Harriet Martineau, Letters Additional of

Scope and Content

Artificial collection of letters and other papers of and relating to Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), writer and other members of the Martineau family

Administrative / Biographical History

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a political economist, author, journalist, social commentator and leading feminist intellectual. She published widely and her publications included popular works on economics, several novels, and various children's stories. She was also a regular contributor to and editorial writer for the 'Daily News' and 'Edinburgh Review'.

She was born in Norwich in 1802, the fifth child of Thomas Martineau and Elizabeth Rankin Martineau. She began her literary career at a young age and her first her first article on 'Female Writers on Practical Divinity' appeared in the Unitarian periodical, 'The Monthly Repository' in 1821. Her first major successful work was 'Illustrations of Political Economy' (1832-34), which was quickly followed by 'Poor Law and Paupers Illustrated' (1833), and 'Illustrations of Taxation' (1834). She visited America between 1834 and 1836 and on her return wrote 'Society in America' (1837) and 'Retrospect of Western Travel' (1838). She continued to travel, visiting Italy, Egypt and Palestine, after which she published 'Eastern Life' (1848). Later publications included 'History of England during the Thirty Years' Peace' (1849) and a translation of Comte's 'Philosophie Positive' (1853). She lived initially in London then moved for a short time to Tynemouth near Newcastle to be near her brother but from the 1840s lived at Ambleside in the Lake District.

Harriet Martineau was an exceptional correspondent throughout her life and exchanged letters not just with publishers but also with political, literary and other prominent individuals of the time. She suffered from ill health for many years and also had impaired hearing. During her later life she was cared for by her nieces, most notably Maria Martineau.


This collection is catalogued at item or file level and the individual documents are numbered in a single numerical sequence which reflects the order in which they were acquired.

Access Information

Access to all registered researchers

Acquisition Information

Most items in this collection have been acquired by purchase as a means of complementing and supporting the large personal archive of Harriet Martineau, known as the Harriet Martineau Papers, held at Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections. The collection also includes a number of gifts and deposits and photocopies of originals held elsewhere. For information about the provenance of specific items, please contact special-collections@contacts.bham.ac.uk for further details.

Other Finding Aids

Please see the full catalogue for further details.

Alternative Form Available

Some this collection (HMLAdd/1-102) is available on microfilm. The microfilm copy has been micropublished by Adam Matthew Publications as part of its micropublication of the collected papers of Harriet Martineau under the title 'Women, Emancipation and Literature'

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The items in this collection are mounted in fascicules

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Director of Special Collections (email: special-collections@contacts.bham.ac.uk). Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Regular additions are made to this collection by purchase, gift or deposit

Related Material

Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections also holds the Harriet Martineau Papers (reference: HM). The catalogue is available on the online archive catalogue ( Harriet Martineau Papers) and also on the Access to Archives (A2A) website - search for Harriet Martineau Papers and limit the repository to 'Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department'

The Harriet Martineau Papers were presented by Sir Wilfred Martineau and his brother in 1961 and supplementary material has been received from other family members, most notably in 1981 by the Misses Martineau. The collection includes 1423 items, including manuscripts of some of her own works and a great many letters to Harriet Martineau. Some of these deal with publishing matters, but there are also many from illustrious contemporaries such as Matthew Arnold, Florence Nightingale, Mrs Gaskell and W. E. Gladstone.

There are also a small number of other items connected to the Martineau family, reference: HMM.


A short article appears in our 'Research Libraries Bulletin' 2, Autumn 1994, about an addition of 60 items to this collection which were acquired, by purchase, from Bernard Quaritch Ltd which have been catalogued as HMLAdd/111-171.

Various books have been published about Harriet Martineau including R. K.Webb, 'Harriet Martineau : a radical Victorian' (London, Heinemann; New York, Columbia University Press, 1960) and Valerie Kossew Pichanick 'Harriet Martineau, the woman and her work, 1802-76' (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, c1980). Martineau's autobiography was published posthumously in 1877 under the title 'Harriet Martineau's Autobiography with memorials' by Maria Weston Chapman and a copy is available at Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections (reference: rDA3.M4). It has also been reissued with a new introduction by Gaby Weiner (London, Virago,1983) . In addition, some of her letters have been published: 'Harriet Martineau: selected letters' edited by Valerie Sanders (Oxford, Clarendon, 1990).