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Sources for the study of South Asia

This subject guide outlines some of the main archive collections at the Modern Records Centre which contain material relating to South Asia, and is arranged in the following sections: Employers' and trade organisations, trade unions, interest groups and pressure groups, and individuals. Some of the collections contain material on more than one country and most of the sources have a distinct political perspective. This is not a comprehensive list but is intended to give a sample of the sort of material held at the Centre.

Employers' and trade organisations

Confederation of British Industry (MSS.200/C)

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, incorporating not only manufacturing, transport and construction but also commerce and the nationalised industries.

Archives include: correspondence files, etc., regarding foreign investment in and trade relations with India, mostly from the 1960s - 1970s; and files regarding delegations to India and Pakistan.

Federation of British Industries (MSS.200/F)

The FBI was founded in 1916 to act as a new representative organisation for industry. It absorbed other smaller organisations which strengthened its regional and overseas work, and in 1923 was incorporated by Royal Charter. It was easily the biggest of the CBI's predecessors, having a membership of over 9,000 individual firms and 272 trade associations by 1964. It merged with the British Employers' Confederation and the National Association of British Manufacturers to form the Confederation of British Industry in 1965.

Archives include: various files of correspondence, memoranda, etc. (particularly from the 1950s-1960s), regarding delegations to and from India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma; taxation; Sino-Soviet aid; FBI representation in India and Pakistan, etc. It also includes minutes and papers of the Empire Committee and Empire Executive Committee, 1943-1947, including 'A plan of economic development for India' (MSS.200/F/3/S1/21/45).

India, Pakistan and Burma Association (previously the India-Burma Association) (MSS.200/IPBA)

The India-Burma Association was formed in 1942 to protect and promote British industrial, commercial and trading enterprises in India, Pakistan and Burma. It altered its name to the India, Pakistan and Burma Association in 1949. The Association was completely independent of the British government, and collected and distributed information to its members about the countries within its remit.

Archives include: minutes of the Association, 1942-1963; minutes of meetings of the Executive Committee, 1945-1964; minutes of meetings of the Taxation Sub-Committee, 1950-1957; 'Indian Affairs' / 'ILB Bulletin': weekly bulletin, 1946-1965; monthly 'confidential reports on India', 1955, 1958-61, 1965-66 and 1969-1971, and 'confidential reports on Pakistan', 1949-1971.

Joint Committee on India (MSS.200/JCI)

The Joint Committee on India was established to promote trade in India. It was made up of representatives of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of British Industries (later the Confederation of British Industry), the Chamber of Shipping of the UK, and the India Pakistan and Burma Association. This latter body provided the JCI secretariat.

Archives: minutes of meetings, 1945-1967.

Trade unions

Trades Union Congress (MSS.292)

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 archive includes a series of subject files from the 1920s-1980s regarding India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ceylon / Sri Lanka, and Burma / Myanmar. The largest number of files relate to India, and cover subjects such as trade union organisation, industrial disputes and conditions, British imperialism, Indian workers in Britain and Africa, the textile industry, self-rule, constitutional reform, famine and political prisoners.

Among the relevant references in TUC records not arranged by subject are:

Reports of delegations to government departments: political situation in India, 21 Feb 1922 (in MSS.292/32/1); proposed Indian legislation, particularly on trade union protection and workmen's compensation, 31 Jan 1922 (in MSS.292/701.12/3).

Minutes of National Council of Labour: visits by Hugh Gaitskell to south-east Asia (India, Burma, Singapore, Malaya, Ceylon and Pakistan), 15 Jan 1958 (in MSS.292/32/8).

Association of Assistant Mistresses (MSS.59)

Founded in 1884 as the Association of Assistant Mistresses in Secondary Schools Incorporated, the association became the Association of Assistant Mistresses in 1894. It was set up to promote the interests of women teachers in secondary schools in the United Kingdom. British women teaching in similar schools overseas subsequently became eligible to join. In 1978 the Association of Assistant Mistresses merged with the Assistant Masters' Association to become the Assistant Masters and Mistresses' Association which then became the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in 1993.

