Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)HM
TitleHarriet Martineau Papers
Extent10 boxes
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)


DescriptionThis collection comprises a substantial quantity of correspondence mainly to Harriet Martineau from contemporary authors and writers, politicians, journalists and other public figures. The letters document her activities and contributions as a social and political commentator, journalist and literary writer and as a feminist intellectual. They contain a wealth of information about her philosophies and concerning such issues as women's rights, improved access to health and education, better working conditions and practices, particularly for domestic, agricultural and factory workers, and emancipation and abolition of slavery.

Correspondents to Harriet Martineau include Matthew Arnold, Maria Weston Chapman, William Edward Forster, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Gladstone, Robert Graves, Florence Nightingale, Lord John Russell, and Henry William Wilberforce. The collection contains Harriet Martineau's correspondence with important publishers and editors for whom she wrote leaders and articles. These include Sir Richard Robinson, Thomas Walker, William Weir and Frederick Knight Hunt of the 'Daily News', John Chapman of the 'Westminster Review' and Henry Reeve of the 'Edinburgh Review'. The correspondence also includes letters to and from other members of the Martineau family including Maria, Helen, Richard, Russell, Susan, and Thomas Martineau. Letters are to Harriet Martineau unless otherwise stated.

The collection also contains a number of letters from Harriet Martineau, and Harriet Martineau's literary and other manuscripts including autograph manuscripts of her 'Autobiography', 'History of England during the Thirty Years Peace, 1816-1846', 'A Tale of the Tyne' and 'Poor Laws and Paupers'. Other manuscript writings include articles such as 'Modern Domestic Service', 'Salem Witchcraft', 'What can Women Do?' and notes on medical matters, education, strikes and political views.
NotesThe image at Fonds level is Harriet Martineau's headed stationery with a design of her home at The Knoll, Ambleside (ref: HMM/H/3).
ArrangementArranged into several sections:
HM/1-1035 General Correspondence (largely arranged alphabetically by surname of correspondent);
HM/1036-1222 Publishing Correspondence (arranged alphabetically by surname of correspondent);
HM/1223-1386 Miscellaneous documents;
HM/1387-1423 Manuscripts by Harriet Martineau.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the catalogue as a PDF file by clicking in the document field below. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department.
Access StatusOpen
Physical DescriptionMost of the items in this collection are mounted in large bound volumes. The items are bound together in the following volumes: HM/1-162; HM/163-317; HM/318-523; HM/524-780; HM/781-1035; HM/1036-1318; and HM/1319-1417b. HM/1418-1423 are mounted in small fascicules.
Creator NameMartineau, Harriet (1802-1876), writer
Administrative HistoryHarriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a political economist, author, journalist, social commentator and leading feminist intellectual. She published widely and her publications included popular works on economics, several novels, and various children's stories. She was also a regular contributor to and editorial writer for the 'Daily News' and 'Edinburgh Review'.

She was born in Norwich in 1802, the sixth child of Thomas Martineau and Elizabeth Rankin Martineau. She began her literary career at a young age and her first article on 'Female Writers on Practical Divinity' appeared in the Unitarian periodical, 'The Monthly Repository' in 1821. Her major successful work was 'Illustrations of Political Economy' (1832-34), which was quickly followed by 'Poor Law and Paupers Illustrated' (1833), and 'Illustrations of Taxation' (1834). She visited America between 1834 and 1836 and on her return wrote 'Society in America' (1837) and 'Retrospect of Western Travel' (1838). She continued to travel, visiting Italy, Egypt and Palestine, after which she published 'Eastern Life' (1848). Later publications included 'History of England during the Thirty Years' Peace' (1849) and a translation of Comte's 'Philosophie Positive' (1853). She lived initially in London then moved to Tynemouth near Newcastle to be near her brother. She spent four years there during a period of ill-health but from the 1840s lived at Ambleside in the Lake District in a house she designed herself, called The Knoll.

Harriet Martineau was an exceptional correspondent throughout her life and exchanged letters not just with publishers but also with political, literary and other prominent individuals of the time. She suffered from ill-health for many years and was also profoundly deaf. During her later life she was cared for by her nieces, most notably Maria Martineau.
AcquisitionThe Harriet Martineau Papers were presented to Birmingham University Library by the family of Sir Wilfrid Martineau in 1961. An addition to the collection, comprising manuscripts of several works including Harriet Martineau's autobiography (HM/1418-1423), was made by the Misses Martineau in memory of Professor C. E. Martineau. This was marked by an informal ceremony in April 1981. A further deposit was made by Mr Denis Martineau.
CopiesAvailable on microfilm and online.

Microfilm copies:

The collection was filmed by Adam Matthew Publications as part of the micropublication of the collected papers of Harriet Martineau, titled: 'Women, Emancipation and Literature: The Papers of Harriet Martineau, 1802-1876'.

A reference set of the microfilm is available for consultation in the Cadbury Research Library. All visitors who have registered for a Cadbury Research Library Reader ticket will be able to use the microfilm copies.

Online access:

The microfilm has been digitally published under the title: ‘Research Source – Women’s Studies: Women, Emancipation and Literature’, AMD Ltd.

Online access is open to members of, and visitors to, institutions that subscribe to Adam Matthew Digital products. Free four-week trials of Adam Matthew Digital products are open to teachers, faculty and librarians of universities, colleges, and academic institutions.

All visitors who have registered for a Cadbury Research Library Reader ticket can access the online copies on the public access computers in the Cadbury Research Library Reading Room.

Staff and students of the University of Birmingham may also access the products when off campus through the University’s eResources. Log in through FindIt@Bham, select Database Search and enter ‘Women’s Studies’.

For institutions that do not currently subscribe to this Adam Matthew Digital product, further information about trial access is available at
Related MaterialThe Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections also holds the Letters Additional of Harriet Martineau (reference: HMLAdd), which is an artificial collection of letters and other papers of and relating to Harriet Martineau and other members of the Martineau family. The department also holds a collection of Martineau family papers, (reference: HMM).

An article about Harriet Martineau and engraving of her in 'Illustrated Midland News', Saturday 25 June 1870, page 704. Cadbury Research Library book classmark: r f AP 4.M4.
Associated MaterialsLetters of Harriet Martineau are found in collections around the world. In addition to our large holdings, another large collection is at the University of California Library, Berkeley campus. Details of holdings of Martineau material can be found on the N
Publication NoteVarious books have been published about Harriet Martineau including R. K.Webb, 'Harriet Martineau: a radical Victorian' (London, Heinemann; New York, Columbia University Press, 1960) and Valerie Kossew Pichanick, 'Harriet Martineau, the woman and her work, 1802-76' (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, c 1980). Martineau's autobiography, which was published posthumously in 1877, has also been reissued with a new introduction by Gaby Weiner (London, Virago, 1983). In addition, some of her letters have been published: 'Harriet Martineau: selected letters' edited by Valerie Sanders (Oxford, Clarendon, 1990).

Sources used for compiling this collection record: 'Women, Emancipation and Literature. The Papers of Harriet Martineau 1802-1876 from Birmingham University Library. A Listing and Guide to the Microfilm Collection' Adam Matthew Publications, 1991; Janet Todd (ed), 'Dictionary of British Women Writers', Routledge, 1989; 'Dictionary of National Biography', Vol XII, London 1909.


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