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Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiographies

The Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiographies includes over 230 autobiographies. It was gathered together by John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall whilst compiling their three volumes annotated bibliography, "The Autobiography of the Working Class" (Harvester Press, 1984-1989), which is available in the Special Collections room: HD8388.B88. This book includes descriptions of unpublished autobiographies and indicates their locations. Excerpts from some of the autobiographies have been published in "Destiny obscure: autobiographies of childhood, education, and family from the1820s to the 1920s", edited by John Burnett (Routledge 1994 and A. Lane, 1982).

The authors "sought to identify not only the large numbers of printed works scattered in various local history libraries and record offices, but also extant private memoirs, many of which remain hidden in family attics, known only to the author and a handful of relatives" (Introduction to vol.1, p. xxix). The criteria for inclusion were: the writers were working class for at least part of their lives; they wrote in English; and they lived for some time in England, Scotland or Wales between 1790 and 1945.

Access to collection

Digitised copies of much of the Burnett Collection are available. Please contact Special Collections for further information.

To consult material in the Burnett Collection, you will need to specify the author, title and volume number of each autobiography that you wish to consult. A complete list of the holdings with their volume numbers is available in the Index to the Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiographies.

Material in the Burnett Collection is available for reference use only; it cannot be borrowed or supplied on interlibrary loan. The usual copyright regulations for unpublished materials apply: single photocopies for private study. If you wish to make more extensive use of particular items, you will need to obtain permission from the present copyright owners.