Oswald Mosley papers: Nicholas Mosley deposit

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Personal and political papers of Oswald Mosley, and of his first wife, Cynthia Mosley (nee Curzon); personal papers of his mother, Katherine Maud Mosley.

The papers consist of correspondence; press cuttings; draft and published writings; policy documents and reports relating to Oswald Mosley's political movements with the New Party and the British Union of Fascists; photographs; diaries; notebooks; financial papers. There is also some material created by Nicholas Mosley when he was writing his biography of his parents. This consists of research notes and correspondence.

The majority of the papers date from the 1920s and 1930s, although there is also material relating to Oswald Mosley, particularly correspondence and drafts of books he published, that dates from the post-war period. There is very little material dating from the 1939-1945 period. This is likely to be because Oswald Mosley was imprisoned under Defence of the Realm Regulations for most of this time. Katherine Maud Mosley's diaries date from the final years of the nineteenth century, and there is some correspondence in Cynthia Mosley's papers that dates from the 1914-1918 war. Nicholas Mosley's research papers date from the early 1980s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Oswald Ernald Mosley, eldest son of Oswald Mosley and Katherine Maud Heathcote, was born on 16 November 1896. He attended Winchester school and Sandhurst, and was commissioned into the 16th Lancers cavalry regiment at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, but later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He injured his leg in a flying accident while in England, shortly after gaining his pilot's certificate and was recalled to his former regiment, spending the winter of 1915-1916 in the trenches. He was invalided out of the war due to his damaged leg in 1916, and spent the last two years of the war working in London in the Ministry of Munitions and in the Foreign Office.

He was elected Unionist MP for Harrow in 1918 and was a member of the National party coalition led by Lloyd George. He rapidly became disillusioned with the government and in November 1920 he left the government over the Black and Tan atrocities in Ireland, which he condemned in the House of Commons. His political outlook at the time, informed by his experiences during the war, his sympathy for ordinary working people, and his concern to improve social conditions, was thought to be more suited to the Liberal party, and he was involved in discussions with Robert Cecil during the early 1920s to form a Centre Party, but he was re-elected as an Independent MP for Harrow in the General Elections of 1922 and 1923. He joined the Labour party in 1924, and stood for election in Ladywood, Birmingham that year, being narrowly defeated by Neville Chamberlain. He was supported in his political career by his first wife, Cynthia Curzon, whom he married in 1920. Cynthia also joined the Labour party, and accompanied Mosley on visits to India in 1925 and the USA in 1926 to study labour conditions. The couple had three children, Vivien (b. 1921), Nicholas (b. 1923), and Michael (b. 1932). Cynthia Mosley died of peritonitis in 1933.

Mosley was elected Labour MP for Smethwick in 1926, and was elected to the party's National Executive Committee the following year. He was re-elected in the general election of 1929, and was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by Ramsay MacDonald, with special responsibility for unemployment. In response to the economic crisis and large scale unemployment of the period, Mosley proposed a programme, known as the 'Mosley Memorandum', which aimed to stimulate the economy and provide employment by using public funds to promote industrial expansion. When the Cabinet rejected these proposals, Mosley resigned from the government. He formed the New Party in 1931, supported by Cynthia, and by other former Labour MPs including John Strachey, John Beckett and Robert Forgan, as well as others including Harold Nicolson and Cyril Joad. The New Party contested several seats at the 1931 General Election but failed to win any. Mosley was drawn to the success of Italian fascism in solving some of the economic and social problems of the early 1930s, and made several visits to Rome, meeting Mussolini in January 1932. He disbanded the New Party and formed the British Union of Fascists (B.U.F) in 1932. Some of those who had supported the New Party became officials in the B.U.F, but others were uneasy about Mosley's adoption of fascism, and by the anti-semitic views increasingly expressed by the movement. The B.U.F was initially successful, and attracted large numbers of new members and some mainstream support. However, a meeting at Olympia in June 1934 was disrupted by political opponents, and the ensuing violence had an adverse effect on B.U.F support.

The militaristic elements of the B.U.F, such as the uniforms, fascist salute and organised marches, together with the movement's willingness to exploit existing tensions by employing anti-semitic rhetoric and campaigning in Jewish areas in the East End of London, highlighted sinister parallels with the Nazi regime in Germany, and B.U.F activities were undermined by the passing of the Public Order Act in 1936 which outlawed the wearing of political uniforms, and the use of threatening and abusive language, and restricted rights to organise marches.

The B.U.F campaigned against war with Germany, and held a Peace rally at Earls Court in the summer of 1939. After the outbreak of war, the movement continued with its peace campaign. Mosley, along with many other B.U.F members and supporters, was imprisoned under Defence Regulations 18B in May 1940 amidst fears of a German invasion of Britain. He was initially held in Brixton prison, but in 1941 he was moved to Holloway to join his second wife, Diana. Mosley had married Diana, one of the Mitford sisters, and the divorced wife of Bryan Guinness, in 1936 in Berlin, although they had been in a relationship for some years before this. Mosley had two sons with Diana, Alexander (b. 1938) and Max (b.1940). Oswald and Diana Mosley were released from prison in 1943 on the grounds of Mosley's ill health, and the couple were placed under house arrest. They settled first at Crux Easton in Hampshire, and moved to Crowood in Wiltshire in 1945 where Mosley ran a farm.

