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Guide to Political Records

Political and Party Political Records

The following provides a brief description of significant collections of political and Party political papers.

Cabinet Papers, The National Archives

The National Archives has published several handbooks about the papers of the Cabinet Office which describe these records in much greater detail than is possible in this entry. These handbooks are available in many large libraries:

  • No. 4 List of Cabinet Papers, 1880-1914 (HMSO, 1964)
  • No. 6 List of Papers of the Committee for Imperial Defence to 1914 (HMSO, 1964)
  • No. 9 List of Cabinet Papers, 1915-1916 (HMSO, 1966)
  • No. 11 The Records of the Cabinet Office to 1922 (HMSO, 1966)
  • No. 15 The Second World War: A Guide to Documents in the Public Record Office (HMSO, 1972)
  • No. 17 The Cabinet Office to 1945 (HMSO, 1975).

Alternatively, view the electronic leaflet on the records of the Cabinet Office on the The National Archives website.

Communist Party, Labour History Archive and Study Centre

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) Archives were collected at the Communist Party Library in Hackney. They date from 1943. Most administrative and political records before that date were sent to Moscow in 1938, where they were deposited at the Marx-Lenin Institute, now the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI). Until 1986 access was restricted and in 1990 they were sorted and listed by Francis King. On the demise of the Communist Party itself in 1992 they were placed under the control of the Communist Party Archives Trust. In 1994 they were deposited on permanent loan with the People's History Museum (formerly the National Museum of Labour History). The collection is now held at the Labour History Archives and Study Centre, which is based at the head office of the People's History Museum and managed by the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.

The archive of the CPGB is extensive, and includes the minutes of the:

  • Communist Party Executive Committee, 1943-91
  • Political Bureau, 1924-5
  • Political Committee, 1946-91
  • Political Sub-Committee, 1954-91
  • Economic Committee, 1946-87

There are also extensive files on the:

  • International Department, 1945-91
  • national congresses, 1920-91
  • industrial files, 1950- 91
  • organisation files, 1944-91

There are also files on:

  • district and local parties
  • the People's Press Printing Society (Daily Worker and Morning Star), 1945-90
  • Young Communist League, 1922-87
  • Women's Department papers, 1933-91

In addition, there are the papers of prominent Communist individuals:

  • Harry Pollitt, 1905-59
  • Rajani Palme Dutt, 1908-71
  • Willie Gallacher, 1920-81
  • John Gollan, 1931-77
  • Wal Hannington, 1934-66
  • Ivor Montagu, 1924-83
  • Bert Ramelson, 1945-91
  • James Klugmann, 1928-76
  • Kay Beauchamp, 1961-79
  • Ben Bradley, 1929-69
  • Dona Torr (including some Tom Mann material)
  • Jack Woddis, 1937-77

Also held are the archives of the London District Communist Party, which contain files, amongst others, on:

  • district congresses, 1926-88
  • miscellaneous advisory committees, 1950-88
  • membership, 1948-88
  • race relations, 1950-83
  • party branches, 1944-81

The LHASC also holds runs of a number of Communist journals, including Labour Monthly, Marxism Today, Communist Review and the Jewish Clarion. The archives also contain microfilm of Comintern material relating to the CPGB 1926-38, which was obtained by James Klugmann on a visit to Moscow in 1957. In 1995 Monty Johnson also obtained microfilmed copies of CPGB material held in Russia.

For more details on the Communist Party of Great Britain see the Archives Hub. The indexes to the CPGB can be searched at Access to Archives (A2A).

Conservative Party, Conservative Party Archive

The Conservative Party Archive (CPA) was established as a source for academic research at the Bodleian Library, Oxford in 1978. Before this, Conservative records had long been divided between the Conservative Central Office (CCO) in London and Newcastle University Library. Following its move to Oxford, the CPA was identified as a valuable source for historians interested in twentieth century economic, social and political history. It serves to complement the Bodleian's collections that include one of the most important collections of modern political papers in Britain. In contrast, CPA does not contain private papers as such; it is the archive of the Party's central organisation. Rather, its papers contain the records that these individuals created in the course of their work within Conservative Central Office.

The oldest papers in CPA are located in the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations' collection, and date from 1867. Many records were lost during the wars, and a number of moves by Central Office has led to the destruction of still more, particularly from the period before 1939. As a result, the archive consists predominantly of post-Second World War material. Material in the CPA is kept up-to-date through periodic transfers from Conservative Central Office.

