Tag Archives: Politics

The 1968 Sheffield Brightside By-Election: An Archaeologist in the City of Steel

Colin Renfrew Campaign Flyer

Colin Renfrew Campaign Flyer: CCO 500/18/115

Following the death of the Labour MP Harry Harpham on 4 February 2016 the Sheffield constituency of Brightside and Hillsborough goes to the Polls today for the election of a new MP.

Created in 2010 following a review by the Boundary Commission, the constituency is essentially the successor to the Sheffield Brightside. Since its creation for the 1885 General Election Sheffield Brightside had elected a Conservative Member of Parliament only twice: James Hope in 1900 and Hamer Russell in 1931. Indeed, since 1935 it had been a staunchly held labour seat which is perhaps identified in the minds of many today with David Blunkett, its long-standing labour MP, 1987-2015.

The papers of the Conservative Party Archive held at the Bodleian Library allow us to look back to the last by-election of Sheffield Brightside on 13 June 1968 held after the death of Richard Winterbottom who had been elected in the 1950 General Election. Continue reading

Lord Southborough papers now available

Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough

Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough, MS. Photogr. c. 185, fol. 56

The archive of the civil servant Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough (1860–1947), has now been catalogued and is available in reading rooms in the Weston Library.

Trained as a solicitor, Southborough had a fascinating career in the public service. The consummate civil servant, he worked at the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, and the Colonial Office when the British Empire was at its territorial peak. A skilled negotiator who was involved in public affairs at the highest level, he (among many other duties) served as secretary of the Select Committee investigating the botched Jameson Raid (1895-96), was entrusted with a secret peace mission to Scandinavia during World War I, and was elected as secretary of the Irish Convention which attempted to resolve the “Irish Question” following the Easter Uprising of 1916.

Southborough also worked closely with members of the British royal family and royal household, and was involved with the acquisition and cutting of the famous Cullinan Diamond, resulting in nine principal gems, two of which (known as the Great Star of Africa and the Second Star of Africa) today form part of the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s Sceptre With Cross. The archive also includes a box of letters from Princess Louise and a typescript account (attributed to Princess Louise) of life in the royal household under Queen Victoria.

The general correspondence is also fascinating, and the archive includes letters from characters as diverse as the fervent naval reformer Admiral Lord Fisher and the author Edith Wharton. There are also significant tranches of letters from Southborough’s close colleague Winston Churchill (they worked together in the Admiralty); the South African prime ministers Louis Botha and Jan Smuts; Bernard Forbes, Lord Granard, corresponding about Irish affairs and the conduct of the Dardanelles Campaign in World War I; and Wiliam Humble Ward, Lord Dudley, while he was governer of Australia.

The archive is astonishingly rich and has a very wide range of research potential, not least for students of British political history.

John Rathbone MP, 1910-1940

Blenheim iv

[Above, a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV bomber, of the type flown by Flying Officer John R. Rathbone in 1940]

At 4.08am on the morning of 9th December, 1940, Flying Officer* John Rankin Rathbone took off from RAF Bodney in Norfolk, the pilot of a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV bomber, on a mission to bomb the German-occupied port of Antwerp. Sadly, his aircraft was shot down over Antwerp and Rathbone, along with his two crew members, Pilot Officer F.W. McMurray and Sergeant A.M. Birt, were killed. Rathbone became the sixth of 24 MPs who were to be killed in action during the course of the Second World War.

Rathbone was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bodmin, Cornwall where he was elected at the 1935 General Election. Visiting Nazi Germany as part of a parliamentary delegation in 1938, he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve immediately upon his return home. He was mobilised as soon as War broke out, in September 1939.


[Above, Rathbone’s election address to his Bodmin constituents, 1935 – Shelfmark: PUB 229/7/8. Election addresses for all Parliamentary candidates, all parties, and constituencies, 1922-1983 are included in the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian Library].

As an MP he was not exempt from military service, but in his last speech in the House of Commons, on 20th August, 1940, Rathbone criticised the effect on Home Front morale of the arbitrariness by which ‘Reserved Occupation’ status was designated. He also attacked the excessive ‘red tape’ imposed under wartime conditions (‘It should not really be necessary to fill up a form in triplicate, before you can get a window pane repaired.’) , and the inequality of promotion within the Services:

When I think of some of the people who wear stripes and pips and get their promotion by various ways and means, through friends and so on, it makes me wonder whether, not only in the fighting Services but in the Civil Service and in every walk of like, promotion is given, not for birth or money, nor yet for age, but purely for efficiency. This war will not have been worth fighting if we do not at least establish that principle. Promotion in any walk of life, in the Civil Service or in politics, should not be for the length of time a person has served but for the efficiency with which he has served. Promotion should be given on these grounds alone.

