Northerners: From the Ice Age to the Present Day

Posted on: September 11th, 2023 by mlpEditor

How have northerners shaped the world we live in today?

Brian Groom, author of the bestselling Northerners: A History, From the Ice Age to the Present Day, will outline 180 million years of history showing how the north’s people have shaped Britain and the world in unexpected ways.

Manchester was at the heart of it, from the Roman era to becoming the nineteenth century’s ‘shock city’. Brian will show how the past echoes down the centuries and explore what northernness means today and the crucial role that Manchester and the north can play in Britain’s future.

Northern England, fashioned by waves of migration, invasions and battles, has had a profound impact on European culture and the global economy. It was not just the Industrial Revolution, viewed by economic historians as the key event in human history – and in which Manchester played a globally decisive role. At least six Roman emperors ruled for a period from the north. And the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was Europe’s leading cultural and intellectual centre.

Northern writers, activists, artists and comedians are celebrated the world over, from Wordsworth, the Brontes and Gaskell to LS Lowry, Emmeline Pankhurst and Peter Kay. St Oswald and Bede shaped the spiritual and cultural landscapes of Britain and Europe, and the world was revolutionised by the inventions of Richard Arkwright and the Stephensons. The north has exported some of sport’s biggest names and defined the sound of generations, from the Beatles to Britpop.

Join us at this Lit & Phil Local event to celebrate the history and future of the north, and northernness!


**This is a ‘Lit & Phil Local’ event. Priority booking is offered to local communities.**

Guided walk – Manchester and Slavery: abolitionists and manufacturers

Posted on: August 10th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Explore the contradictions of the eighteenth and nineteenth century city of Manchester with regard to slavery.

This walking tour looks at how Manchester and the slave trade were linked – and complements the recent publication of the UCLan report, ‘The Manchester Lit & Phil and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1780-1865.

The tour passes sites associated with abolitionists determined to remove the stain of chattel slavery, and other locations where slave-picked cotton was used by manufacturers – some of whom were also abolitionists. It examines the contradictions of the eighteenth and nineteenth century city of Manchester with regard to slavery.

During the tour, stories of key individuals will be shared. These people include the Heywood and Gregg families, Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Percival (co-founder of the Lit & Phil), John Edward Taylor, John Bright, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Gaskell, Abel Heywood, William Andrew Jackson, amongst many others.

Key moments of the tour will include:

– the Thomas Clarkson speech which led to the first abolition petition from any British town or city in 1788

the foundation of the Manchester Guardian in 1821

– confusion over the ship on the Manchester coat of arms granted in 1842

the visit of Frederick Douglass in 1846

– the pro-Union city during the American Civil war in the early 1860s

Tour guide Jonathan Schofield’s commentary will be lively with a clear narrative, guaranteed.


Good to know: The walk will start at 2.30pm and finish around 4.30pm at the latest. We will meet outside Manchester Cathedral. Please arrive at least 10 minutes before the walk start time. The walk will finish at the Edwardian Hotel (formerly the Free Trade Hall).

Reparations for our slavery links – how might they work?

Posted on: August 10th, 2023 by mlpEditor

The battle for reparations for the illegal trafficking, torture, murder and exploitation of enslaved Africans during Britain’s slave-trading era is gaining traction. Influential organisations, institutions, and individual families have acknowledged their guilt and have offered to pay financial compensation.

Robert Beckford will argue that, while those who have diligently campaigned for reparations for over half a century welcome these developments, they should also be cautious.

His presentation will identify three areas of immediate concern. These are ‘miscalculation’ of the debt,’ the ‘erasure of Black campaign history’ and ‘hegemonic control of the compensation narrative.’

The lecture will also consider an alternative programme for meaningful restorative justice based on ‘liberative ethics,’ ‘constructive engagement’, and ‘historiographies of the underside.’