Papers held in CPA have been arranged into the three main areas, reflecting the main sections of the Party: the voluntary section or the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations (NUA); Area Office(s) files (ARE); and Conservative Central Office (CCO). The archive also contains Other Collections (including, but not limited to, the papers of Sir Keith Joseph, the 1922 Committee and the Whips' Office) and a library of published/printed Party material including a large collection of General Election posters dating from 1909.

See the on-line catalogue for further details.

Independent Liberal Party, British Library of Political and Economic Science

The archives of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) are a major resource for the study of labour history during the late 19th and early 20th centuries containing not only the records of the ILP but also publications produced by other labour organisations, both in Britain and overseas throughout that period.

The Independent Labour Party was formed in 1893 and participated in the 1900 Labour Representation Committee, providing the main local structure for the labour movement in the years prior to 1918. However from the mid 1920's the ILP was increasingly distanced from Labour Party policies. The last ILP candidate to win election to Parliament was James Carmichael in 1946.

The archive was deposited at the British Library of Political and Economic Science over several years. The archive includes early minute books, 1893-1931, head office circulars, 1904-1922, National Administrative Council minutes and related records, the correspondence of Francis Johnson, secretary, 1888-1950, papers relating to individual members and branches, ILP printed material and print material from related organisations.

Labour Party, Labour History Archive and Study Centre

The Labour Party archives date from the Party's foundation in 1900 as the Labour Representation Committee. Over the years they have survived six changes of address. Their survival can largely be attributed to Jim Middleton, the first employee of the Labour Party, deputy General Secretary for 35 years and General Secretary for ten. He maintained an effective filing system that ensured that all the records were in good order and that the correspondence of the first seven years remained intact. In 1960 the Labour Party librarian made the archives accessible for historical research and in 1972 the Party commissioned the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts to sort and list them. In 1990 they were transferred to the National Museum of Labour History at their new premises in Manchester, where the repository became known as the Labour History Archive and Study Centre.

The archives include the minutes of the National Executive Committee from its first meeting in 1900 until 1996. There are various sub-committee minutes dating from 1918 up to the 1970s. There is also domestic correspondence from 1900 until the 1990s; it has been listed up to 1964. There are minutes of the International Sub-Committee from 1919 to the 1980s and international correspondence from 1929 up to the 1970s; it has been listed up to the 1960s. There are also the Organisation Sub-Committee minutes from 1931 to the 1980s and various women's committee minutes dating from 1919 to the 1970s.

The Labour Party has acquired various other collections over the years. These include the records of:

  • Women's Labour League, 1906-18
  • War Emergency Workers National Committee, 1914-19
  • Council of Action papers, 1920-1
  • Arthur Henderson papers, 1915-35
  • Keir Hardie notes and diary, 1884-1888
  • papers of the Chartist Henry Vincent, 1838-9
  • papers of the early Socialists Frederick Pickles, 1885-1907 and H A Barker, 1882-1933

There are also the papers of the Labour Party's first women's officer and later MP for Sunderland, Marion Phillips 1929-31, (which include papers on the Consumers' Council 1918-20) and the papers of H N Brailsford, 1912-58.

The indexes to the Labour Party can be searched at Access to Archives (A2A).

Liberal Democratic Party, British Library of Political and Economic Science

The Liberal Democrats have deposited material accumulated since its formation in 1988 with the British Library of Political and Economic Science. Files have been deposited by the Policy Unit providing an overview of policy development in the new party. However most of the records remain at Liberal Democrat headquarters at Cowley Street, London.

Liberal Party, British Library of Political and Economic Science

The Liberal Party archives were deposited at the British Library of Political and Economic Science in 1987 with some later deposits and although the covering dates of the collection reach back to 1912 the majority of the collection covers the post 1945 period. The collection is concerned with the central organisation of the party and includes