Rathbone was born in 1910 and attended Eton and Christ Church, Oxford where he met Beatrice Frederika Clough, whom he married in 1932. After 4 years as an MP he obtained a junior ministerial position as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply in Chamberlain’s government, in July 1939.

Upon mobilisation, he was posted to RAF (Volunteer Reserve) No. 82 Squadron, a light-bomber squadron which had been reconstituted at the outbreak of War. By the time Rathbone joined the squadron it had already seen action in France, and both during and after the Dunkirk evacuation had suffered appalling casualties. Following its re-deployment to RAF Bodney in Norfolk it attacked German-held airfields in France and the Low Countries, and occasionally Denmark. One notorious raid on a German airfield at Aalborg, Denmark, on 13th August resulted in 11 of 12 Blenheims being shot down, with the twelfth surviving only because the pilot had returned early, for which he had been due to face a court-martial before he was killed during another operation the following week.

No. 82 Squadron’s Blenheims were outclassed by the modern fighters being fielded by the Luftwaffe, and the high casualty rate contributed towards Bomber Command’s switch from daylight to night-time bombing. Between July-Dec 1940, Bomber Command lost nearly 330 aircraft and over 1,400 aircrew killed, missing or captured.

Blenheim on ground Blenheims in formation crashed Blenheim

[Above, photographs of No. 82 Squadron’s Blenheims including, bottom, the wreckage of  one which had been shot down being towed away. Reproduced courtesy of  Aircrewremembered.com **]

On 9th December, 1940, while most of 82 Squadron’s Blenheims were engaged in a bombing raid on Bremen docks, the Squadron’s log, now held by the National Archives at Kew, records starkly,

F/O Rathbone and his crew, who were carrying out their first operational flight, were to attack the docks at Antwerp. They did not return from the trip, and nothing was heard from them.

Rathbone and his crew were buried in Schoonselhof Cemetery, near Antwerp, and the grave is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is commemorated by a stained glass window in Westminster Hall and an heraldic shield in the House of Commons Chamber, and is listed on the war memorial in the entrance to Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. A silver alms dish was also donated to Liverpool Cathedral in his memory.


[Above, photograph of Rathbone’s headstone. Reproduced courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project]

The Times reported him as ‘missing in action’ on 13th December 1940, and a memorial service was subsequently held for him at St Margaret’s, Westminster on 29th January, 1941. In the peculiar circumstances of the ‘political truce’ during the Second World War, Rathbone’s widow Beatrice was elected unopposed in his place as Conservative MP for Bodmin at the ensuing by-election on 11th March, 1941. In 1942 she re-married, though an unfortunate and ill-founded rumour that Rathbone was not in fact dead but a Prisoner-of-War circulated for some time and formed the inspiration, with very little change, for Daphne du Maurier’s 1944 play, ‘The Years Between’.

Tragically, Rathbone’s younger brother Henry, a Captain in the Scots Guards, was killed at Cassino, Italy, on 9th November, 1943. Beatrice stood down prior to the 1945 general election, while their son, also called John Rankin Rathbone but known as Tim, went on to become MP for Lewes between 1974-1997.


[Above, Election Address of Tim Rathbone MP to his Lewes constituents, Feb 1974: Shelfmark: PUB 229/16/8]

*There is some doubt as to Rathbone’s rank at the time of his death, as the service records of RAF officers from the Second World War are not yet available. The Operations Record Book for No. 82 Squadron, completed by the Squadron’s CO Wing Commander Elworthy, listed him as a Flying Officer, as did The Times’ obituary on 13th December, 1940. However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists him as a Flight Lieutenant.

 **Aircrewremembered.com is keen to hear from any relatives of crews lost with their stories.

Denis Healey obit.

The recent death of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey at the age of 98 reminded me of a curious connection in the Roy Jenkins archive. Not only were Healey and Jenkins Labour Party and ministerial colleagues but in 1986, The Times commissioned Jenkins to revise what turned out to be Denis Healey’s very premature obituary.

