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Guide to sources for History students at the MRC

Examples of documents

On your doorstep, you have one of the key archives for the study of modern British history. Using the material that we hold can help you to develop your research skills and produce unique work (not just another cut-and-paste job).

This guide provides advice on finding sources relevant to many of the modules run by the History department in the 2018/9 academic year. If your module isn't listed here (and it covers a late 19th century / 20th century subject) it can still be worth searching our online catalogue for relevant material, meeting with a member of staff to discuss possible sources, or sending us an email.

Advice on using archives and links to other online material is available elsewhere in our section for Warwick students.

First year modules:

A History of Africa from 1800 (HI177)

The MRC holds a large amount of potentially relevant material relating to British colonialism in the 20th century (particularly from the 1920s onwards), the growth of African nationalist movements, and the development of certain countries during the early years of independence. You may be able to identify some material through our online catalogue or, if you have a particular subject in mind, contact us for further information. Extracts from a small number of documents copied for the module Politics and Society in Eastern Africa, 1800-1989, are available online.

We hold a lot of documents on South Africa, especially from the apartheid era. Most of this relates to the anti-apartheid movement and protests against the South African government, but we do also hold material relating to trade with South Africa (particularly in the archives of the Confederation of British Industry and its predecessors). A 'ready-made' search of our archive catalogue highlights a selection of these documents, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Documents relating to Kenya and the Mau Mau Uprising are profiled below in the section on the module 'HI32B. Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion, 1952-60'.

The Amnesty International archive includes reports, press releases and other publications on conditions in Rwanda, particularly during the genocide, dating between 1994-1999 and 1999-2011.

Farewells to Arms? War in Modern European History, 1815-2015 (HI178)

The MRC has material relating to most European conflicts from the First World War onwards, together with nationally important collections relating to the British anti-nuclear movement.

100 sources on the First World War (including documents about military service, the home front, the role of women and pacifist opposition) have been digitised and are available online. We also have 'ready-made' searches of the archive catalogue which identify selected sources on aspects of the First World War - military and aid, the home front, the role of women and opposition and the peace movement.

The MRC has digitised more than 4,000 documents on the Spanish Civil War, mostly from the Republican (anti-Franco) point of view. This is the largest collection of Spanish Civil War primary sources in English available online. The online resource also includes a timeline of the conflict and maps showing the progress of the war.

Digitised primary sources on the Second World War are included in the module resources for the History of Germany, Britain in the 20th Century and the History of France. 'Ready-made' searches of the MRC catalogue (which may help you to identify other relevant documents) are available for the following themes: Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, the British Home Front during the Second World War: Civil defence, air raid precautions and the Home Guard, the British Home Front during the Second World War: Women at war, Occupied France and the French Resistance and the United States and the Second World War.

Online resources for the Economics module War and Economy in the Twentieth Century include selected documents on the debate over the inter-war arms trade of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as sources on Second World War food rationing and war savings.

Selected primary sources on the war of Algerian independence are included in the module resources for the History of France.

The MRC holds national and regional archives of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), including publications, ephemera, internal minutes and reports, etc., from the 1950s to the 1990s. A summary of these collections, together with other information about archives relating to pacifist history, is included in our online guide to sources.

Second year modules:

A Global History of Football (HI2B5)

The Modern Records Centre has a small amount of material on football and its social and political history - many of the documents can be found through a 'ready-made' search of our catalogue.

Our collections include some material on political controversy over international matches (including the England v. Germany match in 1935 and the 1978 World Cup in Argentina); "workers' sports" organised through the workplace, trade unions or political groups; issues of hooliganism and social inclusion / exclusion during the 1970s and 1980s; and responses to the Hillsborough Disaster and 1989 government proposal for ID cards.

'Firefighter', the journal of the Fire Brigade Union, has been digitised and can be searched online. Unsurprisingly the FBU has had an interest in safety in football grounds and its journal includes references to the Bradford Stadium fire, the Popplewell Report and Hillsborough, as well as more general articles on 'Safety at football and sports stadiums' (1968) and right-wing extremism and football (1988).