In 1948, following the publication of his book 'The Alternative', he established the Union Movement, which advocated British integration in Europe, with the exploitation of British colonies in Africa to provide foods and other raw materials that European countries lacked. The Union Movement also campaigned against immigration to Britain from Commonwealth countries. Mosley established the Euphorion Press in an attempt to publish the works of right-wing authors, and Diana Mosley edited a monthly right-wing journal, 'The European' between 1953 and 1959. The Mosleys left England in 1949 and settled first in Ireland, and afterwards in France. They continued to make regular visits to England, and Mosley stood for election for the Union Movement in North Kensington in 1959 and Shoreditch and Finsbury in 1966. He resigned his leadership of the movement in 1966, at the age of 70, and began to focus on the rehabilitation of his character, through the publication of his autobiography, 'My Life' in 1968, and his appearances on television and radio. A biography of Oswald Mosley was published by Robert Skidelsky in 1975. Oswald Mosley died on 3 December 1980.

Sources: Administrative history for the British Union Collection held at the University of Sheffield Library, http://www.shef.ac.uk/library/special/bunion.html Accessed March 2005; Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, 1975; Nicholas Mosley, The Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley, 1896-1933, 1982; Nicholas Mosley, Beyond the Pale: Sir Oswald Mosley and Family, 1933-1980, 1983.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into three sub-fonds, reflecting the fact that it comprises the papers of three individuals. A: Papers of Cynthia Mosley; B: Papers of Oswald Mosley; C: Papers of Maud Mosley.

Conditions Governing Access

Some material in this collection is subject to conditional access, and one item is closed. This is indicated at file level.

Acquisition Information

Deposited with Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham Information Services, by Lord Ravensdale in 1994

Other Finding Aids

The full catalogue is available on the University of Birmingham's online archive catalogue:

http://calmview.bham.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=XOMN

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Director of Special Collections ( mailto: special-collections@bham.ac.uk). Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

Cynthia Mosley's papers were kept by Oswald Mosley after her death. According to Nicholas Mosley's 1982 biography of his parents, Oswald Mosley acquired the papers of his mother, Maud Mosley, from his younger brother, John, after her death, but destroyed most of her diaries, with the exception of those covering the first four years of his life and pages from the day of her birthday from each of the diaries he destroyed. These, together with Cynthia Mosley's papers and some of his own personal and political papers, were transferred into the possession of his son, Nicholas Mosley, shortly before Oswald Mosley's death in 1980.

It is apparent that Nicholas Mosley used these papers as material for the first volume of his biography of his parents, 'The Rules of the Game', published in 1982. Papers relating to Oswald Mosley then in the possession of his stepmother, Diana Mosley, were also placed at his disposal for the duration of his work. The remainder of Oswald Mosley's personal papers remained in the possession of Diana Mosley until 1994, when two separate deposit agreements were made with the University of Birmingham. Nicholas Mosley deposited the papers in his possession of Cynthia Mosley, Oswald Mosley and Maud Mosley. Diana Mosley deposited the personal papers of Oswald Mosley still in her possession, together with papers created by the Union Movement secretariat. In an interview with the Guardian in 1998, Nicholas Mosley stated that he had received a large quantity of his mother's letters, including substantial correspondence between her and his father. Extracts from many of these are reproduced in his biography to illustrate the nature of their relationship, but these remain in the possession of Nicholas Mosley.

Papers of Cynthia Mosley appear to have been arranged to some extent by Cynthia, in particular some of the correspondence from school friends, and correspondence relating to her political career. Much of her correspondence appears to have been later partially sorted by Nicholas Mosley in the process of his research for his 1982 biography of his parents. Many letters were grouped into bundles labelled in Nicholas Mosley's handwriting, and he also made attempts to identify some of the correspondents with pencilled comments. In particular, letters in the series of correspondence sorted by subject may have been arranged by Nicholas, or he may have maintained the arrangement first made by Cynthia.

No particular system of arrangement appears to have been used by Oswald Mosley with his own papers. This is in contrast to the definite system of arrangement that appears to have existed for files of material kept by Mosley's Union Movement secretariat. These secretariat papers are held in the Diana Mosley deposit. It has been difficult to get an idea of original order because of the complicated custodial history of Mosley's papers. He moved home frequently, and his papers had become scattered, while others have probably been lost or destroyed. Nicholas Mosley removed some of his father's papers from storage in Ireland in order to carry out research, while other papers remained in the possession of Diana Mosley in storage in Ireland and France. The papers taken by Nicholas Mosley, and deposited by him, were arranged into sections based either on the type of material or on the subject.

With permission of the depositor, some items were catalogued as part of the Diana Mosley deposit (reference: OMD) where it was appropriate to restore original provenance. Information about this is retained on the deposit file.

Accruals

No further accruals expected

Related Material

Collections also held at the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham include: reference: OMD: Oswald Mosley Papers: Diana Mosley deposit; MS124: Papers of Jeffrey Hamm; MS196: Publications of post-war British Fascist movements, MS784: Newspapers 'Action', 'The Blackshirt', and Fascist Week'.

http://calmview.bham.ac.uk/default.aspx

Bibliography

Nicholas Mosley 'The Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley, 1896-1933' 1982; Nicholas Mosley 'Beyond the Pale: Sir Oswald Mosley and Family, 1933-1980', 1983; Robert Skidelsky 'Oswald Mosley' 1975