Clarion call from the archives

The acquisition of the Robert Blatchford Collection by the University Archives and Special Collections service demonstrates an on-going commitment to building political resources of both local and international significance at the University of Huddersfield.  Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford (1851-1943) grew up in Halifax, and was a soldier, patriot, author and journalist who founded the weekly socialist newspaper The Clarion in 1891.  Blatchford’s political beliefs created tensions within the International Labour Party, and his views on subjects including education, religion and war continued to be controversial throughout his life, even to his supporters, and may have influenced the unstable readership history of the Clarion throughout the early twentieth century.  More than just a newspaper, it generated a dynamic ‘Clarion Movement’, through which socialist Britons formed social clubs embracing activities from cycling to Scouts, some of which have endured to the present day.  An activist driven by his own beliefs, rather than bound by organisational loyalties, in the 1920s Blatchford became disillusioned with labour and eventually voted Conservative. Defiantly atheist, after a number of personal tragedies he turned to Spiritualism.  He was also a steadfast patriot, and his love for his country is reflected throughout his work.

The archive relates to Blatchford’s professional and personal life, and includes a long, affectionate and witty correspondence with his two daughters about the personal and political issues of the day, and correspondence received by the sisters upon his death in 1943.  It also contains copies of his books and publications, and a large number of articles written by or about him on his beliefs, from Socialism to Spiritualism and the impending threat from Germany during the 1930s.  The collection comes to the university following the recent success of the second annual JH Whitley lecture in political history, and joins a core of important political archives reflecting the work of local MPs and the history of the Labour party and socialist politics in nineteenth and twentieth century West Yorkshire.

The collection was deposited by Lord David Clark, Baron Clark of Windermere, a former MP for the Colne Valley and previously a Senior Lecturer in Politics for the University of Huddersfield.  Once catalogued, the collection will be available for consultation from Summer 2014 by appointment with the university archives.

2013-11-14 Lord Clarke depositing Blatchford WEB
Lord Clarke exploring the collection with Amy-Jo and Sue White, Director of Computing and Library Services

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