Want a new archive to track down those elusive ‘primary sources’ your lecturers keep nagging you about? Writing an essay on the history of radical politics? Well, you’re in luck because this week the Manchester Historian travelled to Salford to take a look around the Working Class Movement Library.
The easily accessible site houses an incredible collection of historical records and documents from across the globe, although the real strength of the collection lies in British history, hosting the best Thomas Paine collection in the country and roomfuls of books on Ireland.
The library owns copies (many originals) of all radical newspapers, from the Chartist Political Register to the leftist The Leveller of the 1970s and 1980s. Unlike many libraries, no appointment is necessary, you can simply ring the bell, enter and browse!
However, if you have specific material in mind it may be worth giving them a quick ring so they can dig it out for you in advance. The library’s books all belonged to the couple Ruth and Eddie Frow who dedicated their lives to tracking down and purchasing books on the political activities of the working class, opening up their home (the original site of the library) to any researcher who wanted to locate a particular source.
The ethos of sharing the great wealth of knowledge collected by the Frows remains central to the library, and anyone is permitted to browse the collection.
This has created a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere in the library, with other researchers approaching you to point out their favourite books and staff plying you with endless cups of tea and biscuits. The WCML is more than just a building full of books – it is an experience, and we urge you to go.
The WCML is a two minute walk from Salford Crescent train station.
Visit www.wcml.org.uk to find out opening hours and to browse the online catalogues.