This event forms part of the Manchester Lit & Phil’s programme of events following the publication of the Report by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire’s Institute for Black Atlantic Research: The Manchester Lit & Phil and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1780-1865.

Manchester, the slave trade & the Manchester Lit & Phil

Posted on: July 17th, 2023 by mlpEditor

In May 2023, the Manchester Lit & Phil welcomed the Report by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire’s Institute for Black Atlantic Research: The Manchester Lit & Phil and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1780-1865.

The research was commissioned by the Society following the worldwide debates in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. The Lit & Phil wanted the researchers to explore what links – be they direct or indirect – its early members may have had with the slave trade.

As part of the Society’s follow-up to the Report’s publication, this event welcomes a distinguished, specially invited Panel to reflect on the key findings and to discuss its many-faceted implications for the present day – both for the Lit & Phil, and for the wider understanding of how best to address the legacy of the slave trade. That legacy continues to impact Manchester’s culture, economy and social fabric.

Panellists include the Report’s research team leader Alan Price and other experts in the field and will be chaired by Professor Erinma Bell MBE. The ‘Question Time’ format should hopefully allow for debate as well as questions. Event registrants will be invited to submit questions for the panel, by email, in advance of the event. Time will allow only a small selection of questions to be put to the panel, although where possible supplementary questions & comments will be invited from the floor.


An extract from the report’s Abstract:

…The research, which was carried out by scholars at the University of Central Lancashire, found that a significant number of early Lit & Phil members profited to varying degrees from links to the slave-based economies of the Black Atlantic. These members contributed to the transatlantic slave trade by stimulating demand for slave-produced cotton as enormous wealth flowed into Manchester through the scaled-up industrial capacity of its mills. They range from engineers James Watt, Richard Roberts, Sir William Fairbairn and Joseph Whitworth; to mill owners Peter Drinkwater, Robert Owen, James McConnel, John Kennedy, George and Adam Murray, and Samuel Greg; to slave-produced goods traders John Birley and Sir George Philips. Some were more directly involved in financing slavery and owning slaves, such as Benjamin Heywood, who invested in slave voyages, and George Hibbert, a plantation owner and anti-abolition campaigner.

In detailing how these individuals and their families and networks were connected to the transatlantic slave trade, this report addresses a longstanding gap in the information available on Lit & Phil members’ positions with respect to slavery during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its publication is evidence of the Lit & Phil’s willingness to enter into further dialogue about increasing diversity and inclusion within its own membership and engage more actively with contemporary demands for acknowledgement of their historical links to transatlantic slavery within a community that is still marked by racial prejudice and inequality.

‘The Manchester Lit & Phil and the Transatlantic Slave Trade’ – A response to the UCLan report

Posted on: June 8th, 2023 by mlpEditor

As someone who is deeply committed to promoting social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, I have reflected on the research report on The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and its implications for our society today. In my response, I have sought to highlight some of the key findings and recommendations from the report, and to suggest some possible ways in which we can use this information to build a more just and equitable society.

I want to make it clear that this response is written in a personal capacity and reflects my own views and opinions. While I have drawn on the report’s findings and recommendations, my interpretation and analysis are my own, and I take full responsibility for any errors or omissions.

My hope is that my response will be a starting point for further discussion and action, as we work towards greater understanding and reconciliation in our communities and institutions.


Read Professor Erinma Bell’s full response here

‘The Manchester Literary & Philosophical Society and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1780-1865’

Posted on: June 8th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Foreword by Ian Cameron

It’s my pleasure and privilege to introduce this study report into the Manchester Lit & Phil’s links with the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The Lit & Phil is a venerable institution, dating back to 1781. Manchester then was the beating heart of the world’s first industrial revolution, powered by technical innovation, surging capitalism and mass migration from agricultural labour to coal-powered factory production. And this global powerhouse was fed by cotton, hand picked by enslaved Africans who were sold into bondage, transported across the ocean and incarcerated for life on plantations in the West Indies and the newly independent USA.

