Freedom in the Academic Community files

Scope and Content

This series consists of a number of files compiled by Brian Cox during the course of the Freedom in the Academic Community campaign, and their contents document the entire campaign's history, from initial plans for a manifesto in April 1970 to the winding up of the campaign the following March. The files contain letters and papers, including: correspondence with academics based in institutions across the country; numerous forms signed by supporters who frequently also supplied the names of colleagues as further potential signatories; and cuttings, including the text of the manifesto as published in the Times.

Lists of individuals represented in the correspondence are given in the file descriptions below; these relate to academics whose letters are included in the files, rather than simply those who returned a signed form.

Administrative / Biographical History

Following the publication of Black Paper Two in autumn 1969, Brian Cox determined both to publish further Black Papers and to produce manifestos for publication in newspapers which would be signed by large numbers of people, thus proving that "my supporters were not cranks but must be taken seriously". * The first of these, entitled 'Freedom in the Academic Community', was prepared by Cox and other Black Paper contributors, particularly John Sparrow, Warden of All Souls College, Oxford. An initial circular was sent out in April 1970 to potential sympathisers asking for advice about methods of starting a national campaign to preserve the traditional freedoms and values of the universities (COX2/1/4). The result was a draft 'Document on University Freedom', put together by Cox, Max Beloff, Graham Hough, Edmund Ions, Arthur Pollard and D.C. Watt, which was then sent out to a wider audience of university staff. Responses came in during the summer, and the manifesto was revised in the light of comments and suggestions received; criticisms largely centred on section two of the manifesto, which related to student participation on executive bodies in universities. The revised version of the manifesto was sent out in October 1970. By November, Sparrow was having some doubts about whether the time was right to publish such a controversial document, but while Cox and Sparrow delayed, members of staff at York University leaked the manifesto to students and education journalists, and it made headline news on 22 November. Cox reacted by authorizing publication of the manifesto in full, and it appeared in the Times on 23 November. Signed by 154 members of university staff from across the country, it set out points relating to the central functions of universities and the rights of the members of these institutions, criticizing in particular the 'sit-in' as a form of protest, and the appointment of students to executive and decision-making bodies in universities. The manifesto was quickly followed by Black Paper Three, published on 27 November. Cox began campaigning for further signatures during late 1970; he hoped to publish the manifesto again with up to 1,000 signatories, and worked on persuading supporters to circulate the document to sympathetic staff in their own universities. By early January 1971 just over 700 signatures had been gathered, but the campaign was disrupted by a postal strike which lasted from January to April. By this time several supporters were expressing misgivings about publishing another controversial document on education, and Cox let the campaign lapse.


There is a considerable amount of overlap between these files. In places, returned forms appear to have been arranged into alphabetical bundles, but generally there is no obvious order to the material. There are numerous undated documents, and while some files obviously represent the beginning of the campaign and others the later stages, papers within each file are not necessarily chronological. In many cases, completed forms also appear to have been separated from any covering letters they might have arrived with. In the absence of an obvious organizing principle, the papers have been left in their original order, which presumably reflects to some extent the way papers accumulated during the progress of the campaign.


* Cox, The great betrayal, p. 207.