A History of Modern Mexico

The Modern Records Centre holds documents relating to some aspects of Mexican history in the 20th century. Our guide to sources for the study of Latin America provides more information about what we hold.

A Social History of Cricket (HI2B6)

The Modern Records Centre has a small amount of material on cricket and its social history - many of the documents can be found through a 'ready-made' search of our catalogue.

The MRC holds the papers of Tony Lewis, statistician, co-creator of the Duckworth-Lewis scoring method for one-day cricket matches. This collection includes statistical data and press reports relating to the creation and use of the system.

Information about the role of cricket (and other sports) as an activity in the workplace can also be found in workplace or trade union journals.

Britain in the Twentieth Century: Narrating the Nation (HI291)

Unsurprisingly, the MRC has a huge amount of material on Britain during the 20th century. Resources specifically aimed at this module, including digitised sources and links to lists of potentially relevant material, are available elsewhere on the MRC website.

History of Russia since 1881 (HI289)

The Modern Records Centre has a large amount of material relating to Russia and the Soviet Union during the 20th century. Most, but not all, is from a British perspective.

Many of the sources that we hold on Britain and the Russian Revolution between 1917-1928 have been digitised and are available online elsewhere on the MRC website. The majority of the documents take a pro-left (though not necessarily pro-Bolshevik) view, and include Communist Party propaganda, including translations of the Soviet constitution and some early speeches, reports by delegations and individual visitors to Russia and the Soviet Union, and reports (published and unpublished) on Soviet treatment of dissenters, including Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchists.

Several hundred colourised photographs of Russia during and immediately after the 1917 revolutions are included in two sets of lantern sides from the archives of Henry Sara - Russia's struggle (on the revolution and civil war) and Russia's labours (on social reconstruction, including the famine, education and healthcare). These have all been digitised.

The Modern Records Centre has a large amount of material on Communism during the Stalin era, in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Selected sources were digitised for the module on Stalinism in Europe, 1928-1953.

'Ready made searches' of the archive catalogue are available which highlight selected sources on Russia during and shortly after the revolution, many of the reports by delegations and other visitors to the Soviet Union between 1918-1955, and documents relating to the Moscow Trials and Stalinist purges of the 1930s.

Communist publications feature in numerous collections, and it should be possible to find many of them through our online catalogue. A good series are however included in the Maitland Sara Hallinan collection, including issues of the Comintern journals 'The Communist International', 1919-1924 and 1924-1940, and 'International Press Correspondence', 1923-1938, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) journals 'The Communist Review', 1929-1935 and 1946-1953, 'World News and Views', 1938-1953, and 'Labour Monthly', mostly 1923-1940 (later issues of World News and Labour Monthly are included in a collection of Communist and other left wing publications), together with a run of pamphlets produced by the CPGB and Soviet War News / Soviet News. Issues of the heavily illustrated journal of the British Soviet Friendship Society, 1963-1989, provide an officially approved view of life in the Soviet Union in the last decades of Communism. The main articles in all of the journals linked to are listed in the individual catalogue entries.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), from the mid-1920s onwards, took an anti-Communist position. The TUC archives include reports, memoranda, correspondence, publications and ephemera relating to Communist activities in various countries (particularly but not exclusively Britain), including series of files specifically on Communism, the Soviet Union and other European countries.

The above is a short and (for reasons of space) very incomplete overview of potential sources - to find more, search our online catalogue or contact us for more information.

Politics and Literature in Britain from the Russian Revolution to the Cold War (HI2D7)

Documents relating to the overlap between literature and (mostly left-wing) politics are included in various collections at the MRC. Some potential sources are summarised below, but you may also be able to identify more material through our online catalogue.

Documents relating to the pioneering Left Book Club are included in several archive collections, most notably in the personal and business archives of the publisher Victor Gollancz. This includes a full set of Left Book News / Left News, published between 1936-1947, which contains articles about Left Book Club publications and activities, but unfortunately no files of correspondence with authors.

