Guide to sources for Sociology students at the MRC
The Modern Records Centre holds nationally significant archives relating to British society. Like most archives, we have little very recent material (it usually takes a few decades for organisations and individuals to consider passing their papers on to an archive), so if you are studying events after around 1990, you will probably find limited sources. If, however, you choose to look at sociological issues within a historical context, you can find unique and relevant archive material on campus.
This guide provides a general overview to sources on a limited number of themes - if you would like more information about our holdings, try searching our online catalogue, book an introductory session with a member of staff, or contact us.
The MRC has a large amount of material relating to the changing perceptions and roles of women during the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Many of our archives come from trade unions and employers' organisations (for example the Trades Union Congress and Confederation of British Industry), so there is a strong core of material relating to the employment of women - this includes material on changing roles of women during wartime, the 'marriage bar' and campaigns for equal pay and economic rights. Significant collections relating to women and employment include research papers and publications of the Equal Opportunities Commission, 1976-2007; Professor Catherine Hoskyns' academic and research papers on women and the European Commission. 1949-2004; and publications and subject files from the archives of the Trades Union Congress, including a series on equal pay, 1920-1990. A LOT of additional material is scattered across many other collections, so if you have a particular research interest let us know, and we'll try to provide you with some more pointers.
We also hold a smaller amount of material relating to the campaign for equal political rights - this 'ready-made' search of our catalogue highlights much of the material that we hold on the women's suffrage movement of the early 20th century.
Some examples of documents relating to maternity and motherhood, including material on birth control and maternal mortality during the 1920s-1930s, 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 have sources relating to 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 1979 Corrie Bill. Other potentially relevant material can be found 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 by 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 Making History. Six issues of Cobwebs, a 'zine produced by the Women's Journal Society of the University of Warwick Students' Union between 1986-7, are available online through our collection of digitised student newspapers.
Documents relating to the men's movements of the 1970s onwards are less evident in our collections, but we do have issues of Achilles Heel, 1978-1979, which provide a slightly different viewpoint on the debate over gender roles in the 1970s. A small amount of additional material can also be found if you search our catalogue for keywords such as 'men's group', 'men's groups' and 'men's liberation'.
A small selection of documents have been digitised for the History module 'Feminism, Politics and Social Change in Modern Britain' - these date from 1872 onwards.
Studying race, ethnicity and xenophobia
Selected documents have been digitised for the module Racism and Xenophobia - 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, and the Notting Hill riots of 1958. For reasons of copyright law, more recent case studies haven't yet been put online, but the MRC does have a large amount of undigitised material on aspects of race, ethnicity and xenophobia up to the 1990s. Some examples of documents relating to race relations and the far right c.1979 have been digitised for the module Making History (final section on the page).
The archives of the many trade unions and employers' organisations held at the MRC contain a lot of material on issues relating to immigration and racial discrimination (particularly in the workplace). The Trades Union Congress established a Race Relations Advisory Committee and an Equal Rights Committee in 1975, and the TUC archives include many other potentially relevant documents, including series of files on Commonwealth workers in Britain, 1954-1982, "Colour problems and racial discrimination", 1970-1989, "Race relations at work", 1979-1990, and the 1971 Commonwealth Immigration Bill. The Confederation of British Industry archive contains files which look at race and employment from the employers' point of view, including a series on racial discrimination, 1958-1986.
We hold documents relating to the use of racism and anti-immigration rhetoric by British far right and neo-Nazi groups. Far right publications and internal papers of the British National Party and National Front are included in the archives of Wayne Ashcroft (mostly from the 1970s-1990s). Other neo-Nazi publications are included in the S.E. Taylor collection of material on the National Front, 1972-1981. We hold material relating to the anti-fascist and anti-racist movements of the 1970s and 1980s, including archives of the Leamington Anti-Racist, Anti-Fascist Committee, 1977-1981, documents relating to the Anti-Nazi League, and ephemera relating to the Rock Against Racism campaigns.
Some correspondence, ephemera and publications produced by sometimes shortlived campaign / pressure groups will be included in files in the Trades Union Congress archive and other collections. Administrative material (minutes, etc.) relating to the Metropolitan Coloured People's Housing Association, 1957-1960, is included in the 'Miscellaneous Collection'.
The Minority Arts Archive, 1974-1995, held on behalf of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, includes photographs, publications and other publicity material relating to the performing, written and visual arts.
For reasons of space, this is a very cursory overview of the potentially relevant material held at the MRC. To find more, try searching our online catalogue for key terms (you can then narrow your search by date).
The MRC has limited sources relating to sexuality, but you may find some relevant material on changing attitudes towards same sex relationships, abortion, birth control, illegitimacy / unmarried parents, and prostitution.
