A Brief History of Leeds

A collection of articles exploring the history of Leeds, illustrated with unique and memorable books and other stock resources from the Leeds Libraries collections. Scroll to read an introduction, click a link to read more, or see our History of Leeds research guide for further resources. Readers of this series may also enjoy our articles on the People of Leeds.

The primary aim of this series of articles is to offer a brief history of Leeds, covering the 15th to the 21st-century. That historical chronology is primarily a framework allowing us to highlight some of the most interesting and unique items we hold at the Central Library, items that illustrate or represent particular periods.

As such, we’re making no claims to completeness here, nor formulating a new argument about the city and its past. Other histories could be constructed from those materials, and this particular version clearly omits or jumps over some important people, places and periods.

Having said that, certain themes do emerge and reverberate across the centuries: innovation, particularly the kinds of innovation that come from the competition and collaboration when talented people are concentrated in the same place at the same time; Leeds’s place in national and international networks of trade and ideas; and the city’s powers of dynamism and self-renewal, often driven by new arrivals into the region.

A note on content: many of the following articles are based on, or replicate, material previously-published on the Secret Library blog by a variety of authors. In addition, immense credit must be given to our colleague Philip Wilde, who brought many of the following items to our attention during his stock work in our collections, and on whose own research we have drawn, particularly in the early articles.

We are very receptive to any corrections or additional information any readers can provide. Please contact us via Localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk or on 0113 37 86982 to make any suggestions.

Finally, any photographs you will see, that are not obviously identifiable as being of the items under discussion, are from the Leeds Libraries Leodis website – www.leodis.net  

Articles (others are forthcoming)
#1: The 15th-century
#2: The 16th-century
#3: The 17th-century
#4: The 18th-century
#5: The Industrial Revolution
#6: The early to mid-19th-century
#7: The later 19th-century
#8: The early 20th-century, part 1
#9: The early 20th-century, part 2