The archive holds the collections of two of the most important political parties in British history, the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain, as well as related and complimentary collections of rich historical importance to Britain’s political past.
The collection of the Labour Party is an exceptional array of papers from its inception in 1900 to the present and totals more than 2,340 boxes. The main body of the collection consists of a full run of the minutes of the National Executive Committee. The collection also contains papers of other committees and sub-committees such as the War Emergency Workers’ National Committee. Papers regarding general elections and departments such as the Research Department and International Department are also held within the collection. We also hold papers of the General Secretaries’ such as those of James Middleton and Morgan Phillips.
Other papers held within the Labour Party collection include the records of the Women’s Labour League 1906-1918, the Council of Action papers 1920-1921, the Arthur Henderson papers 1915-35 (first Labour cabinet minister and long-term leader of the Labour Party), the papers of the early socialists such as the correspondence of Frederick Pickles from 1885 to 1907 (executive secretary to Keir Hardie, founder of the Labour Party) and the correspondence of Henry Alfred Barker from 1882 to 1933 (prominent socialist and trade unionist and Labour Party member).
Sections of the Labour Party collection are catalogued and can be accessed online via Access to Archives.
The papers of the Communist Party of Great Britain consist of the minutes, memoranda and correspondence of the Central Executive Committee 1943-1991, the Political Committee 1946-1991 and the Economic Committee 1946-1987. There are also extensive files on the International Department 1945-1991 and the national congresses 1920-1991. The collection spans more than 1,070 boxes. The collection also came with papers of prominent founding members of the party such as those of Harry Pollitt, the party’s general secretary from 1929 to 1939 and 1941, whose papers cover the years 1920-1960; Rajani Palme Dutt whose papers covers the years of 1908-1971; Willie Gallacher, communist MP whose collection spans the years 1920-1981, and many other prominent communist figures.
Sections of the Communist Party of Great Britain are catalogued and can be accessed online via Access to Archives.
The archive contains the correspondence of Charles Vincent, a leading Chartist. The collection consists of manuscript correspondence, mainly between Henry Vincent to his friend John Minikin, regarding political meetings and activities, filling two large boxes. Vincent’s letters cover the period from 1837 to late 1842, a particularly volatile period in Chartist history. A collection of original and microfilm copies of Chartist newspapers such as The Western Vindicator (1839-1842), The Chartist Circular (1839-1842) and the Poor Man’s Guardian (1931-1935), are also contained within the archive and provide an excellent account of Chartist activity.
The archive also contains papers of organisations who are not affiliated to the Labour or Communist parties. Such organisations include that of the Chile Solidarity Campaign (1973-1991); the Socialist Sunday Schools and later the Socialist Fellowship (1894-1970s) and the Unity Theatre collection (1930s-1976).
Catalogues of some collections of organisations can be accessed online via the Archives Hub.
The archive has continued to collect papers of prominent political figures after acquiring the Labour Party Archive. Such collections include those of Douglas Houghton, prominent Labour politician whose papers include those of the Parliamentary Labour Party, animal charities, pressure groups and legislation, scripts broadcasts, speeches and correspondence, both personal and professional. The collection spans the years 1945-1996 and consists of 88 boxes. Michael Foot, long standing Labour leader and author, whose collection spans his entire political career from 1938-1990 as well as personal papers dating back to 1926, filling 107 boxes. We also have the impressive collection of correspondence between Harry McShane and Raya Dunayevskaya, both revolutionary names in leftwing ideology, and covers the dates 1959-1988 and consists of five boxes.
Catalogues of some collections of individuals can be accessed online via the Archives Hub.
The museum holds an important collection of over 95,000 photographic images covering labour history, the Labour Party and general political history. The core of the collection is formed from the photo archives of the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain. If you have a request for an image please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also refer to the guide on reproduction fees for images.
The extensive pamphlet collection consists of over 17,000 pamphlets from the 1830s to the 2000s. The material is published by political organisations such as the Labour Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Socialist Party of Great Britain as well as political pamphlets published by non-political organisations. The content of the pamphlets cover a range of topics such as general social history, biographies, elections, social reform, workers’ rights, economics and industry.
Sent out approximately every two months.