Gamblin Papers

Ref: MS 303

Title: Gamblin Papers

Scope: A collection of documents collected by David Gamblin as preparation for his upcoming PhD thesis on ‘Yorkshire and the American Civil War’, that unfortunately he was not able to finish.

Dates: 1995-1999
Level: Fonds
Extent: 11 boxes
Name of creator: David Gamblin

Administrative / biographical history:
This collection consists primarily of typed pieces and photocopied extracts, as well as informal items such as handwritten notes and Mindmaps collected by David Gamblin, a PhD student of Sheffield University whilst conducting research for his PhD thesis; ‘Yorkshire and the American Civil War’, during the years 1996-99.

David Gamblin, described as an outstanding mature student, completed his BA Honours Degree in 1994, received a First Class Degree as well as much acclaim amongst his peers, resulting in him been offered the Chancellor’s medal for exceptional attainment in academic achievement. Subsequent to his academic success Gamblin was also offered the opportunity to study a PhD, and therefore Gamblin’s research papers compiled in order to build into his PhD thesis has become the basis of this collection.

The American Civil War’s significance as a major event in global history cannot be under appreciated. At home the conflict represented the first ‘total war’ and in human terms is responsible for more American deaths than the combined sum of all conflicts the United States has become engaged with ever since. Upon the international stage the industrial and attritional nature of the conflict represented a new standard in the history of warfare. Finally, due to the alluring American trade markets and the nature of the inter-Atlantic trade never before did the future of industrial capitalism so clearly hang in the balance than during the American Civil War.

Nowhere was the latter fact made more abundantly clear than Britain. As the Mid-19th Century British economy was deeply invested in North American slave grown cotton, the essential raw material of Lancashire’s textile industry upon which much of Britain’s wealth was based. In turn, the United States of America at the time was the most important market for British manufacturers. The reciprocal trade was maintained and enriched by the shipping interests of both Nations. When war broke out normal trade patterns were quickly disbanded as the Union imposed a naval blockade of Southern ports, eager to establish a chokehold upon the Confederate economy. Consequently so severely starved Lancashire of cotton, that by 1862 it caused a cotton famine that brought the British textile industry to a complete standstill, and almost thrust Britain into the war on behalf of the Confederacy.

In a context of modern historiography, subsequent emphasis has been laid upon the impact of the Lancashire cotton famine and particularly the reaction of North Eastern local populations to the grave shortages of cotton. Most notably been Mary Ellison’s Support for Secession, (1972), where she argues understandably that in facing such an eminent threat to their own personal economic interests the recently unemployed Lancashire Cotton mill workers responded with unified overwhelming support for the Confederacy. Although more contemporary studies have questioned the assertion that such support was either unified or reactionary in support for the South, suggesting rather that Ellison’s tendency to oversimplify complex social and political processes fundamentally undermines, rather that justifies, her arguments.

However this historical debate surrounding the Lancashire cotton famine arguably questions Gamblin’s choice to base his thesis upon Sheffield which he states did not even achieve city status until the 1890’s, and whose industrial narrative was one rigidly steeped in steel production rather than cotton. However, Sheffield during the mid-19th Century was the world leader in steel production and renowned for edge tool manufacture. Furthermore North America had been Sheffield’s most prolific export market for over a century, particularly for the Sheffield manufactured Bowie-Knifes that formed part of a cowboy’s standard equipment and were held in great admiration. Sheffield industry also provided the iron for the railroads upon which the United States’ territorial and economic development was founded.

Therefore the significant themes involved in Gamblin’s collection is the comparison between Sheffield and Bradford in order to assess the extent that the two vastly different industrial narratives, both however intrinsically linked to the American Civil War, contribute to the overall nature of popular support for either belligerent. Another theme Gamblin develops throughout the collection is the assessment of the role of local religious leaders and the underlying Protestant sentiments in rousing public support.

  • Source: Donated in 2004
  • System of arrangement: As received
  • Subjects: Sheffield (England) – Economic Conditions – 19th Century; United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Economic Aspects
  • Names: Gamblin, David
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: Variously according to document
  • Finding aids: Listed