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Durham University

Research & business

A new home for the archive of ‘Radical Jack’

(30 August 2019)

Opening up the archives of Radical Jack

A political firebrand, a radical reformist and a leading society figure – the life and times of John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham, were truly captivating.

Durham University is now the new home to the archives of Lord Durham, as he was also known, whose energetic support for political reform earned him the nickname ‘Radical Jack’.

Behind the scenes of political reform

Lord Durham was one of four politicians called the Committee of Four, charged with drafting the Reform Bill, which went on to become the Great Reform Act of 1832, transforming the British electoral system.

The archive provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into a period of dramatic political reform. It includes thousands of letters, dispatches and other papers from Lord Durham’s political and diplomatic work, as well as his personal life.

The archive also includes diaries and correspondence from Lord Durham’s second wife, Louisa Countess of Durham, who was a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria. Louisa’s diaries provide captivating insights into court gossip, and the life of the immensely wealthy and influential Lambton family.

In its new home at the University’s Palace Green Library, the collection will be available to study for the first time in over 40 years.

World-class research destination

The Lambton archive will join the archives of the second Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister from 1830-1834 and Lord Durham’s father-in-law, which are also held here at Durham. Students will be able to study both archives in tandem, making Durham a world-class destination for research into nineteenth century British politics.

Once assessed and catalogued, the collection will be available, free of charge, to both scholars and the public for study.

Durham University is home to a treasure-trove of special collections, including the seventeenth century Bishop Cosin’s Library and the Sudan archive, both designated as outstanding collections of national and international importance.

The purchase of the Lambton collection was made possible with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Friends of the National Libraries and Friends of Palace Green Library.

Find out more:

Find out more about our Archives and Special Collections

Learn about Palace Green Library, home to many of our Special Collections and Archives

Read more about studying in our Department of History and School of Government and International Affairs

Learn more about the Great Reform Act of 1832 here

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