THE COLLECTION OF POSTAL HISTORY by Stuart Rossiter
An extract from an article written by Stuart in November 1982
Stuart Rossiter was a keen Postal Historian. The following extract is from an article he wrote in November 1982, at his request it was published as soon as could be, but this was shortly after his death which occurred on 19th December 1982. It is an interesting insight into his thoughts, especially ‘The study, the research, and the explanatory writing are what is important”.
“Philatelically speaking, my title makes sense, but as I am sure others have pointed out in print– you can write history, indeed in the true meaning of the word you can only write history, for history is the ordering of past events into accurate and consistent narrative. Extending the meaning to the events of the past themselves, you can study history. ‘Postal’ merely defines the area of history under consideration, it does not mysteriously change the concept of history itself. There seems indeed no way in which one can ‘collect’ history, be it postal or any other kind.
What indeed we collect are a limited range of artefacts from the past (and present) which illustrate an historical theme or themes in the field of postal history. If we display these to other people, it is the equivalent of publication in the archaeological sense of that word; we may show them as a local bygones museum might, as individual items tagged with a description and provenance. Or we may display them as a national museum might with a continuous (or discontinuous provided it is comprehensible) narrative – now we have arrived at history. Postal history begins when we write up our collections to the best of our scholarship (whether for publication / display or not). The study, the research, and the explanatory writing are what is important – our collections can only provide the stimulus to discovery and the illustrative proof of what we declare to be the truth that lies behind them.
This is a hard lesson for some inveterate collectors to learn, for although it does not make our collections any less valuable or any less interesting, it makes our possession of them somewhat irrelevant. I have only recently come to terms with this, although I realised its truth about ten or twelve years ago . . . ”
Stuart left his estate to provide for his Mother and subsequently to set up the Stuart Rossiter Trust. The principal object of the Trust is to promote research into the history of the postal services and written communication and to support publication in this area of study. The Trust publishes books, sponsors research and sponsors publications by individuals or specialist societies.
Stuart Rossiter Trust - By Susan McEwen
An article from the London Philatelelist, journal of the RPSL
Royal members may have seen reviews in the London Philatelist of books published by the Stuart Rossiter Trust, and may have attended the annual lectures sponsored by the Trust, but how many Royal members know much about the Stuart Rossiter Trust? Apart, of course, from those who are or have been Trustees, or have been involved with the Trust as helpers or Authors.
Sadly few remain who remember Stuart. He was a keen Philatelist and Postal Historian, Editor of the London Philatelist from 1975 till his early death in 1982. He had been editor of the Blue Guides and was a freelance writer of travel books, of which his Greece was particularly well received and led to his being elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He wanted a Trust to publish books on Postal History, he also wanted the Trustees to be independently minded people.
To date, the Trust has published 40 books, has sponsored many books published by specialist societies and has provided 18 lectures. To quote the Trust’s website banner. We publish and sell books, we sponsor Authors and Research.
Stuart Rossiter left guidance to his Trustees that as much research should be devoted to the rapidly changing affairs of the twentieth century, as to those which have passed. He wished his resources to be devoted to the encouragement of research and of publication.
At the 2014 Stuart Rossiter Trust Annual Memorial Lecture, David Beech MBE, FRPSL spoke on The Future of Postal History. A subtitle could have been Where is Postal History going? He expressed the opinion that Postal Historians should stand with Historians, and that the boundaries between Postal History, History and Social History are fast disappearing. I would say that they have always been translucent and are now porous as well.
In 2011, with help from the SRT, the History Press published Fleeing from the Fuhrer by Charmian Brinson and William Kaczynski, a book of Postal and Social history.
In 2014 the Trust published Besieged in Paris An Englishman’s Account of the Franco-German War, 1870 – 71 by Ashley Lawrence FRPSL, which combines Postal and Social history, with some family history too.
There is room and demand for Pure Postal History. Great Britain: Failed Free Handstamps of the Franking System by Robert B. Galland FRPSL and John E. Colton, published in 2014, is an example, it is a major revision of that topic.
Also there is room for the less easily classified Postmen at War by Col. T. E. Vallance and Capt. S. Fenwick, which is the history of the British Army Postal Service from its inception till 1945, published in 2015. Is it Postal History? History of the Post? Military History? or all of them? (Personally, I think it is all of them.)
In this article, only a few of the more recent books have been mentioned. It would take far too long to mention them all, but these give a flavour, the full list is on this website.
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