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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Mark Bennett

Bennett, Mark (Forthcoming). From Westminster to Wessenden: The Use and Misuse of Huddersfield Views on the American Civil War. European Journal of Life Writing

Author(s) from Durham


The area of the West Riding of Yorkshire surrounding Huddersfield saw heated debate over where British loyalties should lie during the American Civil War. Two individuals provide the historian with particular insight into this debate: Sir John Ramsden, baronet and landed proprietor, and George Marsden, seventh son of a woollen beamer and putter up. The views of the former survive not only in his public utterances as a M.P. but also his private diaries and correspondence, while the views of the latter are indirectly preserved in the scrapbook he kept on the war. In this article, I discuss the historiographical use which has been made of both men in understanding British attitudes towards the conflict and whether this represents the prejudicing of elite voices over popular views. I examine their use in the context of the traditional debates over political affiliation and class which have been the predominant focus of historians who study this period. I highlight the difficulty in both encapsulating an individua l’s attitudes and in extrapolating those individual attitudes to wider groups, incorporating a number of historiographical perspectives including Marxism and poststructuralism. Ultimately, I question the extent to which we can rely on Ramsden, Marsden or other individuals to help us understand wider groups, but reiterate the value of the insight provided by individual testimony.