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Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiographies

The Burnett Collection of Working-Class Autobiographies held at Brunel consists of 246 autobiographies (c. 1791-1945) collected and retained by John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall whilst compiling their three-volume annotated bibliography, The Autobiography of the Working Class (Harvester Press, 1984-1989), a further 103 autobiographies were added to the collection by Brunel University Library Staff. 

John Burnett (1925 – 2006) was a social historian and a professor at Brunel University from 1972 to 1990. His research examined the day-to-day lives of ordinary British people in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Collection was donated to Brunel University London by the authors, 1984-1989.  

The Burnett Collection has recently been recatalogued, with improved descriptions, making it easier to identify narrators from all backgrounds and draw out their stories.  

Holdings in brief

  • 349 autobiographies – the catalogue is available online here
  • The Autobiography of the Working Class (Harvester Press, 1984-1989), Volumes 1-3

Please note:  The usual copyright regulations for unpublished materials apply: single copies for private study. If you wish to make more extensive use of particular items, or publish them, you will need to obtain permission from the various current copyright owners yourselves.  Brunel University London is not the copyright holder for the majority of the items in the Burnett Collection.

Some items within this collection reflect the prejudices of the era in which they were created, and include language which is offensive and may cause upset. The use of this language is not condoned by Brunel University London, but we preserve and provide access to these items.


Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiographies Leaflet