Biography of John Bright
John Bright (1811-1889) was Rector of the University from 1880 until 1883.
Born in Rochdale to a family of Quakers, Bright became involved in the temperance movement and local politics, and came to national prominence as a great orator and as a leader of the Anti-Corn Law League in the 1840s. He became a radical MP campaigning for free trade and political and social reform.
Bright's opponent in the 1880 rectorial election was the critic John Ruskin, who had also stood for rector in 1871. A letter written by Ruskin about student involvement in politics (including the statement "You are students of the University, and have no more business with politics than you do with rat-catching") was believed to have alienated many voters, and Bright won easily.
When delivering his speech at his installation in St Andrew's Hall, Bright became animated and his flailing hand caught the University mace resting on a stand in front of him. The head of the mace was sent crashing to the ground, and Bright had to be treated for a cut hand. Nonetheless, he wrote later that the event "passed off better than I had feared."