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Senate House Library

Political activism, protest and counter-cultures

Explore the histories of alternative political thought, counter-cultural movements and social justice through Senate House Library’s collections.

Subject Librarian: Mura Ghosh

Phone: 020 7862 8449

Subject Librarian: Argula Rublack

Phone: 020 7862 8455

Collection description

Many printed modern and special collections and archives at Senate House Library chart the history of left-wing, alternative and radical political movements. Of particular interest are the personal papers of Trotskyist activists (eg. Alan Clinton, Will Fancy, Juan Posadas).

Furthermore, diverse aspects of the history and development of the working-class movement can be explored through the Heisler, Higgins/Richardson, Burns and Pelling collections, which in some cases include both archive and printed special collection material.

Feminism and the history of women’s rights movements in Britain, Europe, United States, Commonwealth and Latin America are widely spread across the library, offering substantial depth and breadth of resources for research.

Pacifism as a form of social and political activism in the earlier part of the twentieth century is another subject also well represented in the archive and special collections holdings at the library.

Senate House Library also holds a wealth of material relating to queer culture and activism, from the literary to the campaigning for LGBT+ rights and equality. Of particular significance is the personal library of Jonathan Cutbill, a prominent LGBT campaigner and Britain’s foremost collector of books of LGBT relevance.

Research into activist and protest movements using the Senate House Library’s collections requires, in many cases, an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach. Although categorized separately in the guides below, there are always multiple overlaps between the movements, be that on issues of political conviction, gender, race, class or sexual orientation.

Locating and accessing material

Most modern materials on political activism, protest and counter-cultures are located within our open access collections throughout the 4th to 7th floors, and many also within our archives and special collections. Special collections and archive material must be ordered in advance and consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Start exploring the collections using our catalogue, which includes details of all our printed and electronic collections.

A selection of e-resources and databases related to these topics is available through browsing the A-Z Databases list on our LibGuides platform. Primary source material from the Senate House Library’s own collections can be found on our list of Digitised UoL special collections and archives.

Thematic areas