November 21, 2008

The phrase ‘credit crunch”‘and the word ‘recession’ have been bandied about with a sense of foreboding for the past few months and so we thought that it would be useful to look in a bit more detail about the meaning of ‘recession’ in particular. 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the economic sense, the noun ‘recession’ is:

“A temporary decline or setback in economic activity or prosperity”(1)

It was first used in 1929 by The Economist describing the economic situation in the United States at that time.  However, as you can discover from other reference books, using services such as Oxford Reference Online, there are more technical or detailed descriptions about when an economy officially enters a recession.  According to the Dictionary of Finance and Banking, it is:

“A slowdown or fall in economic growth rate. A recession is defined by the US National Bureau of Economic Research as a decline in gross domestic product in two successive quarters. A severe recession is called a depression. Recession is associated with falling levels of investment, rising unemployment, and (sometimes) falling prices.”(2)

The Handbook of International Financial Terms states that it is:

“A state of an economy when characterized by falling output and employment. Officially, in the UK, a recession exists after four successive quarters of negative growth in gross national product. Sometimes called a depression, especially when the economic downturn looks persistent.” (3)

However, perhaps the most apt description was provided by Harry S. Truman in Observer 13 April 1958:

“It’s a recession when your neighbour loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” (4)

1. OED Online, Oxford University Press, 2008,, Accessed 21st November, 2008
2. “recession”: A Dictionary of Finance and Banking. Ed Jonathan Law and John Smullen. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Loughborough University.  21 November 2008
3. “recession”: The Handbook of International Financial Terms. Peter Moles and Nicholas Terry. Oxford University Press 1997. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Loughborough University.  21 November 2008
4. “Truman, Harry S.”  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Ed. Susan Ratcliffe. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Loughborough University.  21 November 2008


Hansard Online

November 19, 2008

 Copyright Buggaloo

Hansard is a report of both oral and written parliamentary proceedings.  Parliamentary debates were first recorded in the seventeenth century when unofficial and often suppressed printings of debates in Parliament were published. Following a legal battle by John Wilkes, suppression was stopped in 1771 and in 1803 William Cobbett started printing records of debates. After he had became insolvent he sold the contract for the Debates to Thomas Curson Hansard, son of Luke Hansard, the British Government’s printer. The younger Hansard put his name on the report in 1829. The publication of Hansard was taken over by the House of Commons in 1909 and given the title ‘Official Report’.  There were attempts to drop the name ‘Hansard’ in the early 20th century; these proved unsuccessful and the name was returned to the front cover of the proceedings in 1943.

Hansard is an edited record of what was said during Parliamentary sessions. It also includes votes, written ministerial statements and written answers to parliamentary questions. The report is published daily covering the preceding day and is followed by weekly and final versions. Members’ speeches are recorded by Hansard reporters and then edited to remove repetitions and mistakes. The report is then published the next day in printed and online formats. The Commons and Lords have separate reports.

 Now Parliament’s  Information Management Department is in the process of turning three million printed pages of Hansard into digitised text.  The Department has sliced up original bound copies of Hansard (bought from Libraries) to obtain the pages for scanning.  The prototype digitised historical Hansard is now available which contains reports which go back as far as 1803.   

About fifty volumes need re-scanning and have not yet been loaded. Since it is a prototype, feedback is welcomed so that corrections can be made and suggestion for improvement considered. Robert Brook, a developer working on the project has said that the system aims to provide excellent metadata, with material linked by bill, MP, constituency and even monarch. If you have some time you will find that it is a fascinating resource to browse. Search for an historical event like Peterloo when in 1819 cavalry charged into a crowd of 60-80,000 who had gathered to protest about the lack of parliamentary representation and see how it is mentioned in debates throughout the two hundred years that the database covers. There are 120 hits for this including some which are as late as the 2000s which shows how potent the memory of an event can be. You will also find that MPs in the nineteenth century had the tendency to be rude  to each other at times although perhaps they are not as insulting as the present day parliamentary body. Nineteenth century parliamentary speeches can be interminable especially when compared to those of today when politicians have less time to debate subjects at length. The historical Hansard will eventually prove to be an invaluable tool for the historian, political scientist and general reader.