  • minutes and working papers of the National Executive Committee, 1954-1987
  • papers of the Liberal Party Organisation, 1940-1988, including:
    • minutes, 1958-1979
    • bulletins, 1940-1943
    • correspondence, 1938-1987
    • working and administrative papers
  • papers of the Party Council, 1970-1987
  • minutes, working papers and correspondence of the Standing Committee, later the Policy Committee, 1960-1987
  • material created by Central Committees,1936-1987, including:
    • the Organising Committee, 1961-1965
    • the Constitutional Review Committee, 1936-1987
    • the Publicity Sub-Committee, 1980-1983
    • the Officer's Committee, 1975-1977
    • the Corporate Appeals Committee, 1977-1979
    • the Candidates Committee, 1973-1987
    • the Membership Committee, 1983-1987
    • the Campaigns and Elections Committee, 1965-1987
  • Annual Reports and Accounts, 1934-1987
  • financial material, 1963-1987, including minutes and correspondence of the Finance and Administration Board, and papers relating to fundraising
  • papers relating to Liberal Assemblies, 1912-1987
  • material concerning General Elections and by-elections (fought by the Liberal Party and the Alliance), 1945-1987
  • papers relating to the Liberal Party and Europe, 1976-1987
  • transcripts of party political broadcasts from various British political parties, 1981-1988
  • press cuttings and releases of the party, 1924-1936 and 1960-1987

There are also policy files and party publications.

Parliament and Parliamentarians, The Parliamentary Archives

Over the years the archive has acquired selected papers of individual politicians, which range from a few items to the 1054 boxes of the Lloyd George Papers including the papers of prominent politicians and importantly some who held high party office. Amongst the latter are:- the papers of Herbert Samuel (Chairman of the Liberal Party Organisation, 1927-29, Chairman of the Liberal Parliamentary Party, 1931-35) and of John Colin Campbell Davidson (Chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Party, 1927-30). Many of the collections contain records of the involvement of individual politicians in election campaigns at constituency level. The office also holds the records of the "Britain in Europe" cross-party organisation that campaigned for a positive vote in the 1975 referendum on Britain's continued membership of the European Community.

The political collections are described briefly in HLRO Memorandum No.60 A Guide to the Historical Collections of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries preserved in the House of Lords Record Office (HLRO, 1978). There is online access to the catalogues of the Lloyd George Papers and the Bonar Law papers on the A2A database at www.a2a.org.uk. All finding aids to political collections are accessible on the online catalogue "Portcullis" at www.portcullis.parliament.uk.

Plaid Cymru (and other Welsh political records), Welsh Political Archive

The Welsh Political Archive (WPA) was set up in 1983 to co-ordinate the collection of documentary evidence of all kinds about politics in Wales. It collects the records and papers of political parties, politicians, quasi-political organisations, campaigns and pressure groups; leaflets, pamphlets, ephemera, posters, photographs, and tapes of radio and television programmes. Such material is placed with the most appropriate collection, usually the Archives Collection.

The archives collection of Party records include national and some local records of all major political parties active in Wales:

  • the Labour Party (Wales) Archive
  • the records of the Welsh Liberal Party
  • the archive of Plaid Cymru; the Party of Wales
  • papers of several Conservative and Unionist Associations

The WPA also contains papers and correspondence of notable historical Welsh politicians, such as:

  • David Lloyd George
  • T.E. Ellis
  • J. Herbert Lewis
  • Samuel Evans

papers of Secretaries of State for Wales:

  • James Griffiths
  • Cledwyn Hughes
  • George Thomas
  • John Morris

and the papers of numerous MPs, MEP and party leaders. In addition pressure groups records and papers relating to quasi-political organisations and campaigns and pressure groups, such as the Parliament for Wales Campaign, CND Cymru and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg can also be found here. Election ephemera since the 1983 General Election campaign including all election addresses and associated leaflets distributed in Wales have been collected. The leaflets collected during the National Assembly for Wales elections, 1999 have been digitised: http://www.llgc.org.uk/ymgyrchu/WPA-Ephemera/index.htm.

The National Library of Wales is the copyright library for Wales and as a result a large collection of books relating to politics, series of newspapers and periodicals are available for use by researchers. The Library also holds a large collection of posters and photographs and a substantial collection of video and audio tapes which include a wide range of news and current affairs programmes. Finally, this WPA site: http://www.llgc.org.uk/ymgyrchu/WPA-Ephemera/index.htm presents social and political campaigning in Wales during the twentieth century through the use of digitised images of original documents, photographs and sound and video files. The material has been selected from various collections in the National Library of Wales, especially The Welsh Political Archive.

Social Democratic Party (SDP), Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex

Serving, as it does, a university with strong research interests in contemporary political and social issues, the Albert Sloman Library is proud to house the archives of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the short-lived third force of British politics in the 1980s. The Archives, which compose our single largest named special collection, currently occupy in excess of 80 metres of shelving in our custom built storage room.

