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Enoch Powell and the 1968 "Rivers of Blood" speech

Cartoon of Enoch Powell

On 20 April 1968, as the Race Relations Bill was working its way through parliament, the Wolverhampton MP Enoch Powell addressed a Conservative Party meeting in Birmingham. The speech used controversial language and violent imagery to strongly oppose mass immigration into Britain, particularly from the Commonwealth, and raised the spectre of a 'race war' (in part through his use of the phrase "like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood"). As a result of the speech Powell was sacked from the Conservative Shadow Cabinet and become a figurehead for opponents to immigration.

Catalogue = This symbol after a link means that it links to catalogue descriptions of the documents (including the reference numbers which will help you to order up the original documents at the MRC).

Digitised = This symbol after a link means that it links to digitised copies of the documents.


Overview:

The Modern Records Centre's collections include various sources written in response to Enoch Powell's anti-immigration speech of 1968. As all of these documents are in copyright we have been unable to publish the majority of them online, but the originals can be seen at the Modern Records Centre.

Selected sources:

'Race and Immigration', 1967-1971 Catalogue

File from the archives of Margaret Stanton, political campaigner and left-wing activist. It includes press cuttings relating to the 'Rivers of Blood' speech; the booklet 'Who is Enoch Powell', published by the Cultural Committee of the Birmingham Communist Party in October 1968; and ephemera produced in response to Powell and the Race Relations Act (particularly in the Birmingham area).

'Enoch Powell: workers' champion?', [1968] Catalogue

Leaflet produced by the International Socialists (now the Socialist Workers Party), which was distributed amongst workers at ICI.

'Operation Brainwash', [1968] Catalogue

Leaflet opposing the views of Enoch Powell, likely to have been aimed at a 'rank and file' or working class audience.

'Powell and his Allies', June 1969 Catalogue

Pamphlet published by the Labour Research Department (a left-wing research organisation independent from the Labour Party).

'Powellism = Racialism', 1969 Catalogue

Pamphlet of the February 17th Movement Against Powellism, available with several other items of ephemera produced in protest against the attendance of Enoch Powell as guest of honour at University College London Conservative Association annual dinner.

Coventry: immigration, 1958-1975 Catalogue

File from the archives of the Coventry Member of Parliament Maurice Edelman. It includes correspondence written in response to Enoch Powell's speech.

Interviews with trade union activists in the dock industry, 1980-1985

The interviews were conducted during the first half of the 1980s as part of a research project by Professor Fred Lindop on trade unionism in British docks. Several interviews include references to the 'Enoch Powell' strike of 1968. Audio recordings can be listened to through our online catalogue (written transcripts are available at the Modern Records Centre):

Interview with Maurie Day, 1981 Digitised

Interview with Freddie Rolfe, early 1980s Digitised

Interview with Jack Dash, 23 Mar 1984 Digitised

Information about additional documents relating to Enoch Powell and the responses to his views on immigration can be found through a 'ready-made' search of our archive catalogue.