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Archives & Special Collections: Left Book Club

Collection information

Collection: Left Book Club

Classmark: Res/B H 99

Biographical/administrative history:

Publisher, Victor Gollancz, founded the Left Book Club in 1936. The purpose of the Club was to educate the general population about the social, political and economic problems of the day. Members would pay a subscription to receive a monthly book selected by Gollancz and his advisors, John Strachey and Harold Laski. The books were on a variety of topics, from sociology to philosophy to biography. They were not always political books per se,  but provided background reading to help inform members about current events. None of the books had previously been published. The first book published by the Club was Maurice Thorez’s France to-day and the people’s front.  

The Club grew very quickly. The membership, which came from a wide spectrum of society, became a movement of sorts. At its peak in 1939, the Left Book Club had 57,000 members. The Club also held discussion meetings and lectures around the country (incidentally, the first of which was convened by actor and poet,  Joseph Macleod in 1936).

A total of 257 book titles were published by the Left Book Club.  Although it was very popular at the beginning of the Second World War, membership waned during the war years, the Club having lost its raison d’etre.  It was finally wound up in 1948.

Contents:

The Library has 248 of the 257 titles published.

Extent: approx. 6 metres.

Catalogue information

All of the books are catalogued in the online library catalogue. Do a keyword search for H 99 to browse the list.

Additional collection information

Custodial history: The collection has been built up from various donations.

Accruals: possible

Access conditions: Please contact us in advance of a visit or use the request form. You will not be able to borrow these books, but you can read them anywhere in the library.

Language: English

Publications: The following book contains a history of the Left Book Club and a list of all the titles published:

 John Lewis, The Left Book Club: an historical record, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1970 (request this book from the library store).

Using the collection

Archives Reading Room

Opening Hours:

9.30 am - 1.00 pm / 2.00 pm - 4.45 pm

Monday - Friday

Contact us:

Tel. 01786 466619

Email: archives@stir.ac.uk

Please contact us in advance of your visit and use the request form to order material you wish to consult.