Tag Archives: European Federalism

Waste Not, Want Not: Scrap Paper in the Archive

Many documents within the Mitrinović collection were written on scrap paper, which enriches the archive in sometimes surprising ways. I’m reminded of a medieval palimpsest, where a piece of parchment has been scraped and reused in such a way as the original text remains legible, or an early modern book binding where the spine has been padded with pieces of an earlier manuscript. Scrap paper can almost feel like a two-for-the-price-of-one deal!

I’ve chosen a few bits that show some of what can be gleaned from the scraps used by Dimitrije Mitrinović and his circle, usually to record lecture notes. The scraps include pieces of letterhead, as in this example from the shadowy and apparently short-lived Balkan-British Corporation.NAF1-6-2-12-8 Balkan-British Corporation Logo

Letterheads make a useful resource for historians and archivists generally, as they show changes of an organisation’s official name, addresses, often logos, sometimes (as here) names of significant people involved or dates of establishment.

NAF1-6-2-12-15 New Europe Group Membership Form

This New Europe Group membership form again shows the value of scrap as historical record, hinting at the financial constraints of the organisation. The form states that the N.E.G. would welcome donations, in addition to the membership fee. The position of President had changed hands, from Sir Patrick Geddes to Arthur Kitson, and rather than run up a bill printing more forms, the Group has frugally annotated each form by hand. The reuse of the forms themselves as scrap paper also shows this ‘waste not, want not’ approach.

My final scrap is even more informative. This is a programme for three lectures given on behalf of the New Europe Group and the Le Play Society by Sir Patrick Geddes on the topic of “The World Crisis. What Factors? What Treatments?”

NAF1-6-2-12-15 New Europe Group and Le Play Society, Patrick Geddes Lectures

The New Europe Group was established by Dimitrije Mitrinović in 1931 to create a Europe reformed under the guiding, mirrored, principles of devolution and federation. It was to be one of his longest lasting projects, even outlasting him. The N.E.G. held its last meeting in 1957, several years after Mitrinović’s death.

Many of Mitrinović’s groups (including the Eleventh Hour Flying Clubs for which this blog is named), were short-lived affairs leaving little trace in the archives. These scraps, then, become key historical records, helping us to establish which of the many groups mentioned in his notes came to fruition and sometimes what activities they engaged in.

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Welcome to The Eleventh Hour!

This blog is my space to share interesting finds from the Mitrinović archive, part of the University of Bradford’s Special Collections. This collection represents the life’s work of Serbian-born philosopher, poet and thinker Dimitrije Mitrinović and the New Atlantis Foundation established after his death to carry on his projects and encourage the study of his ideas. Find out more about the New Atlantis Foundation, now the Mitrinović  Foundation, here. For futher information on Dimitrije Mitrinović, try the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (your public or university library should have a subscription).

NAF9 11th Hour Blog Header

We’re currently at the start of an exciting project to catalogue the complex records created by Mitrinović and his circle, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about some of the interesting items I’m unearthing. Mitrinović was in contact with philosophers, thinkers, writers and artists across Britain, Europe and further afield. His friends and contacts included Wassily Kandinsky, Ivan Meštrović, Gavrilo Princip, Erich Gutkind, Nobel Prize winner Frederick Soddy, H.G. Wells, Gabriele Münter,  and A.R. Orage. Mitrinović believed in the value of the wisdom of the past, and encouraged the study of works from all periods of history on religion, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and the arts. He created a library, which also fortunately has survived and his now divided between the University of Bradford and the University of Belgrade. Mitrinović’s wide-ranging interests and the fruits of his studies are also reflected in the archive, meaning there really is something to interest almost anyone here!

And why ‘The Eleventh Hour’? Dimitrije Mitrinović was constantly establishing and dissolving various groups in pursuit of his aim to radically alter society, the economy and politics. In 1931 he established The Eleventh Hour Flying Clubs, which became known as The Eleventh Hour Group. The name conveys the sense of urgency that ran throughout his many ventures. Groups of individuals all working towards personal and societal transformation were the cornerstone of Mitrinović’s approach to achieving utopia. It seemed fitting to take the name of one of his groups and use it to help bring this collection to a wider public.

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