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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 2016/7 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:

HI175. Making History

Making History students will be visiting the MRC for a general introduction to archival research and our holdings. Further information for Making History students is available elsewhere on our website.

HI177. Politics and Society in Africa from 1800

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 a previous version of this module (HI268: Politics and Society in Eastern Africa, 1800-1989) are still 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 include reports, press releases and other publications on conditions in Rwanda, particularly during the genocide, dating between 1994-1999 and 1999-2011.

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

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 on 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:

AM211. Reform, Revolt and Reaction in the US

The majority of MRC sources on 20th century radicalism and protest in the USA are from a left-wing point of view. We have several 'ready-made' searches of the MRC catalogue which pick out selected documents on the themes of the US economy and the New Deal in the 1920s and 1930s, the US and the Second World War, McCarthyism and anti-Communism, and race, segregation and civil rights. You can also identify sources on key themes through our online catalogue by searching for terms such as "New Deal", "Jim Crow", "McCarthyism", "John F Kennedy", "Vietnam War", etc. An online guide to sources provides information about the main MRC collections which contain documents on the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The Maitland Sara Hallinan collection includes several sets of US radical newspapers and magazines. These include issues of: the National Guardian ("the progressive newsweekly"), 1948-1968; The New Republic, 1941-1942, 1946-1952; Politics, 1944-1949; The Nation, 1949, 1951-1952, 1969; I.F. Stone's Weekly, Apr-Oct 1956; and various publications circulated by some of the small Communist and Trotskyist groups, including The American Socialist, 1954-1959; The Bulletin (Red Star Press, New York), 1939-1946; Class Struggle (Communist League of Struggle, USA), 1931-1937; In Defense of Bolshevism (Leninist League, USA), 1937-1939; Labor Action (Workers Party of the United States), 1940-1956; Labor Front (League for a Revolutionary Workers Party), 1934-1938; The Militant (Socialist Workers Party, USA), 1941-1946, 1949, 1962-1963; New Masses, 1932, 1942, 1946-1947; Political Affairs (Communist Party of the United States of America), 1946-1967; and Workers Age (Independent Communist Labor League), 1937-1940.

The Maitland Sara Hallinan collection also includes an incomplete series of Foreign Policy Reports, 1935-1951, fortnightly publications of the Foreign Policy Association Incorporated, New York, which examined contemporary issues from a US perspective.

The archives of the Trades Union Congress include a large amount of material relating to the United States, much of which is from a left-wing or trade union viewpoint. The TUC files often include examples of publications, ephemera and correspondence from US organisations and individuals.

AM217. Caribbean History: From Colonisation to Independence

Students on this module will be visiting the MRC in the Spring term to look at sources on post-Second World War Caribbean migration.

Given the nature of the MRC's collections (strong in archives of trade unions, employers' organisations and fringe political parties, largely of the left), our material on Caribbean history tends to fall into three main categories - migration and treatment of Caribbean workers to / in the UK, labour conditions and trade unionism in the Caribbean, and the broader issue of colonialism and anti-colonialism. Most documents that we hold on this subject will be from the 1920s/1930s onwards.

Selected documents relating to Afro-Caribbean migration to the UK between 1948-1957 and issues around the Notting Hill riots of 1958 have been digitised in full. We also have a 'ready-made' search of our archive catalogue which picks out some of the sources on British responses to immigration (including Caribbean immigration). The set of Trades Union Congress files on 'Commonwealth workers in Britain' between 1954-1982 are strong sources of information on Commonwealth migration, and include reports, memoranda, publications and ephemera collected by the TUC as well as material produced by them.

The TUC archives also contain several series of files on the West Indies, which, together with routine material on the local trade union movements, can include information on protests, labour conditions and other social issues (the West India Royal Commission, or Moyne Commission, of 1938-9 controversially included the then General Secretary of the TUC, Walter Citrine). Issues of the International African Opinion can also provide a radical Pan-African view of the Moyne Commission and events in the Caribbean during 1938-9.

