LSE Library Pamphlet Collection

(Collection description created in 2002. Links checked 2009)

Description of the collection

The Library was founded in 1896 as the library of the London School of Economics and a national library for the social sciences. Since that time the collection of primary source material such as pamphlets has been an important part of the Library's acquisitions policy. Most of this material is published by pressure groups, political parties and trades unions. This is real ephemera and unlikely to be re-issued. In many cases it will not have been collected elsewhere and it is this, together with the overall breadth and scope of the collection, that makes it a unique resource. The Library has always tried to collect opinion and propaganda from all points of view, no matter how extreme. Subjects covered include social policy, transport policy, issues in British political history, war and peace, women's history and the history of the trades union movement. There are over 90,000 historical pamphlets in the collection. The historical focus of the collection is the 19th and early 20th century because of the connections of the Webbs and other Fabian Society members but it has been maintained up to the present day. The Library collects from all the political parties, plus organisations such as the Labour Research Department, Fabian Society, Child Poverty Action Group and Shelter.

Key subject areas

Pamphlets on social policy include a large collection on the Poor Laws and the origins of the welfare state. This reflected the involvement of the Webbs in the Poor Law Commission. The titles of some of the older pamphlets give the flavour and insight into the thinking on social policy of previous generations, through the language used at the time. There are publications debating the setting up of the National Health Service, universal old age pensions and the rebuilding of city centres devastated by the blitz. Plans and illustrations for the first garden cities are also included.

There are thousands of pamphlets on the history of the railways in Britain and the United States. These include company reports, maps and timetables. Pamphlets focus on the debate about nationalisation and line closures and the channel tunnel. There was even an idea to construct a tunnel under the Irish Sea. Also urban transport is well covered, particularly in relation to London.

The Library collects publications from all the main political parties, as well as fringe parties and those which have long ceased to exist. Manifestos are held, going back to the 19th century. There is a good collection of pamphlets privately published by politicians in the 19th century, plus cartoons and political satire. Issues in British political history are well documented, such as the Corn Laws, Free trade and protection, the land question, church and state and home rule for Ireland on which there are literally thousands of pamphlets. Women's history including the Women's Co-operative Guild and the suffragette movement are also well represented.

Another interest of the Webbs was the history of the trades union movement and there is an extensive collection of material on conditions of work, wage rates, child labour and industrial disputes. There are volumes of pamphlets on co-operation and co-partnership and reports on specific industries.

Language(s) of the material

The collection has an international flavour - there are thousands of pamphlets on the last two world wars, contemporary works on international conflicts such as in the Middle East and the Balkans, and a sizeable number of pamphlets are in other European languages such as German.


The pamphlet collection is kept in closed access and material is fetched on request. All pamphlets have a catalogue record on the Library's OPAC, as a result of a RETROCON project completed in 1997. Use of the collection rose by 60% as a result. The oldest pamphlets - 90,000 which were published in the 19th and early 20th centuries are in bound volumes and are kept in the Library's Archives.

The Library received funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England for selective preservation microfilming (25,000) and from HEDS (Higher Education Digitisation Service) for some digitisation (600). Almost 7,000 of the Library's 19th century pamphlets have been digitised for the RLUK 19th century pamphlets project.

There is a pamphlets web page which is linked to the Library's home page. This contains subject guides to the collection.

Library's online catalogue

Search the library's online catalogue

These pamphlets have been digitised

Copac is a national, academic & special library catalogue

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