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Bentham (Jeremy) Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 BENTHAM
Held at: University College London
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Full title: Bentham (Jeremy) Papers
Date(s): 1750-1885
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 198 boxes
Name of creator(s): Bentham | Jeremy | 1748-1832 | philosopher
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born, 15 February 1748; learned Latin, Greek and French at a young age; attended Westminster School, 1755; Queen's College Oxford, 1760; awarded BA degree in 1763 and Master's in 1766; called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, 1817; did not succeed or continue in the law profession; dabbled in chemistry and the physical sciences but the doctrine of utilitarianism and the principle of 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number', law reform, politics, jurisprudence and philosophy, became the occupation of his life; produced a utilitarian justification for democracy; also concerned with prison reform, religion, poor relief, international law, and animal welfare; published many writings on these subjects; died, 6 June 1832. Publications: Introduction to the principles of morals and legislation (T Payne & Son, London, 1789); Chrestomathia: being a collection of papers, explanatory of the design of an institution, proposed to be set on foot, under the name of the Chrestomathic Day School (Payne & Foss, London, 1815); Supply without Burthen; or Escheat vice Taxation (J Debrett, London, 1795); A Fragment on Government; being an examination of what is delivered on the subject of government in general, in the introduction to Sir W Blackstone's Commentaries (T Payne, London, 1776); Constitutional Code; for the use of all nations, and all governments professing liberal opinions (printed for the Author, London, 1830); many other writings.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Jeremy Bentham, 1750-1885, consist of drafts and notes for published and unpublished works, and cover many subjects including: Bentham's codification proposal, a plan to replace existing law with a codified system, an idea which manifested itself in Constitutional Code (London, 1830), a blueprint for representative democracy and an entirely open and fully accountable government, 1815-1832; penal code, which involved penal law giving effect to the rights and duties of civil law, [1773]-1831; punishment, to certain actions which, on account of their tendency to diminish the greatest happiness, would be classified as offences, [1773-1826]; Bentham's Panopticon, a way of maintaining and employing convicts in a new invented building, 1785-1813; Chrestomathia, the secondary school designed by Bentham, 1815-1826; evidence in law, [1780]-1823; religion, and the Church, 1800-1830; logic, ethics, deontology (the science of morality), morals, utilitarianism and the greatest happiness principle, 1794-1834; political economy, [1790]-1819; Supply without burthen or Escheat vice taxation, a proposal for saving taxes, 1793-1795; legislation, including law amendment and law reform, [1770-1843]; procedure, and procedure codes, [1780]-1830; law and issues in other countries, including Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium and Tripoli, 1810-1830; A Comment on the Commentaries, being a criticism of William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, also Bentham's and Blackstone's views on civil code, [1774]-1830; sexual nonconformity, [1774]-1816; Scotch reform, 1804-1809; Court of Lords delegates, 1807-1821; parliamentary papers, and parliamentary reform, [1790]-1831; poor law, and poor plan, 1796-[1845]; correspondence, 1761-1866, including a corrected draft letter to James Madison, President of the United States of America, in which Bentham made an offer to draw up a complete code of laws for the USA, 1811.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged according to subject by Thomas Whittaker in 1892.

Conditions governing access:

Open.The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of the manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham in the Library of University College London compiled by A Taylor Milne (The Athlone Press, University of London, 2nd edition, 1962); The manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham, a chronological index to the collection in the Library of University College London compiled by Douglas Long for the Bentham Committee, University College London (London, 1981).

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented in 1849 by Sir John Bowring, Bentham's executor.

Allied Materials

Related material:

University College London Special Collections also holds correspondence and papers of and relating to Jeremy Bentham collected by Denis Roy Bentham (Ref: MS ADD 413); and miscellaneous other items of or relating to Bentham (Ref: MS OGDEN 62, MS OGDEN 66, MS OGDEN 76, MS OGDEN 80, MS ADD 175, MS ADD 303).

The Manuscript Collections at the British Library holds correspondence and papers (Ref: Add MSS 29806-09, 33537-64, 37520), correspondence relating to international law, 1827-1830 (Ref: Add MS 30151), letters to John Tyrrell, 1829-1831 (Ref: Add MS 34661), and letters to Nicholas Vansittart, 1799-1801 (Ref: Add MS 31235); the King's College Modern Archive Centre at Cambridge University holds letters and papers, 1768-1830 (Ref: JMK); Trinity College Library at Cambridge University holds correspondence and papers, 1796-1830 (Ref: B7); Oxford University Queen's College Library hold notes on William Blackstone's lectures, [1760] (Ref: Vol V, MS 401); Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts at Oxford University holds correspondence with Sir Francis Burdett, 1818-1830 (MS Eng lett d 97), and letters to William Wilberforce, 1796-1812 (Ref: MSS Wilberforce; Don e 164-65); Oxford University Balliol College Library holds letters to David Urquhart, 1825-1831; Dr Williams's Library holds letters to Henry Crabb Robinson, (Ref: 101).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

The following works are publications of Bentham manuscripts held at UCL: The collected works of Jeremy Bentham are being published by The Athone Press (1968-1981) and by The Oxford University Press/Clarendon Press (1984-2000); The works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the superintendence of his executor, John Bowring (William Tait, Edinburgh, Simpkin Marshall and Co, London, 1843).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: British Library on-line public access catalogue 1997; Historical Manuscripts Commission, UK National Register of Archives; Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1996). Compiled by Annabel Dodds 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:
Sep 2000, revised Nov 2001

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