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Political skulduggery: what kept Charles Bradlaugh MP from taking his seat in Parliament?

Charles Bradlaugh was and is not everyone's hero; Karl Marx and William Gladstone were united in hating him. Elected as a Liberal MP for Northampton in 1880, he was kept from taking his seat in Parliament for six long years. Allegedly for being an atheist, but could it have been for other reasons?

Speaker Deborah Lavin believes that Bradlaugh deserves attention, not only for his atheism, republicanism and struggle to take his seat, but for his 10-year working relationship with Annie Besant and their joint trial in 1877 under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing a pamphlet about birth control.

Deborah is active in the Socialist History Society and the Freethought History Research Group. She has written and often speaks on Charles Bradlaugh and his great public row with Karl Marx over the Commune of Paris.

The event takes place in the Conway Hall Library; the UK's largest and most comprehensive humanist research resource. As well as portraits and sculptures of Bradlaugh, the Library's collection of artworks includes luminaries such as Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, and William Morris.

Presented in partnership with Conway Hall Ethical Society and will form part of the Bloomsbury Festival 2015.

This Festival of Freedoms event aligns with the Catholic Emancipation Act banner from ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome' exhibition in Westminster Hall.


This event is free of charge, but please book your place.  Capacity for this event is limited. Access and venue information can be found on the booking page.

If you have any questions, please contact

Find out about the Festival of Freedoms programme