The Lit & Phil was established to promote learning and exchange ideas. Our members were successful, educated men (and at that time they were all men!) who understood how the world worked. They understood the economics of the triangular trade; they understood the opportunities and risks of industrial development; they knew from their classics and history that slavery had existed since the beginning of recorded time and that the trade had intensified and flourished through multiple networks worldwide. They may too have dabbled in new quasi-scientific theories that sought to establish racial hierarchies.

These issues of commerce, history and science would no doubt have been used to explain and to justify the concept and practice of slavery. But we can imagine that debate at the Lit & Phil had another dimension. We know that there were progressive members of our Society who questioned the existence of slavery from a moral and philosophical standpoint. Their views came from their religious beliefs, particularly from the nonconformist churches that flourished in the new industrial towns. They came too from the humanitarian concepts that were emerging from the age of enlightenment. The rights of man were set out in the works of social philosophers and fervently promoted by radicals and revolutionaries on both sides of the Atlantic.

Many of our members supported abolition and some became leading abolitionists. Others undoubtedly benefitted from the trade, directly or indirectly. It would be fascinating now to have an insight into the conversations and arguments that must have taken place at the Lit & Phil, between abolitionists, apologists and those who were caught in the middle. In recent times our members had tried to uncover some of the details, but with little success. A more purposeful and systematic approach was clearly needed.

Following the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 our then President, Dr Susan Hilton, and Vice President Prof Tony Jackson commissioned the Institute for Black Atlantic Research at the University of Central Lancashire to carry out a study into the Lit & Phil’s links with the Transatlantic Slave Trade. We now have the study report before us and can look forward to better understanding our shared history as we explore ways to develop an appropriate and effective response to calls for a revaluation of national attitudes towards history and race.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was abolished in 1807, but slavery in the USA continued until 1865 – producing cotton to be sent to Manchester. This report, addressing the period 1780-1865, is a major achievement and I must take this opportunity to thank Prof Alan Rice of UCLan who led the study team, with lead researcher and writer Dr Andrea Sillis, ably supported by Drahoslava Machova, Dr Stephanie Monro and Kirsty Roberts. I should particularly thank Dr Sillis, who contributed an extra 43 days of work on a voluntary basis. They put in a remarkable effort, not only to work their way through what is left of our archives, but also to explore the public records and other external links that provide a broader picture of some of our early members and their activities.

The potential scope of investigations is huge, but we wanted to go public with our research as soon as we were able. It was decided, therefore, that this initial study would focus on those members of the Lit & Phil who had links, direct or indirect, with the profits from slavery. We plan to pick up the thread in a second phase, which will focus upon the lives and activities of our abolitionists, offering a more complete view of the Lit & Phil’s position on the question of slavery.

It will, of course, be appropriate to consider both study phases together, but we decided to use this first phase to invite an early response. We propose to develop that response in consultation with those whose lives may have been directly impacted, through racism and inequality, by the legacies of transatlantic slavery.

Our first step has been to consult a number of eminent Mancunians with an interest and expertise in the subject who generously agreed to review this report and to advise on next steps. One of those reviewers, peace activist Prof Erinma Bell MBE, has been kind enough to provide the written comments that are reproduced alongside this report.

Based on all the advice received, we now plan to reach out to Manchester’s diverse and underprivileged communities to develop mutually beneficial relationships and collaborations. We know that the diversity of our current membership and activities is inadequate and we will work hard to understand why that is and to fix it. We will build on our history of discussion, mutual learning and social interaction to open new opportunities to further engage with the past and, looking forward, to promote inclusivity, equality and respect for diversity within society at large.

So, there are exciting and demanding times ahead for the Lit & Phil and this report represents an important step on that journey. I hope you find it interesting and informative. And if you think you might be able to contribute in any way to developing or implementing our response, we would love to hear from you.


