Marking 60 years of Lord of the Flies plus photography from the American South

Date: 19.09.2014     Last updated: 18.11.2014 at 14.10
Category: BBC Archives
Archive around William Golding's seminal novel and an unusual archive of photographs ranging from the 1890s to 1922.

Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s acclaimed novel, was published 60 years ago this month.

Although the story of a group of schoolboys stranded on an island was influenced by R.M. Ballantyne's Coral Island , Golding’s  desire to portray "what actually would happen to children if they found themselves alone on an island" sees various members of the group change from being polite schoolboys into bullying thugs.  

Despite the pessimism of this, and other Golding novels, the author considered himself an optimist. He concedes however, in this BBC Archive interview from 1959, that he may not have effectively conveyed that in his work.  

Certainly his experience of WW2 and his work in weapons research affected him deeply as his daughter remembers in this episode of Witness: BBC World Service: "He told me he saw there how people's desire to do a job well, to do their duty, could remove all human sensitivity.

"He remembered a suggestion that when bombs were dropped from a plane they should be accompanied by fireworks, to get people to gaze up in wonder and amazement.

"He was horrified at that. That perception of what humans are capable of is what stands behind Lord of the Flies."

In contrast, the BBC Archive interview provides the opportunity to see Golding in action as a schoolteacher, with an extremely well-behaved group of schoolboys. He also reveals, whilst puffing on a cigar, how he structures his novels and admits that while he started writing aged seven it wasn’t until he reached thirty-seven that he found his own voice - “you’ve got to write your own books”.

To celebrate the anniversary of the publication of Lord of the Flies a large part of the Golding archive (plus the original version of the novel) has been given, on long-term loan, to the University of Exeter, making Golding’s papers available to academics, students and the public. You can read more about that and the novel in this BBC News article.

In other news, an archive treasure trove of images from the American South has recently been exhibited at the Museum of Durham History, North Carolina and the collection has also been digitised. 

Subjects from the Hugh Mangum collection. Copyright: David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

 

Taken by self-taught photographer Hugh Mangum, at the turn of the century, the collection defies convention of the time in that it depicts African-Americans alongside whites at a time when strict segregation laws were being introduced.

Producing the photographs cheaply was made possible by Mangum’s use of a single negative to create multiple images, enabling those of lesser means to participate in portrait photography.

Martha Sumler, Mangum's granddaughter, sums up the collection images: "I did not know my grandfather but I am very proud that he was able to capture these people in pictures - whether they were black or white, rich or poor, farmers or businessmen." Find out more in this BBC News Magazine story and hear Sarah Stacke, the curator of the exhibition talking about Mangum and his images in this clip from BBC World Service 

Hugh Mangum, self-portrait. Copyright: David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

 

The lead image shows William Golding in 1959, taking part in The Brains Trust and is BBC Copyright.

 

Eloise McNaulty is the Digital Content Producer for BBC Archives