The Occupied Library

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 25 2011 @ 8:42am


Today's occupy protests aren't the first:

In the middle of the nineteenth century, England’s Chartist movement—its energies strikingly similar to those of the Occupy movement, its intent similarly misunderstood by the powerful—established reading rooms throughout Britain. This was an era when public libraries were not widespread; most lending libraries charged subscription fees. The free Chartist libraries were enormously popular—and for the elite, enormously unsettling.

A commentator in Blackwood’s magazine argued that “Whenever the lower order of any state have obtained a smattering of knowledge they have generally used it to produce national ruin.” Utilitarian reformers sought public funding for libraries where, they argued the intellectual appetites of working class-readers could safely be turned to productive ends.

(Photo: "Occupy Kennington Common: London's Great Chartist Meeting, 1848")