Book & Research

BOTH BOOKS about Robert … now AVAILABLE!

“Rooted in the past, deeply personal and shaping our present … a necessary and timely read in the debate about identity and belonging”  Baroness Sayeeda Warsi


His Own Man; a Victorian Hidden Muslim’ is the historical biography about Robert’s life and the world that he was born into. It is now available as a  paperback and as an eBook. Imagining Robert – Scenes from the Life of Robert ‘Reschid’ Stanley – is also available as paperback and as eBook. It is a work of creative fiction and touches upon the experiences of the women in his life; who have largely been overlooked in recorded history. It also features colourful personalities such as Emmeline Pankhurst, Prophet John Wroe and Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam.

Both books emphasise the importance of family and genealogical research and of civic and local history.

PLEASE – If you enjoy reading the book, do leave us a review on Amazon or Good Reads. Or … just write to us to tell us your thoughts.

Below you will find some early endorsements for ‘His Own Man’ – from a few people who managed to get the first ‘sneak reads’!


HIS OWN MAN’ – A Victorian ‘Hidden’ Muslim.

The Life and Times of Robert ‘Reschid’ Stanley

Robert Stanley was a respectable, northern working-class Victorian man who converted to Islam. But his family managed to keep his Muslim identity a secret – for nearly a century.  Robert grew up in the cradle of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and was part of the Christian Israelite sect in Ashton-under-Lyne. Self-educated, this grocer and tea-trader made it his mission to help northern working men bribed by rich factory owners during elections. He rose to become one of Britain’s first working-class magistrates and mayors in Stalybridge, witnessing first-hand some of the most violent riots, radicalism and progressive reforms of the Victorian era.

Robert was committed to justice for all, even when his public challenges to an unfair British foreign policy caused troubles for him.  He eventually sold his pub and moved to Manchester with his family. In 1898 at the age of 69, he took the astonishing decision to convert to Islam, becoming close friend of famous convert – Abdullah Quilliam – Sheikh of Islam of the British Isles.  After his death, his conversion was ‘hidden’ for nearly a century.

Always ‘His Own Man’, Robert ‘Reschid’ Stanley’s life is brought into the light for the first time – thanks to the painstaking family history research of his own descendants and through the words of his great x 3 granddaughter, Christina Longden.


‘Rooted in the past, deeply personal and shaping our present, His Own Man – The ‘Hidden’ Victorian Muslim Convert – is a necessary and timely read in the debate about identity and belonging’.



His Own Man is an essential read for anyone interested in challenging preconceived ideas of Muslim and working-class community life. Chris Longden must be congratulated for writing this highly accessible biography; one which Robert Reschid Stanley would be deeply proud of.

This is a compelling socio-political portrait of one of the leading Victorian Muslims, based upon extensive archival research. This book provides a much-needed contribution towards a growing field of research on early Muslim convert communities during Victorian Britain’.

DR SHAMIM MIAH, Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield.


‘History matters.

It matters because we are who we are and what we are. Not only because of our own personal history – but also because of our familial, local, regional, national and international histories.

History matters because it teaches us that life is not about ‘me’ and ‘I’. It is about ‘we’ and ‘us’.

History matters because it belongs to everyone and not to one person.

History matters because it brings to the fore continuity and links the past, the present and the future in a vital chain.

History matters because it brings together the local and the global and through so doing, it calls out to us of the need to understand, respect and embrace those who may appear to be different to us: for through knowing our histories we recognise the commonality of the peoples of the world.

History matters because is not only about the past, it is about making the present and shaping the future in a more inclusive, caring and appreciative way.

This book by Christina Longden matters because it embraces all those vital concepts of history. An important and pioneering work, it highlights the need not for tolerance of each other’s beliefs but of acceptance: an acceptance that can only arise through the understanding the importance of our shared histories.

Herein lies the power of Christina Longden’s research, writing and passion: the celebration of that which we have in common – our humanity’.




By Rev Ian Stubbs, September 2019

On ‘His Own Man’

“One of the most popular TV series at present is “Who Do You Think You Are?” Using the many resources available to family history researchers the celebrity subject is able to delve back into their family’s past and to learn something of who they are and how their history has shaped them. Many times they are taken aback by unexpected discoveries. This book is no exception; a journey back into a family’s past with similar surprising and fascinating discoveries.
The initial work was done by Brian Longden the author’s father and 2x great grandson of Robert Stanley, the subject of the book. They had known previously that surprisingly Robert, an ordinary working man and grocer, had been Mayor of Stalybridge in Lancashire from 1874-76 in times when mayors were largely drawn from wealthy factory and property owners. They were astonished in 1999 to discover that in 1898 Robert, aged 69, had converted to Islam – even more surprising given Brian’s son Steven’s own conversion in the early 90s quite unaware of that of his 3x great grandfather.
Robert’s story is taken up by Christina, Brian’s daughter, in this fascinating and riveting book. It is extremely well researched and yet is written in a lively and engaging narrative style. She locates Robert amongst the wars, struggles and vicissitudes of Victorian life in England, particularly as they were focused in the towns of Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Ashton-under-Lyne where Robert lived and worked. She examines how these influenced his faith and values and shaped his outlook and contribution to political reform and social justice in his work as a councillor, mayor and JP.
There is no record of exactly why Robert converted but Christina explores important influences such as, his interest in the Ottoman Empire though his occupation as a tea merchant, his meeting Muslim tea traders in Manchester and his correspondence and eventual meeting with William Henry (Abdullah) Quilliam, a Liverpool solicitor who embraced Islam in 1887 (aged 31) and is part of the fascinating story of the growth of Islam in late Victorian Britain.
Christina Longden has brought together a remarkable story of her ancestor which demonstrates so well how one man contributed so positively to his community and country and how so many issues with which he grappled – poverty, democracy, social and international justice and fairness, participation, religious understanding – are still at the forefront of our lives in the twenty-first century. This book both challenges and inspires us to be our own women and men. It is a must-read.”


View our trailer here. 


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