Typescript of page 9 of Roy Jenkins' revised obituary of Denis Healey, © Roy Jenkins estate

Typescript of page 9 of Roy Jenkins’ revised obituary of Denis Healey, MS. Jenkins 440, © Roy Jenkins estate

Corrected typescript insertions for Roy Jenkins' revised obituary of Denis Healey, © Roy Jenkins estate

Corrected typescript insertions for Roy Jenkins’ revised obituary of Denis Healey, MS. Jenkins 440, © Roy Jenkins estate

This newly released file [see MS. Jenkins 440] contains multiple manuscript and typescript drafts of the obituary, as well as Jenkins’ notes and research, including photocopies from The Times regarding Healey’s famous phrase “they must be out of their little Chinese minds”.

Enclosed with the file is a letter from John Grigg, obituaries editor for The Times, calling the final version “a masterpiece in the genre”. It’s by no means the only acclaimed biographical work by Roy Jenkins. A life-long author as well as a life-long politician, he specialised in political biography. He wrote well-received books about Attlee, Dilke, Truman, Asquith, Gladstone, Churchill and Roosevelt and (not least) his own memoir, A Life At The Centre (1991). You can find drafts and related papers for his books and his journalism (including more obituaries) in the Roy Jenkins archive at the Weston Library. He also wrote five pieces for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, including articles on his former Labour colleagues Harold Wilson and Tony Crosland [DNB subscription required].

Europe, Cricket and Detective Fiction: a letter from Harold Macmillan

Ava Anderson, Lady Waverley, (1896-1974) was a renowned society hostess and confidante. Among her papers at the Bodleian Library is a collection of letters from Harold Macmillan (1894-1986) which provide a fascinating insight into his political career 1947-74. Harold Macmillan’s friendship with Lady Waverley provided him with a confidential sounding board for his thoughts. This particular letter dates from 12 August 1961, whilst Macmillan was Prime Minister.

Macmillan mentions that he has applied to join the European Community. Achieving British membership was a key part of his government’s foreign policy. However, Charles de Gaulle would veto British entry in 1963, fearing that an Anglo-American alliance would dominate Europe. It would be another ten years until Britain joined the European Community in 1973.

It is not all serious politics. Writing to Lady Waverley whilst she was on holiday in Italy, Macmillan jokingly suspects that their correspondence is under surveillance by the Italian authorities. His abhorrence of thrillers and detective novels, and his delight in seeing his children and grandchildren create a really human picture of the former Prime Minister.

The letter also includes a poignant account of his visit to see an elderly Winston Churchill at his home at Chartwell, where Macmillan is saddened to see the decline of a once powerful statesman.

These letters to Lady Waverley show us Macmillan through his own words, and provide a personal complement to Macmillan’s own archive, which is also held at the Bodleian, on deposit.

Image of the first page of the letter, shelfmark MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 95r

MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 95r
Reproduced with kind permission of the Trustees of the Harold Macmillan Book Trust.

Second page of the letter, shelfmark MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 95v

MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 95v
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Harold Macmillan Book Trust.

Third page of the letter, shelfmark MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 96r

MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 96r
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Harold Macmillan Book Trust.

Fourth page of the letter, shelfmark MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 96v

MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 96v
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Harold Macmillan Book Trust.

Fifth page of the letter, shelfmark MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 97r

MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 97r
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Harold Macmillan Book Trust.

Sixth page of the letter, shelfmark MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 97v

MS. Eng. c. 4778 fol. 97v
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the Harold Macmillan Book Trust.

A catalogue of other papers of Lady Waverley held by the Bodleian is available online.

New catalogue: Further papers of Lewis Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt

The catalogue of the further papers of the Liberal politician Lewis Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt, is now available online. The newly available material complements two other tranches of Lewis Harcourt papers catalogues in the Harcourt Papers and the Additional Harcourt Papers.

Lewis (‘Loulou’) Harcourt (1863-1922) was the son of the Liberal politician Sir William Harcourt. After serving as his father’s private secretary, Lewis Harcourt entered the House of Commons in 1904 as MP for Rossendale. He was appointed First Commissioner of Works in the Liberal government of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1905. He was promoted to the Cabinet in 1907. He remained in the Cabinet when Campbell-Bannerman was succeeded as Prime Minister by H.H. Asquith in April 1908. He was promoted to Colonial Secretary by Asquith in 1910.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt concerning the outbreak of the First World War, 4 August 1914.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt concerning the outbreak of the First World War, 4 August 1914.

