Journals and notebooks of Robert Aglionby Slaney

Scope and Content

This collection comprises the journals and notebooks of Robert Aglionby Slaney, politician and social reformer. Three journals covering 1815-1817 and 1825-1826, describe Slaney's daily activities, with occasional comments on current affairs in Shropshire, and his attendance at meetings to assist the poor and unemployed. These also contain more extensive entries describing his travels abroad. Two further journals are exclusively travel journals, which record details of Slaney's travels in Holland, and of his visit to Ireland in 1838 with W. E. Wynne, who later married his daughter Mary, and a trip to the English Lakes in 1850. The ten notebooks contain Slaney's thoughts on some of the political issues he was involved with, specifically the state of the poor laws in the late 1820s, and the condition of the working classes in England. Several volumes include his suggestions for the improvement of the lives of poorer people. One volume contains drafts of a paper on "limited liability of partners" read by Slaney before the Society of Arts in 1854. Other notebooks contain work by Slaney on volumes of philosophy he had read, as well as notes on Malthus and Adam Smith. There is also evidence of an interest in theology, and a volume of blank verse composed by Slaney.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Aglionby Slaney (1792-1862) was born at Hatton Grange, near Shifnal, in Shropshire, and was the eldest son of Robert Slaney. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge (1810), and was later a barrister at Lincoln's Inn (1817), and practised the law until 1826, when he became MP for Shrewsbury. He served as a member of parliament between 1826-1836, 1837-1841, and 1847-1862, affiliated to the Whig party. He devoted his attention to social, economic and rural reform, and spoke on the abuses of the poor law, the condition of unemployed labourers, and on problems of the education and health of the poor in urban areas. He was chairman of committees on education (1838) and the health of town poor (1840). He was also commissioner on health of towns (1843-1846) and high sheriff of Shropshire (1854).

Slaney was interested in the improvement of the condition of the working classes. He was a member of the General Committee of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, founded in 1826, which aimed to disseminate useful information to all sections of the community, especially those without the benefits of a formal education. He married his cousin Elizabeth, only child of W. Hawkins Maccleston, MD, in 1812, and they had 3 children, Elizabeth Frances, Mary, and Frances Catherine. He died from the effects of an accident at the International Exhibition.

References: Concise Dictionary of National Biography ; AIM25 web site; University College London's Catalogue of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; Slaney Family Manuscripts, (SL vol VII, pages 77 and 126)

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

The purchase of this collection is reported in the University of Birmingham Librarian's report 1955/56. Its provenance is unknown.

Other Finding Aids

Please see online archive catalogue for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department holds two related collections: the Eyton Letters (GB 150 EYT) and the Slaney Family Manuscripts (GB 150 SL) The Eyton Letters include letters to Slaney. The Slaney Family Manuscripts contain, among other items, pamphlets relating to the parliamentary elections at Shrewsbury, 1721-1840; manuscript and printed items relating to the cholera epidemic of 1832, including a letter from Slaney to the Central Board of Health in Whitehall, and the reply; and a biographical newspaper article, and a copy of the Slaney family tree.

Other material of Robert Aglionby Slaney is held in Shropshire Records and Research Centre: diaries, essays, accounts, travel journals and election papers, 1818-1849 (GB 166 Morris-Eyton collection) and a foreign travel journal, 1861-1862. The British Library, Manuscript Collections holds items of correspondence between Slaney and Sir Robert Peel (GB 058 Add MSS 40310-580) and London University: University College London (UCL) Manuscripts Room holds Slaney's Letters to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1829-1843 (GB 103 SDUK).

Geographical Names