Papers of Nora Beloff

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the life, work and family of Nora Beloff who worked for The Observer for over thirty years, from 1947-1978. Beloff developed an international reputation and as The Observer's political correspondent she was the first female political correspondent for a major British Newspaper. The first files in the collection contain a large series of press cuttings and dispatches of articles written by Beloff not only for The Observer but various other publications. The principal material that provides a biographical as well as professional account of Beloff's life is the series of correspondence that dates from 1941-1995. Much of the correspondence is written by Beloff to her family and offers a personal account of her daily life as a correspondent of The Observer, events she attended and individuals she met. The earliest of the files provide an account of her initial move into journalism and her start at The Observer as Paris and then Washington correspondent. The later correspondence includes letters to Beloff as well as from her. They include correspondence with mostly professional contacts dealing with matters related to work but also include more personal details such as the ownership and maintenance of her home. Also included within the series of correspondence is a file of letters written by her family and this provides a further insight into Beloff's background. The collection includes a file of photographs of Beloff and her family but these rarely include any accompanying notes that explain the date, location or identity of those photographed. A further file contains legal documents relating to the action Beloff took against Private Eye in the early 1970s over a libellous article written about her. This demonstrates the unpopularity her determination to get things done her way could provoke amongst her colleagues. It was a leaked internal memo Beloff wrote to The Observer staff that was connected to the copyright aspect of her case against Private Eye. The collection also includes some papers from the French Resistance during the second world war, it is not clear how these came be in Beloff's possession but it is likely she acquired them during her time in Paris. The final file of the collection contains a miscellaneous assortment of papers. Some of these relate to The Observer and include documents relating to the pension scheme and David Astor whereas others relate more directly to Beloff such as the plan included of a possible autobiography.

Administrative / Biographical History

Nora Beloff was born on 24 January 1919 into a family of Russian Jews who settled in London shortly before the first world war. Her father started an export business in the City of London trading in chemicals and sundry products.Beloff read history at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She joined the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office (1941-1944) and was then sent to the British Embassy in Paris, (1944-1945). She then worked as a reporter for the Reuters News Agency in Paris (1945-1946) as well as at The Economist (1946-1948). During this period Beloff also did some freelance work for the Guardian.Beloff joined The Observer in late 1947 and worked initially as Paris correspondent and later went on to cover other roles including Washington, Moscow, and Brussels (1948-1978). In Paris she defied brutal intimidation to report French torture during the Algerian War. Other controversial or sensitive issues pursued by Beloff during her career include: exposing Trotskyist infiltration of the Labour party, reporting on persecution in Georgia following a trip to the Soviet Union; and fighting the trade union closed shop for journalists. Beloff succeeded Hugh Massingham to work as The Observer's political correspondent, becoming the first female political correspondent of a national newspaper (1964-1976). She then worked as a roving correspondent (1976-1978) and left The Observer in 1978. Following her retirement Beloff was engaged in research on international responsibilities for the conflict in former Yugoslavia and wrote several books.Beloff died on 12 February 1997.

Arrangement

Chronological and by subject.

Conditions Governing Access

Open. Records may be viewed in our reading room by appointment only, see our website for more information.

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue description for this collection can be found on the GNM Archive catalogue.