The newly catalogued material includes Harcourt’s political journal, a major new source for the study of the Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith governments. Largely compiled from notes made by Harcourt in Cabinet, it records the opinions of his colleagues on the key issues of the period, including the outbreak and conduct of the First World War. Other newly available material includes:

  • Correspondence and papers concerning the National Liberal Federation Home Counties Division.
  • Harcourt’s political subject files, 1900-1920, which include material relating to the formation of Campbell-Bannerman’s government, 1905; the appointment of Asquith as Prime Minister in 1908; annotated Foreign Office telegrams on the outbreak of the First World War, women’s suffrage; and Irish Home Rule.
  • Correspondence and papers relating to colonial affairs, 1909-1921.
  • Harcourt’s political speeches, 1893-1920.
  • Correspondence and papers concerning the founding of the London Museum, 1910-1922.

-Matthew Neely

The Roy Jenkins archive

The catalogue of the papers of Roy Jenkins is now online and the archive is available for readers in the Weston Library. On 5 November 2014, the Bodleian Library will be celebrating the lives and archival legacies of Roy Jenkins and former UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan with a discussion between their biographers John Campbell and D.R. Thorpe and current Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten. This event is free and tickets can be booked online.jenkins-roy MS. Jenkins 542-545

Who Was Roy Jenkins?

Early life

Roy Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead (1920-2003) was a British politician, author, and latterly Chancellor of Oxford University. His father Arthur was a miner’s agent and mine union leader who in 1935 became the Labour Party MP for Pontypool in Wales and later parliamentary private secretary to Clement Attlee (whose archive is also in the Bodleian Library). Steeped in Labour politics, a parliamentary career was Jenkins’ ambition from a young age. He studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Balliol College, Oxford, and served during World War II as an artillery officer and Bletchley code breaker. He didn’t wait long, though, before seeking a seat in Parliament – succeeding in 1948.

Member of Parliament and President of the European Commission

Jenkins’ career was illustrious. Under Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Jenkins became Minister of Aviation (1964), Home Secretary (1965-7, 1974-6), Chancellor of the Exchequer (1967-70) and deputy leader of the Labour Party (1970-2). A reforming Home Secretary, he oversaw the liberalization of the laws on divorce, abortion and homosexual activity, as well as abolishing theatre censorship.

After Wilson announced his resignation in March 1976, Jenkins failed in a campaign to become Labour Party leader and resigned to take up a position as President of the European Commission (1977-81). Upon return to the UK, and estranged from the Labour Party, Jenkins was a founding member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was elected as SDP member for Hillhead, Glasgow in 1982, losing the constituency in 1987 and leading the SDP into a merger with the Liberal Party – renamed the Liberal Democrats.

Life peer and Chancellor of Oxford

No longer an MP, Jenkins was elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1987, a position he held until his death. He was given a life peerage and was, from 1987, leader of the Lib-Dem peers in the House of Lords. Jenkins continued to exercise political influence, including as a mentor to Tony Blair.

Author and public figure

Alongside his political work, Jenkins had a distinguished career as an author, particularly of political biographies, including those of Sir Charles Dilke (1958), Asquith (1964), Gladstone (1995) and Churchill (2001), as well as his own autobiography A Life At The Centre (1991). Labelled the ‘last of the whigs’, he also led an active social life, was a prolific and well-regarded speechmaker, and held positions on numerous boards and committees, not least as President of the Royal Society of Literature.

Roy Jenkins’ archive

Jenkins’ archive reflects his working life as a politician in the UK and in Europe, as an author and journalist, and as Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Important sources which are now available to researchers include not only Jenkins’ own detailed daily appointment diaries – which, if you can read the handwriting, make it possible to find out where he was (and who he was dining with) at just about any given moment – but also the diaries of his father, Arthur Jenkins.

MS. Jenkins 22 - 1

Jenkins’ engagement diary entries 17-23 October 1966. Jenkins was Home Secretary when the double agent George Blake escaped prison on 22 October, which is noted in the diary.

MS. Jenkins 22 - 2

Jenkins’ engagement diary entries 24-30 October 1966.