Our collections include some material relating to the campaigns to decriminalise homosexuality, the Gay Liberation movements, and campaigns (particularly by trade unions) for LGBTQUA+ rights. Our online guide to sources highlights some of the more substantial material in our collections and you may be able to identify more by searching our catalogue for keywords such as homosexual*, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
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. 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 on the debates around abortion can be identified through our online catalogue.
Some material relating to perceptions / treatment of children with unmarried parents can be included in general files on child welfare and the family, for example these Trades Union Congress files on 'maternity and child welfare', 1924-1979, and 'family problems', 1946-1990. A limited amount of additional material will be found if you search our catalogue for keywords such as illegitimate / illegitimacy, one parent, unmarried mother / mothers, and bastardy.
We hold publicity and organisational material from the PROS Campaign (Programme for Reform of the Law on Soliciting), 1976-1982. A small amount of additional material on prostitution can be found through a search of our catalogue.
Studying crime and control
Key collections relating to various campaign / pressure groups connected with crime and prison reform are held at the MRC. These include archives of the Howard League for Penal Reform, 1788-2002, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, 1887-1978, the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1923-1948, Radical Alternatives to Prison, 1972-1987, the Prison Officers' Association, 1947-2016, the Margery Fry Memorial Trust: Birmingham and West Midlands Area, 1962-1973, and the North Eastern Prison After Care Society, 1964-2011. We also hold archives of the drugs charity Release, 1960s-1980 (researchers need permission from Release to use their archives - please contact us if you would like to arrange this).
Material relating to key themes such as corporal and capital punishment, prison reform, civil liberties, social exclusion (including the riots of the 1980s), policing of protest, responses to terrorism (mostly re Northern Ireland), legalisation of homosexuality, and the roles of race and gender can be found in many other collections - try searching our online catalogue for key terms or contact us for further advice.
Studying health and welfare
We have digitised more than 250 documents on British healthcare between 1900-1948, including sources relating to the Beveridge Report, 1944 White Paper, 1946 Health Service Act, and the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948, as well as material covering the broader debate over state involvement in healthcare and welfare provision. Extracts from documents from 1880-1979 were also put online for the module Social Welfare in Britain (previously run by the Sociology department) - this may help to give you a rough idea of the types of sources that may be available.
Our collections contain a huge amount of material on healthcare and the NHS since 1948 - you can get a very rough idea of the scope by searching for NHS in our online catalogue. As the majority of these documents are included in the archives of trade unions (particularly those of the Trades Union Congress and the various healthcare and public sector unions), you are more likely to find sources regarding the structure of the NHS and its services, issues regarding employment and industrial action, and campaigns regarding privatisation or public sector cuts. As well as documents produced by the trade unions themselves, files often include memoranda, reports and publications that they have collected from other organisations - this can be a good way to locate ephemera produced by short-lived campaign groups.
The MRC holds the archives of various organisations involved with the provision and policy of social care, including national records of associations / unions of social workers and childcare officers. Research guides on sources for the history of social work and treatment of mental health are available online. Interviews with pioneering social workers (recorded in 1980-81) are also available online, and include first-hand accounts of the early development and practice of social work.
The MRC holds the national archives of the main teaching unions in the UK, including the National Union of Teachers, 1870-2002, the Association of Head Mistresses, 1874-1977, the Headmasters' Assocation, 1874-1977; the Association of University Teachers, 1911-2007, and many more. You should be able to identify other archive collections relating to education through this browseable list on the MRC catalogue. The collections can include documents relating to changing educational policy and concerns - for example the role of women teachers (a couple of examples of documents on this are included in our online exhibition on equal pay), the 1944 Education Act and subsequent government legislation, the 'Blackboard Jungle' and violence in the 1950s (a 'ready-made' search of our catalogue is available which picks out documents regarding concerns over juvenile delinquency in the 1950s), and the role of race and immigration in the education system.
The students' point of view is represented in the archives of the National Union of Students, 1933-1993, which includes subject files on some of the NUS's campaigns (permission is needed from the NUS to use their archives - please contact us if you would like to arrange this). The University of Warwick's own archive also includes material relating to the student experience - University of Warwick prospectuses and handbooks (including some Student Union material) and student newspapers from Warwick's first two decades have now been digitised and are available online. Much more material is undigitised and can be read at the MRC.
Less mainstream views on education can be seen through archives relating to the Schools Action Union, late 1960s-early 1970s, and by searching our online catalogue for phrases such as libertarian education, radical education, free school or free schools, etc.
Digitised material, mostly from the archives of the National Union of Teachers and National Union of Students, has been made available online for the module The Sociology of Education, including documents on the themes of class, gender, race and migration, higher education, and the Education Reform Act. This may help to give you a rough idea of the types of sources that may be available.