Manchester Geographical Society Archive

James Peter writes:

We have recently completed cataloguing the important archive of the Manchester Geographical Society. The catalogue has been compiled by Mark Turner, a University of Liverpool archives student, who undertook a two-week assignment at the Library in January 2014.

The Society has been one of the most important societies of its kind outside of the Royal Geographical Society. It was founded in 1884 by a group of Manchester worthies who were keen to promote the subject of geography, in part because of a desire for better information about contemporary colonial commercial and missionary activities. The establishment of the Society coincided with a lecture in Manchester by Henry Morton Stanley on Africa, which had attracted a great deal of local interest.

One of the Society’s main activities was its lecture programme, and there seems to have been a particular appetite for stories of exploration in far-flung tropical, mountainous and polar regions.

The Society proved very successful in attracting high-profile lecturers to Manchester, including Robert Falcon Scott, Fridtjof Nansen, Ernest Shackelton, Roald Amundsen, and Sir Harry Johnston. The image shows a ticket for Amundsen’s lecture in Manchester shortly after he had returned from his successful expedition to the South Pole.

Ticket to a lecture delivered to the Manchester Geographical Society by Roald Amundsen, 1912
Ticket to a lecture given by Roald Amundsen in 1912, describing his expedition to the South Pole, which he reached on 14 December 1911.

 The Society was active in promoting geography within schools and universities, and it helped persuade the University of Manchester to adopt  the subject as part of its curriculum. Society members have also done much to advance knowledge of the geography of the local region, through fieldwork, publications and educational programmes. The Society remains very actively involved in the promotion of geography in the North West of England.

The Society’s archive is comprehensive, with records from its foundation to the present day. It includes minute books of the main committees, membership records, lectures notices and programmes, cuttings books, and annual reports. The archive will be of particular interest to researchers interested in the development of geography as both academic discipline, and subject of popular interest. The archive also provides interesting sidelights on Manchester’s colonial associations, and the communication of ideas about empire, colonial development and extra-European exploration in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The archive complements the Society’s extensive library, which was placed on indefinite loan at the Library in 1970.

The archive catalogue is available on ELGAR:

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