Social and political history

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Manuscript collections

The Manchester Guardian Archive is a major source for studies of the political, military, economic, social and technological developments of the 20th century. It contains correspondence with a large number of politicians and statesmen, and almost every major political event and social trend is documented in the correspondence and despatches. The papers of W.P. Crozier, former editor of the Manchester Guardian, contain interviews with leading politicians and statesmen, while the manuscript collection of A.P. Wadsworth, another former editor, is important for the social and economic history of Lancashire, and includes material relating to the Peterloo Massacre.

The great social campaigns of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the abolition of slavery, factory reform and the emancipation of women, are documented in the Raymond English Anti-Slavery Collection, the Papers of the Fielden Brothers (including material on John Fielden and William Cobbett), Richard Cobden Letters, and the Women's Suffrage Movement Archives. The history of slavery in the West Indies is illuminated in the Stapleton Manuscripts and the Brooke of Mere Muniments, while Manchester's social history is reflected in the archives of Agecroft Rowing Club, Manchester Reform Club and the charities Henshaws Society for Blind People and Wood Street Mission.

The Library holds papers of several national and local politicians, including Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald; Thomas Spring Rice (1790-1866), 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Sir John Bowring (1792-1872), MP for Bolton and Anti-Corn Law League campaigner; J.T.W. Newbold, Britain's first Communist MP; and the Manchester councillor Dame Mabel Tylecote. The Pink Papers contain copious biographical information on Members of Parliament. Political parties are represented by the Accrington Conservative Association and Accrington Club.

Other collections include the Aladin Papers (mainly pre-Revolution Russia); the Axon Papers (Manchester local history, journalism, social reform); the Leonard Behrens Papers (United Nations, Liberal Party, social and cultural life of Manchester); the Dale Papers (Cheshire poor law and parish records); the Heald Family Papers (trade, military and physical medicine); the Hibbert-Ware Papers (local history, military history and antiquarian); the Kay-Shuttleworth Papers (education, poor relief and social reform); the Simon Papers (the Frankfurt Parliament and Revolution of 1848); and the D.A. Wilson Papers (socialism and trade unionism). The papers of Dorothy Richardson comprise detailed accounts of travel in England during the late 18th century, illustrated with drawings, and offer extensive scope for cultural, social, gender and art historical studies.

The Library also holds papers of two historians of government and politics: Samuel Finer, Professor of Government at Manchester University and later Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration at Oxford; and Sir Lewis Namier, Professor of History at Manchester University, 1931-1953, and author of The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (1929).

See also the sections on Economic and Industrial History and Muniment and Charter Collections.

Printed resources

The Library has attempted to acquire all the major printed sources for the social and political history of Britain. The coverage is wide-ranging, from Tudor texts to the literature of 20th-century social and political movements such as socialism and the campaign for family planning.

It is estimated that the Library has some 8,000 pre-Civil War English publications, of which about half are theological and the rest are almost equally divided between historical and literary works. Of later publications, many are extra-illustrated copies; for example, the 1807 edition of Clarendon's History of the Rebellion which was increased from three volumes to 21 volumes by Lord Spencer's grangerization.

The Sir John Neale Collection includes works covering almost every aspect of the reign of Elizabeth I. The English Tract Collection comprises over 15,000 items relating to political, social and theological subjects; many date from the Civil War period. Further tracts of the late 17th and early 18th centuries are to be found within the Sutherland Collection. The Ferguson Collection is particularly valuable for the study of Scottish history and literature in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Poll Book Collection comprises some 1,000 poll books, broadsides, posters and leaflets relating to English parliamentary elections in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The history of English socialism and radicalism is comprehensively documented.

The Benson Collection comprises early socialist periodicals such as Hog's Wash and monographs by Robert Owen, Jacob Holyoake and other radicals.

It also includes all the major publications of the Independent Labour Party. The massive collection of pamphlets and reports from the Labour Party Library documents the history of British and international socialism in unparalleled detail, and is a key source for studies of the major events and trends of the twentieth century. The Dame Mabel Tylecote Printed Collection holds material relating to the Fabian Society and the fledgling Labour Party.

Publications of all the major political parties are represented in the 20th-century Election Literature Collection. The campaign for the abolition of slavery is recorded in the H.J. Wilson Anti-Slavery Collection. The history of education of deaf people is the subject of the Deaf Education Collection, while the Marie Stopes and Birth Control Collection is concerned with the family-planning movement of the 20th century. On a lighter note, sport, and cricket in particular, is documented in the Brockbank Cricket Collection.

The Library's excellent collection of 18th and 19th-century County Histories reveals the warp and weft of English social life at the local level, although the authors were primarily concerned with the gentry and landed classes. These volumes are an invaluable accompaniment to the Muniment and Charter Collections. Other general historical collections include the Ashburne Hall Collection, which holds many 17th and early 18th-century items, and the Edward Freeman Printed Collection.

French history is also well represented. The period of the Fronde, 1648-1653, is documented in the Mazarinades Collection, while the Preston Pearce Collection contains documents from the century before the French Revolution, constituting a fascinating resource for the social and political history of the country in the 17th and 18th centuries. The French Revolution Collection is acknowledged to be one of the finest in Britain, if not the world, comprising some 40,000 monographs, periodicals, newspapers, proclamations and broadsides, from the time of the Revolution up to the restoration of the Bourbons.

In addition to primary source materials, the Special Collections Division holds a full range of secondary literature, including key historical monographs, periodicals, numerous series of record society publications, and a complete set of the Calendars of Rolls, State Papers and other public records published by the Public Record Office.