the latter’s violation of that Belgian neutrality. The reporting of this ultimatum to Parliament can be seen below:

Reply demanded by midnight

A reply was demanded of the German government by midnight of the 4th; none was received: Britain had entered the First World War.

Another way of closely following contemporary reactions to these events is through the newspapers and journals of the time. As well as access to The Times Digital Archive (1785-1985), the Information and Research department also holds a vast archive of current affairs periodicals – such as The Spectator – stretching back into the 19th-century. The extracts below show how quickly press reporting in 1914 changed during the ‘July Crisis’, from singling out the Austro-Hungarians as the main protagonists in the conflict (July the 25th) to blaming Germany alone (8th of August). Clearly, this shift in emphasis reflected the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany.

The Spectator, July 25th

The Spectator, July the 25th

Spectator, August 8th

Spectator, August 8th

Of course, these developments did not take place in a vacuum; they were not triggered by the assassination of the Archduke alone, or even the German invasion of Belgium. In fact, British-German tensions had been steadily building since the middle of the 19th-century, as the latter sought to displace the former as Europe’s key power. An insight into this growing British concern can be seen in such contemporary texts as the imaginatively-titled Germany’s Swelled Head (Emil Reich) and the article ‘The German Peril’, which can be found in an issue of the Quarterly Review periodical from 1907.

Germany's Swelled Head

(above) Germany’s Swelled Head; (below) ‘The German Peril’

The German Peril

So, the British entanglement with Germany in August 1914 would not have come to a surprise to anyone paying even slight attention. In fact, as the extract below shows, some in Britain had been predicting war with Germany for a decade before their rivalry took a firm, and ultimately tragic, hold in the summer of 1914:

War Memoirs

Extract from War Memoirs: Volume 1(David Lloyd George)

The resources presented here represent only a snapshot of the primary sources available in the Information and Research library and we hope to produce more blogs of this nature as other anniversaries of The Great War are reached over the coming four years.

Map showing alliances across Europe, 1915

Map showing alliances across Europe, 1915

Map showing alliances across Europe in 1915, from Why the Nations Are at War: The Causes and Issues of the Great Conflict, a Graphic Story of the Nations Involved, their History and Former Wars, their Rulers and Leaders, their Armies and Navies, their Resources, the Reasons Why they are Involved in the War, and the Issues at Stake