The Modern Records Centre holds nationally important archives relating to welfare, healthcare and employment. These include material relating to advocacy, treatment and attitudes towards disabilities during the 20th century. This guide is not a comprehensive list of all relevant sources (we have too many to be able to do that) but it does identify some of the main collections which include potentially relevant material.
More detailed information about our holdings can be found by searching our online catalogue.
Archives at the Modern Records Centre include historical terminology used to describe medical conditions or aspects of disability. This language reflects the context in which the material was created, and may be considered offensive today.
Campaign and pressure groups
The National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom was established in 1947 to promote the welfare of blind and partially sighted people, particularly as regards education, mobility and employment. The Federation is a campaigning organisation and not in competition with agencies providing services for blind and partially sighted people. The Federation is represented on many agencies serving the blind, including the World Blind Union, the European Blind Union and other official bodies.
The Modern Records Centre holds 68 boxes of archives relating to the NFB dating from 1894-1995 (most from the 1930s onwards). These include minutes, reports, correspondence, subject files, publications and some branch papers.
The National League of the Blind and Disabled was a small registered trade union of visually impaired and disabled people which was originally known as the National League of the Blind. It was formed in 1899, affiliated to the Trades Union Congress in 1902, and affiliated to the Labour Party in 1909. In 2000 it became a sector of the union Community.
The Modern Records Centre holds 19 boxes of archives relating to the NLBD dating from 1915-1994 (most from the 1930s onwards). These include subject files, publications and reports.
Additional material relating to the NLBD is also contained in other archive collections, including those of the Trades Union Congress.
The Disablement Income Group (DIG) was founded in 1965 to campaign for economic justice for the disabled and chronic sick.
The Modern Records Centre holds a collection of 8 boxes of archives relating to DIG dating from 1968-1975. These include minutes, correspondence, subject files and publications.
Additional material relating to DIG is also contained in other archive collections, including those of Dr Fred Reid, the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom, the Trades Union Congress, Derek Coombs MP, William Wilson MP, and the British Association of Social Workers.
Fred Reid was born in Glasgow in 1937. At the age of fourteen he went blind and finished his schooling at the Royal Blind School, Edinburgh (an experience described in his novel 'The Panopticon'). He studied history and law at Edinburgh University between 1958-1962, graduating with first class honours, and obtained a doctorate from Queen's College, Oxford, in 1967. Between 1966 and 1997 Dr Reid lectured in history at the University of Warwick. Prompted by his own experiences, "at a very early stage [he] resolved to speak up for the rights of blind people". Dr Reid served as President of the National Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted from 1972 to 1975 and as a trustee of the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) from 1974 to 1987 (and again from 1999 to 2006). In 1970 he helped to form the Association of Blind and Partially Sighted Teachers and Students and edited its Bulletin for several years. Dr Reid was also actively involved in organisations which campaigned on behalf of the rights of disabled people in general, serving on the executives of the Disablement Income Group (DIG) and the Disability Alliance.
The Modern Records Centre holds 20 boxes of archives relating to Dr Reid's work with organisations including the Association of Blind and Partially Sighted Teachers and Students, the Association of Disabled Professionals, the Department of Employment National Advisory Council on the Employment of the Disabled Blind Persons Committee, the Disability Alliance, the Disablement Income Group, the Open University, the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Warwickshire Association for the Blind. Most material dates from the 1970s.
James Alexander Clydesdale (1879-1962) became the first socialist lord mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1945 and was the National League for the Blind organiser for north-east England.
The Modern Records Centre holds copies of an address by Clydesdale to Newcastle conference on the deaf-blind, (Jan 1935), and obituaries.
Dame Eileen Younghusband
Dame Eileen Louise Younghusband was a welfare worker and educator who played an instrumental role in the development of social work as a profession in Britain.
Eileen Younghusband's archives include research material and publications relating to a range of issues connected with health and social work, including files on 'Living with handicap', 1958-1975, 'Handicap/Health', 1951-1974, and people described as 'mentally sub-normal' or 'mentally handicapped'.
Margaret Stacey, sociologist
Margaret (Meg) Stacey (1922-2004) was director of the Medical Sociology Research Centre at University College, Swansea from 1972 to 1974 and Professor of Sociology at Warwick University from 1974 to 1989; she became an Emeritus Professor in 1989. She was a lay member of the Welsh Hospital Board, from 1970 to 1974, and of the General Medical Council from 1976 to 1984.
Margaret Stacey's papers include a series of files on 'Warwick [University] Child Development Centre for assessing pre-school handicapped children', 1978-1982, including reports and correspondence relating to centres at Nuneaton and the University of Warwick.
In 1909 the Trade Board Act introduced legally enforceable minimum wages in Britain for the first time. Trade Boards were established to regulate wages in certain specific 'sweated' trades - industries with long working hours, poor working conditions and low pay. Permits could be issued by the Trade Boards for employers to pay "exempted" workers less than the minimum wage if they were regarded as having a physical or psychological disability which affected their work. Trade Board papers include circulars regarding applications for permits, which contain information about the ages, employers and types of work done by the exempted workers (usually unnamed), as well as the reason given for the application.
