Professor Emeritus Alistair Black discussed his research on British military intelligence at the conference "Information and Communication in Wartime," which was held July 25-26 at the University of London.
He presented his paper, "'All information flows toward it, or returns to it in a form worked up into shape': the Intelligence Branch of the British War Office, 1873-1914."
Abstract: In 1873 the British War Office established an Intelligence Branch, thereby formally recognizing, for the first time, the importance of gathering, organizing and disseminating information for strategic military purposes. Based on documents held in the National Archives (UK), this paper explores the ways in which the work of the War Office Intelligence Branch developed before the First World War in response to imperial and foreign-military challenges. Specifically, attention is paid to the type of information management methods that were employed. Significantly, these methods pre-dated those that emerged around the turn of the century in the first large multinational corporations, in counter-intelligence agencies like MI5 (1908) and in the Board of Trade, which inaugurated a Commercial Intelligence Branch in 1899. They also pre-dated, though subsequently paralleled, the late-nineteenth century emergence of a science of management, which included an identifiable information dimension.
Black is a prolific scholar whose research on the design of post-war British public libraries was recently awarded an Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) Honorable Mention prize for best faculty research. He is the author of A New History of the English Public Library (1996), The Public Library in Britain 1914-2000 (2000), and Libraries of Light: British Public Library Design in the Long 1960s (2017) and co-author of several other books. In 2014, he was named an iSchool Centennial Scholar for his outstanding accomplishments in the field of library and information science. He earned his master's degree in social and economic history from the University of London and his doctorate from London Metropolitan University.