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Politics and Social History

Politics and Social History is one of the key subject strengths of UCL Special Collections. This guide provides an overview of relevant rare book and archive collections.

An image from 'An Anti-Suffrage Alphabet' by Laurence Housman Leonora Tyson

How to use this guide

This guide is intended as a starting point to help you find resources for your studies or research and is arranged in alphabetical order by collection name.

The collections described below are either Printed Collections or Archives and Records.

To find items from the printed collections, search the library catalogue. Follow the links in the collection descriptions below for advice on how to search and browse particular printed collections.

To find archive and record collections, search for the reference on the online catalogue for UCL’s archives and manuscripts.

Accessing these collections

Please see our website for further information and to make an appointment to view any of these collections in one of our reading rooms.

The collections

Allen, George Cyril (Archive)

Papers of the economist George Allen, 1895-1984, who was Professor of Political Economy at UCL from 1947-1967. The collection includes papers relating to Allen’s work on Japanese and British economics and foreign policy and papers relating to the various committees and government bodies with which he was involved, as well as personal material.

All Souls Group (Archive)

The All Souls Group was convened in 1941 to discuss various proposals for the reform of post-war education. While education was the central concern of the Group, some discussions were set in the wider context of local government reform, social policies, the arts, science, industry, or the health service. The collection contains papers from its meetings where members discussed a number of subjects.

  • Search Archive ref: ASG.
Amos Family (Archive)

Notes for lectures on English Law at UCL, 1828-1831, by Andrew Amos, first Professor of English Law at UCL 1828-1834; and papers of other members of the family including Sheldon and Maurice Amos and Andrew’s father-in-law, William Lax.

Search Archive ref:

Bentham Book Collection (printed collection) 

This collection of ca. 500 items contains first editions of the published writings of the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) as well as books and articles about his work. It also includes presentation copies of Bentham’s works inscribed by the author and a small number of items from Bentham’s own library. The items in this collection date from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

Bentham, Jeremy (Archive)

The philosopher Jeremy Bentham is one of the most well-known figures connected to UCL. Although he was not directly involved with the founding of the university, his papers were presented to UCL in 1849 by his executor and remain one of our most important collections. The collection consists primarily of Bentham’s extensive writings and includes drafts of his published works and correspondence as well as plans for his Panopticon.

Bentham, Jeremy / Leicester Stanhope (Archive)

Thirty-five letters from Jeremy Bentham to Leicester Stanhope (1784-1862, 5th Earl of Harrington) on subjects including Bentham’s ‘Constitutional Code’, law reform, and reform of the British colonial government in India.

Bentham, Denis Roy (Archive)

D R Bentham (1923-1999) collected various items of correspondence, manuscripts and printed ephemera relating to Jeremy Bentham, other members of the Bentham family, although he was not directly related to Jeremy Bentham and the shared surname appears to be coincidental. This small collection also contains papers of Sir John Bowring and others associated with radical political thought, and there is evidence that the whole collection may at one point have been in Bowring’s possession.

Brougham Family (Archive)

The archive of the Brougham family of Brougham, Westmorland, including the extensive papers of Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, one of the founders of UCL. This is the largest collection in UCL Archives (approx. 1000 boxes) and one of the most important. The bulk of the collection dates from the 19th century and includes various family and estate papers, with approximately two thirds of the collection made up of Henry Brougham’s incoming correspondence. This archive documents Brougham's political and other activities, including: colonial policy and the abolition of the slave trade; the "trial" of Queen Caroline in 1820; the Reform Bill of 1832; the foundation of the University of London (later University College London), which opened in 1828; and other aspects of educational and legal reform.

Burhop, Eric Stoneley (Archive)

Papers of physicist Eric Henry Stoneley Burhop (1911-1980) relating to his interests outside his scientific research. This is primarily material recording Burhop's interest in furthering rapprochement between East and West, including the 'passport case' when, owing to Burhop's involvement in the atomic energy project in 1944-1945, the Foreign Office withdrew his passport on the eve of a visit to the Soviet Union in 1951; papers relating to the Lenin Peace Prize and World Peace Council's International Peace Prize; and documentation of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

Children's Rights Alliance for England (Archive)

CRAE began in 1991 after the UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in order to monitor the UK Government's commitment to upholding the document. Its aim was to protect the human rights of children by lobbying government and others who hold power, by bringing or supporting test cases and by using regional and international human rights mechanisms. This collection is not catalogued.

