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Selection of primary sources

The Modern Records Centre holds nationally important collections for the study of political, social and economic history. Just a small selection of documents relevant to the course 'Social Welfare in Britain' are shown below in four sections: 1880-1919, 1920-1939, 1940-1959, and 1960-1979.

Most archive collections at the Centre come from trade unions, employers' organisations or individuals involved in the labour movement. Many of the sources reproduced below therefore reflect left-wing views on the provision of social welfare.

How to find out more about the documents:

Click on the reference codes of the documents to go to their descriptions in our on-line catalogues. This can help you to put the documents in context and find similar items.

Where to find more sources:

Interested in using primary sources in your work? - find out more about using archives. 


1880-1919

'Pauperism and distress', 1886

'Pauperism and distress', 1886

Copy of a circular letter sent by the Local Government Board to Boards of Guardians. It comments on the increasing and "exceptional distress amongst the working classes", but warns against relaxing the rules to help the poor as this would "destroy the independence of the labouring classes and increase the poor rate until it became an almost insupportable burden".

[Included in a file on 'Poor law and outdoor relief', from the records of the British Employers' Confederation; document reference: MSS.200B/3/2/C192 pt1]

The Islington Committee of the Charity Organisation Society: notes on applicants, 1901The Islington Committee of the Charity Organisation Society: notes on applicants, 1901

The Islington Committee of the Charity Organisation Society: notes on applicants, 1901

These notes relate to people who applied for medical aid from the Great Northern Central Hospital, London. Patients would be assessed as to the nature of their illness and the level of their income, if their income was below a certain level they could be eligible for free treatment.

[Included in the records of the Institute of Medical Social Workers; document reference: MSS.378/IMSW/A/1/6/9-18]

Great Northern Central Hospital, London: reports on applicants for treatment, 1901Great Northern Central Hospital, London: reports on applicants for treatment, 1901

Great Northern Central Hospital, London: reports on applicants for treatment, 1901

These enquiries into patients were made on behalf of the Charity Organisation Society. The enquirer, Mr F. Cornish, went to the homes of patients to ask about their financial situation. In some cases the neighbours were also questioned about the family's financial situation and moral standing.

[Included in the records of the Institute of Medical Social Workers; document reference: MSS.378/IMSW/A/1/6/8]

'Superannuation claims for consideration', 1903

'Superannuation claims for consideration', 1903

Decisions on members' claims for a pension, made by the Executive Committee of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. Members had the option of paying in to a trade union superannuation fund, in case they became physically unable to work.

[Included in the records of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants; document reference: MSS.127/AS/1/2/50]

Applications to the Orphan Fund, 1903

Applications to the Orphan Fund, 1903

List of claims for a weekly allowance granted to the orphaned children of men who had paid into a scheme run by the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. Includes some details of individual cases.

[Included in the records of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants; document reference: MSS.127/AS/1/2/50]

Notices requesting charitable contributions towards 'deserving' cases, 1909

Notices requesting charitable contributions towards 'deserving' cases, 1909

Published as a supplement to the 'Charity Organisation Review', a publication of the Charity Organisation Society.

[Included in the records of the National Institute for Social Work; document reference: MSS.463/box 99]

 

'National Insurance against sickness and unemployment: Full explanation of Mr Lloyd George's great scheme', c1911

'National Insurance against sickness and unemployment: Full explanation of Mr Lloyd George's great scheme', c1911

'The Daily News' summary of the National Insurance Bill. It provided information about the contributions to be made by workers, and the resulting benefits that they can claim if ill or unemployed.

[Included in the records of George Patrick Sarsfield LaGrue, carpenter; document reference: MSS.345/3/2/2]

National Insurance Act 1911: government guidelines, 1912

National Insurance Act 1911: government guidelines, 1912

Front page of a leaflet issued by the National Health Insurance Commission, explaining the new concept of National Insurance deductions from wages and the provision of state benefits for working men and women.

[Included in the records of George Patrick Sarsfield LaGrue, carpenter; document reference: MSS.345/3/2/1]

 

1920-1939

'The disturbance in Whitehall: rioting near Downing Street', 1920

'The disturbance in Whitehall: rioting near Downing Street', 1920

Photographs showing disturbances during a march "to escort a deputation of fifteen mayors of London boroughs to the Prime Minister, with whom they were to discuss the question of the employment of ex-Service men". The rioting was blamed on "undesirables" and communists. A newspaper front page covering the same story is included in the module resources for 'British Culture and the Great War'.

