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Rare manuscripts on show describe Britain's relationship with the Far East

Published: 8 February 2006

A fascinating insight into the complex and longstanding relationship between Britain and the Far East is provided by a new exhibition which is being launched at the University of Southampton on Monday 13 February.

Britain and the Far East 1800 - 1950 showcases rare books, photographs, letters and manuscripts from the University's extensive archive collections. The exhibition tracks the evolving international relationship through the writings and observations of contemporaries, from its origins in trade and the importing of goods such as tea, coffee, spices and silks, through the conflict of the Second World War, to the independence of many Asian colonies after the war. It covers politics and naval and military history, as well as international affairs and trade.

Included in the exhibits is a map of the Chinese city of Peking - now Beijing - which was first published in 1771 in a book by an Englishman when the city had been visited by few Westerners other than missionaries. The book also features an intriguing description of daily life within the high city walls. Photographs of the visit by the Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VIII, to Singapore in 1921-2 also feature.

The exhibition will be formally opened by Professor Bill Wakeham, Vice-Chancellor of the University, in the Special Collections Gallery in the remodelled and extended Hartley Library at the University's Highfield campus. The Gallery was created for the Special Collections with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Dr Chris Woolgar, Head of Special Collections, comments: "Our Special Collections Gallery offers us a superb opportunity to open up our archives to the public by mounting a programme of themed exhibitions such as this one. The University's archive holdings date back to the twelfth century and fill approximately five miles of shelving. The collection includes archives of international significance with a connection with the region, most notably in the Wellington, Palmerston and Mountbatten Papers."

The exhibition opens to the public on 14 February and runs until 7 April. Entry is free.

Other exhibitions planned for 2006 include The War Against Napoleon, 8 May - 23 June and 10 July - 28 July which will link to the third Wellington Congress being held at the University on 10 - 13 July; and Anglo-Jewry: an exhibition to mark the 350th anniversary of the readmission of the Jews, 4 September - 27 October. Exhibitions in 2007 will mark the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of slavery (February to April 2007) and in May, June and July the Gallery will mark the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors

  1. Digital images of some of the exhibits are available from Media Relations on request.
  2. Dr Chris Woolgar is available for interviews through Media Relations.
  3. The University of Southampton is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, with a global reputation for excellence in both teaching and research. With first-rate opportunities and facilities across a wide range of subjects in science and engineering, health, arts and humanities, the University has around 20,000 students and 5000 staff at its campuses in Southampton and Winchester. Its annual turnover is in the region of £274 million.
    Southampton is recognised internationally for its leading-edge research in engineering, science, computer science and medicine, and for its strong enterprise agenda. It is home to world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research; the Optoelectronics Research Centre; the Textile Conservation Centre; the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease; and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

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