Skip to main content

Power to the People! Discussing Left Wing literature at Senate House Library


Left wing literature, posters, leaflets, and all things agitprop will be up for a discussion in this year’s Holden Lecture at Senate House Library, University of London on 14 November. Unusually, this year’s lecture will include the presence of the collector himself, academic Ron Heisler, as guest of honour.

Heisler Collection of posters for the Holden Lecture 2023

The Heisler Collection is an extraordinary resource for historians, social scientists and anyone interested in political cultures. Built by Ron Heisler over many decades and generously donated to Senate House Library, this capacious collection comprises books, pamphlets, journals and newspapers, as well as works of art, literature, drama and some wonderful ephemera. The collection is unified by its focus both on labour and radical political movements and on the cultural expression of radical ideas.

In a roundtable discussion Ron will be asked about his motivation for collecting radical voices, why he thinks the collection matters, and which are his most prized acquisitions. He will be joined by a panel of historians who will assess the wider significance of the collection, explore the broader challenges of political archiving, and discuss new approaches to the history of radical movements, ideas, texts, and objects.

Institute of Historical Research Director Claire Langhamer said: 

“The Heisler Collection is an outstanding resource for anyone interested in the politics of hope. From Chartists to librarians, feminists to anti-imperialists, the collection surfaces radical voices across time and place, centring quotidian political practices alongside cultural production. The collection covers fiction and poetry, theatre and cinema, as well as the traces of everyday political life such as minutes, pamphlets, posters and membership records."

Fundamentally, Heisler's particular form of collecting helps us understand that there is much more to political archiving than the records of political parties and of those who serve in government. In fact, the Heisler Collection showcases the power of ideas and the myriad ways in which people in the past have sought to change their worlds.

The Holden Lecture is hosted by the library each year, usually focussing on one of the Library’s unique scholarly collections.

This year’s event is on Tuesday, 14 November from 18:00 to 21:00 at Senate House Library, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU and is free to attend, but book your place as spaces are limited.