University of Manchester, Department of English Archive

Scope and Content

The archive of the Department of English is limited in scope. It comprises minutes of the Departmental Board, 1977-1996 only. The Boards were established in 1973 to oversee aspects of internal academic administration which fell outside the responsibilities of the Faculties. Latterly, a number of sub-committees were appointed which reported to the Board (e.g. admissions, teaching, research , external relations, staff-student etc.). None of these committee minutes are present, although some of their reports are included with the Board minutes. Board minutes contain important information on the administration of the department including matters of recruitment and course development, although the boards were junior the Faculty of Arts Board and Senate in their formal powers of matters of curriculum and syllabus.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Department of English Language and Literature was a large department within the Faculty of Arts of the Victoria University of Manchester. English has been taught as a subject at Manchester since 1851, when the Owens College Principal A J Scott was appointed to the chair of English language and literature. Scott was succeeded in this post by A W Ward, better known as a historian. Initially the focus of the subject was literature, particularly literary history, but the appointment of T.N.Toller in 1880 saw greater weight given to language and philology.

By the early twentieth century, the subject was well established as an honours degree (and also taught as part of the ordinary B.A.). C. H. Herford, H. B. Charlton, and W J Sedgefield all held chairs for long periods during the first half of the 20th century. In the post-war period, the subject enjoyed considerable popularity under the direction of Gordon Brook (professor of English language, 1945-1977), Frank Kermode (professor of English literature, 1958-1965) and John Jump (professor of English literature, 1965-1976). Kermode helped modernise the syllabus, introducing contemporary writers into the course of study. By the early 1960s, over 150 students were reading for honours English, and joint degrees were introduced with philosophy, and later drama, history of art, American Studies and linguistics. Postgraduate study took a little longer to take off, but by the 1970s a significant number of students were studying for masters degrees and doctorates.

By the 1980s over 250 undergraduates were reading for degrees in English per academic session. Professor Brian Cox (1928-2008) was head of department from 1976 to 1993. He edited the influential journal Critical Quarterly, to which a number of departmental staff contributed, and established the Manchester Poetry Centre, which had close links to the department (the poets Robin Skelton, Michael Schmidt and Grevel Lindop were at various times members of the department). The Department also continued to enjoy a high reputation in English language studies, and a Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies was established in the 1980s. In 1996, the department merged with American Studies to form the Department of English and American Studies. On the creation of the new university of Manchester in 2004, the department became part of the new School of Arts, Histories and Cultures.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated. Some items are currently closed to public inspection, and others may require review before access is granted to researchers.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Act 2018 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the University Archives by the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures (now SALC) in May 2006.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


Further accruals possible, although information supplied to the Archives indicates that pre-1977 Board minutes have not survived.

Related Material

The records of the University Senate (USE) and the Board of the Faculty of Arts (FAR) may contain information relevant to staffing, curriculum and syllabus matters for the department. Annual reports (1903-1996) can be found in the Reports of Council (UOP/2).

The Vice-Chancellor's Archive includes files on the Department, which may include information on its administration: 7/431 for the period and 7/883 .

The Library also has custody of the papers of Brian Cox and Grevel Lindop and the Critical Quarterly archive.

Geographical Names