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Owen, Robert

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0096 MS 692
Held at: Senate House Library, University of London
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Full title: Owen, Robert
Date(s): c1818-c1820
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 104 leaves
Name of creator(s): Owen | Robert | 1771-1858 | socialist and philanthropist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Robert Owen was born in Newtown, Wales in 1771. He was apprenticed to a draper in Stamford, Northamptonshire at the age of 10, and continued his working education in London from the ages of 13 to 16. In 1787 Owen moved to Manchester, where he set up a small cotton-spinning establishment, and also produced spinning mules for the textile industry. Following this success, he became a manager for several large mills and factories in Manchester. In 1794 he formed the Chorlton Twist Company with several partners, and in the course of business met the Scots businessman David Dale. In 1799, Owen and his partners purchased Dale's mills in New Lanark, and Owen married Dale's daughter. At New Lanark, Owen began to act out his belief that individuals were formed by the effects of their environment by drastically improving the working conditions of the mill employees. This included preventing the employment of children and building schools and educational establishments. Owen set out his ideas for model communities in speeches and pamphlets, and attempted to spread his message by converting prominent members of British society. His detailed proposals were considered by Parliament in the framing of the Factories Act of 1819. Disillusioned with Britain, Owen purchased a settlement in Indiana in 1825, naming it New Harmony and attempting to create a society based upon his socialist ideas. Though several members of his family remained in America, the community had failed by 1828. Owen returned to England, and spent the remainder of his life and fortune helping various reform groups, most notably those attempting to form trade unions. He played a role in the establishment of the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, 1834, and the Association of All Classes and All Nations, 1835. Owen died in 1858.


Scope and content/abstract:

Manuscript draft of parts II and III of Robert Owen's Report to the county of Lanark, of a plan for relieving public distress (Glasgow, Edinburgh, 1821), entitled 'Outlines of the plan' and 'Details of the plan', (the title to part II does not appear in the manuscript), pages 10-60 of the printed work. Part II is in Owen's hand; part III is in another hand with some corrections in Owen's hand. There are some slight differences between the manuscript and printed texts - for example 'occur' in the printed text (1821 ed., p.15, line 25) for 'take place' in the manuscript (f.11, line 9). The manuscript ends '...a plan derived from thirty years study and practical experience to give speedy, effectual and permanent relief to the poor and working classes', (f.103), wheras part III of the printed text ends '...a "Plan (derived from thirty years' study and practical experience) for relieving public distress, and removing discontent, by giving...employment to the Poor and Working Classes; - under arrangements which will essentially improve their character, and ameliorate their condition...and create markets co-extensive with production".'(p.60).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Single item.

Conditions governing access:

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Uncatalogued material may not be seen. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Finding aids:

Collection level description.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Bought at Hodgson's sale of 25 Mar 1966 (lot 500), as an addition to the Goldsmith's Library of Economic Literature.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Further material relating to Robert Owen held in the University of London Library is at MS 578 and ALS 146 and 266.

Material concerning Robert Owen may be found at the Co-operative Union Archive, Manchester; the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; Glasgow University Archives and Business Record Centre; New Harmony Workingmens' Institute, Indiana, USA; the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam; the Robert Owen Memorial Museum, Newtown, Wales; Nuffield College Library, Oxford University; the University of Illinois Library, Chicago, USA; the British Library, London; University College London; and the Burgerbibliotek, Bern, Switzerland.There are also papers concerning William Pare at the Co-operative Union Archive.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Robert Owen's Report to the county of Lanark, of a plan for relieving public distress (Glasgow, Edinburgh, 1821).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Nov 2001

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