The papers comprising the collection come largely from the party's headquarters in Cowley Street, London, and trace the history of the SDP from its birth in the Council for Social Democracy and "the Limehouse Declaration" of 1981 to its merger with the Liberal Party in 1988. Of central importance to any understanding of the SDP are some 17 metres of committee papers covering all aspects of party policy, strategy and coordination. Other significant elements of the collection include the 'Organisation Archive' and the 'Press Archive', the latter of which contains several thousand newspaper cuttings relating to the party. The 'Publications Archive' preserves the many policy documents and green and white papers produced by the SDP, while 8 box files house transcripts of the speeches of "the Gang of Four", the party's founders Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams and William Rodgers. The SDP's presence on the ground at a local and constituency level is covered by the papers of the Area Party files, while audio-visual materials, encompassing film, video and audio tape, preserve many of the SDP's party political/party election broadcasts.

In addition to the material received from Cowley Street, the collection has been enriched by the donation of papers by prominent individuals associated with the party. These donors include Ian Wrigglesworth, Robert Maclennan - whose papers have much to say about merger negotiations with the Liberal Party - and Alec McGivan whose files contain a wealth of information on the by-elections fought by the SDP, and on the Campaign for Labour Victory in the years prior to the foundation of the party. The Library is also fortunate to house the archives of the Tawney Society, often referred to as the think tank of the SDP.

The SDP Archives were consulted extensively by Essex professors Ivor Crewe and Anthony King in the preparation of their book SDP : The Birth Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party (Oxford University Press, 1995). Other scholars continue to use the collection, which is fully described in extensive handlists held in the Library.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) archive has been deposited with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), and comprises 1320 files and 37 publications, electoral posters, etc, 1971-1990. The majority of the papers were deposited as part of a series of four major accessions, over the period, 1981-1985.

The SDLP was founded on 21 August 1970 as a left-of-centre nationalist party. It was launched by seven Stormont politicians: Republican Labour MP, Gerry Fitt; three independent MPs who had been prominent in the Civil Rights movement - John Hume, Ivan Cooper and Paddy O'Hanlon; Nationalist MP, Austin Currie; Paddy Devlin, a Northern Ireland Labour MP; and Paddy Wilson, a Republican Labour Senator. It quickly became the main nationalist party in Northern Ireland.

The contents of the SDLP archive are as follows:

  • organisational files and papers, 1970-1990
  • policy files, 1971-1991
  • election files and papers, 1973-1989
  • files and papers emanating from, or relating to the Annual Conference or the extraordinary meetings of the Party or the quarterly meetings of the Party Delegates of the SDLP, 1971-1991
  • letter files emanating from, or relating directly to the Party Headquarters, 1973-1988
  • SDLP office holders and politicians files, 1971-1991
  • party publications, election posters, etc, 1974-1989

The arrangement of the archive reflects the party structure of the SDLP: by member; branch; constituency association; Executive Committee; Parliamentary Party; Leader of the Parliamentary Party; and Annual Conferences.

The SDLP have generously deposited their papers with PRONI under the condition that each researcher apply in writing, via PRONI, for permission to consult the records.

Scottish Conservative & Unionist Association (SCUA), National Library of Scotland

Scottish Conservative & Unionist Association (Accs.10424, 11368) consist of 276 volumes and files of the Association, 1837-1991, received from its Edinburgh head office. Includes records of:

  • national, regional and some local associations
  • Conservative clubs and the Primrose League
  • election material
  • organisation papers
  • papers of Sir Alec Douglas-Home's Scottish Constitutional Committee, 1968-70

For consultation access, permission currently required from the Secretary of the SCUA. (Access conditions currently under negotiation). PDF file contents lists of this collection will shortly be available on the Library's website, www.nls.uk.

Scottish Green Party (SGP), National Library of Scotland

The Scottish Green Party (SGP): Acc.12144. minutes, correspondence and other papers regarding party organisation and administration, and election campaigns, 1977-2002. This collection is deposited in the NLS and there are no access restrictions.

