This content was provided by Illustrated London News Ltd., using the Illustrated London News Historical Archive.


‘Decolonizing’ of historical collections or educational resources describes surfacing diverse content and revisiting its meaning from a contemporary perspective. It is related to Revisiting Collections, a collaborative approach to reinterpreting collections by ‘capturing and sharing multiple perspectives on archive collections’.

‘Decolonizing’ is an active point of discussion within the media, in heritage, and in academic research.

“Whose colonization of whom are we talking about? Some countries have colonized other countries, some cultures have colonized other cultures, some races and castes have colonized and enslaved others, some languages have colonized other languages, some religions have eviscerated others, some ideologies have wiped out others, some genders have dominated and oppressed others. The categories are infinite, the hierarchies complicated and intersecting, the project of domination ongoing.” (Arundhati Roy, 2017, The Guardian: 'Open the doors and let these books in' - what would a truly diverse reading list look like?)

Following student calls for university English literature syllabuses to be ‘decolonized’, Hanif Kureishi, Arundhati Roy, Kamila Shamsie, and other authors reflect on the debate and choose essential books by black and minority ethnic writers.

The quotation was cited within the UAL Call for proposals from the Decolonising the Arts Institute.

The debate focuses on race, ethnicity, and religion, though can be extended to discuss protected characteristics. The Equalities Act 2010 aims to reduce inequality and protect against discrimination. The Act notes nine protected characteristics:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Whilst not all aspects will be present in the collections, these have been used where possible to help identify, select and categorize diverse content from Illustrated London News Historical Archive.



Some of the historical terms used within the publications and indeed descriptive metadata will be out of date, and in some cases offensive to modern considerations of identity and protected characteristics, along with their context and how they are described. These have been used here to surface relevant content from the historical context, for example, Colonial, Colonialism, Africa, India, Indies, China, Asia, Japan, African, Negro, Indian, Native, Tribe, Tribal, Caribbean, Chinese, Asian, Japanese, exotic, oriental. It should also be noted that the use of ‘queer’ in these historical resources will usually surface content and people considered unusual by culture, faith, or lifestyle, rather than specific to LGBTQ+ histories.

28 May, 1842, p.35

Crime and punishment  |  Sexuality  |  Execution  |  Public Spectacle

Execution of Daniel Good: Article describing scenes at the execution, including a description of the behaviour of the crowd, and graphic detail of the hanging. “The usual ribaldry and coarse jokes were indulged in, and drunkenness and debauchery were prominent characteristics of the scene throughout the earlier parts of the morning. As the clock of St. Sepulchre's struck eight, the chapel bell of the prison tolled heavily the funeral knell of the miserable culprit, who rose from the bench on which he had been seated, and the solemn procession moved along the gloomy narrow windings of the gaol to the spot on which the gallows was erected. He walked with a firm step and ascended the steps of the scaffold without assistance. The prisoner, on being placed under the gallows, was assailed with the most hideous yells and long-continued execrations by the mob. “

6th August, 1842, front cover

Race  |  Slavery  |  Abolition of slavery  |  Colonialism  |  Poor Law  |  Workers’ rights

Abolition of the Slave Trade: Article comparing the treatment of British workers with treatment of slaves and foreign workers. The article describes, ‘The execrable tyranny of the New Poor Law-the degrading thraldom of our factory-toilers for wealth-the wretched and semi-brutalised condition of the unhappy workers in our collieries and mines-are too palpable…’ It goes on to describe, ‘which closely, in our humble opinion, approximate to the crimes that are perpetrated by the slave-trade itself. Here are groups of that particular class of labourers which, in the East Indies, are termed hill coolies-inveigled from their native clime and home, and imported for the purpose of working out in a species of slave labour’. With illustration of ‘Hill Coolies arriving at the Mauritius’. 


26th November, 1842, p.458

Sexuality  |  Theatre  |  Censorship  |  Literature

Theatre review of an adaptation of ‘Love for Love’ by William Congreve. The item notes that the play had been adapted for a modern audience, as ‘certain passages offensive to the delicacy of the present day were omitted’. However, the reviewer notes that Congreve himself ‘could wrap the grossest indecency in the neatest double-entendre, the greatest gallant he who could make unsuspecting virtue (a commodity synonymous with ignorance in those days of profligacy) listen to ribaldry and obscenity without a blush’. 


