Edward Carpenter (1844 – 1929) was a socialist writer and campaigner for homosexual equality.
The Edward Carpenter collection was donated to us in the 1930s and is divided into two parts:
The first includes Carpenter’s personal library of over 1,000 books and pamphlets.
The second consists of many editions and translations of Carpenter's own works including almost every periodical to which he contributed, and 2,280 papers which comprise the manuscripts of nearly all his books, letters from friends and publishers and notebooks.
This part of the collection has been added to by friends and scholars who have continued to write about Carpenter. The collection covers from 1860 to present day.
Location of records
Sheffield Archives, 52 Shoreham Street.
Microfilm copies of the manuscript collection are also available in a number of major research libraries.
Copies are available to purchase from Adam Matthews Publications in their Fabian Economic and Social Thought series.
Not all archive material is stored onsite and we may require notice of the items you wish to see. Please contact us to confirm when we can retrieve items for you.
We can normally supply copies for private study purposes, subject to the usual copyright regulations. Please contact us for further information.
Edward Carpenter was a pioneering exponent of many progressive causes including women’s rights and sexual reform which are taken for granted today.
His radically different lifestyle became a symbol of liberation from the traditional middle class values of Victorian England and his writings were an important contribution to the development of the English socialist movement and later the gay liberation movement.
He lived at Millthorpe, near Sheffield, with his lover, George Merrill and their home was visited by literary figures such as George Bernard Shaw, D. H. Lawrence and Bertrand Russell, later becoming a place of pilgrimage for all those interested in socialism and Carpenter’s philosophies.
Carpenter’s library at Sheffield Archives reflects these interests and principles. Subject headings include: homosexuality, socialism and social democracy, economics, the labouring classes, women’s rights, vegetarianism, anti-vivisection, religion and science, Eastern philosophy, inter-racial understanding, environmental issues including smoke abatement and worldwide travel observations.
Carpenter’s personal manuscripts, publications and correspondence reinforce these themes. Carpenter strived to create a more fair society, with Fabian ideals and a firm challenge to old concepts and beliefs.
These papers contain much on gender roles (including the introduction of birth control) and modern attitudes to sex and sexuality.
Carpenter was also involved in the foundation of a number of socialist societies and the collection includes correspondence from William Morris, Ramsay MacDonald, Annie Besant, Mahatma Gandhi and James Keir Hardie.
Carpenter’s library and archive consist of books, printed manuscripts, handwritten correspondence and photographs. Copies of manuscript lecture notes, correspondence and newspaper cuttings are available to view on microfilm. Copies of photographs are available to view as digital images.