Holyoake, George Jacob (1817-1906) co-operator and secularist

George Jacob Holyoake (1819-1906)ADMINISTRATIVE/BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY: George Jacob Holyoake was born in April 1817, the son of a Birmingham whitesmith and at the age of eight, began work with his father at a local foundry. He started evening classes at the Birmingham Mechanics Institute in 1836 where he first came under the influence of the ideas of Robert Owen. He also became a member of the Chartist movement in Birmingham, although he remained an supporter of moral force and refused to engage in rioting in Birmingham in 1839. In 1840, Holyoake applied to become a lecturer at the Birmingham Mechanics Institute but was rejected and became a Owenite social missionary, first in Worcester and later, in a more important position in Sheffield. During this time, he began contributing articles highly critical of Christianity to the periodical The Oracle of Reason, and when the journal's editor Charles Southwell was imprisoned for blasphemy in 1842, Holyoake became its editor. However, later that year, faced with charges of condemning Christianity at a lecture in Cheltenham, he was also charged with blasphemy and imprisoned for six months.

On release from prison, Holyoake formed a journal The Movement, later re-named The Reasoner, which was to remain one of the most important periodicals of the nineteenth century, championing Chartist principles, political reform and the emerging secularist movement. Holyoake remained the figure-head of the secularist movement until replaced by the more militant Charles Bradlaugh in 1858.  Holyoake died in Brighton in 1906.

His publications include: Self Help by the People (1858), The Workman and the Suffrage (1859), The Liberal Situation (1865), The History of Co-operation in England (1877) and Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life (1892).


  • Correspondence to, from and about Holyoake regarding various topics at all stages of his career, including press cuttings of correspondence with Dr Kalley and correspondence between Holyoake, Austin Holyoake and Thomas Cooper, 1837-1943
  • Series of engagement diaries kept by Holyoake, including brief handwritten notes on daily events and ephemera, including handbills, press cuttings and letters concerning meetings, lectures and public and political events pasted into pages, 1847-1905
  • Printed material relating to all aspects of Holyoake's career, including handbills for lectures and addresses by Holyoake and meetings of co-operative societies, secularist organisations and other political movements, press cuttings of letters by Holyoake to the national and local press, various articles by Holyoake and others, and reviews of addresses and works, circulars and miscellaneous ephemera produced by Holyoake and supported movements, and various handwritten documents regarding Holyoake's political and personal life, 1831-1978
  • Press cuttings of serialised articles and columns written by Holyoake for various national, local and international newspapers and periodicals, including London Correspondence, Town Talk, Private Correspondence, Our London Letter and other articles produced for the Brighton Guardian, Agricultural Economist, The Sun and the Co-operative News, along with press cuttings regarding the opening of Holyoake House in Manchester and the unveiling of the Holyoake Memorial at Highgate Cemetery, London, 1867-1911
  • Loose press cuttings collected and compiled by Holyoake and relating to his life and and work, including cuttings concerning visits to America and Canada, co-operation, co-operative congresses and festivals, co-operative societies, parliamentary reform and other miscellaneous cuttings concerning lectures and letters by Holyoake, secularism, republicanism, atheism and other various topics, 1857-1911
  • miscellaneous publications and notebooks by Holyoake, including manuscript drafts of works, early notes on lectures and their content, predominantly at the Birmingham Mechanics Institute, log books containing diary notes and thoughts, papers relating to the London Atheistical Society, accounts relating to Fleet Street House, London and press cuttings of letters by Holyoake written under the name `Ion', 1838-1861
  • miscellaneous manuscripts relating to Holyoake's life and career, co-operation and secularism, along with press cuttings and ephemera, including material relating to mathematics, Brighton, spiritualism, trade unions, grammar, the Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee, the Social Economist, along with papers relating to Holyoake's arrest in 1842, Fleet Street House, London, the Congress of Social Reformers, Leeds Secular Society, the Thomas Allsop Prize Essay Competition and the Polish Legion, 1839-1978
  • galley proofs of printed copies of articles by Holyoake on various topics, 1893
  • press cuttings and extracts from journals concerning biographical details of Holyoake, his life and work, along with articles and obituary material published following his death in 1906, 1875-1917
  • minute books of the Travelling Tax Abolition Committee, of which Holyoake was Chairman, including handwritten minutes and printed statements, circulars and Committee documents pasted into each volume, along with loose circulars, ephemera and press cuttings concerning the Committee and its work, 1877-1901
  • minutes and papers of the Garibaldi Special Fund Committee, including Central Committee minutes, muster roll, ephemera, press cuttings and fund certificates recording members of the British Legion of excursionists to Italy, along with more general material relating to Garibaldi, Italian Unification and reaction in England, including cuttings from the Illustrated London News and secondary articles, 1860-1985
  • circulars, ephemera and press cuttings regarding to the Holyoake Testimonial Fund, including letters to subscribers, fund reports and a programme for a performance by the Victoria Dramatic Club in aid of the Fund, 1853-1889
  • four photographs of Holyoake taken late in his life, n.d.

Quantity: 28 Boxes and Miscellaneous Items