First post: The Legacy Collection and the Labour Party

Hello there! This blog is about creating a brand new collection of material – the Legacy Collection –  within the University of Sussex Library. You can find out more about the collection here, as well as details of how to contact the Collection Development team if you want to see any of the material or have any queries.

The Collection Development team aims to use this blog to showcase the Legacy material, and how we’re creating the new collection. Much of the material within the collection has been held by the Library for many years, but it’s been out of sight and hasn’t been clearly available on our catalogue; this is going to change soon.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at one of the largest areas of material within the collection: political party documents, notably that of the UK’s opposition party. Jeremy Corbyn’s recent election as

A copy of 'Labour Monthly' journal from the 1950s

A copy of ‘Labour Monthly’ journal from the 1950s

Labour Party leader has divided opinion – but has the Labour Party really remained the same over the years?

If you’re interested in learning about the Labour Party’s development over the 20th Century, the Legacy Collection is a great place to start. We have over 100 boxes of material about the Labour Party, spanning 8 large shelves in our stores.

The Labour Party was founded in the late 19th century; the Labour Representation committee was formed in 1900 and elected two MPs in the same year. According to a pamphlet produced in the 1910s, the original aims of the Labour Party were:

Pamphlet from The Labour Party in the 1910s, outlining the party's aims

Pamphlet from The Labour Party in the 1910s, outlining the party’s aims

To secure for the producers … the full fruits of their industry, and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible, upon the basis of common ownership of the means of production…”

“To promote the Political, Social and Economic Emancipation of the People, and more particularly of those who depend directly on their own exertions, by hand or by brain, for the means of life.”

In 1922, Labour became the main opposition party in parliament, with 142 seats.  The Labour Party was formed by a mixture of socialists and trade unionists; these beliefs run throughout the Labour Party material held within the Legacy Collection, and often across into other areas.

We hold many periodicals affiliated with the Labour Party, including  ‘Socialist Commentary’ (1950s – 1970s) which was published by the Socialist Vanguard Group, ‘Labour Monthly’,  ‘Commonwealth Socialist Review’ (1950s – 1960s), and ‘Fact’ (1950 – 1956).

The activities of the Fabian Society, one of the founders of the Labour Party, are also covered extensively in the Legacy Collection. We hold a large number of tracts published by the Fabians; these pamphlets begin in 1884 and our collection ends in the late 1960s. When we were listing these publications, the ‘Fabian tortoise’ kept on appearing – this tortoise is the Fabian Society’s logo, and as the years pass he gets a bit of an update!

The tortoise is the Fabian Society's logo: he carries the motto "When I strike, I strike hard"!

The tortoise is the Fabian Society’s logo: he carries the motto “When I strike, I strike hard”!

The Fabian Society's tortoise logo gets an update as the years go by...

The Fabian Society’s tortoise logo gets an update as the years go by…

 

We are currently examining publications by the Labour Research Department; so far we’ve listed over 550 items, and there are still many more to go.  There are numerous pamphlets relating to working conditions, unemployment, socialism and trade unions in the interwar period in Britain; they complement material held in the Mass Observation Archive very well.

One thing that’s really struck me as I’ve been working with this material is just how much activity goes on in a political party beyond election campaigns and Parliament debates. The material held within the Legacy Collection reveals a party that researches and broadcasts both locally and nationally – it’s not just about attacking the other parties, but debating ways to make society better.

We’ll be sharing more of our discoveries – from Labour-related material and other areas of the Legacy Collection – over the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you’d like to view any material why not get in touch with us?

We're currently working on listing material by the Labour Research Department during World War Two...

We’re currently working on listing material by the Labour Research Department during World War Two

Songbook for Labour Festivals, 1930s

Songbook for Labour Festivals, 1930s

Periodicals of The Labour Party held in the Legacy Collection, in Library stores

Periodicals of The Labour Party held in the Legacy Collection, in Library stores

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Posted in What's happening behind the scenes?, What's in the Legacy Collection?

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