12th May, 1860, p.453

Race   |  Disability  |  Travel  |  India(n)  |  Dwarfism  |  Colonialism

Mohammed Baux, an Indian 'dwarf' born in Benares in 1839. Baux was 37 inches high and was pictured when touring England. From an item describing his tour of India. ‘His father was employed as a sepoy in the East India Company’s service.’ 


19th May, 1866, p.481

Race  |  Asia  |  Japan(ese)  |  Military  |  Colonialism

Japanese Soldiers in European Costume at Yokohama: Illustration relating to article, which describes ‘influence of European example on the costumes, if not the customs, of the Japanese is daily becoming more apparent; and some of the troops of the Tycoon's army. being now dressed in a queer imitation of the uniforms of our soldiers, combined with certain features of the characteristic attire of our sailors, present the strangest possible figures in the streets of Yokohama…’ 

12 January, 1907, p.65

Sex  |  Gender  |  Women’s History  |  Women’s Suffrage  |  Skills and Employment

The Woman's Movement in Two Hemispheres: American Girl-Farmers and French Suffragettes. Item with photographs and description, ‘ American Girls Learning (1) The Use Of The Harrow and (2) A Groom's Duties. A school has been started by several influential Philadelphians where young ladies can receive instruction in up-to-date farming.’ And an illustration with description, ‘The French Suffragettes' Raid on The Palais Bourbon. France, too, has her Suffragettes, who were rather demonstrative during the last election. Since then they have been quiet, but last week they reappeared, moved probably by the example of their English sisters.’

3rd October, 1959, p.355

Sexuality  |  Bisexual  |  Marriage and Partnership  |  LGBT History  |  Philosophy  |  Literature

A Mirror to an Age: Article and review written by Charles Petrie, of a biography of Marcel Proust, by George D Painter. With portrait of Proust, photograph as a child, and photograph of George D Painter. The article notes that Proust was a homosexual, and ‘at various stages in his career heterosexual’. 


3rd October, 1959, p.355

Sexuality  |  Homosexual   |  LGBT History  |  Crime and Punishment  |  Execution  |  Irish History  |  Politics

Sixty years of criminal justice: Article and review written by Charles Petrie, of a biography of Sir Charles Humphries, by Douglas G Browne. The article discusses the case of Sir Roger Casement, whose diaries, ‘covering the years when he was in the Colonial Service which, if they were genuine, proved him to have been an active homosexual. He was not charged with any such offence, nor should it have mattered whether he was addicted to such practices or not…’

14th November, 1964, p.768

Disability  |  Sex  |  Gender  |  Women’s Sporting History  |  Paralympics

Photograph of Paralympians (described here as Paraplegics) departing from Stoke Mandeville Hospital on their trip to Tokyo. From a section, ‘Around Britain’.


15th August, 1970, p.31

Sexuality  |  Homosexual  |  LGBT History  |  Crime and Punishment

Unheavenly twins: Cinema review of ‘Goodbye Gemini’ by Michael Billington. With descriptions of the incestuous relationship, violence, and murder. Billington notes that, ‘ the film's attitude to sex is unpleasantly voyeuristic… we are constantly being titillated with glimpses of a homosexual and transvestite underworld, and the attitude shown towards sex is very much that of a vendor of filthy postcards on a Cairo street corner.’

27th December, 1986, p.26

Sexuality  |  Homosexual   |  Lesbian  |  LGBT History  |  Health  |  HIV and AIDS

AIDS: London’s Last Chance: Article discussing the virus, and approaches by health professionals, lesbian and gay charities and campaign groups.


6th December, 1999, p.76-77

Sexuality  |  Homosexual   |  LGBT History  |  Crime and Punishment

Everyone loves a scandal: Article discussing 150 years of gossip creeping into print. With montage illustration of, ‘ In the dock, from left to right, Mrs Simpson, Richard Boothby MP, King Edward VIII, William Gladstone, Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Disraeli, Dr Giacinto Achilli, David Lloyd George and Charles Stewart Parnell.’



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