Also available are 59 boxes of Jenkins’ meticulously ordered speech notes; his literary papers, including the drafts of many of his books and his journalism; and a rich collection of personal ephemera, including three boxes of orders of service for funerals, weddings and other commemorations which comprise a “Who’s Who” of British public life in the twentieth century. The archive also includes numerous photographs, including multiple boxes of press photos from Jenkins’ stint as President of the European Commission.

The archive is a rich one, and will be invaluable for students of modern British and European politics, political life, and the social history of the twentieth century generally.

War or Peace? 10 days in the Summer of 1914

In July 1914 there was no certainty that Britain would become entangled in the ‘Austro-Servian War’ which emerged from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June. The Liberal government in London was deeply divided over Britain’s possible role in a European conflict. A major new source for the deliberations that took place in H.H. Asquith’s Cabinet in the Summer of 1914 is Lewis Harcourt’s political journal. Harcourt, who was Colonial Secretary, sat next to Asquith at the Cabinet table. He maintained a record of proceedings despite being warned more than once by his colleagues not to do so. No official Cabinet diary was kept until David Lloyd George began the practice in December 1916.

Monogram on Lewis Harcourt's ministerial trunk in which his political journal was housed before it was acquired by the Bodleian Library.

Monogram on Lewis Harcourt’s ministerial trunk in which his political journal was housed before it was acquired by the Bodleian Library.

To mark the centenary of British intervention in the First World War on 4 August 1914, we shall be posting entries from Harcourt’s journal on the Oxford World War I Centenary blog from 26 July to 4 August. The journal traces the slide into war, and captures the changing opinions of individuals and groupings of ministers both for and against intervention.

Harcourt’s journal features in the Bodleian Libraries exhibition The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches.

-Matthew Neely

Chamberlain and trout fishing

To mark the start of the new coarse fishing season today, we are featuring extracts from 80 year old correspondence between Neville Chamberlain and Joseph Ball which was recently ‘discovered’ in the Conservative Party Archive, testifying to their shared love of fishing.
The letters, between Chamberlain and the Director of the Conservative Research Department date from May-October 1934 and ostensibly concern the formation and progress of the committee set up by Chamberlain to re-invigorate the National Government, then still led by Ramsay MacDonald, with policy ideas to take forward as Government policy for the 1935 General Election.
While the exchange between the two certainly make reference to the Cabinet Conservative Committee, as it was known, much of the content focusses on trout fishing on the rivers Test in Hampshire and Lugg in Herefordshire.
Under the guidance of Chamberlain and Ball, the Cabinet Conservative Committee continued its deliberations until July 1935. The series of memoranda and reports it produced helped ensure a Conservative and National Government victory at the general election in November 1935. The result of the election, which saw MacDonald lose his seat and Baldwin replace him as Prime Minister, confirmed the dominant position of the Conservative Party within the National Government. Chamberlain himself took over the helm from 1937.
Chamberlain’s love of fly-fishing was well known. Amidst the public adulation with which he was greeted after his return from the Munich Conference after having pacified Hitler over Czechoslovakia in September 1938, Downing Street was inundated with gifts, including several fishing rods and numerous salmon flies.

‘A delicate attention’ from the suffragettes?

This entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt describes the discovery of a bomb hidden in a tree at his Oxfordshire home Nuneham Park in 1907. Harcourt was the First Commissioner of Public Works in the Liberal government of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. He was strongly opposed to the extension of the electoral franchise to women. Writing in his journal, Harcourt reasoned that the planting of the bomb was probably ‘a delicate attention to me from the Female Suffragists.’

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Nuneham Park was the object of another Suffragette attack in 1912. By that time Harcourt had been promoted to the Cabinet and was serving as Colonial Secretary in H.H. Asquith’s government. Asquith, a regular visitor to Nuneham, also opposed votes for women. Both men were eventually reconciled to female suffrage in 1916. Harcourt recorded in his journal the following discussion at a Cabinet meeting on 9 August 1916:

‘P.M. says his opposition to female suffrage is vitally affected by women’s work in the war. I said the only logical and possible solution is Universal suffrage (including women). This upset most of the Cabinet, but the P.M. agreed with me.’

Lewis Harcourt’s political journal, along with further political papers, are currently being catalogued. Extracts from Harcourt’s political journal will be on display in the Bodleian Libraries’ forthcoming exhibition The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches.

-Matthew Neely