The collections held by the Archives Division at the British Library of Political and Economic Science at the LSE include a wealth of information regarding modern British political, economic and social history. The material dates mainly from the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the present day and is accessible to all.
As part of a drive to improve access to Liberal collections held by the Archives Division an externally funded project to catalogue two major collections commenced in September 2006. The project began with the listing, sorting and re-boxing of the papers of Richard Wainwright, Liberal MP for Colne Valley 1966-70 and 1974-87. This catalogue will now be made available via the Archives online catalogue. The collection comprises fifty boxes covering aspects of Wainwright’s political career, as well as some interesting files regarding his education, personal interests and non-political work. Papers regarding the administration of the Liberal Party refer to central policies, annual assemblies and Wainwright’s work for the Liberal Party Organisation. A significant part of the collection relates to Wainwright’s work as spokesman for the party on key subjects including finance, trade and industry, the economy and employment. Speech texts, press releases and articles written by Wainwright on these and other subjects, including local government, electoral reform and devolution, provide a real insight into Liberal policy during this period. There are also some smaller series of files regarding the alliance of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, and the subsequent formation of the Liberal Democrats, with particular reference to the leadership of the new party. Another large series relates to Wainwright’s work within his own constituency. There is a wealth of information regarding his general election campaigns in both Colne Valley and Pudsey, a seat which Wainwright fought but never gained early in his political career. Further papers relate to the work of the Colne Valley Division Liberal Association and local elections.
There are also papers regarding Wainwright’s wife, Joyce, who was active in the promotion of the work of women Liberals. These interesting papers relate to the work of the national Women’s Liberal Federation, the Yorkshire Women’s Liberal Federation, where Joyce served as President and Chairman, and Colne Valley Women’s Liberal Council, where Joyce served as Chairman between 1959 and 1987, and largely comprise minutes of meetings and publicity material.
Throughout his political career Wainwright was an active member of a number of organisations both nationally and within Yorkshire, the most prominent being the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, where he worked between 1959 and 1984. The collection houses a wealth of information regarding the work of the Trust, including correspondence, some minutes and publications, and Wainwright’s personal papers. There are a number of valuable files regarding a trip made by Richard and Joyce to Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde in Africa in November 1972, as part of his work for the Trust, including a detailed account of the visit; publications by and correspondence with the Party for the African Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), led by Luiz Cabral; with minutes and correspondence by the Trust.
Further papers relating to Wainwright’s non-political life include a fascinating insight into life and work during the Second World War. After registering as a conscientious objector at the outbreak of the war Richard joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU), a Quaker organisation, first founded during the First World War to provide a voluntary ambulance service across Europe. Wainwright served with the Unit throughout the war, taking him to France, Holland and Germany. Papers include an interesting collection of correspondence from friends, family and colleagues regarding life during the war, and papers regarding the work of the Unit with issues of the FAU’s publication The Chronicle, weekly information sheets and some central administration papers.
In addition to the completion of the catalogue of Richard Wainwright work has now commenced on the listing of Lord Steel’s papers. This collection comprises some 250 boxes relating largely to Lord Steel’s work as Liberal Party leader (1976-88), and covers the period c1976-99. The collection includes important papers regarding the Lib-Lab Pact (1977-78), the Liberal-SDP Alliance and the subsequent merger between the two parties to form the Liberal Democrats. There are also papers and correspondence regarding the work and policies of the Liberal Party on a wide range of subjects including agriculture, housing, defence, the environment, education and transport. Further papers relate to Steel’s constituency of Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale in the Scottish borders and Scottish home affairs. The catalogue will be added to a smaller collection of Steel’s papers that were deposited at the BLPES in 1989 and should be completed and available online by October 2007.
The completion of this project will complement the recent introduction of the catalogue of the Liberal Party papers to the online catalogue. Other significant collections held by the LSE Archives relating to Liberal history include the papers of:
Paddy Ashdown (1941-)
William Beveridge (1879-1963)
Leonard Henry Courtney (1832-1918)
Frances L. Josephy (1900-1984)
Sir Andrew McFadyean (1887-1974)
Juliet Evangeline Rhys Williams (1898-1964)
David Vasmer (fl 1971)
Graham Robert Watson (1956)
Further information regarding this and other projects at the LSE Archives Division can be found on the Archive’s website.