[From the papers of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland, Trotskyists; document reference: MSS.15/3/10/4]

'Mothers' Pensions. ... Hear the widow tell her tale', 1921'Mothers' Pensions. ... Hear the widow tell her tale', 1921

'Mothers' Pensions. ... Hear the widow tell her tale', 1921

Labour Party leaflet demanding 'pensions' for "any woman with one or more dependent children whether she is a widow, a deserted or separated wife, or the wife of an invalid". It quotes the "touching appeal" of Mrs Kane of Moss Side, Manchester (a widow with 5 young children), to the National Conference of Labour Women.

[Included in the records of the Union of Post Office Workers; document reference: MSS.148/UCW/6/13/41/9]

'Unemployment Insurance and Relief Payment', 1922'Unemployment Insurance and Relief Payment', 1922

'Unemployment Insurance and Relief Payment', 1922

Subtitled "Cases illustrating the evil effects of the present system, and the temptations it offers men to contrive deliberately to avoid work in order to come on the rates". These examples were submitted by Sheffield and District Engineering Trades Employers' Association to the Engineering and National Employers' Federations as evidence of "the pernicious effects" of poor relief.

[Included in a file on 'Poor law and outdoor relief', from the records of the British Employers' Confederation; document reference: MSS.200B/3/2/C192 pt1]

Farnworth Distress Committee: sufferers "in consequence of the present coal situation", August 1926

Farnworth Distress Committee: sufferers "in consequence of the present coal situation", August 1926

This letter to the Guardians of the Poor of Bolton Union summarises "cases of distress" in Farnworth, Lancashire, which have resulted from the long-running miners' strike. It refers to the "failure of the Guardians to afford relief", the involvement of charity, and malnutrition in the district.

[Included in a file on 'Poor Law relief: reduction to strikers', from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/871/4]

Living conditions in inner-city London, 1929

Living conditions in inner-city London, 1929

This is an extract from evidence submitted by the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives to the Trades Union Congress General Council. The union gives examples taken from a booklet "dealing with the appalling conditions under which a very considerable number of people exist in the Borough of Shoreditch".

[Included in a file on sanitary inspectors, from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/843.5/2]

The need for women sanitary inspectors, c1929

The need for women sanitary inspectors, c1929

Part of a summarised speech made by Miss Davies, probably to the Trades Union Congress General Council. She argued that women were needed to work as sanitary inspectors for local authorities, to deal particularly with the conditions of women workers in factories, children and the elderly at home, and women's lodging houses.

[Included in a file on sanitary inspectors, from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/843.5/2]

'Opportunities for service', 1932

'Opportunities for service', 1932

Leaflet publicising an appeal made by the Prince of Wales for people (particularly young people) to do voluntary work in order to tackle the social and financial ills of society - "Bad housing, ugliness and squalor can be done away with if more people will give time and energy to the task".

[Included in the records of the Union of Post Office Workers; document reference: MSS.148/UCW/6/13/32/1]

Manifesto of National Hunger March and Congress, c1934

Manifesto of National Hunger March and Congress, c1934

The manifesto outlines the aims of the hunger marchers and includes a route and timetable for the January-February 1934 march. The march was organised in protest against the National Government and its 1933 Unemployment Bill, which was seen by the organisers as "the most far-reaching attack that has yet been made on the workers of this country" and an "advance towards open dictatorship".

[From the 'Miscellaneous series' of records, document reference: MSS.21/3209]

Life on the dole, 1935Life on the dole, 1935

Life on the dole, 1935

These are edited statements made by two women in South Wales, who both had unemployed husbands and large families. They describe the deprivation suffered by the families as a result of having to live on unemployment benefits. These statements were collected by the Trades Union Congress as part of their campaign against the regulations of the Unemployment Assistance Boards.

[Included in a file on 'Unemployment Insurance 1935: Unemployment Assistance Boards', from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/157.22/1]

'Up with the houses, down with the slums', 1938

'Up with the houses, down with the slums', 1938

Labour Party leaflet promoting the slum clearance work of Labour controlled councils.

