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Guide to sources for History students at the MRC, 2021-22

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.

Britain in the Twentieth Century: A Social History (HI180)

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.

Second year modules:

A Global History of Sport (HI2H4)


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).


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.


The Modern Records Centre holds the National Cycle Archive, the largest archive collection in the UK dedicated to cycling as a sport and leisure activity, and other key British cycling archives, including those of the Cyclists' Touring Club / Cycling UK. The archive collections include programmes, posters, photographs and other sources relating to track and road racing in Britain and beyond.

Our online exhibition 'Freedom on two wheels' includes images relating to women cyclists and racers in the late 19th century, together with links to a small number of digitised cycling magazines from 1896-7.


Our online exhibition, 'The Olympics: Playing political games', includes examples of documents which relate to the Berlin Olympic games and planned Barcelona Workers' Olympiad in 1936, the 1948 London Olympics and the 1980 games in Moscow. A catalogue search for the terms 'Olympic', 'Olympics' and 'Olympiad' brings up a range of documents in our collections relating to predominantly 20th century Olympic sport and competing events such as the Workers' Olympiad.

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.

A History of Modern Mexico (HI2E7)

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 selection of items from 1912-1938 have been digitised and are included in our module resources for History of Human Rights in Latin America.

History of Germany from Bismarck to the Berlin Republic (HI290)

The MRC has a significant amount of material on the history of Germany between 1918-1989, particularly during the 1920s-1950s. Most, but not all, is from a left-wing perspective.

More than 50 documents from 1918-1946 have been digitised in full for this module and are available elsewhere on the MRC website. Publicity brochures for ten key German films from 1931-1945 (including 'Triumph of the Will' and other pro- and anti-Nazi films) have also been digitised for the German module Film in the Weimar Republic and under National Socialism.

Photographs of revolutionary Germany between 1918-1924 and press photos of Nazi Germany in 1936 (including preparations for the Berlin Olympics) are also available online. Transcripts of broadcasts by Richard Crossman, including observations on the political and social scene in Germany made after his 1934 visit, have been digitised and are keyword searchable.

'Ready-made' searches for documents on Germany in the archive catalogue are available for several periods: 1918-1932, 1933-1945, 1945-1960, and 1961-1989. These are not comprehensive lists, but highlight a selection of potentially relevant documents. Our guide to sources on Germany between 1918-1950 contains background information about some of the key collections on German history at the MRC, including the archives of the International Transport Workers Federation (which was involved in the anti-Nazi underground movements in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s).

Modern China in Eight Events (HI2F4)

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).

Sources on the 1949 Communist Revolution and the 1966 Cultural Revolution are included in our 'ready-made' searches on China and Communism, and we have a distinct search which identifies sources on the Japanese invasion of China and Sino-Japanese War, 1930s-1940s.

Radical Politics in Europe, 1917-1945 (HI2G3 & 4)

The MRC's collections are particularly rich in sources on radical politics and ideological conflict during the first half of the 20th century. Most documents reflect left-wing viewpoints, but some material relating to the far-right and political centre ground is also included.

More than 450 primary sources on the Russian Revolution and Britain, 1917-1928 from the collections of the MRC and University of Warwick Library have been digitised and are available online. Online resources for the module 'Stalinism in Europe' includes a selection of digitised sources relating to the Soviet Union during the 1920s-1950s.

A 'ready-made' search of the archive catalogue is available which identifies sources on Italian fascism included within the MRC's collections. This is not a comprehensive list, but highlights a selection of potentially relevant documents.

Selected documents relating to Germany during the inter-war years have been digitised for the module on the History of Germany, including material relating to the rise of fascism and German resistance to the Nazi regime. Links to and suggestions for other sources relating to inter-war Germany are included above in the section for the module 'History of Germany from Bismarck to the Berlin Republic'.

Examples of documents relating to the French Popular Front are included in the online resources for the module 'History of France'.

The MRC has digitised more than 4,000 documents on the Spanish Civil War, including sources relating to ideological conflicts within the Republican side and the international response (diplomatic, humanitarian and military). This is the largest collection of Spanish Civil War primary sources in English available online.

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)

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

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.