Digital reproduction of materials in the Sparrows' Nest archive, Nottingham.
September 2012. http://thesparrowsnest.org.uk
Ron’s Collection is an amazing treasure trove of leaflets, newspaper cuttings and (most numerous and interesting) letters, providing fascinating insights into the history of syndicalist groups and individuals, active in Britain and around the world.
The documents primarily record activities of the Anarchist Federation of Britain (AFB), which subsequently became the Syndicalist Workers Federation (SWF), between the 1940s and the early 1960s. The collection therefore provides researchers with unique source material on a period often overlooked in the history of radical politics, the years between the end of the Spanish Civil War and the iconic events of the late 1960s.
Part of the collection’s importance is that it not only contains information on British syndicalists, but on groups and people from all over the world and with very different politics.
For instance, the processed documents were sent to and from 25 different countries, feature six languages and refer to a total of 195 groups, parties, trade unions, committees etc. as well as 71 different publications.
Ron’s Collection is now complemented by the archive of the Solidarity Federation (SolFed Collection). Whereas Ron’s Collection contains many internal documents, the SolFed Collection includes many of the AFB/SWF’s publications, such as papers and pamphlets.
Be it out of curiosity or academic interest, the documents provide researchers with fascinating information regarding historical struggles (e.g. numerous strikes, the Civil Rights Movement or anti-nuclear protests), the personal lives and motivations of people involved in the AFB/SWF (or in correspondence with them), records of internal debates and splits, confrontations with opponents (be it police, fascist groups or landlords trying to evict the printing press) and current affairs of the day (e.g. the Cuba Crisis or the Hungarian Uprising).
Ron’s Collection has almost been completely processed (i.e. sorted, preserved, digitalised and catalogued) and the catalogued information as well as the scanned materials can be accessed via a database (see below).
Currently (July 2012) a total of 1,164 documents have been processed, consisting of 2,013 individual files (one file usually equals one page of a document).
There is a smallish number of documents which could not be digitalised due to their unusual formats, i.e. they did not fit on our feeble scanning equipment without putting too much strain on the fragile originals.
Please see these files for more information on the database etc.:
We are still working on options to present the materials in more elegant ways, but the complete database with working links to all scanned materials can be downloaded as a spreadsheet. If you open the document on your computer you can search and browse the catalogued data. When you click on the hyperlinks at the end of each row, the files should open in your browser.
Download the spreadsheet
database (in the form of an Excel spreadsheet) can be downloaded here:
For anyone who does not have the software to open the spreadsheet, there is still a way to access the files, though a more complicated one.
You can browse the catalogued data in the table below. If you then copy the individual file name (which can be found in the column “File(s)”) and enter it in the navigation pane of your browser with the prefix “http://www.thesparrowsnest.org.uk/collections/ron_marsden/” and the suffix “.jpg” it will work.
For instance, if you are interested in the front page of the letter RON00956-7, copy the file name for the front page from the column “File(s)”, i.e. “RON00956_e” and enter the following in your browser: http://www.thesparrowsnest.org.uk/collections/ron_marsden/RON00956_e.jpg
We know this is quite 1990s, but we’re working on it. If there are any people out there who could assist us in programming more user friendly databases, please get in touch!
There will of course be errors in the database, and users may have a lot of information to contextualise a specific document, either regarding its sender or recipient, the subject matter, organisations and events referred to etc. Please share that information with us so we can constantly extend the information to the database.