SPENCER, Herbert, 1820-1903, philosopher

Scope and Content

Birmingham and Gloucester Railway time book, filled in by Herbert Spencer with details of his surveying work, [1838-1839].

Administrative / Biographical History

Born 1820; educated at Hinton Charterhouse near Bath, 1833-1836; assistant schoolmaster at Derby, 1837; worked as a draftsman and engineer during the building of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, 1837-1841; sub-editor of the Pilot , the organ of the Complete Suffrage Movement, 1844; occupied himself anew with engineering, 1844-1846, and experimented with mechanical inventions, 1846-1847; sub-editor of The Economist in London, 1848-1853; visited house of John Chapman, the advanced publisher, 1849, and became part of a literary circle which included George Eliot, Huxley and Tyndall; published Social Statics (1851), advocating an extreme individualism; contributed articles to the Leader , Westminster Review , and other periodicals, collecting many of these in Essays (1857, 1863, and 1864); published Principles of Psychology (1855), but during the writing of this book his health gave way, and was never fully restored; in 1858 he planned a system of synthetic philosophy, covering metaphysics, biology, psychology, sociology, and ethics, which broke down about 1865, though he published Principles (1862) and Principles of Biology (1864 and 1867); wrote Education (1861), a treatise aiming at a natural development of the child's intelligence, which became a leading textbook; in order to deal with the principles of sociology he employed assistants to collect systematically large masses of facts, of which eight volumes under general title of Descriptive Sociology were issued by 1881, while additional volumes appeared after Spencer's death; he wrote extensively on philosophical and social issues, including Principles of Sociology (1876, 1882, and 1896), Principles of Ethics (1892 and 1893); formed with Frederic Harrison and John Morley and others an Anti-Aggression League, 1882; died 1903.



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Archivist's Note

Sources: Who's Who 1897-1996 (A & C Black, 1996); British Library On-Line Public Access Catalogue 97; Historical Manuscripts Commission National Register of Archives. Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Separated Material

The University of London Library holds correspondence and papers, 1844-1903 (Ref: Ms 791); the British library, London, has literary manuscripts (Ref: Add Mss 36883-96, 43831), and letters from George Eliot, 1851-1902 (Ref: Add Ms 65530), and William Ewart Gladstone, 1873-1896 (Ref: Add Mss 44441-785); Knox College, Illinois, USA, contains correspondence, 1849-1903; the University of Chicago Library, USA, holds letters to Sir Percy Willliam Bunting, 1882-1903; the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division, Washington DC, USA, has letters to Andrew Carnegie, 1883-1903; the Huntington Library, California, USA, contains letters to John Fiske, 1864-1894; the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, holds letters to Alexander Campbell Fraser, 1853-1881 (Ref: Dep 208), and Sir Patrick Geddes, 1877-1898 (Ref: Mss 10291, 10525-30, 10993); University College London has letters to Sir Francis Dalton, 1888-1897, George Croom Robertson (Ref: Ms Add 88) and James Sully (Ref: Ms Add 158); the Houghton Library, Harvard University, USA, contains letters to Rowland G Hazard, 1869-1886; the Royal Society, London, holds correspondence with Sir John Frederick William Herschel (Ref: HS); the Co-Operative Union Archive, Manchester, has letters to George Jacob Holyoake, 1860-1903 (Ref: MM/96636/1-12); Imperial College London contains letters to Thomas Henry Huxley, 1852-1900 (Ref: B/Huxley); Trinity College Dublin holds correspondence with Elizabeth Lecky, 1875-1903 (Ref: Mss 1827-36, 1931); Exeter University Library has letters to Sir J Norman Lockyer; Northwestern University Library, Illinois, USA, contains correspondence with John Stuart Mill; the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, holds correspondence.

Conditions Governing Use

May not be copied.

Custodial History

Also known as R 0139.

Related Material

The British Library of Political and Economic Science holds further material relating to Herbert Spencer in the papers of Leonard Henry Courtney (Ref: Courtney 3/117, 7/68 and 30); Frederic Harrison (Ref: Harrison 1/107); Alfred George Gardiner (Ref: Gardiner 1/33); and Beatrice and Sidney Webb (Ref: Passfield 2/1/2/1, 5; 2/4/A, B; 3/1/1/A; 6/79; 7/1/41; 8/1/6).