Agit-prop theatre is represented in the archives of the Bristol Unity Players Club, including scripts, programmes and administrative papers. Examples of documents from this collection are included in our online resources for the Theatre and Performance Studies module on British political theatre, 1930s-1950s.

Book reviews (non-fiction and fiction) can be included in political and trade union journals. In the majority of cases, the names of the books reviewed in each issue are not identified in the catalogue; however there are some exceptions, as this search for 'Animal Farm' demonstrates. The Maitland Sara Hallinan collection includes a series of political journals and magazines, most dating from the 1920s-1950s. Some, such as 'Now' (connected with the anarchist Freedom Press), 'Polemic', 'Left Review' and 'The New English Review' included regular articles on literature and the arts.

Race, Ethnicity, and Migration in Modern Britain (HI2D4)

The Modern Records Centre's collections contain a range of sources on race, ethnicity and migration in Britain from the late 19th century onwards, including material relating to many of the topics covered by this module.

Specific documents relevant to this module, arranged by theme, have been identified in a series of pages elsewhere on the MRC's website - these online resources include case studies on Jewish settlement in the late 19th century, Britain's multi-national ports in the 1910s-1930s, refugees and anti-fascism in the 1930s-1940s, Afro-Caribbean migration between 1948-1958, the Notting Hill riots of 1958, and Enoch Powell's speech of 1968. Some documents have been digitised and can be viewed online.

'Ready-made' searches of the archive catalogue pick out examples of documents on several relevant themes - British responses to immigration from the 1890s onwards, fascism in Britain during the 1920s-1940s (including material on anti-Semitism), and responses to the views of Enoch Powell following the 1968 'Rivers of Blood' speech.

Given the quantity of material, it is impossible to summarise all potential sources in a brief guide, but information about several of the richer collections is available below. You may be able to identify additional material through keyword searches of our archive catalogue or by contacting us with information about your particular research interest.

The MRC holds archives of two Jewish trade unionists and political activists who came to Britain from Tsarist Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - William Wess and Aaron Rapoport Rollin. Their collections include material relating to contemporary Jewish communities in London, Jewish trade union organisation, radical political activity (including correspondence with prominent socialists and anarchists such as Eleanor Marx and Peter Kropotkin), protests against anti-Semitism in Russia, and some material relating to opposition to Jewish immigration into Britain. The collections include documents in several languages, including English and Yiddish.

Sources on migration and racism in British seaports are included in several collections, most notably that of the National Union of Seamen. We have very little material on the 1919 riots, but the NUS archives do contain documents relating to the union's extensive anti-Chinese campaigns of the 1910s (the NUS President even went to the extent of running as a parliamentary candidate on the issue in 1913). The union newspaper 'The Seaman' contains regular articles on this and other subjects relating to foreign workers in British ports and on British ships.

The archives of the Trades Union Congress are extensive and contain a large amount of material on immigration and race relations, including reports, memoranda, correspondence and ephemera from a range of organisations, special interest groups and individuals. The collection includes series of files on Commonwealth workers in Britain, race relations (including material on the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Council and Institute of Race Relations), immigration / migration of labour and racial discrimination.

The papers of Wayne Ashcroft, former National Front regional organiser, include internal material relating to the National Front during the 1990s. The collection also contains National Front and other far right publications mostly from the mid-1970s onwards. Documents relating to the anti-fascist / anti-Nazi movements formed during the 1970s are included in various collections, including ephemera relating to the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism.

The History of Modern China (HI294)

Most of the MRC's collections look at events in China from a range of British perspectives - for example, through the archives of the Trades Union Congress and other sections of the labour movement, or through records of trade and employers' organisations such as the Federation of British Industries. We have a small number of publications distributed by Chinese political or pressure groups from the 1920s onwards, including Communist material from both before and after the revolution. Reports and statements relating to human rights in the late 20th century / early 21st century are included in our collection of publications from Amnesty International (1978-1999 and 1999-2011).

Several 'ready-made' searches are available which pick out some of the 20th century documents that we hold on China - China pre-1949, China post 1949, the Japanese invasion of China and Sino-Japanese War, 1930s-1940s, and China and Communism.