Our collections include material relating to the Cuban Revolution. Much of this has been produced by external (usually British) organisations for purposes of political propaganda, but we do also have some material produced by the Cuban revolutionary government or which records the speeches of leading figures. You should be able to identify some of these by searching our online catalogue for keywords such as 'Cuba*' (and then narrow the results by date), 'Castro' and 'Che Guevara'.

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

HI253. Gender, History and Politics in Britain, 1790-1939

The MRC has potentially relevant material on gender, history and politics in Britain for the latter part of this module - mostly from the First World War onwards.

Some sources on the role / perceptions of women during the First World War have been digitised as part of our First World War 100 project. We also have a 'ready-made' catalogue search which highlights additional material on this subject. A small number of documents relating to feminism and the role of women during the late 19th and early 20th century, including several sources on the suffrage movement, have been digitised for the module Feminism, Politics, and Social Change in Modern Britain.

The majority of the MRC's archive collections covering this period come from trade unions or employers' organisations. Economic equality (or lack of it) therefore receives more coverage than political equality, including sources on campaigns for equal economic rights and equal pay, and objections to the 'dilution' of the workforce by the employment of women. We do have some sources on the campaigns for equal political rights, including a small amount of material on the suffrage movement and election campaign material from the 1920s (particularly, though not exclusively, from the Labour Party), aimed at attracting the new women voters - a 'ready-made' search of the MRC catalogue identifies some of this material.

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'.

HI260. Nation and Memory in Russia, Poland and Ukraine, 1800 to the present

We have digitised in full more than 500 documents relating to aspects of the Russian Revolution and Britain between 1917-1928 (searchable by keyword). These include documents relating to the 'national question' within the Soviet Union and sources on the Russian Civil War, Polish-Soviet War and dispute over Galicia.

We also hold sources (in English) relating to Poland under German occupation during the Second World War, including pamphlets produced by the Polish government in exile and underground organisations. Some of these relate to German atrocities and what was termed 'the Jewish question'. We also hold some pamphlets and other material relating to Poland under Communist control (both pro- and anti-Communist). You should be able to identify many of these by searching for a key term such as 'Poland' in our online catalogue, and then restricting the search by the date range required.

HI276. Radical Politics and the Struggle for Democracy in Europe, 1918-1939

The MRC's collections are particularly rich in sources on radical politics and ideological conflict between the two world wars. 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. Suggestions for other sources relating to Communism and the Soviet Union are included below in the sections for the modules 'HI317. Russian Revolution, 1917-1921' and 'HI31E. Stalinism in Europe, 1928-1953'.

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 below in the section for the module 'HI290. History of Germany, from 1890 to today'.

Examples of documents relating to the French Popular Front are included in the online resources for the module 'HI172. 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.

HI278. From Cradle to Grave: Health, Medicine and Society in Modern Britain

We have digitised more than 250 documents on British healthcare between 1900-1948. The main emphasis of the collection is on the debate over the role of the state in healthcare and welfare provision, and the formation of the National Health Service. Material is also included on maternity and motherhood, including birth control and maternal mortality.

Our collections include a large amount of material on the institutions and framework of healthcare, particularly the NHS. There will be less material on some of the specific issues around health, medicine and society identified in the course programme - for example eugenics, fertility, obesity or the menopause. It is still however worth searching the archive catalogue to check for relevant material.

HI290. History of Germany, from 1890 to Today

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).

HI291. Britain in the Twentieth Century: Narrating the Nation

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.

HI297. Twentieth Century India: Colonialism, Democracy and Protest

The MRC's collections include some primary sources relating to the independence movements in India and the broader issue of anti-colonial protest. A small selection of documents relating to India and anti-imperialism between 1919 and 1944 have been digitised and are available online, including sources relating to the 1919 Jallianwahla Bagh massacre and the 1943 famine.

A 'ready-made' search of our catalogue is available which identifies selected sources on India and Empire between 1900-1947. More information about key collections at the MRC is included in our online guide to sources for the study of South Asia.

