Haig diary on UNESCO register

Historic war diary included in Memory of the World project

The international importance of the war diary written by Field Marshal Douglas Haig in the First World War and now held by the National Library of Scotland has been recognised today (9 July) by its inclusion in the UK Memory of the World Register.

It is the latest of a series of items from the Library's collections that have been added to the online register which promotes the importance of documentary heritage across the UK and the world. It is run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

As Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Haig commanded the largest British Army ever assembled. Every day he recorded the progress of the war in his handwritten diary, including his account of key battles such as the Somme and Passchendaele.

The diary is vital to understanding some of the key decisions taken during the war. It offers a unique insight into both the conduct of the war and one of the most controversial generals in the British army's entire history. It is part of a wider collection of Haig's personal papers at the National Library of Scotland.

This is the sixth time that material from the Library's collections has been added to the register. In 2010 — the inaugural year — there were four inclusions, involving maps from cartographer Timothy Pont and books from Scotland's first printers Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar. That was followed in 2011 with the selection of the John Murray Archive, a treasure trove of over 200 years of the Murray firm's publishing history. It features some of the greatest writers, politicians, explorers and scientists of the late 18th to the mid 20th centuries, including Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, Jane Austin, Sir Walter Scott, David Livingstone and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Darryl Mead, Acting National Librarian, said: 'It is a great honour to have the Library's collections recognised once again by UNESCO for inclusion in the register. Our inclusions now range from the 16th to the 20th centuries, demonstrating the breadth and world-class quality of the material held here in Scotland. Important parts of the collection — including short excerpts from the Haig diary — are now available free to anyone with an internet connection from our website.'

A total of 11 items, including three from Scotland, have been selected from the UK's libraries, archives and museums for this latest addition to the register. The other Scottish entrants are:

  • The Aberdeen Burgh Registers, which are the earliest and most complete body of surviving records of any Scottish town
  • The Scottish Royal National Institution archives held at Stirling University — the institution was the foremost institution providing custodial care for mentally impaired children in Scotland in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Other new additions range from the Domesday Book to the silent films of Alfred Hitchcock and the personal archive of Sir Winston Churchill.

'This year's inscriptions reflect the richness of UK culture and history, from medieval manuscripts to ground breaking cinema,' said David Dawson, Chair of the UK Memory of the World Committee. 'We hope that today’s announcement will encourage people to discover these items and collections, as well as some of the other great documentary heritage near them.'


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9 July 2013

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