The archive includes subject /correspondence files on the India League for Self Rule, 1941 (MSS.59/3/1/20) and Women's Council on Indian Affairs, 1941-1973 (MSS.59/3/1/60).

Association of Head Mistresses (MSS.188)

The Association of Head Mistresses of Endowed and Proprietary Schools was founded in 1874. In 1959 membership had risen to 892 ordinary members, including Head Mistresses of 'approved' secondary schools. The Association merged with the Association of Headmasters on 1 January 1978 to become the Secondary Heads' Association.

The archive includes minutes of the Overseas Committee for 1936-1971 (MSS.188/1/11/1), the committee was known as the India and Overseas Committee between 1936-1948.

International Transport Workers' Federation (MSS.159)

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) was founded in 1896. The organisation had its roots in various special conferences and federations of European seamen and railwaymen in the early 1890s, and in the international co-operation of European transport unionists during the 1896-7 dock strikes in Rotterdam and Hamburg.

Archive includes: reports and correspondence from the 1920s-1970s regarding transport strikes, trade union organisation in India and Pakistan, employment conditions, delegations, etc. The ITF corresponded with organisations including the All-India Trade Union Congress, All-India Transport Congress, All-India Railwaymen's Federation, Indian Seamen's Union, Indian Quarter-Masters' Union and the Maritime Union of India.

Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (MSS.36)

The Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC), formed in 1917, was the largest union in the steel industry.

Contains general file on India, 1903-1940, 1960, including publications regarding industrial and labour conditions, as well as contemporary British material regarding the Amritsar massacre (MSS.36/I3). Also includes subject files on: the Indian tinplate trade, 1922-1924 (MSS.36/I32); Golmuri branch of the Tinplate Company of India, 1928-1929 (MSS.36/G14); and Tata Iron and Steel Company, most documents date from 1917-1929 (MSS.36/J8 and MSS.36/T38a).

Interest groups and pressure groups

Amnesty International (MSS.34)

Amnesty International was established in 1961 with the primary object of mobilising public opinion in defence of men and women who are imprisoned because their ideas are unacceptable to government authorities in their country. It has members all over the world and, in the words of its first annual report "has been formed so that there should be some central, international organisation capable of concentrating efforts to secure the release of these 'Prisoners of Conscience' and to secure world wide recognition of Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". To this end it produces a variety of background publications, commercial publications, periodicals and information sheets.

The archive contains publications regarding all countries in South Asia, including: Bangladesh from 1972 onwards, Burma / Myanmar from 1985 onwards, Ceylon / Sri Lanka from 1971 onwards, India from 1975 onwards, and Pakistan from 1977 onwards.

Young Women's Christian Association (MSS.243)

The Young Women's Christian Association was formed in 1855 as a result of a growing interest in the welfare of young women at work and the dangers to which they were exposed on leaving home.

The journals of the YWCA include articles on missionary work and descriptions of visits by British Christian women to India in the late 19th and early 20th century. The archive also includes minutes of the YWCA Standing Committee for India and the Far East, 1914-1917 (MSS.243/171/3).


Papers of Jack Askins: World Peace Movements and Conferences (MSS.189/P)

During the 1950s and 1960s Askins was a bus driver and shop steward, and Communist Party industrial organiser.

Contains documents relating to the International Conference Against Fascism, held in Patna, India, in December 1975; including newspapers, political pamphlets and booklets collected by Askins whilst at the conference.

Papers of Jimmy Deane, Trotskyist (MSS.325)

Jimmy Deane was born in Liverpool in 1921 and was active in the British Trotskyist movement during the 1930s-1960s.

Archive contains documents produced by far-left groups in Britain, India and Ceylon during the 1930s-1960s, including resolutions, pamphlets and journals. The Indian material includes internal bulletins of the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI) from 1946-1947, issues of the BLPI newspaper 'New Spark' from 1947-1948, and issues of the Revolutionary Workers' Party of India newspaper 'The Militant' from 1959.

