Alex Hall

Alex Hall, PhD researcher using the British Library's newspapr collection

Alex Hall is a PhD researcher who used the British Library newspaper collections to explore public weather services

Published date:

...it's good for finding those little pieces of the jigsaw...

Key points

  • Alex is researching UK weather and the history of the Met Office
  • documents from other archives don’t tell you how events unfolded
  • the Library’s unique collections of newspapers show how the public responded to floods
  • Alex has been invited to speak to Chinese meteorologists about his research

Alex Hall has just finished his PhD at the University of Manchester, researching UK weather events and the history of the Met Office. He is interested in the way that the Met Office has communicated with the public, and how its role has changed since WWII. His starting point was the Daily Mirror headline after the Great Storm of 1987: ‘Why didn’t they warn us?’ This prompted the question: how did this culture of blame develop?

Alex has used official documents from other archives to research particular events, for example, floods in the 40s and 50s. These sources can tell you ‘what happened’, or ‘what was supposed to happen’, but they often don’t tell you how events unfolded, and how the public responded.

He turned to the Library’s unique collections of local newspapers to analyse the public response to the floods. He also used the Library’s international collections to find government documents from around the world, to give a wider context to his work. Particularly useful was a US document called ‘Weather is the Nation’s Business’; he discovered that many British policy ideas had been directly drawn from this report.

Alex has spoken at several conferences about his work, in the UK and US, and also writes a weather-related blog. This blog led to him being invited to speak to a group of Chinese meteorologists about his research. He hopes his research will prove useful to the Met Office, as his discoveries give insight into the evolution of its role and reputation.

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News media

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