The papers of Lord Bowden comprise his correspondence files and copies of published writings. The collection documents his involvement in higher education, politics and public life from the period of his appointment as Principal of Manchester Municipal College of Technology in 1953 until his death. It includes very little material on his life and work before this period.
Bowden's files (BVB/1) cover various aspects of higher education policy including visits to foreign universities (particularly the U.S.A. and Canada), debates on policy such as the Rothschild Report (BVB/1/95), student unrest (BVB/1/73), the "Brain Drain" (BVB/1/49, 60, 69), the Flowers report on computing in higher education, 1966 (BVB/1/48) and his evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in 1966 on university funding (BVB/1/55). There are files concerning his political interests including detailed documentation of his work for the Labour Party Science Group (BVB/1/26).
There are several files reflecting Bowden's interests in computing, including the publication of Faster than thought (BVB/1/2-6), Charles Babbage (BVB/1/82), plus academic and business applications of computers (BVB/1/34, 81, 83, 93 and 99). Bowden's interests in industrial training (BVB/1/29, 57 and 87), and graduate employment (BVB/1/43, 118-119) are extensively documented.
Bowden took an active interest in British industry and his papers contains files relating to machine tools (BVB/1/14, 66, 125), engineering (BVB/1/21) and tribology (BVB/1/58 and 112). Other files detail his work for public bodies and professional associations including the Electronics Research Council (BVB/1/19), Radio Research Board (BVB/1/27), NEDO working committee on data transmission (BVB/1/71), the Science Masters' Association (BVB/1/20), Association of Scientific Workers (BVB/1/42) and the Association of Colleges of Further and Higher Education (BVB/1/98). Also covered are public issues on which Bowden spoke or wrote: nuclear power (BVB/1/115, 129, 139), the European Economic Community (BVB/1/105, 107), and inflation (BVB/1/97, 116, 120-1, 124-127); the latter containing interesting comments not only on specialised matters of inflation accounting, but also on wider political and economic conditions in Britain in the 1970s. Bowden travelled extensively, and was an informed observer of other countries' higher education systems, particularly the U.S.A. (BVB/1/9, 31, 51, 108) and the Soviet Union (BVB/1/30).
Some information on Bowden's wartime work on radar and the development of Identification Friend or Foe is present, although it is not contemporaneous (BVB/1/113, 140-141). There are files on individuals with whom Bowden was associated: Lord Rutherford (BVB/1/136), Robert Watson-Watt (BVB/1/110) and A.P. Rowe (BVB/1/130).
Bowden's papers contain correspondence with friends and colleagues such as the scientists and academics Willis Jackson, Nevil Mott, Patrick Blackett, Stanley Gill, Robert Hanbury Brown and the businessman Peter Jost, with whom he discussed a range of issues. The Bowden papers are an important resource for a range of issues in post-war British history including: debates on the nature and purpose of the universities, relations between government and academe, government policies and practices on science and technology, the politics of "technocracy", and the performance of the British economy, especially matters of industrial training, fiscal policy and inflation.