Holyoake, George-Jacob 1817-1906

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1817-04-13
Death 1906-01-27
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

George Jacob Holyoake was an English social reformer. His father was a smith, and Holyoake worked in the foundry, before encountering the socialist ideas of Robert Owen. He became a Chartist and teacher, and also wrote and edited socialist periodicals. Imprisoned for condemning Christianity, he founded the important socialist journal The Reasoner. He also opposed government censorship of the press, and worked for tax reform and other causes.

From the description of George Jacob Holyoake letter to My dear Hollick, 1898 Dec. 28. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 60494893

English agitator.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Brighton, to A. Strahan, 1878 Oct. 10. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 269523399

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Halifax, to A. Strahan, 1874 Apr. 7. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 269525076

British social reformer.

From the description of Papers, 1873-1931. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 19643011

The growth of a liberal society during the Nineteenth Century is epitomized in the life of George Jacob Holyoake, 1817-1906. The numerous stages in his career, from that of despised atheist to that of respected Liberal journalist and propagator of International Co-operation, touch on many of the social and intellectual developments of the Victorian age.

An Owenite Lecturer and latter-day Chartist, Holyoake took a leading part in the Free Press struggle, and the abolition of the compulsory oath in courts of law. An active friend of foreign revolutionaries and a prominent supporter of Italian unification, above all, he was a founder, and the most important propagator of the Cooperative and Co-partnership Movements, both at home and abroad. He was, in addition, involved in scores of lesser agitations, and was a Parliamentary lobbyist par excellence.

The work of his lifetime was liberalism, the practical working out of Mill's famous "Essay": freedom to express beliefs and shape public opinion; civil rights for all, irrespective of beliefs and class, and that degree of economic freedom which he believed true Co-operation could bring. Intellectually, he enjoyed the friendships of J.S. Mill and F. W. Newman, both of whom influenced his own thought and outlook, and his correspondents included Joseph Cowen, Joseph Mazzini, Robert Owen, Mr. Gladstone, Sir John Macdonald, Justin McCarthy and numerous leading Radical and Co-operative Members of Parliament, such as W. Morrison, C.W. Dilke, J. Chamberlain, S. A. Beaumont, etc.

As a founder of the "Leader" newspaper in 1850, he provided a link between the emerging working-classes, never very religious, and the middle-class intellectuals, who were beginning to express their now much publicized doubts.

From the description of G. J. Holyoake. Papers, 1840-1873. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 63876250

George Jacob Holyoake was the son of an engineer and was apprenticed as a tinsmith. In 1831 he joined the Birmingham Reform League, beginning an active participation in political and social movements. This involvement led him to attend meetings addressed by Robert Owen (1771-1858). Owen was a leading social reformer and he greatly influenced Holyoake, who went on to collect his papers (see associated Hub entry). Then in 1837 Holyoake gave own first lectures on socialism and co-operation.

Holyoake became a writer and journal editor, bookseller and publisher. He was prominent in the campaigns for removal of tax on newspapers and for electoral reform. He was an outspoken reformer, becoming one of the last people to be tried for blasphamy in England.

Holyoake was involved in radical movements from early in his career. He was a member of the Birmingham Chartists. However, he was a moral force Chartist which meant that he did not become involved in any physical protests such as riots which were rife during the 1830s. He published a magazine called The Reasoner which supported moral Chartism. He was also involved in the struggle against government censorship of newspapers along with Richard Carlile and Henry Heatherington.

The Archive's collection covers his life-long active association with the co-operative movement and his association with all the leading figures in it. As one of the promoters of the first of the modern Co-operative Congresses in 1869 he attended and spoke at many Congresses, editing the reports of the third to the fifth and presiding at the seventh. Holyoake was an eloquent orator who addressed most noteworthy co-operative occasions.

He wrote numerous journal articles, books and also wrote many pamphlets on co operative subjects. As a journalist, his main aim in writing about the co-operative movement was to inspire, rather than to record history and many of his writings seek to imbibe supporters with verve for co-operation. His autobiography Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life gives an interesting view of the nineteenth century's radical movements.

In his later years, the co-operative movement viewed Holyoake as a link with their own heritage and the movements past. On his death, societies contributed to provide a memorial, a building to provide a headquarters for the Co-operative Union in Manchester. The Co-operative Union for the first 30 years of its existence had worked from rented offices, the Holyoake House, which was opened in 1911, was designed to include offices, meeting rooms and a library.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Holyoake arranged for the Robert Owen correspondence collection to be deposited with the Co-operative Union. He also collected his own correspondence, which passed to the Co-operative Union after his death. The National Co-operative Archive's George Jacob Holyoake collection includes books and pamphlets and over 4,000 primary materials. Further materials including his diaries are held at the Bishopsgate Institute in London.

From the guide to the Papers of George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906), 1830-1906, (National Co-operative Archive)

The growth of a liberal society during the Nineteenth Century is epitomized in the life of George Jacob Holyoake, 1817-1906. The numerous stages in his career, from that of despised atheist to that of respected Liberal journalist and propagator of International Co-operation, touch on many of the social and intellectual developments of the Victorian age.

An Owenite Lecturer and latter-day Chartist, Holyoake took a leading part in the Free Press struggle, and the abolition of the compulsory oath in courts of law. An active friend of foreign revolutionaries and a prominent supporter of Italian unification, above all, he was a founder, and the most important propagator of the Cooperative and Co-partnership Movements, both at home and abroad. He was, in addition, involved in scores of lesser agitations, and was a Parliamentary lobbyist par excellence.

The work of his lifetime was liberalism, the practical working out of Mill's famous "Essay": freedom to express beliefs and shape public opinion; civil rights for all, irrespective of beliefs and class, and that degree of economic freedom which he believed true Co-operation could bring. Intellectually, he enjoyed the friendships of J.S. Mill and F. W. Newman, both of whom influenced his own thought and outlook, and his correspondents included Joseph Cowen, Joseph Mazzini, Robert Owen, Mr. Gladstone, Sir John Macdonald, Justin McCarthy and numerous leading Radical and Co-operative Members of Parliament, such as W. Morrison, C.W. Dilke, J. Chamberlain, S. A. Beaumont, etc.

As a founder of the "Leader" newspaper in 1850, he provided a link between the emerging working-classes, never very religious, and the middle-class intellectuals, who were beginning to express their now much publicized doubts.

From the guide to the G. J. Holyoake. Papers, 1840-1873., (Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.)

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Subjects:

  • Social reformers--Correspondence
  • Literature Periodicals England 19th century
  • Home rule
  • Social reformers
  • Social reformers--19th century--Correspondence
  • Cooperation England History 19th century
  • Biographers England History 19th century
  • Labor movement Great Britain History 19th century
  • Labor and laboring classes
  • Chartism England
  • Social reformers England History 19th century

Occupations:

  • Translator

Places:

  • Ireland (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)