Several hundred items from Trade Board files in the Trades Union Congress archive have been digitised. Undigitised material about Trade Boards is included in the Trades Union Congress archive as well as in other collections at the Modern Records Centre.
Government Training Centre and Industrial Rehabilitation Unit, Perivale, Middlesex (papers of George H. Cullen, Manager)
Perivale Government Training Centre was opened in 1948, and an Industrial Rehabilitation Unit was added in 1959. George H. Cullen was manager at Perivale between 1948-1966, and had previously worked at Barking and Honicknowle (Plymouth) GTCs. Government Training Centres (GTCs) were established in 1925 with the intention of providing vocational training in a factory-style environment to unemployed workers in industrially depressed areas. After the Second World War they were also used to rehabilitate or retrain ex-soldiers and people with disabilities. In 1970 they were renamed 'Skillcentres'.
The Modern Records Centre holds 14 boxes of archives relating to the Perivale GTC, most dating from the 1940s-1980s. These include minutes, correspondence, circulars, training course syllabuses, photographs and publications.
Trades Union Congress
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a voluntary association of trade unions which was formed in Manchester in 1868. It forms the largest pressure group in the United Kingdom and works to improve the rights and conditions of working people.
The TUC's archives at the Modern Records Centre are extensive and include dozens of subject files relating to disability (particularly in relation to employment). Examples include series of files relating to rehabilitation, 1935-1960 and 1960-1970; series of files relating to "disease and disability", 1920-1960, and health, 1970-1990, including files on blindness, "the deaf and deafness", "cripples" and "spastics"; files relating to the British Council for Rehabilitation, 1945-1991; files relating to workshops for the blind, 1970-1990; and files relating to NHS mobility allowance, 1971-1980.
British Association of Social Workers
The British Association of Social Workers was formed in 1970 by the merger of seven predecessor organisations which represented specialist groups within the broader profession of social work (the Association of Child Care Officers, the Association of Family Case Workers, the Association of Psychiatric Social Workers, the Association of Social Workers, the Institute of Medical Social Workers, the Moral Welfare Workers' Association and the Society of Mental Welfare Officers). It caters for all social workers and is the principal professional association for social workers in the United Kingdom.
The BASW archive includes subject files relating to aspects of disability, including series of files relating to its 'Working Party on Guidelines for the Disabled', 1977-1982; the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986; the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970; and relationships with a range of other organisations, including the British Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, Disability Alliance, Disabled Living Foundation and Thalidomide Trust.
National Union of Teachers
The National Union of Elementary Teachers (NUET) was established in 1870 to represent all school teachers in England and Wales, and was renamed the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in April 1889. The Union is the largest body representing school teachers in England and Wales.
The NUT archive includes subject files, publications and other material relating to education and disability, including documents relating to children who were described as "handicapped", disabled, deaf or blind.
Medical Practitioners' Union
Founded as the Medico-Political Union in 1914, the union became the Medical Practitioners' Union in 1922. It amalgamated with the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs in 1970, but retains its own identity (now as part of Unite).
The MPU journal 'Medical World' includes articles on a range of subjects relating to medical practice from 1922-1970. Our catalogue contains information about the titles and authors of articles in the journal, including pieces which show changing attitudes to and treatment of certain disabilities during the 20th century.
UNISON was formed in 1993 by the amalgamation of the National and Local Government Officers' Association, the National Union of Public Employees and the Confederation of Health Service Employees.
The UNISON archive includes administrative papers relating to the Eastern Region's Disabled Members' Group, 1995-2000, and video recordings of National Disabled Members' Conferences, 2001, 2005.
Employers and employers' organisations
British Employers' Confederation
The British Employers' Confederation (BEC) had its origins in the Employers' Advisory Council established in 1917 to consider the issue of industrial and labour relations. The FBI had originally been a member of the Council but concentrated on all issues apart from industrial relations and the two organisations split apart in 1919. The Advisory Council was renamed the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations (NCEO) in March 1919 and became the BEC in 1939. The BEC merged with the Federation of British Industries and the National Association of British Manufacturers in 1965 to form the Confederation of British Industry.
The BEC archives at the Modern Records Centre include subject files relating to disability and employment during the 1920s-1950s, including documents relating to the employment of disabled ex-servicemen after the First and Second World Wars, the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944, vocational training, 1949-1957, and blindness, 1948-1958.
Confederation of British Industry
The CBI was established in 1965 by the amalgamation of the Federation of British Industries (FBI), the British Employers' Confederation (BEC) and the National Association of British Manufacturers. This created a national representative body of employers equivalent to the Trades Union Congress, incorporating not only manufacturing, transport and construction but also commerce and the nationalised industries.
The CBI archives at the Modern Records Centre are extensive and include subject files and publications relating to disability and employment during the second half of the 20th century, including documents relating to the National Advisory Council on the Employment of the Disabled, 1958-1977, and the British Council for Rehabilitation's Working Party on Disabled School Leavers, 1958-1965.
Rubery Owen Holdings Ltd.
British engineering company founded in 1884 in Darlaston, West Midlands.
The archives of Rubery Owen include a series of correspondence files relating to artificial limbs and the Ministry of Health Standing Advisory Committee on the subject, dating from 1965-1971.