Papers of Jeremy Bentham, 1750-1885, consist of drafts and notes for published and unpublished works, and cover many subjects including: Bentham's codification proposal, a plan to replace existing law with a codified system, an idea which manifested itself in 'Constitutional Code' (London, 1830), a blueprint for representative democracy and an entirely open and fully accountable government, 1815-1832; penal code, which involved penal law giving effect to the rights and duties of civil law, -1831; punishment, to certain actions which, on account of their tendency to diminish the greatest happiness, would be classified as offences, [1773-1826]; Bentham's Panopticon, a way of maintaining and employing convicts in a new invented building, 1785-1813; Chrestomathia, the secondary school designed by Bentham, 1815-1826; evidence in law, -1823; religion, and the Church, 1800-1830; logic, ethics, deontology (the science of morality), morals, utilitarianism and the greatest happiness principle, 1794-1834; political economy, -1819; Supply without burthen or Escheat vice taxation, a proposal for saving taxes, 1793-1795; legislation, including law amendment and law reform, [1770-1843]; procedure, and procedure codes, -1830; law and issues in other countries, including Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium and Tripoli, 1810-1830; 'A Comment on the Commentaries', being a criticism of William Blackstone's 'Commentaries on the Laws of England', also Bentham's and Blackstone's views on civil code, -1830; sexual nonconformity, -1816; Scotch reform, 1804-1809; Court of Lords delegates, 1807-1821; parliamentary papers, and parliamentary reform, -1831; poor law, and poor plan, 1796-; correspondence, 1761-1866, including a corrected draft letter to James Madison, President of the United States of America, in which Bentham made an offer to draw up a complete code of laws for the USA, 1811.
Bentham (Jeremy) Papers
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- ReferenceGB 103 BENTHAM
- Dates of Creation1750-1885
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialEnglish
- Physical Description198 boxes
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Born 15 February 1748; learned Latin, Greek and French at a young age; attended Westminster School, 1755; Queen's College Oxford, 1760; awarded BA degree in 1763 and Master's in 1766; called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, 1817; did not succeed or continue in the law profession; dabbled in chemistry and the physical sciences but the doctrine of utilitarianism and the principle of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number", law reform, politics, jurisprudence and philosophy, became the occupation of his life; produced a utilitarian justification for democracy; also concerned with prison reform, religion, poor relief, international law, and animal welfare; published many writings on these subjects; died 6 June 1832. Publications: 'Introduction to the principles of morals and legislation' (T Payne & Son, London, 1789); 'Chrestomathia: being a collection of papers, explanatory of the design of an institution, proposed to be set on foot, under the name of the Chrestomathic Day School' (Payne & Foss, London, 1815); 'Supply without Burthen; or Escheat vice Taxation (J Debrett, London, 1795); 'A Fragment on Government; being an examination of what is delivered on the subject of government in general, in the introduction to Sir W Blackstone's Commentaries' (T Payne, London, 1776); 'Constitutional Code; for the use of all nations, and all governments professing liberal opinions' (printed for the Author, London, 1830); many other writings.
Arranged according to subject by Thomas Whittaker in 1892.
The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.
Presented in 1849 by Sir John Bowring, Bentham's executor.
Other Finding Aids
A partial list is available online. A more comprehensive catalogue is available onsite - 'Catalogue of the manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham in the Library of University College London' compiled by A Taylor Milne (The Athlone Press, University of London, 2nd edition, 1962); 'The manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham, a chronological index to the collection in the Library of University College London' compiled by Douglas Long for the Bentham Committee, University College London (London, 1981). Please contact Special Collections for further information.
Alternative Form Available
A complete microfilm of the Bentham papers is available at the University College London Library.
Conditions Governing Use
Normal copyright restrictions apply.
In his will of 1832, Bentham left all his papers to his executor, John Bowring, so that Bowring might produce a complete edition of Bentham's works. Bowring presented the papers to UCL., where they were stored in the cellars below the main buildings of the College until 1892. They were arranged in bundles in the same wooden boxes and in the order in which Bentham himself had stored them. In 1892, John Power Hicks gave £100 to the College for the purpose of employing someone to assess the collection. Thomas Whittaker was appointed to this post and worked to produce a catalogue of the collection under the superivision of W P Ker and George Croom Robertson. Whittaker reported that he had found the papers in a chaotic condition and he found it necessary to impose some degree of order on them, deciding to arrange the catalogue alphabetically by subject and to group similar material in accordance with this arrangement.