Scottish Labour Party (SLP), National Library of Scotland

The following Labour Party [and affiliate] constituency or other local party minutes and papers have been deposited:

  • Dalkeith, 1935-51 (Dep.200)
  • Edinburgh South, 1922-75 (Dep.203)
  • Leith & Edinburgh Fabian Society, 1939-56, 1909-60 (Acc.4977)
  • Roxburgh & Selkirk, 1918-55 (Acc.4145)
  • Scottish Workers' Representation Committee & Edinburgh branch, LP, 1905-19 (Acc.11177/58-9)
  • Edinburgh Central ILP, 1911-24 (Acc.5241)

Also includes minutes, correspondence and papers of the Scottish Labour Party [1976] Edinburgh branch, 1976-9 (Acc. 7472). PDF file contents lists of this collection will shortly be available on the Library's website, www.nls.uk.

Scottish Liberal Democrats (SLD), National Library of Scotland

109 volumes and files from the Edinburgh headquarters of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (Acc.11765), which includes material transferred from an earlier deposit formerly in Edinburgh University Library Special Collections & Archives. Contents include:

  • central records of the regional, later national Council, Executive Committee and Annual Conferences of the Scottish Liberal Federation and Scottish Liberal Party, 1877-1987
  • minutes and other records of Dunbartonshire Liberal Association, 1874-1950
  • records of the Scottish Reform Club, 1895-1952, and of the Scottish Liberal Club, 1934-83 (the latter additional to material in Dep.275)
  • papers, 1905-24, relating to the political career of J.M. Hogge, a Liberal MP for East Edinburgh

Also contains papers of other Liberal associations:

  • South Edinburgh Association, 1885-1922 (Acc.9080)
  • Kinross-shire Association, 1889-1931 (Acc.9491)
  • Buteshire, 1892-1918, Kilmarnock, 1892-1918, and Ardrossan, 1908-29, Associations (Acc.12089)

Liberal League papers (in the Rosebery Papers, MSS.10168-72). PDF file contents lists of this collection will shortly be available on the Library's website, www.nls.uk.

Note: a recent large deposit of SLD minutes, correspondence, many in continuation from the 1970s with earlier series, has arrived recently and is in process of arrangement. Extensive files of papers of various Liberal, Liberal/SDP Alliance, and Liberal Democrat committees and policy groups from the 1960s to 1990s in the Russell Johnston Papers is also not yet available for consultation.

Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), National Library of Scotland

Major deposits of Edinburgh headquarters papers to date comprise 34 volumes and files, 1932-78, including:

  • minutes of the National Council and Executive Committee, 1936-45
  • reports to the Council and Executive 1964-5
  • minutes and papers of the Scottish Convention and the Scottish Covenant Association, 1942-61 (Acc.7295)

the papers also include 31 subject files of correspondence and papers, and a series of news releases, 1965-89 (Acc.10754). Additional files of the Executive & other committees, 1964-95 (Acc.11987) received 2002. Access to some recent files by prior permission of the National Secretary. Other presentations by the party include 21 boxes containing the original subscriptions to the Scottish Covenant, 1949-50 (Acc.5492), and 3 further volumes of minutes of the Scottish Covenant Association, 1942-9 (Acc.6649).

In addition to material received directly from the Party, extensive series of party committee papers and reports, 1932-85, are in the papers of Dr. Robert D. McIntyre (Acc.10090/39-174, etc), and of Arthur Donaldson, c1960-72 (Acc.6038); there are committee, branch and election papers, 1929-48, in the papers of Roland E. Muirhead (Acc.3721, boxes 86-105). The papers of James A.A. Porteous contain papers of the policy committee on finance and taxation, 1968-9 (Acc.7505/18-19), and papers of Professor Gavin Kennedy (Acc.11565), contain minutes, reports and policy papers of the central committees of the Party, 1974-82.

Minute books of the SNP National Council, 1933-41 (Acc.9794), and of the Executive, 1937-8 (Acc.9795), acquired independently of the Party accessions.

PDF file contents lists of this collection will shortly be available on the Library's website, www.nls.uk

Ulster Unionist Party, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Papers received by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland from the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC), comprise 200 volumes and c.60,000 files and documents, 1886-1986. These include:

  • minute books
  • financial, electoral and constitutional papers
  • printed material
  • correspondence of the Secretaries to the UUC
  • Parliamentary Party and constituency papers; and the amassed signatories of the Ulster Covenant of 1912 (http://www.proni.gov.uk/ulstercovenant/index.html)

The UUC was set up in 1905, under the Presidency of the 2nd Duke of Abercorn, '... to form a union of all local unionist associations in Ulster, to keep the latter in touch with their parliamentary representatives and to be the medium of expressing Ulster Unionist opinion...'. The Ulster Unionist Party subsequently became the governing party of Northern Ireland for the period, 1921-1972, having evolved from a protest movement opposed to 'Home Rule'.

