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Leeds Beckett and University of East Anglia academics create new learning resource on key statesman Richard Cobden


Professor Simon Morgan and Dr Helen Dampier from Leeds Beckett’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences are partnering with Professor Anthony Howe of University of East Anglia to create The Letters of Richard Cobden Online – a free learning resource on the important political campaigns of Richard Cobden and how they shaped democracy in Victorian Britain. This project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, follows on from the UEA-based The Letters of Richard Cobden project which saw the publication of four volumes of letters by Oxford University Press (2006-2015).

The Letters of Richard Cobden Online aims to make over 5,500 letters of this influential statesman available online free of charge. Alongside them, the academics will create teaching materials aimed at Key Stage 3 pupils in PSHE/Citizenship and History. A series of pilot workshops will be running from April to June involving partner schools in Rochdale and West Yorkshire – all in historic parliamentary constituencies that Cobden once represented.

Students will receive leadership coaching from the GreenWing Project while learning about Cobden’s various political activities. These included not just the famous Anti-Corn Law League, but also his campaigns for universal education, international peace, electoral reform, and press freedom.

Professor Simon Morgan, Head of History at Leeds Beckett University, said: “One of the aims of the project is to inspire pupils to engage with issues in their own local, or even national communities, empowering them to become active citizens themselves. There is much to learn from studying Cobden’s methods of organising campaigns and winning the backing of politicians, journalists, and other opinions formers. We hope this will inspire teachers and pupils to engage with an important figure in history and make the most of these new resources, events, and other exciting activities we’re planning.”

Alongside the workshops, the project is currently mounting an exhibition hosted by Archives+ in Manchester’s Central Library entitled ‘Richard Cobden: Manchester Citizen to “International Man”’, running from April to June. It is also partnering with the History of Parliament Trust, who have themed their annual essay prize this year around the project with a deadline of 23 June – so there are many ways to get involved.

Pupils or teachers interested in the essay competition should visit the History of Parliament website.

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