[Included in the records of the Transport and General Workers' Union; document reference: MSS.126/TG/RES/X/1029c/31]

'Poverty - sickness, undernourishment. Health - prosperity, happiness: take your choice', 1939'Poverty - sickness, undernourishment. Health - prosperity, happiness: take your choice', 1939

'Poverty - sickness, undernourishment. Health - prosperity, happiness: take your choice', 1939

Labour Party / Co-operative Party leaflet on "the greatest menace to the health of the British people" - malnutrition.

[Included in the records of the Transport and General Workers' Union; document reference: MSS.126/TG/RES/X/1029c/63]

'Will you live like this when you're 65?''Will you live like this when you're 65?'

'Will you live like this when you're 65?'

Leaflet attacking the National Government's treatment of pensioners, produced by the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party.

[Included in the records of the Transport and General Workers' Union; document reference: MSS.126/TG/RES/X/1029c/21]

 

1940-1959

'The Poverty Line: Mr Rowntree's Second Study of York', 18 August 1941

'The Poverty Line: Mr Rowntree's Second Study of York', 18 August 1941

Copy of an article taken from the 'Manchester Guardian' and included in a file of evidence that was used by a trade union to support a claim for better wages for its members. The article comments on the levels and causes of poverty shown in Seebohm Rowntree's social survey of York.

[Included in a file on the standard of living, from the records of the Union of Post Office Workers; document reference: MSS.148/UCW/6/6/3]

Official response of the Independent Socialist Party to the Beveridge Report, 1942

Official response of the Independent Socialist Party to the Beveridge Report, 1942

The ISP acknowledges the Beveridge Report as a "limited contribution to a wider social policy" which "should receive the enthusiastic backing of the people". This document is included in a file with the title 'Beveridge Report Comments', which includes responses from organisations and individuals which range from the enthusiastic, the lukewarm and the deeply unimpressed.

[Included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/150.5/5]

'Your new National Health Service begins on 5th July. What is it? How do you get it?, February 1948'Your new National Health Service begins on 5th July. What is it? How do you get it?, February 1948

'Your new National Health Service begins on 5th July. What is it? How do you get it?, February 1948

Ministry of Health leaflet publicising the new service - "everyone - rich or poor, man, woman or child - can use it or any part of it". Other pages, not reproduced here, outline additional services that ordinary people will now have free access to: hospital and specialist services; medicine, drugs and appliances; dentists; specialist eye and ear clinics; home health services and new "special premises known as Health Centres".

[From the 'Miscellaneous series' of records, document reference: MSS.21/1974]

Medical Practitioners' Union: circular in favour of the National Health Service, February 1948

Medical Practitioners' Union: circular in favour of the National Health Service, February 1948

It attempts to counter the opposition of the British Medical Association and argues that "far from enslaving us, the Act sets us free".

[Included in a file on 'National Health Service: Doctors - General Practice', included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/847.21/1]

A doctor's complaint, following his first payment under the National Health Service, October 1948

A doctor's complaint, following his first payment under the National Health Service, October 1948

Copy of a letter sent to Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, by a "stunned" Leeds doctor and "protagonist of a free medical service". He complains about the added workload and "mere pittance" that has been received in return. Elsewhere in the letter, the author unfavourably compares the remuneration of the doctor with that of a plumber.

[Included in a file on 'National Health Service: Doctors - General Practice', included in the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/847.21/1]

'Can you afford to be ill?': 'Sixpence paid and worry saved', 1956'Can you afford to be ill?': 'Sixpence paid and worry saved', 1956

'Can you afford to be ill?': 'Sixpence paid and worry saved', 1956

Leaflet advertising the services of the Sheffield and District Convalescent and Hospital Services Council (Incorporated). The Council offered a form of health insurance - in return for sixpence a week, "workpeople" would not have to pay for "extra items" (i.e. items which were not free under the National Health Service), such as care in convalescence homes, spectacles, dentures and surgical appliances. "Cash grants" when subscribers were hospitalised were also offered as incentives.

[Included in a file on hospitals, from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/842/2/63]

Speech by the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, 1957

Speech by the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, 1957

John Boyd-Carpenter MP speaks in praise of people who opt to work beyond retirement age - "nothing is more wasteful than the idea that one must, or ought to, stop work on reaching retirement age, even though one is perfectly fit to go on. ... An aging nation, determined to provide properly for its old people, cannot afford waste of this sort".