Chadwick, Sir Edwin (Archive)

Correspondence, memoranda, pamphlets and newspaper cuttings of Sir Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), who was Secretary to the Poor Law Commission 1834-48, Commissioner of the General Board of Health 1848-54, reformer of sanitary, educational and social policies. Approximately half of the collection consists of correspondence reflecting the wide range of Chadwick’s interests, including some copies of his own outgoing letters. The rest of the collection is arranged by subject and covers policing, Poor Law, public health, child labour, sewerage and sanitation, railways, agriculture, political reform and many other topics.

Comfort, Alex (Archive)

Papers of Alex Comfort (1920-2000, physician and writer; Director of research in Gerontology, UCL Department of Zoology 1966-1973). Comfort specialised in the science of ageing but he was a prolific author best remembered for his books on sexual behaviour including the bestselling “The Joy of Sex” (1972). He also published works on anarchy, pacifism and was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. His archive reflects his work and his many diverse interests and includes correspondence, research papers, drafts of publications and personal ephemera.

Davis, Ralph (Archive)

Economic historian Ralph Davis (1915-1978) studied at LSE and spent his academic career at the University of Hull followed by the University of Leicester. His papers include various data and statistics used for his research as well as teaching materials, correspondence, and material relating to one of his best-known published work, “The Rise of the Atlantic Economies” (1973).

  • Search Archive ref: DAVIS.
Gaitskell, Hugh (Archive)

Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (1906-1963) was Head of UCL’s department of Political Economy, 1938-1939, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1950-1951, and Leader of the Labour Party 1955-1963. The collection consists of papers relating to Gaitskell's early life and career, parliamentary and political speeches and correspondence, constituency papers, material relating to his various engagements, general correspondence, a large collection of pamphlets and printed papers and a few family and personal papers.

Gaitskell, Hugh / Williams, Philip (Archive)

Research papers of Philip Williams (1920-1984, writer and political analyst) for his biography of Hugh Gaitskell (published 1979). Includes drafts of chapters, annotated proofs, manuscript notes, photographs of Gaitskell, transcripts of interviews, offprints, press cuttings and correspondence. Also contains some photocopies of original material by Gaitskell and an original manuscript notebook.

German Education Reconstruction (Archive)

German Educational Reconstruction (GER) was established in 1943 to help German refugee educationists prepare for their post-war return to Germany. After the war it promoted Anglo-German relations. Members organised conferences, lectures, study groups, and visits; and published memoranda, pamphlets and textbooks.

  • Search Archive ref: GER.
Horsley, Sir Victor (Archive)

Papers of Sir Victor Horsley (1857-1916) and his family. Best known as a surgeon and physiologist, Horsley was also active in politics and current affairs, particularly women’s suffrage, the temperance movement and anti-tobacco lobby. He stood for parliament as a Liberal candidate in 1910. The collection includes material relating to politics, medicine and his army career, as well as papers of his wife and children.

Huguenot Library (printed collection)

This collection of ca. 6,000 volumes is dedicated to the history of the Huguenots. It is particularly strong in 17th and 18th century material. Included in the collection are individual tales of persecution and conversion, political tracts and pamphlets on religious debate, and histories of the religious wars.

Hume Tracts (printed collection)

This collection of ca. 5,000 tracts was the working library of Joseph Hume (1777-1855), radical and politician. The subject matter of the tracts reflects the major political, economic and social developments taking place in Britain in the early part of the nineteenth century, including some of the causes championed by Joseph Hume during his parliamentary career, such as universal suffrage, Catholic emancipation, a reduction in the power of the Anglican church and an end to imprisonment for debt. Many of the tracts contain Hume’s own annotations and his correspondence. The collection was has been digitised and can be viewed online.

Jack Kitching Archive (Archive)

Founded in 1919 as a direct consequence of the application of Whitleyism to the Civil Service, the Association was mainly concerned with salaries, pensions and conditions of service. The collection contains many papers on individual schools’ Inspectors. Associated collections, of HMIs (Her/His Majesty’s Inspectors), are: Simon Clement (ref: SC) and Gabriel Goldstein (ref: GG).

  • Search Archives ref: KIT.
Jones, Professor Ken (Archive)

Ken Jones taught in London schools from the 1970s-1990s. Throughout this time he was active in the politics of education. He edited various publications (Radical Education, Socialist Teacher etc), and was from 1982 to 1990 a member of the national executive of the NUT. His collection reflects his experiences in this work.

