A comprehensive and reliable bibliography is essential to any student or researcher. Without it you are condemned at best to rediscovering sources which are already well known, and at worst to missing out on them and the insights they offer entirely.
As someone without an academic background, I wish I had known this when I first took an interest in Chartism.
Twenty years on, Stephen Roberts has returned to the fray, self-publishing an Annotated Bibliography of Chartism 1995-2018 which brings us bang up to date with the latest discoveries and research publications.
Introducing this new volume, Dr Roberts looks back to a “golden age of research” into Chartism which began in the late 1950s and came to an end in the mid-1980s with the appearance of Dorothy Thompson’s The Chartists (1984).
While interesting and important publications have continued to appear since then, he argues, they have tended to complete long-recognised needs rather than setting out new approaches.
While Dr Roberts’ new Annotated Bibliography is a relatively slim affair at a little under 80 pages, it records a wealth of material, including recently discovered Home Office papers concerning the leaders of the Newport rising, and numerous 19th century newspaper sources.
More recent publications include, of course Professor Malcolm Chase’s touchstone narrative history Chartism, the important series of volumes which have appeared under the Merlin Press imprint, and a significant volume of material written and edited by Dr Roberts himself.
It is perhaps inevitable that the radical changes of interpretation heralded by the cultural turn, the linguistic turn (and reactions to them) are not now such a feature of Chartist research and publication. There may be no more game-changing troves of contemporary source material to be found which would fuel such a total rethink.
However, the ongoing revolution in technology which has led to the digitisation of so much primary and secondary source material and to our ability to combine and crunch large datasets to create significant new insights and interpretations does hold the potential to create new understandings about Chartism.
Looking ahead, I am confident that it will be necessary in years to come to publish yet another Chartist bibliography taking us beyond 2018. And I suspect that it will be very different in format.
Ideally, I would think, a freely accessible, constantly updatable online resource would be helpful. And I rather hope that the era of unpublished resources (largely consisting of masters and doctoral theses) will also come to an end as these too appear in digital formats.
Indeed, future research outputs may look less and less like an article or book. In this respect, Dr Katrina Navickas’s Political Meetings Mapper (which is referenced in this latest bibliography) is a useful outrider both of new research possibilities and of new methods of publication.
Finally, I want to mention the price of Dr Roberts’ bibliography. Self-published in paperback at just £7.99, it ought to be affordable to a wider market than the usual small band of dedicated academic libraries. It is an invaluable tool that should be frequently used. I hope it sells well.
Buy the Annotated Bibliography of Chartism 1995-2018
Also still available are
Bibliography of the Chartist Movement 1837-1976 (Harvester Press, 1978)
The Chartist Movement: a new annotated bibliography (Mansell Publishing, 1995)