[Included in the records of the British Employers' Confederation; document reference: MSS.200B/3/2/C238 pt 2]

'The Citizen and the Welfare State' by Sir Keith Joseph, 1959

'The Citizen and the Welfare State' by Sir Keith Joseph, 1959

17 page speech commenting on the attacks which had been made upon the welfare state. Joseph took a centrist position, defending the welfare state against those on the right who argued that it served to "corrupt the citizen's self-reliance, demoralise family and religious life and magnify the government" and arguing against those on the left who wished to see it extended. Sir Keith Joseph would later become Secretary of State for Social Services (1970-4) and one of the main architects behind 'Thatcherism'.

[Included in the records of the Association of Psychiatric Social Workers; document reference: MSS.378/APSW/P/21/5/1-5a]

 

1960-1979

Speech by Dr P. Sidney Greaves, General Secretary of the Medical Practitioners' Union, 1967

Speech by Dr P. Sidney Greaves, General Secretary of the Medical Practitioners' Union, 1967

At a Conference of Non-Manual Workers, Dr Greaves argued that "the National Health Service is threatened with breakdown in many parts of the country due to the totally inadequate resources of manpower and finance which are available to it".

[Included in file on the cost of the NHS, from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292B/847.15/3]

News Release: The Minister of Health on National Health Service charges, 1967

News Release: The Minister of Health on National Health Service charges, 1967

Kenneth Robinson MP condemns proposals to introduce charges for treatment in the NHS - "sometimes the proposals are obscured by such phrases as "giving the consumer choice", or "selectivity of free benefits" or "helping those in need", but in the end they all seem to boil down to charging the patient in some way or another".

[Included in a file on NHS charges, from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292B/847.18/3]

Private Patients Plan, organised by the London Association for Hospital Services, 1967

Private Patients Plan, organised by the London Association for Hospital Services, 1967

Leaflet outlining the benefits of private health care to members of the National and Local Government Officers' Association (NALGO).

[Included in a file on private patients, from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292B/847.3/4]

National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child: 'A miscellany of current care', 1971

National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child: 'A miscellany of current care', 1971

Report on Hillfields Nursery Centre, Coventry - a day nursery and nursery school planned under the government's 'Urban Aid Programme'.

[Included in a file on 'Maternity and child welfare', from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292D/824/1]

'Major expansion of family planning service', 1972

'Major expansion of family planning service', 1972

Announcement by Sir Keith Joseph, Secretary of State for Social Services, regarding a four year, £30,000,000 plan to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

[Included in a file on 'Maternity and child welfare', from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292D/824/1]

'Memorandum on the employment of unsupported mothers', 1972

'Memorandum on the employment of unsupported mothers', 1972

Prepared by the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child for the House of Commons Expenditure Committee (Employment and Social Services Sub-Committee). It refers to the financial and employment problems of single mothers.

[Included in a file on 'Maternity and child welfare', from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292D/824/1]

Task Force appeal on behalf of the elderly, 1972

Task Force appeal on behalf of the elderly, 1972

Copy of a letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Social Services. It requests a universal heating allowance system for people of pensionable age to prevent the elderly "suffering severe hardship because of inadequate heating".

[Included in a file on 'Old people', from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292D/805.3/1]

National Co-ordinating Committee against Cuts in the NHS, 1975

National Co-ordinating Committee against Cuts in the NHS, 1975

Leaflet attacking government cuts and calling for a "health service responsive to the needs of the working class and under the control of the working class".

[From the 'Miscellaneous series' of records, document reference: MSS.21/849]

'A message to all youth: 'Jobs for youth Now!' campaign', 1976

'A message to all youth: 'Jobs for youth Now!' campaign', 1976

Leaflet published by the Young Socialists, attacking capitalism and the government's youth employment policies - "the time has come for youth to fight back".

[Included in a file on unemployment, from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292D/135/6]

'The Great Sales Robbery: the case against selling council houses', 1976

'The Great Sales Robbery: the case against selling council houses', 1976

Extract from a pamphlet published by Shelter. It attacks the growth in the sale of council houses by local councils as "asset stripping" which will increase public spending and lead to greater social division.

[From the 'Miscellaneous series' of records, document reference: MSS.21/3409]