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CBI Predecessor Archive

The predecessor archive of the Confederation of British Industry, deposited in the Modern Records Centre of the University of Warwick Library in 1979, is a major source for the study of twentieth century British political, social and economic history, and an important complement to the extensive records of organised labour also held by the Centre. It illustrates particularly the role played by industry and business in the shaping of government policies ('industrial politics'), but is also useful for the study of industrial organisation, research, training and development, overseas trade, taxation and finance, technical and environmental problems and wages and work conditions.

The initial task of sorting this very large accumulation of records into its constituent series was funded by a Social Science Research Council grant and entrusted, in 1971, to G.W. McDonald, junior fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge. The two-year project allowed, in addition to the preliminary sorting, the beginnings of a listing programme. After deposit, the generosity of the Leverhulme Trust Fund enabled the creation, in May 1980, of a four-year post to consolidate the work already done and prepare finding aids for the whole of the archive.

The deposit comprises the archives of the three institutions, the Federation of British Industries (FBI), the British Employers' Confederation (BEC) and the National Association of British Manufacturers, which coalesced in July 1965 to form the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and the archives of a number of associated bodies. It also includes a continuing deposit of records of the CBI.

Federation of British Industries archive

Founded in 1916, the FBI originally sought to represent industry on all matters which affected it, including industrial relations, an aim which was not approved of by all its members. The severance of relations in 1919, between the Employers' Advisory Council (of which the FBI was a member, and which, from that date, became the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations, and later the BEC) and the FBI, led to the split in the fields of interest of the two organisations, the FBI concentrating on all matters relevant to industry except relations with workers.

1. Council and committee minutes and related papers : a large series of over two hundred volumes, which includes :

Grand Council (1919-58); Executive, later General Purposes (1916-60); Finance (1920-59); Overseas Trade (1916-39); Transport (1917-42); Education (1917-65); Taxation (1919-62); various regional committees (1917-56).

The FBI committee structure was reorganised after the Second World War, and by 1965 there existed 24 standing committees, for most of which records survive, in addition to the numerous short-lived, ad hoc committees which addressed themselves to specific problems. Committee circulars, arranged chronologically, also survive for the whole of the period.

2. Subject files: the committees were served by departments, later directorates, which generated a considerable number of departmental subject files. These are organised under the following headings : Presidents' papers (1945-65); Director-general's papers (1916-65); Secretaries' papers (1920-65); Economic Advisers' Department, later Economic Directorate (1930s-65); Technical Directorate (1940s-65); Overseas Directorate (1930s-65); Promotion and Information Directorate (1930s-65); Regional Offices (1918-65).
Material relating to the formation of the FBI forms a separate group under the heading National Industrial Organisation.

3. Publications : pamphlets and serial publications, including annual reports and British Industries later FBI Review, (1917-64). The pamphlet holdings, which include over 350 items, are very comprehensive.

British Employers' Confederation archive

The origins of the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations, later the BEC, have already been mentioned. Founded in 1919, the NCEO was particularly concerned with industrial relations. Individual firms were not eligible for membership, which was restricted to employers' organisations.

1. Council and committee minutes and related papers : include General Meeting (1922-65); Council (1922-65); General Purposes (1922-65); Finance (1922-65). The minutes of other standing committees and the committee circulars survive in the subject files.

2. Financial records : include signed balance sheets (1919-63).

3. Subject files : relate mostly to wages and conditions (1920s-65).

4. Publications : annual reports (to 1964); BEC Bulletin (1954-64); pamphlets (1955-65).

National Association of British Manufacturers archive

The NABM, originally the British Manufacturers' Association and later the National Union of Manufacturers, was founded in 1915. It remained an essentially Midlands-based organisation, and attracted many small firms. This sadly depleted archive includes the following :

1. Minutes and related papers : BMA founding committee (1915-17); Executive Council (1960-5); Finance committee (1956-65); regional, branch and area committees (1926-65).

2. Financial and administrative records : ledgers and journals (1925-65); committee correspondence and general subject files (1959-65); legal documents (1917-61).

3. Publications : annual reports (1947-65); NUM Journal (1917-65).

Confederation of British Industry archive

Much inherited pre-1965 material is included in the CBI archives. Closure periods of up to 30 years apply.

Archives of separate bodies

The FBI, BEC and NABM undertook paid secretarial work for small institutions. This, for the most part, explains the survival of these archives here. The bodies concerned are : British Industrial Measuring & Control Apparatus Manufacturers' Association; Trade Board (Employers') Consultative Council; British Towel Manufacturers' Association; Lancashire & District Trade Effluent Committee; British Dextrine Manufacturers' Association; India, Pakistan & Burma Association; Joint Committee on India; Dollar Exports Council; Traders' Co-ordinating Committee on Transport.


S. Blank, Industry and government in Britain, the Federation of British Industries in Politics, 1945-65 (Farnborough, 1973); G.W. McDonald, articles in Business Archives 38 (June 1973) pp.22-8, 29-37; R.K. Middlemas, Politics in industrial society: the experience of the British system since 1911 (London, 1979); Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations (Command 3623), 1968.


The records described here are available to bona fide researchers in the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick Library, Coventry, CV4 7AL. Researchers will be required to sign a declaration undertaking to submit to the CBI, before publication, any work based on these archives.