The subject-matter of the Hume Tracts is extremely broad, reflecting the major political, economic and social developments and reforms taking place in Britain in the early part of the nineteenth century, and including some of the causes championed by Joseph Hume during his parliamentary career, such as universal suffrage, Catholic emancipation, a reduction in the power of the Anglican church and an end to imprisonment for debt. Much of the material consists of addresses and correspondence written by radicals and nonconformists pressing for reform on a wide variety of issues. Themes that feature particularly prominently in the collection are: parliamentary reform and extension of voting rights; Catholic emancipation and Church reform (with a lot of debate about Church tithes and the power of the Anglican church); the abolition of slavery in British colonies; the condition of the working classes and urban poor; imprisonment for bankruptcy and debt; trade unions; the Poor and the Corn laws; child labour and the Factory Acts; the expansion of education and the role of the church and of religion in education; temperance societies; the development of friendly societies and savings banks; banking, finance and the Currency Question; the treatment of the mentally ill in psychiatric hospitals; the problem of obtaining corpses for dissection in anatomy classes and the need for legislation in the wake of the Burke and Hare scandal; censorship and freedom of the press, including criticism of the British government in India by James Silk Buckingham, editor of the Oriental Herald; and the East India Company.
Other topics covered in the collection include the administration and government of British colonies; Ireland; Britain's foreign policy; taxation; medicine and surgery; the construction of railways, harbours and inland waterways to meet the requirements of Britain's expanding industries; patents and inventions (including the development of steam engineering); the abolition of corporal punishment (flogging) in the army, and the early years of London University, including its construction, administrative matters and syllabi.
Details of items in the collection can be found by searching Explore.