Leeds University Library

Politics and Social History

Politics Subject Strength

If you’re interested in researching politics, international affairs, and social history, we have a number of collections that might be useful. You can find books, papers, archives and correspondence, to name a few, which offer insights into the lives of MPs, activists, agents, campaigners and political academics.

Political printed books

The majority of the books on politics held at Special Collections date from the late 19th to the early 20th century. The older works focus on issues such as forms of government. The modern works deal with the United Nations, the British Civil Service, and the European Community, amongst other themes.

This collection also contains a small selection of Labour Party Bulletins, dating from the middle of the 20th century.

Womens' Liberation Movement

The Feminist Archive North includes personal and organisational documentary archives, conference papers, dissertations, books, and complete runs of important women's liberation movement journals such as Spare Rib, Shrew, Women's Report, Scarlet Woman, Shifra and Women's Voice.

There are also leaflets, video and audiotapes, posters and other ephemera – a wealth of contemporary material, much of which is unique to this collection.

Mattison collection

The Mattison collection is the archive of Leeds socialist and local historian Alf Mattison (1868–1944). At 17 years old, he joined William Morris's Socialist League, was later befriended by Edward Carpenter, and in 1893 attended the inaugural conference of the Independent Labour Party at Bradford.

Mattison became a trusted friend of important Labour leaders and activists. His major achievement was to assemble a large collection of books and rare ephemera charting the development of British socialism, and the history of the Labour Party and the Independent Labour Party.

There are about 1,000 printed books varying in rarity, some of which are annotated or presentation copies. We also have a large collection of ephemeral pamphlets, periodicals and reports, some now very scarce, concerned with many Labour causes.

Mattison also carefully assembled newspaper cuttings on numerous people and on topics such as the General Strike. Manuscripts including some 50 family letters of the Owenite radical JF Bray, whose formative years were spent in Leeds, and papers of John Lister, first treasurer of the Independent Labour Party. Mattison's personal papers include his diary-notebooks and over 300 letters from Edward Carpenter, with several other Carpenter manuscripts.

Lord Boyle papers

Special Collections holds the extensive papers of Edward Boyle, later Lord Boyle of Handsworth, Conservative MP and later Minister of Education (1962-1964) and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds (1970-1979). The archive covers in considerable detail, and at a high level, domestic and international political affairs from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Glenesk-Bathurst papers

The Glenesk-Bathurst papers are concerned with the influential Conservative newspaper, The Morning Post. Most of the materials are from the Edwardian period, although the coverage ranges from the later years of Queen Victoria's reign through to the 1920s.

The correspondence offers valuable insights into domestic and international political affairs of the time, such as first-hand accounts of the Russian Revolution through the letters of the wife of the British Ambassador in St Petersburg, and Winston Churchill's dispatches from the Sudan in 1898.

Merlyn Rees papers

We also have the papers and correspondence of Merlyn Rees, Northern Ireland Secretary and Home Secretary in the Labour governments of the 1970s, and a Leeds MP from 1963 to 1992.

Esther Simpson archive

Esther Simpson was born in Leeds and studied at the University of Leeds. She was living in Geneva in 1933 when she was offered a job in England as secretary to the newly-formed Academic Assistance Council, whose purpose was to help resettle scholars who had fled from totalitarian regimes, initially Nazi Germany.

Simpson donated her archive to us in 1990. Her papers reflect her career working in Europe and with the Academic Assistance Council. The collection includes personal letters, testimonials, photographs, press cuttings and numerous letters from refugees she had helped.

Ralph Miliband papers

The Library also holds papers of Ralph Miliband, Professor of Politics at Leeds from 1972-1977, and founder of the Socialist Register.

Louis Henry Hayter correspondence

We hold the political correspondence of Louis Henry Hayter, Conservative political agent for Edward Boyle's grandfather, Sir Edward Boyle Bt. The documents cover the period 1884–1897 and include correspondence with Benjamin Disraeli Randolph Churchill and Arthur Balfour.

Henry Drummond-Wolff papers

The papers of Henry Drummond-Wolff begin with his early political career as Conservative MP for Basingstoke and then move on to his interests in Imperial and Commonwealth trade and economic policy.

They also concern his discussions, reported to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, with Herman Goering and Staatsrat Helmut Wohltat. His later papers focus on his long-term interest in Commonwealth affairs.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke papers

The papers of Sir Harry Legge-Bourke, Conservative MP for the Isle of Ely, include matters of constituency organisation and general political affairs.

The collection also includes papers relating to aviation (including correspondence with Barnes Wallis), scientific research and development, Middle Eastern affairs, Gibraltar and the European Economic Community.

You may also be interested in...

The Leeds Russian Archive (LRA) documenting Russian and Russian émigré history, literature and culture and Anglo-Russian contacts in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Liddle collection documenting individual experiences of the first world war.

The Romany collection, revealing romany culture and folklore.