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Front cover of the 40th anniversary edition of the London Journal

​Front cover of the 40th anniversary edition of the London Journal

LMA and The London Journal - a shared history

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) holds a vast range of original sources for many areas of research into London’s history. We do try to keep some track of research based on our sources (we are always interested to hear about relevant research-based publications, websites and events via our enquiry service or social media). One of the ways we keep in touch is by subscribing to history journals which staff and LMA visitors can consult in our library. With one of these, we have a very close relationship indeed. This is The London Journal which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2015. Editor Charlie Turpie tells more.

What is The London Journal?

When the Journal was founded in 1975, it had two main aims. The founders felt that London might well be on the brink of a great crisis in its history, with historic buildings, peaceful streets and integrated communities under threat. They hoped that the fledgling Journal ‘would help to make people aware of the importance of London’s immensely rich heritage and conscious of the many things worth preserving’.

Equally importantly, The London Journal was and is ‘multi-disciplinary’ which means it encourages contributions from historians, geographers, political scientists, architects, archaeologists, planners, administrators and students of literature and the arts. The binding ingredient is that all articles are concerned with London. It has always wanted to publish accessible articles which can be enjoyed by the general reader with an interest in London past and present.

LMA’s involvement with The London Journal

In 2003 an opportunity arose for an LMA archivist to become the Editor of the Journal. My colleague Nicola Avery was editor from December 2003 to December 2013 and helped publish many fine articles. During her tenure, the Journal moved from being self-publishing to its current fruitful arrangement with Maney, academic publishers, and also moved into electronic publishing. All the Journal back articles are available online to subscribers and can be found by searching for a particular issue or by keyword via the London Journal homepage.

I shadowed Nicola in late 2013 and took over as Editor in January 2014. It is a fascinating job - you never know what submissions you are going to receive. I send these offerings to my editorial committee colleagues who find reviewers to look at the article without knowing the name of the author. Some reviewers write essay length comments, others are brief. Some articles which I thought very promising are dashed from my grasp because they are lacking in bite, evidence or context (often resulting in many suggestions and a reading list given to the author). Often though the author does revise and improve the article greatly and we are then able to publish.

Visitors to LMA (and to Guildhall Library) can read The London Journal in print or online via our electronic subscription. Some UK academic and reference libraries subscribe, so if you use such a library regularly, do enquire. Other university libraries around the world, especially in America, Canada, Australia and Korea, allow access to their members. You can of course subscribe as an individual (reasonable rates!) or as an institution. However, we do always offer free articles and in 2015, thirty articles are available for free to mark our anniversary via the London Journal online. We always have five free articles which are (genuinely) the Editor’s Choice and I enjoy selecting those to give a flavour of the Journal’s broad range.

As part of my joint London Journal and LMA responsibilities, I make sure that we include correct references to original archival sources so that readers can follow up on articles which interest them and I sometimes suggest relevant LMA records and images to authors. Recently Professor Sarah Palmer contacted me. She is one of the guest editors of our “Special” (themed) issue on the River Thames which comes out in November 2015. Sarah was on the hunt for records of the Greater London Authority as she was writing an article about archive sources for the study of Thames environmental history (part of the River Thames special). She understood that LMA might have them, but wondered why she hadn’t found them on our catalogue. I knew that we do indeed have these records and that a good deal of cataloguing work had taken place. After some emailing and checking, we were able to release the catalogue entries onto the LMA catalogue (search under GLA). 

Exciting work on LMA sources

Many of the Journal’s articles are based on LMA records and a key part of my job is to look out for this work (and publicise it widely). In our current issue (July 2015), we have published a very readable account of Arnold fitz Thedmar, a 13th century London alderman. Fitz Thedmar wrote the first British town chronicle (held by LMA, COL/CS/01/001/001) and the author Ian Stone analyses two documents within the chronicle, also written by Arnold, to argue that fitz Thedmar was ‘a man under considerable financial and xenophobic pressure’ as anti-German feelings found him a convenient - and wealthy - scapegoat. Stone’s article was awarded the Curriers’ Company prize for London history (the prize reopens in spring 2016) and we are pleased to publish it and offer free access for the rest of this year.

Rosemary Street and Rag Fair, 1897

​Rosemary Lane and Rag Fair, 1897

Another free article (until the end of 2015) contains one of my favourite titles - 'Ill-Favoured sluts’? - The Disorderly Women of Rosemary Lane and Rag Fair’. The ‘Rag Fair’ on Rosemary Lane (just east of the Tower, so on the eastern border of the City of London) featured regularly in the Lord Mayor’s annual proclamations, in Wardmote presentations, in vestry minutes, and in petitions from harassed shopkeepers (mostly held at LMA). The fair was condemned for blocking the street, as ‘tumultuous and disorderly’, a site for attracting ‘Rogues, Thieves and Pickpockets’, but Janice Turner argues persuasively that the disorderly women of Rosemary Lane sometimes succeeded in carving out a living on the edge of legality and were more in control of their lives than is often supposed.

From its beginning, The London Journal has always been very interested in London’s buildings, past and present. In the Journal’s March 2015 issue we published an article by Angela Connolly about Archway Central Hall, a Methodist hall in North London. This is a 20th and 21st century affair and Connolly used Building Act Case Files held by LMA (GLC/AR/BR) to ground her interesting investigation of how the purposes for which the hall was built and its subsequent use affected its architecture and appearance.

Find out more and get involved

So, if you are interested in London past and present, do search out The London Journal. We are the first entry if you google London Journal, but you can of course also find our homepage here.  There are three issues a year, with between 4 and 6 articles in each and some excellent reviews of books about London. You can follow us on Twitter @LonJournal to find out about newly published and free access articles and book reviews, as well as links to blogs and photos of London interest. We are always interested in new work so do think about submitting an article to us. If it is well written and argued, based on original research with documentary evidence and a good knowledge of secondary sources, then we will give it our full consideration and help to make it publishable in The London Journal.

05 August 2015
Last Modified:
27 September 2018