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Lansdowne and Halifax Tracts


British History, English Civil War, politics, economics.


Over 4000 tracts.

Scope and content 

Approximately 4000 tracts published in England from 1559 to 1776 (also included in this figure are tracts originating from Belgium and France). The subject matter includes the Union between England and Scotland, the Civil War, the Commonwealth, the Restoration (including descriptions of the executions of King Charles 1st in 1649 and those who signed his death warrant 12 years later) up to the eve of the American Revolution. Other wars, plots, mutinies and impeachments and conspiracies are also covered. Many of the tracts are by Defoe and Swift, and were published under pseudonyms such as "Your friend from the country", or anonymously by Levellers, Quakers, free thinkers, free-traders, Jacobites, and Whigs. It was often a criminal offence to be in possession of some of the works in the collection. Thousands were printed but very few have survived because they were thrown away almost immediately after being read. 


The Lansdowne and Halifax Tracts are named after William Petty, 1st Marquis of Lansdowne (1737-1805) and George Montague Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax (1716-1771) respectively. Tracts once owned by Walter Yonge MP (1581?-1649), Fabian Philipps (1601-1690), and Gilbert Affleck (d.1764) are also included. They were purchased by the London Institution at a Sotheby’s sale in 1806, then eventually deposited to the Library in 1918 by the School of Oriental Studies. 


The collection is fully catalogued. To browse the records, conduct a shelfmark search for LANSDOWNE TRACTS on Explore.