HOLYOAKE, George Jacob (1817-1906)

Scope and Content

Papers of co-operator and secularist George Jacob Holyoake, 1831-1985, including correspondence to and from Holyoake regarding various topics at all stages of his career, including press cuttings of correspondence with Dr Kalley and correspondence between Holyoake, Austin Holyoake and Thomas Cooper, 1837-1943; series of engagement diaries kept by Holyoake, including brief handwritten notes on daily events and ephemera, including handbills, press cuttings and letters concerning meetings, lectures and public and political events pasted into pages, 1847-1905; printed material relating to all aspects of Holyoake's career, including handbills for lectures and addresses by Holyoake and meetings of co-operative societies, secularist organisations and other political movements, press cuttings of letters by Holyoake to the national and local press, various articles by Holyoake and others, and reviews of addresses and works, circulars and miscellaneous ephemera produced by Holyoake and supported movements, and various handwritten documents regarding Holyoake's political and personal life, 1831-1978; press cuttings of serialised articles and columns written by Holyoake for various national, local and international newspapers and periodicals, including London Correspondence, Town Talk, Private Correspondence, Our London Letter and other articles produced for the Brighton Guardian, Agricultural Economist, The Sun and the Co-operative News, along with press cuttings regarding the opening of Holyoake House in Manchester and the unveiling of the Holyoake Memorial at Highgate Cemetery, London, 1867-1911; loose press cuttings collected and compiled by Holyoake and relating to his life and work, including cuttings concerning visits to America and Canada, co-operation, co-operative congresses and festivals, co-operative societies, parliamentary reform and other miscellaneous cuttings concerning lectures and letters by Holyoake, secularism, republicanism, atheism and other various topics, 1857-1911; miscellaneous publications and notebooks by Holyoake, including manuscript drafts of works, early notes on lectures and their content, predominantly at the Birmingham Mechanics Institute, log books containing diary notes and thoughts, papers relating to the London Atheistical Society, accounts relating to Fleet Street House, London and press cuttings of letters by Holyoake written under the name `Ion', 1838-1861; miscellaneous manuscripts relating to Holyoake's life and career, co-operation and secularism, along with press cuttings and ephemera, including material relating to mathematics, Brighton, spiritualism, trade unions, grammar, the Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee, the Social Economist, along with papers relating to Holyoake's arrest in 1842, Fleet Street House, London, the Congress of Social Reformers, Leeds Secular Society, the Thomas Allsop Prize Essay Competition and the Polish Legion, 1839-1978; galley proofs of printed copies of articles by Holyoake on various topics, 1893; press cuttings and extracts from journals concerning biographical details of Holyoake, his life and work, along with articles and obituary material published following his death in 1906, 1875-1917; minute books of the Travelling Tax Abolition Committee, of which Holyoake was Chairman, including handwritten minutes and printed statements, circulars and Committee documents pasted into each volume, along with loose circulars, ephemera and press cuttings concerning the Committee and its work, 1877-1901; minutes and papers of the Garibaldi Special Fund Committee, including Central Committee minutes, muster roll, ephemera, press cuttings and fund certificates recording members of the British Legion of excursionists to Italy, along with more general material relating to Garibaldi, Italian Unification and reaction in England, including cuttings from the Illustrated London News and secondary articles, 1860-1985; circulars, ephemera and press cuttings regarding to the Holyoake Testimonial Fund, including letters to subscribers, fund reports and a programme for a performance by the Victoria Dramatic Club in aid of the Fund, 1853-1889; four photographs of Holyoake taken late in his life, n.d.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born, April 1817; aged eight began work with his father at a local foundry; began evening classes at the Birmingham Mechanics Institute in 1836 where he first came under the influence of the ideas of Robert Owen; member of the Chartist movement in Birmingham, although remained an supporter of moral force and refused to engage in rioting in Birmingham in 1839; applied to become a lecturer at the Birmingham Mechanics Institute, 1840, but was rejected and became a Owenite social missionary, first in Worcester and later, in a more important position in Sheffield. During this time, he began contributing articles highly critical of Christianity to the periodical The Oracle of Reason, and, when the journal's editor Charles Southwell was imprisoned for blasphemy in 1842, Holyoake became its editor. However, later that year, faced with charges of condemning Christianity at a lecture in Cheltenham, he was also charged and imprisoned for six months. On release from prison, Holyoake formed a journal The Movement, later becoming The Reasoner, which was to remain one of the most important periodicals of the nineteenth century, championing Chartist principles, political reform and the emerging secularist movement. Holyoake was to remain the figure-head of the secularist movement until he was replaced by the more militant Charles Bradlaugh in 1858. The Reasoner was also to remain one of the major mouthpieces for the Owen-inspired co-operative movement. Holyoake died in 1906. His publications include: Self Help by the People (1858), The Workman and the Suffrage (1859), The Liberal Situation (1865), The History of Co-operation in England (1877) and Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life (1892).


The papers of George Jacob Holyoake were arranged during their conservation in 1998 and, in order to respect the provenance of the collections and due to the physical constraints of its current housing, this arrangement has been maintained. The collection is divided into the following 13 sections:

  • HOLYOAKE/1: Correspondence
  • HOLYOAKE/2: Diaries
  • HOLYOAKE/3: Printed Material
  • HOLYOAKE/4: Press Cuttings Volumes and Serialised Articles
  • HOLYOAKE/5: Loose Press Cuttings
  • HOLYOAKE/6: Publications and Notebooks
  • HOLYOAKE/7: Miscellaneous Manuscripts
  • HOLYOAKE/8: Miscellaneous Articles
  • HOLYOAKE/9: Biographical Material
  • HOLYOAKE/10: Travelling Tax Abolition Committee
  • HOLYOAKE/11: Garibaldi Special Fund Committee
  • HOLYOAKE/12: Holyoake Testimonial Fund
  • HOLYOAKE/13: Photographs

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposited at the Bishopsgate Institute by Holyoake's daughter, Emilie Holyoake-Marsh after her father's death in 1906.

Other Finding Aids

Copy of handlist available in Library Reading Room.

Archivist's Note

Entry compiled by Stefan Dickers

Conditions Governing Use

Documents cannot be photocopied at present. Digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Related Material

The Bishopsgate Institute also holds printed collections compiled by George Jacob Holyoake, including books and pamphlets. Further archival material is held at the Institute in the following collections:

  • Bradlaugh papers: correspondence with Charles and Hypatia Bradlaugh (14 items), 1873-1901.
  • Howell Collection: letters to George Howell, 1896-1904.

Further material relating to George Jacob Holyoake is held at the following repositories:

  • National Co-operative Archive: correspondence and papers (c4340 items) , 1835-1906 / letters to E.O. Greening / letters to Robert Owen, 1850-1858.
  • Duke University, William R. Perkins Library: letters and papers, 1873-94.
  • British Library: letters to W.E.Gladstone, 1864-1897 / correspondence with and relating to Harriet Martineau, 1851-1877.
  • Bradford Central Library: letters (16) from W.H. White, 1865-1903.
  • Manchester University, John Rylands Library: letters (8) to John Howard Nodal, 1882-1901.

Geographical Names