Liberalism Project Launched at Founder's Day

Gladstone’s Library held its annual Founder’s Day today (Monday 9th July 2012) and part of the celebrations was the official launch of its ‘Re: defining Liberalism’ project and the bestowing of three fellowships.

The two year ‘Re: defining liberalism’ project will examine liberalism in the modern age and seek to establish a definition or perhaps even several definitions of the subject. The Library is currently asking as many people to get involved as possible. The focus of the project is to re-work Andrew Reid’s classic Victorian publication ‘Why I am a Liberal’ which was published in 1885. This publication asked a selection of the great and the good exactly that question for the benefit of the reading public. One of Reid’s fifty-five contributors was W.E. Gladstone the founder of Gladstone’s Library.

The project is being supported by academic partner, Chester University, and will lead to publication in book form and entries being published in a dedicated blog. Entries have already started to be sent in and include journalist and political commentator, Peter Kellner; novelist and Gladstone’s Library Writer-In-Residence, Stella Duffy; poet Gill McEvoy; and journalist Cathy Galvin. The project was officially launched today with the Gladstone Lecture which this year was given by British historian David Cannadine on ‘What is Gladstonian Liberalism and does it matter today?’

Peter Francis, Warden at Gladstone’s Library was pleased to welcome David Cannadine to mark the official launch of the project. “This project has to have many strands as liberalism means such a variety of things to so many different people. The responses that we have had in so far already show how differently it is interpreted across different cultures and in a variety of countries across the world. It is a truly fascinating project and David’s lecture today seems in ideal starting point.”

Today three Fellowships were awarded to Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of Chester University; Professor Christopher Lewis, Professor of Psychology at Glyndwr University; and Professor Keith Ward, renowned British philosopher and theologian and Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London.

The Library awards Fellowships each year to people who have made significant academic contribution to Gladstone studies, divine learning or the liberal arts and those who have shown exceptional support to Gladstone’s Library.

“We have chosen three professors who have undoubtedly been of great support to the Library for many years” said Peter Francis. “Professor Lewis has been using the Library for over fourteen years and is a great enthusiast for the Library encouraging many people and organisations to visit and use the Library. He is one of the major figures in the psychology of religion in Britain and his host of publications are testimony to that. Professor Wheeler has shown a great deal of support to the Library on behalf of the University of Chester and this has developed a strong link with its Victorian Studies and Theology and Religious Studies areas of learning and Professor Keith Ward works tirelessly to interpret questions of faith for a wider audience, a theme that we very much support here at the Library.

If you would like to get involved in the Re: defining Liberalism project, the Library is seeking people’s responses to the question ‘why I am liberal’ or ‘why I am not liberal’. Answers of between 5 and 500 words should be e-mailed to Louisa Yates at by 1st November 2012. To see the blog visit