Ukraine, agriculture, and war

It is hard to believe that the three-month anniversary of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred this week.  As the war slips down the headlines despite the ongoing intensity of fighting, air attacks, and civilian and military loss of life, it is more important than ever to talk about the war and share information about it and the country it is being waged against.

When I was recently in the UL’s Maps Room, looking at a map of Mariupol, I also spent some time looking through a 1962 Soviet atlas printed in Moscow about Ukraine and Moldova.  It struck me again and again, as I studied thematic map after thematic map, how extraordinary and ridiculous it is that Ukraine – the largest country wholly situated within Europe – was so little known to the majority of the world until this year.  Even the events of 2014 – the Maidan protests, followed by illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and the outbreak of war in East Ukraine led by Russia-backed separatists – didn’t manage to put this huge and fascinating country on the map of most people’s minds, which is in part why the 2022 Russian invasion is often not understood as having had – despite the shock of the actual invasion – an 8-year lead in.

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Eating cats and dogs during a lockdown: caricatures of besieged Paris (September 1870 – January 1871)

150 years ago, in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune, the besieged population of Paris experienced situations of lockdown and hardship which to some extent resonate with the confinement we have been through recently. During the COVID-19 outbreak, our confinement may have altered some of our eating habits and consumption, but despite initial panic buying, UK supermarkets have still been stocked and food has been plentiful, whereas the circulation of people, goods and provisions to and from besieged Paris was completely impeded.


Collection de caricatures et de charges pour servir à l’histoire de la guerre et de la révolution de 1870-1871. Heidelberg UL, vol. 2, p. 91 ; Cambridge UL, KF.3.10

Cambridge University Library, as well as a number of institutions and museums in the UK, France, Germany and the US, holds an important collection of caricatures of the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune, (hand-coloured) lithographs, most of them produced in series. Those focusing on the first siege of Paris include “Souvenirs du siège” (30 prints) and “Paris assiégé: scènes de la vie parisienne pendant le siège” (31 prints) by Draner; the “Album du siège” (39 prints) by Cham and Daumier, and two series by Faustin: “Paris bloqué” (24 prints) and “Les femmes de Paris assiégé (idylles et épopées)” (8 prints). In the context of a research project on 1870-71 Franco-Prussian caricatures, Cambridge Digital Library has already digitised the first of the six volumes of the Cambridge prints, and Cambridge Digital Humanities has funded the photography of the remainder of the collection, due when the library reopens. In the meantime, we can refer to other digitisations of this material, in particular that of Heidelberg University Library. Continue reading

Cataloguing: it’s hungry work

We try on this blog to give an idea about the depth and breadth of the collections of the University Library and other libraries in Cambridge University. We have old books and new books, big books and small books. Some are pleasant to look at, some are quite basic. Across the libraries of the University of Cambridge, we try to cover a broad range of subjects. We deal with some very quickly; others are more challenging to put in the catalogue. Some of these books (if I’m honest) appear to be boring and dry. Others make me salivate. This post focuses on the latter category. Continue reading