Saturday, 8 March 2014

The National Archive: Kew Review

Hello Cynics and happy IWD, it has been a week since my birthday and 2 days since I handed in my last essay so I've decided to take part of the day off to write you an article. Also as you may have noticed I've recruited the finest specimen of an internet Cynic I know not already affiliated to the site, his name is Butler and I'll be uploading some videos of us shortly. In all seriousness the 3rd year of Uni is currently knocking me for six, I've got something like 16,000 words to write over the next month and a half. I'm going to try and do one article a week but I can't promise much. Anyway, enough dour, onto the writing.

Now here at What About Cynics we don't believe you can't break new ground, we are also realists, and have worked out that any ground that hasn't been broken by 2014 is either really hard to break, or not worth breaking at all, and we always gravitate towards the latter. As such, I give you the first ever pop-culture review of the British National Archives! (Literally all I've done these past few weeks)

Welcome to the British Star-Fleet Academy.

So The National Archives is a triumph of liberalism, a bastion of heritage, of culture and of knowledge. Here, for free, any man or woman of the British Crown can walk in and after a brief induction look at anything from who their dad killed in the war to the oldest and most treasured documents of our nation. How do you review such a fantastic waste of tax-payer money, a place so utterly white it comes with it's own lake full of swans, located squarely in the middle of London Suburbia.

Like the inhabitants of the Suburbia The National Archives now resides in, the two departments that made up the TNA (The PRO and the HMC for the chronically bored amongst you) used to occupy the inner city around Chancery Lane, presumably both decided that an easier place to raise the little kids would be the outer city and this is where the metaphor starts to fall apart. Safe to say apart from an overground station apparently on the Underground, Kew could easily be any shitty town in the South.

"Think of all the money we will save moving Sir Jeffrey, we can buy a Duckpond!" - Baron Von Cracker 2003.

So I'm five paragraphs and just realised I've dedicated all of one sentence to what you can actually do in the Archive. Now, the TNA (Sadly the second thing to come up on Google behind the Wrestling Federation) gets roughly £40 Million a year, a relative drop in the ocean compared to the money the British economy turns over (When you consider £35 Billion was avoided in tax between 2011-12 it seems almost insignificant).

I would say it is going to pretty good use for a very, very, very specific portion of the population, obviously any can use it, but in practice only old people and students do. I feel that moving it out of the city centre was probably a bad idea because it gives the distinct impression that everyone in there lives around the corner and this is Kew's version of a free bingo-hall.

The majority of people I overheard were looking into their Grandfathers/Father-in-Laws/ Fathers/ Great Grandfathers military, birth or death records, a chilling observation of the three note-worthy things the State will record for you.  

I myself however had no interest in the long dead Chapman's of the past, I'm fairly sure they all died on some battlefield or another. I was looking into Foreign Office Box 881/900-1100, which, to put it into perspective is about 200 documents that can be anything from a sheet of paper to a thousand pages of correspondents. I won't bore you with the details overly, but it is all for my Dissertation which focuses around Danish Nationalism and British Foreign Policy. I suppose the coolest stuff I got to read was hand-written letters from former Prime Ministers such as Palmerston and John Russell. 

I'll be dammed if Johnny R didn't make it hard to read about Danish Foreign Policy though.

In terms of my dissertation I don't feel I will need to go back there, everything I'd want to read from here on in is private, presumably because it is a cover-up for a horrific incident in Anglo-Danish relations that would shatter the modern world. I think I have enough to complete my Dissertation to a high-degree though, so Customer Satisfaction 7/10.

The system for entering is really easy, just bring two pieces of Identification, one with photo, one with address, I used my driving license and a bank statement from 3 months ago. It took like 10 minutes, 5 of which was an awful video.
Ease of Access 8/10.

The staff are largely either miserable bastards or just insanely polite but too quiet.
Friendliness 6/10

Magna Carta and Duckpond availability 10/10. 

Overall. 8/10. Willing to overlook the use of a definitive article in the title. 


  1. Glad you're not dead.

    Can't see any swans, just a lot of ducks queueing for something.

  2. How much I needed to know this 2/10

    However, glee at seeing Aaron is back in his rightful place 9/10

  3. I suppose there was a reason Indiana Jones was an archaeologist rather than a Historian.

    1. Indiana Jones and the search through the archives, not likely to be box office hit.

    2. Could make a Dan Brown conspiracy thriller though