Papers of Maurice Edelman MP (MSS.125)

(Israel) Maurice Edelman was born in Cardiff in 1911 to Eastern European parents. He was a Labour MP for several Coventry constituencies from 1945 to 1975 (the year of his death). Whilst in Parliament Edelman was active in foreign affairs, acting as a delegate to the Consultative Committee of the Council of Europe from 1949 to 1951 and 1965 to 1970, and was Chairman of the Socialist Group in the Western European Union from 1968 to 1970. He was also a prolific writer, producing journalism, plays and bestselling novels.

His archive contains documents relating to the 21st Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference, held in New Delhi, India, in October - November 1975. Whilst in India, Edelman collected a series of political pamphlets produced by the Indian government and opposition parties in response to the declaration of a state of emergency by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. His papers also include the illustrated 100th anniversary publication of the Indian newspaper 'The Pioneer', 1964, including articles on the history of the Indian newspaper, the press and India.

Papers of Bob Purdie (MSS.149)

Bob Purdie was a leading member of the British Trotskyist International Marxist Group during the 1960s-1970s.

Archive includes: publications by left-wing groups in or from Ceylon / Sri Lanka, 1951-(1972?), including the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Ceylon Socialist Students Association in London. Other Trotskyist collections at the Modern Records Centre also include pamphlets and other publications produced by these groups.

Papers of Sir Leslie Scott MP (1869-1950), judge and Conservative politician (MSS.119)

Sir Leslie Frederic Scott was Conservative MP for Liverpool Exchange, 1910-1929, and Solicitor General for a short period in 1922. From 1935 to 1948 he was a Lord Justice of Appeal. In 1927 he represented the Indian Princely States at the inquiry into how they might be affected by any move towards self-government in British India.

Archive includes: a file of correspondence regarding India and the Indian Princes, 1922-1947 (MSS.119/3/S/IN/1-25), and correspondence on the constitutional position of the Indian princes with J. L. Garvin, editor of the Observer, 1930-1938 (MSS.119/3/P/GA/1-5).

Dr Gurharpal Singh archive: Communist Movement in the Punjab, (1927)-1989 (CRER/GS)

This collection contains substantial resources for the study of the history of Communist parties of Punjab from 1920s to 1970s. Its special strength is in many of the unpublished pamphlets and inner party documents which were marked for party members only. There are a number of published pamphlets, a number of original letters, cuttings from contemporary newspapers, as well as supportive material invaluable to Punjab scholars.

The documents were collected during Dr Singh's research for his Ph.D thesis on the Communist Movement in Punjab [Communism in Punjab up to 1967, London School of Economic and Political Science, University of London, Ph.D. 1989, and published as 'Communism in Punjab', New Delhi, India: Ajanta 1994, 355pp.]. Documents are in English, Panjabi and Urdu.

Papers of Dame Eileen Louise Younghusband (1902-1981), welfare worker (MSS.463/EL)

Dame Eileen Louise Younghusband was born in London on 1 January 1902. Her childhood was spent in Kashmir, where her father was British Resident, 1906-1909. Her interests lay in the problems of the poor and deprived and much of her time was spent as a voluntary social worker. In 1941 Eileen Younghusband became principal officer for training and employment for youth leaders for the National Association of Girls' Clubs and two years later undertook a survey of the welfare needs of the recipients of benefit. In 1955 the Ministry of Health invited her to chair a working party on the role of social workers in the health and welfare services. Eileen Younghusband was also tireless in her work overseas, working after the second world war for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. She worked as consultant in Geneva in 1948, and also in Greece and Hong Kong, she made study visits to the India and Pakistan in 1952-1953, and was a frequent visitor to America.

Archive includes: reports on social work in India, Pakistan and Ceylon during the 1950s-1960s; and undated notes of an anecdotal nature about Indian ways and life.