The collection

Comprising a broad range of material of particular value for economic and social history, the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature contains some 70,000 printed books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, broadsides and proclamations from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, with particular strengths to 1850. Subjects covered include economic thought, financial and monetary policy, early English and French socialism, slavery, railway history, temperance and the condition of the people. Some former owners include Adam Smith, Arthur Young, David Ricardo, Richard Oastler, James Turner, Victor Considérant, Robert Owen and William Pare.


The collector

Based on the library of some 30,000 items of Herbert Somerton Foxwell (1849-1936; see ODNB), an academic economist and bibliophile at London and Cambridge who described his library as as ‘a collection of books and tracts intended to serve as the basis for the study of the industrial, commercial, monetary and financial history of the United Kingdom, as well as of the gradual development of economic science generally’. View more information.



Purchased from Foxwell by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in 1901 on the initiative of their Clerk, Sir Walter Prideaux, and presented by them to the University of London in 1903. Gifts from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths have enabled Senate House Library to augment the collection ever since; additions have included the purchase of the Sabatier Collection (1906), Sheffield Collection (1907), Rastrick Collection (1908), Temperance Collection (1930) and Reform Club pamphlets (1964).



Catalogued online 1995-2000 from microfilms and cards; for copy-specific information, it is necessary to consult the books themselves. For an overview of the library, do a mixed classmark search on [G.L.] or, for items acquired before 1982, see the printed catalogue (see below).

Access to full text of most items in the Goldsmiths’ Library published before 1851 and some published 1851-1914 is available via The Making of the Modern World.

Much material beginning with the classmark [G.L.] immediately followed by a letter is held offsite and requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched. Exceptions are: [G.L.] A-C, [G.L.] K, [G.L.] P Fabian Society, and [G.L.] T.


Related archives

‘The Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature, 1903-1953’ (description of the collection; UL/1/7); MS602; MS789; MS790; MS1115; MS1166 (invoices, correspondence, etc).


Select publications

Canney, Margaret and David Knott, Catalogue of the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature (5 vols.; London: Cambridge University Press, 1970-1995). Includes description of Foxwell and the library by J.H.P. Pafford, vol. 1, pp. ix-xxi.

Canney, Margaret, Robert Owen, 1771-1868: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Printed Books held in the Library of the University of London, October-December 1958 (London: [University of London Library], 1959).


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