Final year modules:

A History of Human Rights in Latin America

A guide to sources on Latin America held at the MRC is available elsewhere on our website. This highlights many of the archive collections which contain material relating to human rights in Latin America in the second half of the 20th century.

Amity, Antagonism and Appeasement: Anglo-German Relations, 1871-1945 (HI3G7)

Online resources for this module are available elsewhere on our website.

Feminism, Politics and Social Change in Modern Britain (HI31X)

The MRC has sources which cover many of the seminar topics covered by this module. A small selection of documents have been digitised and are available online.

Material on both women and empire and women and religion is included in the archives of the Young Women's Christian Association, particularly in the YWCA's magazines or journals (such as 'Our Own Gazette' and 'Our Outlook'), which include articles on appropriate behaviour, missionary work and the lives of women in different countries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A 'ready-made' search of the MRC catalogue is available which highlights some of the limited sources that we hold on the women's suffrage movement and fight for equal political rights in the early 20th century. As many of the MRC's archive collections come from trade unions or employers' organisations, economic equality (or lack of it) receives more coverage than political equality. Our collections include a large number of sources on the economic role of women, including material on campaigns for (and against) equal economic rights and equal pay from the 1920s to the 2000s. Several extracts from documents on this theme are included in our online exhibition on 'The struggle for equal pay'.

Examples of documents relating to maternity and motherhood, including material on birth control and maternal mortality during the inter-war period, have been digitised as part of our selected sources on British healthcare, 1900-1948. Extracts from other sources are included in our online exhibition 'Advice to mothers'. We also hold a large number of sources on the debate over abortion and reproductive rights, particularly following the 1967 Abortion Act. This includes pro- and anti-abortion publicity material and ephemera from the time of the Corrie Bill, included in the Andrew Whitehead collection. Other material can be identified through our online catalogue.

Material on second wave feminism, particularly newsletters, 'zines and ephemera, are included in various archive collections. You should be able to identify some relevant sources through searching our catalogue for key phrases such as women's liberation and feminism / feminist. A small number of documents on feminism and women's rights c.1979 have been made available online through our module resources for Historian's Toolkit.

Foreign Bodies, Contagious Communities: Migration in the Modern World (HI3H7)

The MRC's collections include a range of sources on migration during the late 19th and 20th centuries (particularly into Britain). Examples of these are included in our digitised sources for the module Racism and Xenophobia and in a 'ready-made' search of our archive catalogue (this picks out examples of documents on British responses to immigration).

India and the Problem of Postcolonial Democracy: A History of Events

The MRC has limited sources on India after independence, but we do hold some primary sources on the Emergency of 1975-1977. These can be identified through a 'ready-made search' of our archive catalogue, and include two sets of Indian political pamphlets (in English) from 1975 in the archives of Maurice Edelman and Jack Askins, both of whom visited India in that year. The pamphlets include pro- and anti-government material, and outline arguments for and against the establishment of the state of Emergency.

Publications of Amnesty International include reports and press releases regarding civil liberties and allegations of human rights abuses in India during 1975-1999 and 1999-2011.

Material relating to the Communist Party in India, up to 1989, is included in the Dr Gurharpal Singh collection (documents are in Urdu, Panjabi and English).

Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion, 1952-60 (HI32B)

This 'ready-made search' of the MRC catalogue identifies various files and publications which relate to the Mau Mau Uprising and state of emergency in Kenya during the 1950s. Extracts from selected documents are included in the online resources for the module Politics and Society in Eastern Africa.

The Trades Union Congress files identified in the ready-made search contain material collected by as well as produced by the organisation, including newsletters and press releases of the Public Relations Office of the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya and The Voice of Kenya, memoranda, reports and correspondence (including on the internment of trade unionists without trial and with the British government). Some press cuttings and a copy of the Mau Mau oath are also included.

Transcripts of radio broadcasts by the Labour Party MP Richard Crossman have been digitised and several cover the situation in Kenya, including a broadcast on the murder of inmates of the Hola detention camp.