Visual Arts Data Service [VADS] secures funding to enhance online image archive.

November 18, 2008

The online resource for the arts


Good news from VADS…

‘VADS is to upgrade its online image archive after securing funding for a one year project from JISC – a joint committee of the UK further and higher education funding bodies

VADS is based at the Farnham Campus of the University for the Creative Arts, where it has recently attained research centre status within the library. It was founded to provide services to the academic community 11 years ago, and since that time it has built an online collection of more than 100,000 images which are copyright cleared for teaching, learning, and research in the UK.’

 VADS Aims:
* To provide collections of visual arts digital resources and advice for their creation and use
* To preserve visual arts digital resources to ensure their long term use
* To promote good practice for the creation and use of visual arts digital resources

The VADS image library can be viewed at


Obama wins historic US Elections

November 5, 2008

Unless you have been living in deep dark cave for the last nine months, you can not have failed to notice that an election was to take place in America on the 4th November 2008.

What can only be described as an historic event took place on this day – Democratic Senator Barack Obama has been elected the first black president of the United States. The BBC’s Justin Webb says the result will have a profound impact on the US. He says that the American people have made two fundamental statements about themselves; that they are profoundly unhappy with the status quo, and that they are slamming the door on the country’s racial past.


So how did this monumental occasion happen? Two years ago Barack Obama was barley a blip on America’s political radar. But with a brilliant, disciplined campaign, a vast amount of money and a favourable political climate, the junior Senator from Illinois has risen to the most powerful job in the world.

The money he had access to was one of the  key  factors – Obama realised he had developed a broad donor base, so he rejected federal funding for his campaign and the financial limits that went with it. He also had an army of helpers. Chris Hughes the founder of Facebook devised an innovative internet fundraising system – the campaign eventually attracted more than 3 million donors who donated about $650 (£403m) more than both presidential contenders in 2004 combined.


Both candidates were well aware of previous ‘misdemeanours’ that had happened in the previous 2 presidential elections. Democratic candidate Senator Obama and his campaign were not taking any chances. Obama’s camp hired a team of lawyers to handle the election process, whilst McCain’s campaign spokesman Ben Porritt said “we are not jumping to conclusions that litigation efforts are going to be widespread”. But, McCain’s campaign wouldn’t disclose how many lawyers they had hired to be part of the process.


This election hardly any Americans will pull a lever or punch out chads, but this does not mean the problems of the past are gone. Some touch-screen machines in key battle grounds such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Virginna had malfunctions. This caused some polling stations to resort to back-up paper ballots, but in some cases, even these ran out.

But with Obama’s large victory margin, election officials and voters being more familiar with high-tech machinery, problems were sporadic and inconsequential when it came to determining who was elected president in 2008.


Many people said they felt they had voted in a historic election – and for many African-Americans the moment was especially poignant.  It was especially poignant to see Jesse Jackson, the Civil Rights campaigner in tears when the result was being announced. Comparisons have been made between Jackson and Obama. In 1984, Jackson was the second African American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for President of the USA running as a Democrat.

Jackson was viewed as having little chance at winning the nomination but surprised many when he took 3rd place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale (who went on to win). Jackson got 18.2% of the total vote in 1984 and won five primaries and caucuses. But what probably led to his downfall in this election were his controversial comments about Jews. Even though he eventually acknowledge he had made these comments and it was wrong to use such terms, continuing suspicions led to an enduring split between Jackson and many Jews.


He offered himself again in 1988 as a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. This time round he was viewed as a more credible candidate and he was both better financed and organized. In this election he lost out as the Democratic frontrunner to Dukakis. In both races, Jackson ran on a very liberal platform, declaring that he wanted to create a “Rainbow coalition” of various minority groups. In March 2007, Jackson declared his support for Senator Barak Obama.


So what now for Obama and America? Never has the US been so unpopular, so derided and dismissed by the outside world. Obama clearly understands this and he will be open to the World in a way President Bush never was. The America people are hoping that Obama will show once again the value of the American dream.


To find out more information on the US Elections, both past & present, check out these databases and web sites to find good quality information.


Worldwide political science abstracts

Nexis (Athens password required)

Web of Science


BBC News –

CNN New –

Fox News –