Category Archives: Hidden Gems

Explore Your Archive: The Wedderburn Papers

It’s Explore your Archive week across the UK and Ireland. The Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, is tweeting and showcasing collection highlights of its 14km of archives during the campaign. So it’s the perfect time to bring you up to date with my progress on cataloguing the papers of Kenneth William (Bill) Wedderburn, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC (1927-2012), Cassel Professor of Commercial Law at London School of Economics and Political Science, and Labour Party spokesman on Employment between 1979 and 1992.

His working papers date from the late 1940s to 2011, and relate largely to labour law issues, industrial relations legislation, both in the UK and in Europe, and the Trades Union Congress. This material enhances the MRC’s main collections which focus on the national history of industrial relations, industrial politics and labour history, and also recognises the University of Warwick’s contribution to the study of industrial relations. Founded in 1965, the University of Warwick began teaching industrial relations in 1966 in the School of Industrial and Business Studies, and became the home of the Social Science Research Council’s Industrial Relations Research Unit (IRRU) in 1970. In 1972 the Warwick Studies in Industrial Relations’ series was established to publish the results of the unit’s projects. Today, Warwick Papers publishes the work of members of IRRU and people associated with it.

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Extract from faxed covering note written by Mark Hall, IRRU, May 1994

I have spent the past eight months listing papers from this collection. To date, they fill 78 archive boxes (each measuring 0.02 cubic metres) and include the following topics: the European Economic Community and European Commission, European social policy, the European Court of Justice, the International Labour organisation (ILO), Bullock Committee papers, the Donovan Commission, Employment Act 2002, Conservative governments 1979-1997, Labour governments 1997-2010, the Rookes v Barnard case and the Trades Union Congress. I am now working on the arrangement of the papers and the creation of the catalogue record for searching the collection. The Wedderburn papers are a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in history and politics, and labour law and industrial relations in the UK and further afield.

The archive includes many drafts of papers on industrial relations, and legal opinions and advice for the TUC and its members, the Bullock Committee and the Donovan Commission. They conjure up an image of an expert in labour law whose deep passion and loyalty to the rights of workers and trade unions was such that in spite of his many commitments on different committees, he rarely turned down a request for advice or an invitation to speak at meetings. Exploring archives may reveal unexpected highlights too, such as Lord Wedderburn’s charming and ironic sketches relating to labour law and industrial relations drawn on whatever was at hand; even paper napkins.

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Sketch on paper napkin found in House of Lords report on Dock Workers’ Bill, June 1989

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Sketch made during Industrial Democracy Committee’s visit to West Germany, June-July 1976

Come and explore your archive soon! Check out #ExploreArchive too.

Helen Hargest, Assistant Archivist, MRC, is arranging and cataloguing the Wedderburn papers.

Lord Wedderburn and the European Question

The papers of Kenneth William (Bill) Wedderburn (1927-2012), Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, QC, were deposited in 2015 at the Modern Records Centre (MRC) by his widow, Lady Wedderburn, via Dr Paul Smith, Honorary research fellow at Keele University and former student at the University of Warwick. On arrival at MRC, the papers were allocated the Reference code “Acc 972” and described in the accessions caThe Independent-wedderburn obittalogue as “working papers rel[ating] to labour law, the Trades Union Congress [TUC] and industrial relations legislation”. The collection covers the period 1960- 2009 and highlights Lord Wedderburn’s role as adviser to the TUC, and an advocate in legal cases and national debates about workers’ rights. It includes papers relating to key industrial related issues of the 1970s and 1980s: government legislation, the miners’ strike and human rights legislation in the UK and the European Union. An appeal and a successful application to the National Cataloguing Grants Scheme (NCGS) managed by The National Archives have made possible the appointment of an Assistant Archivist to catalogue and index this collection.

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The Railway Review, 1900 – 1948

The Railway Review, the weekly newspaper of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), is an integral source for my thesis investigating the idea of the ‘railway family’ between 1900 and 1948.[1] The NUR discussed the ‘railway family’ as encompassing all railway workers and used this idea to command the loyalty of railwaymen and their non-working wives and children. My thesis will explore how the Fightinglineathomerailway companies and trade unions maintained and extended the idea of the ‘railway family’ and how successful this idea was for meeting their aims.

The Railway Review published reports from NUR branches and other meetings around the country, which acted as a way to create a ‘community’ of union members. They may never have met each other in person, but members of the union celebrated the achievements of fellow union members, mourned their death and coordinated political activity through the pages of the newspaper. In this way, the idea of the ‘railway family’, as a community of railwaymen drawn together through their shared interests, was communicated through the pages of The Railway Review.

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Discovering LEO at Cheltenham Science Festival

Last Saturday, we had the pleasure of hosting a session in the University of Warwick What If? Zone of Cheltenham Science Festival, where we asked ‘What does the past and future of computing look like?’…

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‘A Wheely Merry Christmas’ from the MRC’s Collections

To celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, we have selected 12 Christmas cards from the Cyclists Touring Club collection. Ranging from funny to sweet, classic to a little odd, they’ll definitely put you in the festive spirit! You certainly won’t see these in Clinton Cards!

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A Closer look at Acker Bilk’s ‘Marching Union’ Record

Acker Bilk, the legendary jazz musician passed away last weekend. In tribute, the Modern Records Centre will take a look at the ‘Marching Union’ single that it holds in its archives…

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