Archive of the Guardian (formerly Manchester Guardian)

Scope and Content

The archive consists of two principal elements: the records of the newspaper as a business, also including business records of the Manchester Evening News; and editorial correspondence and dispatches from reporters.

The business records include key partnership contracts and legal documents relating to the foundation and subsequent ownership of the paper, such as the original agreement between John Taylor senior and a group of Manchester merchants and gentlemen for the financing of the launch of the paper in 1821, as well as leases of properties (1887-1960s) and papers relating to libel actions. Financial records include ledger books for the periods 1821-1823, 1828-1834, 1839-1900, and cash books for 1827-1828, 1830-1832, 1838-1841 and 1845-1848. There is also a wide range of more recent financial records including balance sheets and financial correspondence. There are circulation and distribution records, including detailed sets of statistics, and files relating to circulation figures. There is an important body of records relating to the production of the newspaper, containing information on developments in printing technology, changes of premises, working conditions, wage rates and trade union employment agreements. Payment books detail the employment conditions of machinists, electricians, cleaners, cooks, and other ancillary workers. There are many photographs depicting staff, working premises and equipment. The general series also includes material on the Guardian's Manchester headquarters in Cross Street and, later, Deansgate. Records exist for the activities of journalistic staff, including payment records, reporters' diaries and listings of books reviewed.

The correspondence and dispatches are a source of immense importance for studies of almost every aspect of the late 19th and 20th centuries. The period of Scott's editorship (1872-1929) is represented by two classes of correspondence. There are nearly 4,400 personal letters to and from Scott, exchanged with some 1,100 individuals (GDN/118-132 and 334-8). This general correspondence includes separate series for J.E. Taylor, (GDN/129-30), G.B. Dibblee, a manager at the Guardian (GDN/131), and the academic and journalist, L.T. Hobhouse (GDN/132).The second class comprises editorial correspondence, extending to 13,000 letters exchanged with over 1,300 people (designated the 'A' series). Scott's correspondence reveals his close personal and political contacts with many of the leading statesmen and politicians of his time, such as Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Lord Haldane, Lord Grey of Fallodon, Ramsay MacDonald, Lord Beaverbrook, Lord Beveridge, Sir Samuel Hoare and Leslie Hore-Belisha. His interest in causes such as women's suffrage, Irish nationalism and the establishment of a Jewish homeland is illuminated in correspondence with the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Irish nationalist Sir Roger Casement, and Zionists Chaim Weizmann and Sir Lewis Namier. Leading literary figures also feature in the correspondence, such as George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, John Masefield and Arthur Ransome.

In the post-Scott era, the correspondence of W.P. Crozier (1932-44) is particularly rich in material relating to European politics, Zionism and the Second World War. Most of this material can be found in the 'B' series of editorial correspondence, but there is also some highly significant material in the European Foreign Correspondence series covering the years 1912-1939 (GDN/204-221). In addition, Crozier's Confidential Foreign Affairs Correspondence (GDN/145/30-44) contains much valuable material on Palestine and Zionism.

In correspondence dating from the post-war period, under the editorships of Alfred Powell Wadsworth (1944-56) and Alastair Hetherington (1956-75), Labour politicians figure prominently, such as George Brown, James Callaghan, Richard Crossman, Hugh Gaitskell, Roy Jenkins and Harold Wilson, while Jo Grimond represents the Liberals. Among the prominent Guardian staff members who feature in the correspondence are Neville Cardus, Alistair Cooke, Bernard Levin, Malcolm Muggeridge, Peter Preston, Terence Prittie, Arthur Ransome and Brian Redhead. Wadsworth's editorial correspondence is designated the 'B' series and Hetherington's the 'C' series.

The 'D' series comprises the paper's of the Guardian's Deputy Editor, Patrick Monkhouse, dating from the 1950s-60s. Monkhouse was the son of the distinguished Guardian journalist, Allan Monkhouse. A number of significant journalists are represented in these papers, and in terms of subject matter there is some interesting material relating to economic planning in the North West, and the development of the Peak District National Park, a particular interest of Monkhouse.

Overall, almost every major event and crisis of the 20th century is represented in the archive: the First World War, the Russian Revolution, the Abdication Crisis of 1936, the rise of Fascism and the Second World War, the founding of Israel and the later Middle East conflicts, the Suez Crisis, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Cold War, the development of the European Economic Community and more. There are also files on industry, technology, transport, the churches, the police, and social issues such as housing, employment and poverty.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Manchester Guardian was founded by John Edward Taylor (1791-1844) in 1821, two years after the Peterloo Massacre. Taylor was a succesful Manchester cotton merchant, who wanted a newspaper to promote political reform. The venture was backed by a number of Manchester commercial men, who shared Taylor's moderate liberal opinions and met regularly to discuss their interest in social and electoral reform; the group as a whole became known as the 'Little Circle' and those members who backed the Manchester Guardian were: Thomas Potter (later first mayor of Manchester), and his brothers Richard (later MP for Wigan) and William; Joseph Brotherton (Bible Christian Church minister, later Salford's first MP); Taylor himself; John Shuttleworth (industrialist and municipal reformer); Absalom Watkin (parliamentary reformer and anti-Corn Law campaigner); and Archibald Prentice (anti-Corn Law campaigner and later editor of the Manchester Times.