The principal series' of minute books include:

  • Ulster Day Committee, 1911-1912
  • Unionist Defence Fund Committee, 1912-1914
  • Business Men's Executive Committee, which was established to advise on commercial problems arising out of the formation of the Provisional Government, 1913-1914
  • Ulster Unionist delegates to the Irish Convention, 1917-1918
  • UUC Executive Committee, 1949-1982
  • Standing Committee, 1919-1974
  • Officers' Committee, 1968-1981
  • Finance Committee, 1941-1974
  • minutes, correspondence, briefing documents, etc, relating to various special committees and sub committees, 1917-1981
  • minutes and notices of annual general meetings and special meetings of the UUC, 1913 and 1930-1974
  • minutes of committees set up at different times between c.1940 and c.1980 to review the strength of unionism and make recommendations for improving party efficiency

The bulk of the archive consists of correspondence to and from:

  • Sir Richard Dawson Bates
  • Sir Wilson Hungerford
  • William Douglas
  • James Bailie
  • Norman Hutton

successive secretaries to the UUC, 1906-1982, relating to the organisation, administration and policies of the Council and to various contemporary issues such as the Home Rule Bill, the first election to the Northern Ireland Parliament, the death of Lord Craigavon, the Second World War, the anti-partition campaign of 1947-1948, the emergence of the civil rights movement of the late 1960s, the terrorist campaign, and the Unionist leadership crisis and the resulting fragmentation of the Unionist Party.

There are also: minutes of meetings of the Official Ulster Unionist Parliamentary Party, 1921-1976, together with agenda and related correspondence, 1945-1972; and records of local unionist associations which include minutes and accounts.

Pre-1905 archive material derives from predecessor and/or associated bodies, some of it running on well beyond 1905. These UUC related papers include:

  • minutes, etc, of the Unionist Association of Ireland, 1907-1915, with a register of speakers and canvassers, c.1908
  • accounts for the Unionist Association of Ireland Guarantee Fund, 1908-1913
  • minutes, etc, of the Junior Imperial League, 1925-1945, together with minutes of various Belfast branches of the Junior Imperial League, 1925-1944, and correspondence about the formation of a new junior organisation to recruit young people into the Unionist Party, 1944.

The UUC has generously deposited in PRONI its entire archive up to the mid-1980s under the condition that each researcher apply in writing, via PRONI, for permission to consult the records.


Constituency and Local Authority Records

Local authority record offices, archives and libraries contain local government records from urban districts, county councils and local political Party associations. Family/estate papers are often deposited in local authority repositories. Some private papers of politicians may also be found in family/estate collections.

For a list of archival repositories, including local authority record offices, please see the Archon Directory.


Private Papers of Politicians

If you are interested in the private papers of particular politicians, the on-line National Register of Archives (NRA) database is the best place to begin. The indexes to the NRA contain references to papers of approximately 150,000 corporate bodies, persons and families relating to British history with a further 100,000 connected records. These are held in a network of national and local record offices, university libraries and specialist repositories in the UK and abroad. The NRA gives details on availability and access if the records are held privately.

Another useful online sources are:

  • Access to Archives (A2A), which provides full catalogues of archives held by local record offices and libraries, universities, museums and national and specialist institutions across England
  • Archives Hub, which contains collection level descriptions of archives held by UK universities and colleges

If you are unable to locate the individual of interest to you, try these secondary sources:

Chris Cook, Sources in British political history 1900-1951 (vols.1-6); revised as Chris Cook & David Waller, The Longman Guide to Sources in Contemporary British History:

  • vol. 1: Organizations and Societies
  • vol. 2: Individuals (1994).

Cameron Hazlehurst and Christine Woodland, A guide to the papers of British Cabinet Ministers, 1900-1964 (1996).

John Brooke, The Prime Ministers' papers, 1801-1902 (HMSO, 1968).

Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Guides to sources for British history, including:

  • No. 1 Papers of British Cabinet Ministers, 1782-1900 (HMSO, 1982)
  • No. 4 Private papers of British diplomats, 1782-1900 (HMSO, 1985)
  • No. 5 Private papers of British colonial governors, 1782-1900 (HMSO, 1986)
  • No. 7 Papers of British politicians, 1782-1900 (HMSO, 1989).