Political activism, protest and counter-culture

Explore the histories of alternative political thought, counter-cultural movements and social justice through Senate House Library’s collections.

Subject Librarian: Mura Ghosh
Email: Mura.Ghosh@london.ac.uk
Phone: 020 7862 8449

Heisler Collection SHL

Political activism, protest and counter-culture

Explore the histories of alternative political thought, counter-cultural movements and social justice through Senate House Library’s collections.

Subject Librarian: Mura Ghosh
Email: Mura.Ghosh@london.ac.uk
Phone: 020 7862 8449

Collection Description

Many archive and special collections at Senate House Library chart the history of left-wing, alternative and radical political movements. Of particular interest are the personal papers of Trotskyist activists (e.g. Alan Clinton, Will Fancy, Juan Posadas).

Furthermore, many and diverse aspects of the history and development of the working class movement can be explored through the Heisler, Higgins/Richardson, Burns and Pelling collections, which in some cases include both archive and printed special collection material. Pacifism as a form of social and political activism in the earlier part of the 20th century is another subject also represented in the archive and special collections holdings at the library.

Senate House Library also holds a wealth of material relating to queer culture and activism, from the literary to the campaigning for LGBT+ rights and equality. Of particular significance to SHL is the personal library of Jonathan Cutbill, a prominent LGBT campaigner and Britain’s foremost collector of books of LGBT relevance.

Locating and accessing material

Besides the materials located in our open access collections throughout the 4th to 7th floors, most of the materials on political activism, protest and counter-cultures are located within our archives and special collections.

Start exploring the collections through our catalogue which includes details of all our printed and electronic collections. A selection of e-resources and databases related to this research strength guide are listed on our A-Z Databases liston our LibGuides platform.

Special collections and archive material must be ordered in advance and consulted in the special collections reading room. Some of these collections are available as part of our e-Resources. They can be found on our list of Digitised UoL special collections and archives on our LibGuides platform.

Gender and LGBTQ+ activism

Works by and about the LGBTQ+ community can be found across all Senate House Library’s collections, expressed in a variety of formats, both print and online, and covering all aspects of the humanities. Political and social activism is a key feature of many of the LGBTQ+ works held, sometimes expressly and directly so and other times more covertly, for instance life stories told in the pages of magazines. Works held have been produced via mainstream publishers, small presses, self-publishers, and activist groups and individuals.  

The following links are just some spotlights to help you begin your search amongst the extensive LGBTQ+ material held at SHL.

Ron Heisler Collection: contains many works, often in pamphlet form, produced by and to support LGBTQ+ communities. This collection is from a radical, left-wing perspective, predominantly from the UK. 

Queer Between the Covers Exhibition: during 2018 Senate House Library held an exhibition and events season celebrating LGBTQ+ literature. The exhibition guide, blogs and the interactive online bookshelf can be found here. 

E-resources: Archives of Sexuality and Gender and LGBT Thought and Culture and LGBT Magazine Archive all provide primary source material available for online research.

Suggest a book

We are always happy to review suggestions for new items to add to the collections.