Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley, Visiting Fellow of the John Rylands Research Institute, is uncovering the vast research potential of our outstanding French Revolution collections…

Printed Revolutions

The proclamations themselves, handsomely mounted, are collector’s pieces, but can hardly be expected to hold the attention of the general historian’ *

Back in the 1950s, the John Rylands Library invited the distinguished revolutionary historian Albert Goodwin – who had then only recently succeeded Lewis Namier as Professor of Modern History at the University of Manchester – to review their French Revolution Collection for their in-house journal. I’m not sure that they were expecting such a waspish dismissal of one of the JRL’s core elements! While Goodwin admitted that the 10,000-odd broadsides formed a ‘unique collection’, he was convinced that historians would only ever have a ‘passing interest’ in them. He did admit that those who ‘have a passion for bibliography, or are students of the art and method of revolutionary and Napoleonic propaganda’ might get more out of them – but judging by his tone Goodwin wasn’t…

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