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Borthwick archives reveal history of childhood, work, fame, sex and violence in special exhibition

Posted on 6 June 2002

The lives of ordinary people are revealed in startling detail in a special exhibition to mark 50 years of the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research in York.

Amongst the archives on display are court records of trials relating to defamation, marriage annulments, and violence, together with letters, wills and diaries which illuminate the lives of small children, famous people and battered wives.

"This exhibition demonstrates how archives can reveal the dramatic lives of individuals centuries ago," said Acting Director, Chris Webb. "Records from the Ecclesiastical Courts include cases of people defending their honour and reputation, or seeking to end their marriages because of impotence, adultery, violence or bigamy."

"York Minster resounded daily to the kind of language only admitted after the 9 pm watershed on television today."

Childhood and poverty also grip the imagination in these archives. The Borthwick has records from a number of institutions which tell us about children's lives in hospitals, orphanages, schools and workhouses.

The exhibition also shows the Borthwick's archives on large companies, like Rowntree and Co and Vickers and numerous papers relating to war and conflict across the centuries. These include the private letters of Lord Halifax, a leading figure of the Second World War, written before and during the conflict.

The exhibition has been brought together as a preliminary to the Borthwick's 50th anniversary in 2003. The Borthwick was founded in 1953 as public record house for the North of England's ecclesiastical records, and as a precursor to the establishment of a university in York.

The exhibition, at St Anthony's Hall, Peaseholme Green in York, will run until 2003. The Hall is open to the public from 9.30 to 4.50 pm (and closed at lunchtimes), Monday to Friday. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153