This project makes freely available a database of poems written in response to the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861-65, along with commentary, audio recitations and musical performances drawing directly on these poems. These poems were largely sourced from newspapers – local, regional, and national – based in Lancashire, around the UK, and America. Material has also been gathered from Australia and France.

The database is intended for use by scholars, students, and the general public, and is the result of years of collaboration between research and digital humanities teams based at the University of Exeter. There has also been significant input from students, members of the public, and creative artists to produce the commentary, recitations, and musical settings the database brings together. Since the first 100 poems were published in 2018 the poetry has been used to teach in schools and universities, and scholarly work has begun to appear based on the texts collected here for the first time. The 2020 full launch adds another 300 poems, quadrupling the number of texts, and providing the first extensive literary overview of this significant period in British and international social history.

The Cotton Famine was caused by the Union blockade of Confederate exports of cotton during the American Civil War, and many of the poems address this international aspect of a regional crisis. Also included here are American poems from both sides of the conflict which comment on the British position during the war, and how this relates to cotton, and cotton workers. For this reason poems included on this database cover subjects including politics, industry, unemployment, poverty, hunger, war and slavery.

Please note: The poetry on this website is Victorian and reflects the ideology and language of that time. Terms may be used, and social attitudes may be expressed, which would be unacceptable today, but in the interests of historical accuracy examples of this have not been amended or censored.

Project Team