For this module, the Dr Gurharpal Singh archive on the Communist movement in the Punjab, (1927)-1989, may be of particular relevance. This collection contains substantial resources for the study of the history of Communist parties in India, and includes internal party material as well as published sources.

Final year modules:

HI317. Russian Revolution, 1914-1921

The Modern Records Centre has digitised many of the sources that we hold on Britain and the Russian Revolution between 1917-1928. These are now 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.

Undigitised material, which can be seen at the MRC, includes copies of 'The Communist International', the English language version of the Comintern journal, from 1919-1924 and 1924-1940. Other material can be identified through the archive catalogue, including via this 'ready-made search' which picks out selected sources on Russia during and shortly after the revolution.

HI31E. Stalinism in Europe, 1928-1953

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 to these 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.

HI31T. India after Indira

The MRC has limited sources on India after independence, but we do hold primary sources on the Emergency of 1975-1977. These 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).

HI31X. Feminism, Politics and Social Change in Modern Britain

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 Making History. 

HI31Z. Reinterpreting the Holocaust: Sexualities, Ethnicity, Class

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 Racism and Xenophobia.

HI32A. Politics of Protest in Europe, 1968-1989

The MRC has a large amount of material on political protest and radicalism in Europe during this period, mostly written from a left-wing or counter-culture perspective.

We have 'ready-made searches' of the archive catalogue which highlight selected documents on May 1968 and the Prague Spring, the urban guerilla groups of the 1970s (including Baader-Meinhof), and Solidarność (Solidarity) in Poland. The majority of the documents linked to in the catalogue are pamphlets, news sheets, ephemera and other published items, but in the case of Solidarity, we do hold more in-depth material. The Trades Union Congress maintains contacts with trade union movements across the world, and its archive includes a series of files on Poland and the Polish trade union movement (particularly Solidarity) during the 1980s, containing correspondence, memoranda, reports and other material (Polish Embassy press releases and correspondence / publicity material from groups linked with Solidarity are included). We also hold a small amount of material on Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia.

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 Making History. 

The MRC holds material of national significance relating to the peace movements of the post-Second World War period - particularly archives relating to anti-nuclear movements in the UK and Europe. Research guides to sources on pacifist history and the anti-Vietnam War movement are available elsewhere on our website. Research guides relating to our holdings of anarchist, libertarian and syndicalist sources and Trotskyist sources are also available online.

Online resources for a previous incarnation of this module include sample pages of documents relating to the Algerian revolution, peace movements, civil rights and Black Power, Paris and Prague 1968, far-left movements / student radicalism, terrorism, feminism and environmentalism. This is obviously a tiny proportion of our relevant holdings.

HI32B. Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion, 1952-60

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.

HI34D. The Cultural History of the NHS

We have digitised more than 250 documents on British healthcare between 1900-1948 (the pre-history of the NHS), which include sources relating to the Beveridge Report, 1944 White Paper, 1946 Health Service Act, and the establishment of the service in 1948, as well as material covering the broader debate over state involvement in healthcare and welfare provision.

Our collections contain a huge amount of material on 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.

HI398. Crime and Punishment in the Long Nineteenth Century

This course will be holding a workshop at the MRC to provide a general introduction to archival research and relevant sources.

The MRC holds the archives of several pressure groups connected with aspects of crime and punishment. These include the Howard League for Penal Reform, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, and the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. Although the archives of the first two organisations include 19th century material, the majority of our sources on this subject date from the 20th century.

Other material relating to aspects of 20th century crime and punishment is included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress (which include several dozen files on various aspects of the law and justice, including capital and corporal punishment), the publisher and campaigner Victor Gollancz (including files on capital punishment and decriminalisation of homosexuality), and Rowland Barrett, a conscientious objector during the First World War. Examples of documents regarding the treatment of conscientious objectors during the First World War have been digitised.

Extracts from a small number of sources relating to crime and punishment are included in the online resources for the (non-current) module The Victorian City.