Originally a weekly, the first issue was printed below a cutlery maker's shop in Market Street and appeared on 5 May 1821, containing international and national as well as local news. By the 1830s the Manchester Guardian had become the best-selling newspaper in Manchester; originally published weekly, in 1836 it became twice-weekly, and in 1855 it adopted a 'daily' status.

The Manchester Guardian was a strongly dynastic paper, being in the hands of the Taylor and Scott families continuously until the mid-twentieth century. The two families had been connected since Taylor's marriage to Sophia Scott in 1817. In 1844, after the death of Taylor, his brother-in-law, Russell Scott took over the running of the paper until Taylor's sons, Russell Scott Taylor and John Edward Taylor came of age.

In 1868, John Edward Taylor (fourth child of the Guardian's founder) purchased the Manchester Evening News, which had been founded earlier that year. Although closely associated with the national paper, the Evening News was run by Taylor as a separate business, and there was no editorial link. Later, in 1924, the Manchester Guardian purchased its sister paper, bringing the newspapers under the same ownership whilst maintaining their editorial independence. The MEN has an important place in the history of the Guardian, in that it was more profitable, and the national newspaper often had to rely on its sister paper financially.

The legendary Charles Prestwich Scott (1846-1932), son of Russell Scott, joined the newspaper in 1871, taking on the role of editor in 1872 at the age of just 25. Scott transformed the paper from an essentially provincial journal into a newspaper of national and international standing, with a unique reputation for journalistic quality and integrity. He pursued a consistently radical, liberal editorial stance during his fifty-seven years in the post, even in the face of public hostility. He championed Irish Home Rule, condemned the excesses of imperialism, criticised British policy in South Africa immediately before and during the Boer War, supported the campaign for women's suffrage and the Zionist movement. Scott's journalistic achievement was, in the words of Lord Robert Cecil, "making righteousness readable". He was an influential figure in Liberal circles - not just through his editorship of a Liberal newspaper; he was also president of Manchester Liberal Federation and for 11 years served as a Liberal MP.

Scott recruited a gifted set of journalists to the paper, mostly directly from Oxbridge, including C.E. Montague, L.T. Hobhouse, W.T. Arnold, and Allan Monkhouse. They made major contributions to the paper's reputation for its coverage of national affairs, particularly politics and the arts. In 1907, Scott bought the Manchester Guardian from the Taylor family, and thereafter ran it as owner-editor. Following Scott's retirement in 1929, his son, Edward, was appointed as editor. He died suddenly following a boating accident in April 1932, and was succeeded by W.P. Crozier, who did much to extend the newspaper's coverage of foreign affairs, establishing a network of foreign correspondents. In 1936, ownership of the paper was transferred to the Scott Trust in order to protect the paper's journalistic independence. A.P. Wadsworth took over as editor in 1944, and he was in turn succeeded by H.A. Hetherington in 1956, who remained in post until 1975.

The Manchester Guardian's radicalism continued under these editors, although formal support for the Liberals gradually waned. In 1959 the title of the newspaper changed to the Guardian, to reflect its national distribution and news coverage, and in 1964 the main editorial offices and production facilities moved to London. In 1974, the newspaper's Manchester office moved from Cross Street to new premises on Deansgate.

The newspaper and its archive are a major source for studies of the political, military, economic, social and technological developments of the late 19th and 20th centuries. It is also significant for the history of journalism and newspaper production, as well as being a source for family historians researching relatives who were employed by, or contributed to, the Guardian.


The arrangement of the material in the archive was imposed on the collection some time before it came to the Library. The archive's contents are arranged in a single sequential running order (GDN/1-449), apart from the Scott editorial correspondence (classified as Series 'A'); and the Crozier/Wadsworth editorial correspondence (Series 'B'). Similar archival material which did not form part of the original accession, namely the Hetherington papers and the Monkhouse papers, has been classified in a like manner (Hetherington as 'C' Series and Monkhouse as 'D' Series).

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, although there may be some closures of material containing personal data about living people.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the archive was donated to the Library by the Guardian in 1971; there have been several subsequent accruals.

Other Finding Aids

Two catalogues providing a list of the Guardian Archive as a whole are available in PDF format from the Guardian page in the Library's Guide to Special Collections. Currently one section of the archive, W.P. Crozier's Foreign Affairs Correspondence (GDN/145/30-44,) also has a more detailed catalogue available via ELGAR.

Separated Material

Later records of the Guardian from the late 1960s to the present are held at the Guardian News and Media Archive in London.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Related Material

The Library also holds the papers of a number of individuals employed or associated with the Guardian, including W.E.A. Axon, journalist; W.P. Crozier, editor, 1932-44; A.N. Monkhouse, critic; C.E. Montague, journalist; Howard Spring, journalist; and A.P. Wadsworth, editor, 1944-56.


The Guardian archive was used extensively by David Ayerst in his official history, Guardian: Biography of a Newspaper (London: Collins, 1971). See also: Peter McNiven, 'The Guardian Archives in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 74 (1992), pp. 65-84; and Geoffrey Taylor, Changing Faces: A History of the Guardian, 1956-88 (London: Fourth Estate, 1993).