Reinterpreting the Holocaust: Sexualities, Ethnicity, Class (HI31Z)

Some of the archive collections at the MRC contain material relating to the Holocaust and the broader issue of anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 1940s - a 'ready-made' search of our catalogue identifies some of the more relevant material. Several reports on the Nazi concentration camps and a pamphlet on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising have been digitised in full and are included in the online resources for the module on the History of Germany.

A small selection of documents on anti-fascist and Jewish refugees in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s have been digitised and made available online for the module Race, Ethnicity and Migration in Modern Britain.

Society and Politics in Southern Africa

The MRC has sources on some of the themes explored by this module - in particular 20th century political movements / protest and late 20th century human rights. A search of our online catalogue for names of individual countries will give you a general idea of the types of sources available.

Documents relating to apartheid in South Africa and the international anti-apartheid movement (dating from the late 1940s-1990s) are highlighted in our 'ready-made search' of the archive catalogue.

The Trades Union Congress archives include an extensive series of files of correspondence, reports, memoranda, ephemera, etc., on many African countries. The files will include both material produced by the TUC themselves and documents acquired from other organisations, including the British government and African trade unions. You can find out more by browsing the various sections of the TUC catalogue - for 1920s-c.1960, for c.1960-c.1970 (scroll down to find the files on particular countries), and for 1970-1990. The TUC's main focus was on the role of trade unions (itself a controversial issue), but it was also involved with the anti-apartheid movement (receiving a letter of thanks from Nelson Mandela shortly after his release from prison), and other campaigns relating to independence movements, political rights and colonial rule (including regarding white minority rule in Rhodesia and Portuguese colonial policy).

Anti-colonial movements and Cold War politics from a Communist perspective can be explored through official Communist Party journals such as: Africa South, 1957-1960 (published in South Africa until 1960, when it moved to Britain), Africa Latin America Asia Revolution, 1963-1964, the quarterly journal of the South African Communist Party The African Communist, 1972-1994, and the more general World News and Views, 1938-1953, and World News, 1954-1962.

The publications of Amnesty International includes reports, press releases and other material relating to human rights in most African countries from the 1970s onwards. Information relating to specific countries is listed in the country-code series (up to 1999 and after 1999).

Stalinism in Europe, 1928-1953 (HI31E)

The Modern Records Centre has a large amount of material on Communism during the Stalin era, particularly in the UK but also in other European countries. Selected sources have been digitised for this module.

We are the main place of deposit for archives of the British Trotskyist movement - a more detailed guide is available elsewhere on our website. These collections include material produced in response to the purges of the 1930s and the scapegoating of Trotskyists (notably during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War), and ideological criticism of Stalinism and the 'official' Communist Party position.

'Ready made searches' of the archive catalogue are available which highlight many of the reports by delegations and other visitors to the Soviet Union between 1918-1955, and documents relating to the Moscow Trials and Stalinist purges of the 1930s. The MRC has digitised and made available online several thousand documents on the Spanish Civil War, including sources relating to ideological conflicts within the Republican side and the purge of POUM.

Communist publications feature in numerous collections, and it should be possible to find many of them through our online catalogue. A good series are however included in the Maitland Sara Hallinan collection, including issues of the Comintern journals 'The Communist International', 1924-1940, and 'International Press Correspondence', 1923-1938, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) journals 'The Communist Review', 1929-1935 and 1946-1953, 'World News and Views', 1938-1953, and 'Labour Monthly', mostly 1923-1940 (more issues available in other collections), together with a run of pamphlets produced by the CPGB and Soviet War News / Soviet News. The main articles in these journals are listed in the individual catalogue entries.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), from the mid-1920s onwards, took an anti-Communist position. The TUC archives include reports, memoranda, correspondence, publications and ephemera relating to Communist activities in various countries (particularly but not exclusively Britain), including series of files specifically on Communism, the Soviet Union and other European countries.

The above is a short and (for reasons of space) very incomplete overview of potential sources - to find more, search our online catalogue or contact us for more information.