Ian Cameron, President

8 June 2023

Read the report

Read the media release

Tour of ‘Golden Mummies of Egypt’ at Manchester Museum *second date added*

Posted on: April 17th, 2023 by mlpMemberAdmin

Second date added due to popular demand –

We have arranged another special tour of the Golden Mummies of Egypt exhibition at Manchester Museum by expert Curator Dr Campbell Price.

After a hugely successful tour across the USA and China, this stunning exhibition offers unparalleled access to the museum’s world-class Egypt and Sudan collections.

Featuring more than 100 objects and eight mummies, Golden Mummies of Egypt presents a rich perspective on beliefs about the afterlife during an era when Egypt was part of the Greek and Roman worlds.

The exhibition is held in the museum’s brand-new Exhibition Hall, which has been created as part of a £15 million transformation.

We will meet inside the building, by the main entrance of the gallery on Oxford Road. Welcome refreshments will be served by the pop-up café, next to the museum’s Exhibition Hall, from 2.30pm. The tour will start promptly at 3.00pm.

Good to know: Places are very limited. If you manage to book a place, please arrive in good time to enjoy the full experience.

Feminist activism in Greater Manchester: past, present and future

Posted on: April 4th, 2023 by mlpMemberAdmin

How has the Mancunian feminist movement evolved since its inception? Greater Manchester boasts a rich history of engagement in the battle for Women’s rights. What does its future look like?

Professor Helen Pankhurst and Joanna Williams will trace the history of this movement from the 1860’s to today.

Early campaigners achieved much: girls’ and women’s education, the property rights of married women, opportunities for work and voting rights. But there is still a lot to be done to realise true equality for women. Many of the issues addressed in the early years by Lydia Becker in her speeches and writings persist to this day.

Helen and Joanna will consider the legacy and impact of the movement in the domains of the personal and the political. They will highlight the organisations and individuals that advance the work of the early suffragettes in the present day. How is the GM4Women2028, convened by Helen Pankhurst – for example – using data, dialogue and activism to carry the torch for feminism?

Join us as we explore and celebrate the strong lineage of Manchester’s brave women. Those whose tenacity and perseverance paved the way for an increasingly equal society.

Facts and fictions of Renaissance architecture

Posted on: March 23rd, 2023 by mlpMemberAdmin

The Renaissance is widely considered to be one of the most fascinating and productive periods in European history. In the domains of philosophy, law, science and art, great strides were made in the pursuit of excellence. The physical and intellectual legacy that this era has left behind is staggering. What could have motivated it?

Historically, the Renaissance bridges the Middle Ages with the Enlightenment. It facilitated the seismic shift from religious feudalism to humanism and rationalism. The distinction between periods, however, may not be as clear cut as people might think.

With a particular focus on the architectural styles of the period, Frank Vigon will question what we’ve come to define as being ‘of the Renaissance’. Can a building be adequately categorised by its style, period or the ethos under which it was built?

Without losing the sense of wonder that these structures elicit, we’ll examine the nature of architectural styles across Europe. We will try to identify the similarities and, more importantly, the differences between the competing power bases.

Join us as we strive to uncover some of the most remarkable testaments to human genius. In doing so, we will come to terms with the socio-historical context from which they emerged.

Free speech: its past, present and future

Posted on: March 14th, 2023 by mlpEditor

How can we better understand and conceptualise both the benefits and challenges of free speech?

It has been said that ‘free speech is the bulwark of liberty; without it, no free and democratic society has ever been established or thrived’. But how can we protect it whilst addressing legitimate concerns surrounding misinformation and hate speech?

In this online ‘in conversation’ event, Danish lawyer and human-rights advocate, Jacob Mchangama, explores the past, present and future of free speech with Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University.

What lessons can the difficulties of invoking the ideal of free speech in the ancient world tell us about the difficulties of operationalizing this ideal in today’s digital world? And how can we create a resilient global culture of free speech that benefits everyone?

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