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Main archive collections

Using archives

The Modern Records Centre was founded in October 1973 with the principal objectives of locating and preserving primary sources for modern British social, political and economic history, with special concentration on the national history of industrial relations, industrial politics and labour history.

The significance of our collections has been recognised through the Designation Scheme of the Arts Council - our entire holdings have been designated pre-eminent collections of national and international importance.

A very brief summary of our main archive holdings is given below. For more detailed information about our archive collections use our online catalogue or have a look at our subject guides to some commonly researched topics.

To get an idea of the range of subjects which can be researched using the Modern Records Centre's collections, see the lists of academic books and articles which have cited our archives since 2012.

National records of trade unions and related organisations

Including the archives of the Trades Union Congress (the umbrella organisation for UK trade unions); national records of hundreds of trade unions - ranging in scale from huge organisations such as the Transport and General Workers' Union to smaller, specialist bodies such as the East London Ropemakers' Trade Union; and collections relating to individual trade union leaders and activists.

Browsable lists of our trade union collections and archives of individuals (including trade unionists) are available through the online catalogue.

Further information about the archives of the Trades Union Congress, Transport and General Workers' Union and International Transport Workers' Federation is included in our online research guides.

National records of trade associations, employers’ organisations and related bodies

Including the archives of the Confederation of British Industry (the UK's leading independent employers' organisation) and its predecessors; employers' organisations relating to particular industries or trades (including iron and steel, engineering, transport, clothing, and food and drink); and organisations formed to promote British trade abroad (including the India, Pakistan and Burma Association, Joint Committee on India and Dollar Exports Council).

The MRC also holds collections relating to the study of management and productivity, including the archives of the British Productivity Council, Institute of Administrative Management, Institute of Management Services, Institute of Personnel Management and Management Systems Training Council.

A browsable list of our archive collections relating to employers' organisations and trade associations is available through the online catalogue.

Further information about the archives of the Confederation of British Industry and its predecessors is included in our online research guides.

Records of radical / non-mainstream British political groups

The MRC holds the largest collection of archives relating to the British Trotskyist movement, including the central archives of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant Tendency) and the International Marxist Group, and collections belonging to various leaders and activists, including Tony Cliff, founder of the Socialist Workers' Party, and several members of the 1930s Balham Group.

We also hold documents (mostly published) relating to anarchist and libertarian groups, from late 19th century correspondence with Peter Kropotkin (in the archives of William Wess) to 1970s and 1980s 'zines produced by local groups.

The MRC also holds a small amount of material relating to the far-right of British politics, including the papers of Wayne Ashcroft, former regional organiser of the National Front.

A browsable list of many of our archive collections relating to political organisations is available through the online catalogue.

Further information about Trotskyist sources and anarchist, libertarian and syndicalist sources is included in our online research guides.

Records of pressure and protest groups

Including archives of organisations concerned with social and penal reform, human rights, disarmament, education, health, supersonic travel and membership of the European Union / EEC. Significant collections include the archives of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Howard League for Penal Reform, and publications of Amnesty International.

A browsable list of our archive collections relating to campaign and pressure groups is available through the online catalogue.

Further information about collections relating to the peace movement and anti-Vietnam War movement is included in our online research guides.

Motor industry records

Including business records for former Rover Group companies, such as Austin, Morris, Standard-Triumph and British Leyland (promotional material, technical records and records relating to individual vehicles are held by the British Motor Museum at Gaydon); and archives relating to the motorcycle industry, including collections relating to the Auto-Cycle Union, Motor Cycle Association and Birmingham Small Arms Company.

Further information about the MRC's motor industry collections is included in our online research guide.

Records relating to cycling

The MRC hosts the National Cycle Archive, which was established in 1990 by the Cyclists' Touring Club and contains a wide range of documents relating to cycling as a sport, leisure activity and industry over the past two centuries. We also hold the separate archives of the Cyclists' Touring Club and the National Cycle Museum Trust Archive.

Papers of individuals containing significant information on any of these fields

Including the archives of several former Members of Parliament, including the Cabinet Minister and Coventry MP Richard Crossman; trade union archives of Ernest Bevin; and the personal and business archives of Sir Victor Gollancz, the left-wing publisher and campaigner.

A browsable list of many of our archive collections of individuals is available through the online catalogue.