  • Search Archive ref: KJ.
Lansdowne and Halifax Tracts (printed collection)

 This collection contains over 4000 pamphlets published in England in the years from 1589 to 1776. The subject matter includes the Union between England and Scotland, the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and the Restoration up to the eve of the American Revolution. Other wars, plots, mutinies and impeachments and conspiracies are also covered.

Laurence Housman Collection (printed collection) 

Laurence Housman (1865-1959) was an artist, writer and social reformer whose output covered all kinds of literature from socialist and pacifist pamphlets to children's stories. As well as his prose and fiction works, this collection of 460 items houses publications by him in support of the Suffragette movement, and articles and pamphlets concerning justice and social subjects.

London History Collection (printed collection)

 A collection of ca. 3,000 books, maps, and pamphlets on the topography, architecture, and social and economic history of Greater London. It spans the 16th to the 20th century, with a particular strength in 19th-century material.

National Union of Women Teachers (Archive)

The National Union of Women Teachers was founded in 1904 to campaign for equal pay for female teachers. Until it was disbanded in 1961 (when their initial aim was achieved) they campaigned on a wide range of subjects from animal rights, through equality for women, to the impact of new technologies. Their collection contains a wealth of information on many aspects of political and social policy for the period.

  • Search Archive ref: UWT.
Olden, Rudolf (Archive)

Small collection of papers of Rudolf Olden, comprising correspondence, typescripts, notes and press cuttings. Olden (1885-1940) was a journalist, lawyer and political activist who was forced to leave Nazi Germany in the 1930s because of his work.

Olden Collection (printed collection)

This collection consists of around 1000 works on German political and economic history from the 1870s to the end of the Second World War. The works include detailed analysis of German and European politics and ideologies of the inter-war years and histories of German political movements, particularly socialism and National Socialism. Many of the works contain the inscription of Rudolf Olden (1885-1940), journalist, lawyer and political activist.

Robertson, George Croom (Archive)

The philosopher George Croom Robertson (1842-1892) was elected to the Chair of Mental Philosophy and Logic at UCL in 1866. This small collection is predominantly comprised of correspondence, including letters from John Stewart Mill on women’s suffrage.

Rotuli Parliamentorum (Archive)

Fifteen manuscript volumes titled ‘Rotuli Parliamentorum’ (Parliamentary Rolls), covering the period Richard II to Henry VI. Likely to be copies of the parliamentary records of the same name, although little is known about their provenance.

Simon, Brian (Archive)

Brian Simon was a left-wing teacher and Professor of the History of Education at Leicester University. A member of the Communist Party, he is probably best known for his 4 volume history of the English Education System from 1780-1990 (a standard text today), and his continued campaigning for equal secondary opportunities for all through comprehensive schooling. His collection covers all areas of his life and career.

  • Search Archive ref: SIM.
Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) (Archive)

The Society was founded in 1826, largely at the instigation of Henry Brougham, with the stated aim of “imparting useful information to all classes of the community, particularly to such as are unable to avail themselves of experienced teachers, or may prefer learning by themselves". It sought to achieve this by acting as the intermediary between authors and publishers in several different and often ambitious series of publications on diverse subjects. The extensive archive of the SDUK covers the period 1826-1848 and consists of minutes of various committees, financial records, legal papers, correspondence, and unpublished manuscripts.

  • Search Archive ref: SDUK.
Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment – STOPP (Archive)

Established in 1968, STOPP was a pressure group which campaigned for the abolition of corporal punishment in UK schools and other institutions. It lobbied government officials, parliament, the churches, local education authorities, and teachers' organisations. After corporal punishment was abolished in all state-supported education in the UK in 1986, the Society wound up its affairs.

  • Search Archive ref: STO.
World Education Fellowship (Archive)

The WEF's (originally the New Education Fellowship) central focus has been on child-centred education, social reform through education, democracy, world citizenship, international understanding and the promulgation of world peace. The central organisation is based in the UK but branches were spread across the world. The collection contains correspondence and papers from many of its branches.

  • Search Archive ref: WEF.
World Studies Trust (Archive)

The World Studies Trust is an educational charity established in 1988 to 'develop and support work in the formal education sector which promotes the knowledge, attitudes and skills which young people need in order to practice social and environmental responsibility in a multicultural society and interdependent world'.

  • Search Archive ref: WST.