State Library Victoria members can access hundreds of databases from home (if your home is in Victoria). That’s millions of articles, magazines, archives, ebooks, videos, songs, audiobooks and more, available through the catalogue anytime. We’re taking a closer look at new and/or interesting databases as well as hidden gems from our collections. Read on for top picks and tips from Librarians.

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Today we’re looking at  Refugees, Relief and Resettlement: Forced Migration and World War II, published by Gale.

This database documents the migration experience of people around the globe between 1935-1950. This was a time of massive disruption, displacement and loss, with British and American governments becoming involved in the placement of refugees. The League of Nations was also an active participant in supporting the growing numbers of people losing their homes, and their countries.

Material in this database is drawn from the National Archives, UK; British India Office; National Archives, USA; and the Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief.

Page of text from the Foreign office, Great Britain, regarding international assistance to refugees.
International Assistance to Refugees, Jan 11, 1938, FO_371_22525_W527. Refugee Records from the General Correspondence Files of the Political Departments of the Foreign Office, Record Group 371, 1938–1950

The administration of the vast capacities required to support displaced people and refugees included calculations and projections on minimum calorific values of food.

A table indicating quantities of food required to bring food up from emergency standard of nutrition - 2000 calories to 2650 calories.
United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration: Assistance to Refugees and Displaced Persons (1943-Feb 1945), IOR/L/PJ/8/449, p 49. British Library, Refugee Records from the Public and Judicial Department Collections of the British India Office, 1939–1952
Table showing food groups and quantities in the displaced person ration scale.
Ration Scale for Displaced Persons, 1946-1947, FO 945/363, p 10. The National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom, Refugee Files from the Records of the Foreign Office, 1938–1950

There is some photographic material in the collection – you can choose illustrated works from the collection level record to discover what might be included. The image below starkly portrays the harsh reality for many refugees. The people pictured were walking to a camp over the Ethiopian border with Kenya, at Isiolo, during the Italo-Ethiopian war. The accompanying file notes, on 30 June 1937 that over 1,000 additional people had arrived. The file also includes an exchange as bureaucrats respond to a request from Sylvia Pankhurst that one of the English women working in the camp be allowed to write articles on the camp for the New times and Ethiopia news – ‘you are probably in a better position than anybody to say how seriously Miss Pankhurst is taken by the Private Secretaries Office.’1 The request was ultimately denied.

Pankhurst, a veteran of the women’s suffrage movement, founded the newspaper in 1936, editing the publication for 20 years.2 Responding to the growing numbers of refugees was a balancing act for the British government on the eve of World War 2, and in trying to reconcile political considerations they became reluctant humanitarians.3

Black and white photograph of people walking across a parched landscape, donkeys carrying belongings.
Italo-Abyssinian War: [Isolo] Refugee Camp, June 1937-January 1938, CO 533/479/1. The National Archives (Kew, United Kingdom) Refugee Records from the War Cabinet, the Colonial Office, the Home Office and the War Office, 1935–1949.

Selected related resources, available at the collection level page, can provide additional context and background.

Page from database showing the screen layout with front page of a series of documents, and link to related resources.
Italian Occupation of Ethiopia and Kenya: Treatment of Refugees and Deserters, 1939-1940, CO 822/99/12, p 1. The National Archives (Kew, United Kingdom), Refugee Records from the War Cabinet, the Colonial Office, the Home Office and the War Office, 1935–1949

Documents regarding Australia’s role in the acceptance or otherwise of displaced persons and refugees are also included in this collection. In the post war period, 1947-1953, over 170,000 displaced people came to Australia. 4

Page of text from employment for displaced persons in Australia.
Employment of Displaced Persons (DPs) in Australia, 1947, FO 1052/417. Refugee Files from the Records of the Foreign Office, 1938–1950.

There are options for refining your search results to discover relevant material – along with dates, publication type and more, you can select documents according to keyword frequency – or launch the topic finder. You can preview the keywords from your list of search results, and once at the item level record, click through to the keyword within the document. The Topic Finder extracts keywords from the descriptions of the documents, and ranks them by number of hits. The image below shows these results after a search for the term ‘Australia’.

Page of search results from topic finder showing results from a search on Australia.

We hope you find interesting material while exploring Refugees, Relief and Resettlement.

We always welcome your recommendations for database trialslet us know what you’d like to see.
Have a research query or questions on how to use our online collections? Ask a Librarian.
Check out our latest databases on trial, and see a full list of all new and trial databases, by visiting our A-Z Databases page.

More to explore

Our Social Sciences and Humanities databases listing includes the following:

Migration and Border Studies Online
Decolonization: Politics and Independence in Former Colonial and Commonwealth Territories
Making of the Modern World

Jaeger, Gilbert, On the history of the international protection of refugees, International review of the Red Cross, September 2001 Vol. 83 No 843


  1. Italian Occupation of Ethiopia and Kenya: Treatment of Refugees and Deserters – Document – Refugees, Relief, and Resettlement (, CO 822/99/12, p 10
  2. Srivastava, N, 2021, The intellectual as partisan: Sylvia Pankhurst and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Postcolonial Studies, vol 24, no 4, pp 448–463.
  3. Shadle, Brett, 2019, Reluctant Humanitarians: British Policy Toward Refugees in Kenya During the Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935–1940, The journal of imperial and commonwealth history, vol 47, no 1, pp 167-186
  4. NSW Migration Heritage Centre, 2010, Australian migration history timeline 1945-1965, viewed 14 May 2024,

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