The Library holds 90,000 old pamphlets, many published in the 19th century or the early part of the 20th century. This is primary source material, published and written by pressure groups, political parties and individual campaigners. Much of the original collection was donated to the Library in its early years. It is therefore a unique resource for historical research.
The collection has an international flavour, material is published in most European languages, with a particularly large proportion in German. There are publications from France published in 1848, Russia and Germany in the 1930s. The material on labour and the trade unions covers a vast range of countries including South Africa and Latin America. International history is also well-covered, including material on the League of Nations, disarmament, pacifism and the two World Wars. Disputes such as the Middle East are also well documented.
There is a comprehensive collection of material from political parties, including election manifestos and political cartoons. Issues in British political history include the Corn laws, land question, Church and state and home rule for Ireland. There is a wealth of material on the co-operative movement, including the Cooperative Women's Guild.
Pamphlets can be found from long-standing pressure groups such as the Fabian Society and organisations which have long disappeared such as the Industrial Welfare Society, the Minority Movements in the trades unions, the League of Nations Union and the Common Wealth Party.
The Library has maintained its policy of acquiring this type of material, by subscription to political parties, research bodies and current day pressure groups of all persuasions including the Child Poverty Action Group, Adam Smith Institute, the Institute for Economic Affairs and Transport 2000.
Since August 1997 all the pamphlets acquired by the Library before 1980 have records on the Library's online catalogue. They can be searched by subject keyword, author, author, title or issuing body.
Pamphlets need to be fetched by Library staff and cannot be taken out of the Library.