Skip to main content

Guide to Repositories Holding Political Records

Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex

Since it opened its doors for the first time in 1967 as the University Library, the Albert Sloman Library (later renamed on the retirement of Essex's founding Vice-Chancellor) has sought to support the teaching and research of the University of Essex. In addition to holding over 900,000 volumes, pamphlets, microforms and online publications, the Library possesses a significant number of manuscript-based special collections. In keeping with the research strengths of the University, many of these special collections relate to contemporary history and/or social/political studies. In this category - aside from the SDP Archives - the Library retains the papers of Lord Alport, (MP for the Colchester Division of Essex, 1950-61, and British High Commissioner in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, 1961-63) and the Archives of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association (NVALA). As well as these specifically political/social archives, the Library also houses a number of other nationally significant collections in other subject areas - all directly relevant to the teaching and research interests of the University. Of particular significance in this regard is the Sigmund Freud Collection, comprising some 2,000 books and 10,000 items of correspondence, 39 in the hand of Sigmund Freud.

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library holds one of the four most important collections of modern political papers in Britain. The holdings include the Conservative Party Archive as well as many collections of personal papers, mainly generated by politicians, public servants (particularly diplomats), journalists and broadcasters and other figures in public life and date from 1840 to the present day. They include among many others, the papers of six Prime Ministers, Disraeli, Asquith, Attlee, Macmillan, Wilson and Callaghan; cabinet ministers, Sir William Harcourt, Lord Milner, Lord Woolton, and Lord George-Brown; public servants, Sir Matthew Nathan, Lord MacDonnell of Swinford, and Lord Brand; diplomats, the 4th Earl of Clarendon, Lord Bryce, and Lord Gore-Booth; journalists, C.E. de Michele, Geoffrey Dawson, H.A. Gwynne, and William Clark and of internationalists, Gilbert Murray and Sir Alfred Zimmern.

British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics

Founded in 1896 the British Library of Political and Economic Science retains its focus on acquiring primary source material including large collections of official publications and statistics. There are also unrivalled historical collections of pamphlets, broadsheets and other ephemera. Comprising around 100,000 items, they cover political, economic and international history, social history and public affairs, and date from the early nineteenth century to the present day.

The Archives Division has a long history of acquiring archive material in the social sciences and its political papers include the records of the Liberal Party, Independent Labour Party and the Social Credit Party, along with other political groups including the Fabian Society and a wide range of politicians. These include Hugh Dalton (1887-1962), Tony Crosland (1918-1977), David Steel (b1938), Brandon Rhys-Williams (1927-1988) and Peter Shore (1924-2001). The archive also has a large collection of election addresses and ephemera with a particular emphasis on the post-1945 period. Further details can be found at

The Parliamentary Archives

The Parliament of the United Kingdom has the oldest continuous parliamentary archive in the world. The Parliamentary Archives (previously the House of Lords Record Office) was established in 1946 to preserve and to provide access to the official archives in 1497. This remains the main duty of the office. It does not keep the official archives of political parties, but has in the past collected papers of politicians some of whom held high party office. The Office's current policy is to collect the private papers of Members holding Parliamentary Offices, such as Speakers of either House. All finding aids to the private papers of politicians are accessible on the online catalogue "Portcullis" at

Labour History Archive and Study Centre

The Labour History Archive Study Centre (LHASC) is the only specialist repository for the political wing of the labour movement. It holds records of working-class political organizations from the Chartists to Tony Blair. LHASC holds the archives of the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Our collections are used for a variety of research purposes, providing an insight into the social, political and economic life of the last two centuries. Besides housing papers of political organizations, the LHASC collects personal papers of radical politicians, writers and left-wing organizations.

The LHASC is located at the People's History Museum (formerly National Museum of Labour History). The People's History Museum holds collections of banners, photographs, prints, ceramics and ephemera from over two hundred years of the labour movement. These collections complement the archive collections and researchers might well find material of interest in both. A selection of catalogues relating to the holdings of LHASC can be found at Access to Archives (A2A)

National Library of Scotland

The acquisition of modern political papers has been a continuing function of the National Library of Scotland since its foundation in 1925. The Library holds the principal national archives of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party and the Scottish National Party. The papers of local branches are also held of these and other parties.

Furthermore, the Library has extensive holdings of the papers of a number of politicians, among them some of the surviving papers of James Keir Hardie and Jo Grimond. In addition, trade union and labour records have also been actively collected. Indexes and guides for the Scottish labour history and modern political manuscript collections are available online at

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) was established by the Public Records Act (NI) 1923, which provided PRONI with a threefold remit - to perform the functions of an official repository for public records; to act as County Record Office for all six counties; and to fulfil the role of a manuscript section of a National Library.

By virtue of this third role, PRONI, has amassed considerable holdings relating to both Northern Ireland political parties and individual politicians. Prominent amongst these are party records relating to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP); the Social and Democratic Labour Party (SDLP); and the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP).

In addition, there are a host of privately deposited papers relating to individual politicians. Papers relating to Unionist politicians include amongst others: those of Prime Minister, James Craig; H. Montgomery Hyde, barrister, author, historian, intelligence officer, and Unionist MP for North Belfast in the 1950s; those of Colonel E.J. Saunderson, MP for North Armagh, and founder of the Ulster Unionist Party at Westminster; papers of Charles Stewart, the 7th Marquis of Londonderry, Secretary to the Ulster Unionist Council; and papers of Sir Edward Carson, later Lord Carson of Duncairn, First Lord of the Admiralty and leader of Ulster Unionist opposition to the Third Home Rule Bill.

Papers relating to prominent Nationalist politicians include amongst others those of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Nationalist MP, Cahir Healy; papers relating to Joe Devlin, Nationalist Party MP for Belfast West, and Belfast Central (Stormont); papers of Paddy Devlin, trade unionist, Belfast City Councillor and a founder member of the SDLP; and papers of Constance Countess Markievicz (née Gore-Booth), a leader in the 1916 Easter Rising.

PRONI also holds records relating to the principal landowners of Ireland who dominated Irish politics during the 18th and 19th centuries. Chief amongst these are papers of Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, MP for Co. Down, who steered the Act of Union through the Irish Parliament; papers relating to the various members of the Hamilton family, Marquesses, (later Dukes) of Abercorn; papers of the Hill family, Marquesses of Downshire; and papers of the Blackwood family, Marquesses of Dufferin.

Welsh Political Archive

The Welsh Political Archive 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.

The WPA does not have a curatorial function: material is placed with the most appropriate collection, particularly the Archives Collection.

During election times the Welsh Political Archive collects election leaflets from every Welsh constituency.

The holdings of the Archive may be consulted by any holder of a reader's ticket to the National Library of Wales but access to some records and papers is restricted by embargo. This is often the case with recent papers. For example, all the political parties restrict access to their records, though this varies from a 20-year embargo for Conservative Party records to a 10-year embargo on the Plaid Cymru Archives.