James Butterworth and the autodidact tradition

Poole, Robert ORCID logo ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9613-6401 (2003) James Butterworth and the autodidact tradition. In: Window on a Changing World: Edwin Butterworth and the Early Nineteenth Century Provincial Press, 14 June 2003, Manchester Centre for Regional History, Manchester, UK. (Unpublished) Full text not available from this repository.

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James Butterworth (1771-1837) was an outstanding product of the autodidact tradition. A weaver with a large family to support, he survived domestic tragedy and economic hardship to become Oldham’s postmaster and latterly a pioneer writer of local history. His work here was carried on by his son Edwin, but the two men – born 41 years apart – represented different ages. While Edwin was a prosaic Victorian improver, urban in his outlook and Chadwickian in his methods, James was a more versatile Hanoverian figure, an antiquarian, a lover of customs, and a poet with a “rustic muse”. Culturally insecure and dependent on gentry patronage, his published works used conventional form to stake a claim for the value of artisan experience. He also saw himself as the heir of the dialect writer and satirist “Tim Bobbin”, whom he may have known in youth and whose work he anonymously continued. He was also a radical and (as the Home Office papers show) as postmaster privately enjoyed twisting the tail of his state paymasters. The radical and writer Samuel Bamford knew both men, but it was James with whom he most identified and made common cause in the post-war reform movement. James Butterworth also knew and lived amongst the self-educated weavers of the period, particularly the remarkable circle of weaver-mathematicians in Oldham whose life stories are scattered through the cuttings collections of Oldham and Manchester.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Academic Departments > Institute of Arts (IOA) > Humanities
Depositing User: Insight Administrator
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2010 10:51
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2024 18:30
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/737
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