1821 - An early 'socialist' (Robert Owen)

Robert Owen, perhaps the first man to be called a 'socialist', was a pioneer of enlightened factory management. Shown here is a rare copy of his Report . of a Plan for Relieving Public Distress, one of a series of attempts to promote his system not only in Scotland but as far afield as continental Europe and America.

Owen (1771-1858) enjoyed a rags-to-riches career in the Manchester cotton industry and on 1 January 1800 took over the mills in what is now New Lanark, at that time a complex with 1,300 workers and their families with 4,500 pauper children. There he famously applied his 'new system' to alleviate the inhumane conditions of the 'dark, satanic mills'. Dancing, music and drilling, underpinned by common sense and benevolence, enhanced the conditions of the 'living machinery' of his factories. After his experimentation at New Lanark, Owen tried to encourage the adoption of his system elsewhere. The term 'socialism' is said to have been first used in English to describe his doctrine.

The rarity of this copy of Owen's Report is increased by his presentation inscription on the title-page.

Owen, Robert. Report to the county of Lanark, of a plan for relieving public distress, and removing discontent, by giving permanent, productive employment, to the poor and working classes. Glasgow, 1821. RB.s.2016

An early 'socalist' (Robert Owen)


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