Papers of Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-339
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      5 letters, 1 photograph, 1 newspaper.
  • Location
      Dc.4.101; Dk.2.13, pp.9-10; E91.21

Scope and Content

The correspondence includes a letter to the Rev. Whitwell Elwin about a review for the Quarterly review, December 1855, a letter to Adam Black about the Curators of Patronage in Edinburgh University, 1864, and letters to Sir W. Muir, 1879-1884. There is also a copy of 'W.E.Gladstone's second Midlothian campaign', North British Daily News, 2 September 1884.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Ewart Gladstone, orator, statesman, four times Prime Minister, and author, was born in Liverpool on 29 December 1809. He was educated at Eton and then studied at Christ Church, Oxford. His political career began when he was returned as MP for Newark in 1832. In 1834 he was appointed as Junior Lord of the Treasury in Robert Peels' government, and the year following he was Under-Secretary for the Colonies. In 1841, Gladstone became Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and in 1843 President of the Board of Trade. He then gave up his seat in Newark and stayed out of Parliament during the Corn Law struggle. In 1847 he was re-elected to Parliament, this time representing the University of Oxford. On the death of Peel in 1850, he moved to the front of the Commons and became recognised as a master of parliamentary debate, making his mark during the 1852 debate on Disraeli's budget. During the Coalition Ministry of Lord Aberdeen, when Palmerston was Home Secretary, and Lord Russell was Foreign Secretary, Gladstone was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although the Crimean War broke up the Coalition, he was Chancellor again in 1860. In 1865, he was returned to Parliament by South Lancashire, and on the death of Palmerston and Lord Russell's elevation to Prime Minister, Gladstone became Leader of the House of Commons. In 1868, the Irish question came to a head and Gladstone became Prime Minister. The election had won him Greenwich. His first session was taken up with much Irish legislation but he also established a system of national education and passed the Ballot Act. In 1880, now as the MP for Midlothian, Gladstone was Prime Minister again, this time bringing about parliamentary reform and paving the way for universal male suffrage. Again in 1886 he was Prime Minister for the third time, and his fourth term in the office began in 1892. In 1859, Gladstone had been the first rector to be elected at Edinburgh University, and he was re-elected for a second term of office in 1862. He was also rector of Glasgow University, 1877-1878. His publications included Studies on Homer and the Homeric age (1858), Juventus Mundi: the gods and men of the heroic age (1869), Land marks of Homeric study (1890), A translation of Horace (1894), and an arrangement with annotation of Butler's works (1896). Advanced years caused Gladstone to resign as Prime Minister in March 1894. Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone died on 19 May 1898.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Thorne, J.O. and Collocott, T.C. (eds.). Chambers biographical dictionary. Rev. ed. with suppl. Edinburgh: W. and R. Chambers, 1982. (2) Who was who ... 1897-1916. London: A. and C. Black, 1920.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various other references to Gladstone related material in the Laing Collection and elsewhere (check the Indexes for more details): a note of admittance to the Gallery of the House of Commons, 1844, at La.II.649/84/4; signatures on envelopes addressed to the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Stanley, and on a fragment addressed to the Duke of Wellington, at La.II.649/84/1-3; letters to and from J.O.Halliwell-Phillipps, at L.O.A., and various mentions in letters. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: