Friday, 2 March 2012

Chartism and the Chartists in university archives

Academic institutions have been gathering up archives dealing with Chartism for many decades. But working out what exists where can be a problem – not least because Chartism is just a small aspect of many of these collections.
So it is good to see that the Archives Hub, put together by a consortium of research libraries with the aim of describing the various archives held by UK universities and colleges, has made Chartism the focus of its Collections of the Month feature for April.
Some of the collections it describes are reasonably well known. William Lovett’s papers at the University of London Library have formed the basis of many studies. Lovett (pictured above) was after all a central figure in the Chartist movement.
Others, however, may be less well known to many people.
Sir Archibald Alison was himself an historian. But as Sheriff of Lanarkshire, he was also involved in suppressing Chartist unrest and strikes over a 20 year period. There are 22 volumes of his papers in Edinburgh University Library.
Similarly, Lieutenant General Thomas Marten was called out of retirement in 1839 to take charge of the Royal Dragoons and suppress Chartist riots in Sheffield. His papers survive in the Brynmor Jones Library at Hull University.
On the pro-Chartist side, Thomas Allsop was a wealthy merchant and supporter of Feargus O’Connor, providing him with the necessary property qualification when he contested the Nottingham parliamentary seat.
Allsop’s papers, consisting of letters from Bronterre O’Brien, Feargus O’Connor and Richard Oastler are in the British Library of Political and Economic Science.
Not included in Archives Hub collections but certainly not to be overlooked is the massive collection of documents of relevance to Chartism held by the National Archives at Kew. There is a guide to the Chartism in the National Archives on Chartist Ancestors.
Many thanks to Simon Fowler, Editor of Ancestors magazine, for drawing my attention to the Archives Hub's material on Chartism.