Foundations of Sociology Archive (LePlay)

Scope and Content

The Le Play Collection is a unique and largely unexploited resource of very valuable materials for historical research into social networks between the 1880s and the 1950s, particularly in relation to debates about appropriate strategies for reducing poverty and enabling people to live decent 'civilised' lives within large industrial cities. The personal letters, biographical data, institutional correspondence, newspaper cuttings, draft speeches, reports of meetings, published plans, town and regional surveys (e.g. on Chester, Oxford, Westminster, Perth, Stirling, Wakefield, Breda, Ghent, Sierre, Brittany, Norway, Gascony, Provence, Poland, Black Forest), investigations of contemporary urban life (e.g. leisure activities of young people, cinema and pin-table saloons) and a variety of other reports and related materials in the Collection provide a rich source for social historians from which may be discovered the developing views of key activists and opinion-shapers (such as James Bryce, Victor Branford, Francis Galton, Patrick Geddes, H. G. Wells, Lewis Mumford, Bertrand Russell, Bernard Shaw, the Webbs, and Alexander Farquharson - and overseas connections such as Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss and scholars at the University of Chicago) on themes such as the responsibilities of the state and the citizen, planning urban development, the position of women, the role of technical education, local government reform, regionalism, the co-operative movement, rural society, and the family. Historians of intellectual life, the growth of the professions and the shaping of the modern state will find valuable materials on the origins of modern British sociology, and related social sciences such as social psychology, urban studies/town planning and demography.

Administrative / Biographical History

Following the dissolution of the Institute of Sociology in 1955, the University College of North Staffordshire (now Keele University) was gifted the Institute's Journal (the Sociological Review), library and archive collection. Whilst most of the Institute's library (c.15,000 volumes) was incorporated into the College's library, most of the archive material was placed in store. In the summer of 2000, a researcher from Heriot-Watt University began working on the Institute material, a process that involved concentrating all the material in one store-room, and opening for the first time hundreds of parcels containing archive material. The resource has now been named the Le Play Collection.

Reference: Special Collections and Archives, Keele University.


The following collections are constituent parts of the Le Play Collection: Sociological Society Archive; Le Play House Library; Le Play House Press Papers; Le Play Society Archive; Le Play House Archive; Civic Education League Archive; Regional Survey Movement Archive; Institute of Sociology Archive; Branford Archive (Victor Branford and Sybella Branford); Farquharson Archive (Alexander Farquharson and Dorothea Farquharson). For further information please contact Special Collections and Archives.

Access Information

There are no restrictions on access to these papers. Viewing is by prior appointment.

Acquisition Information

This collection was deposited in 1955.

Other Finding Aids

A digitisation and cataloguing project of the Foundations of Sociology Archive (LePlay) is currently underway. The key aims of the Project are to create and deliver a digital catalogue for the Collection and to ensure its physical preservation.

Collection level descriptions also exist for the Branford (GB 172 LPVB) and Farquharson papers (GB 172 LPAF).

Authority records exist for Sociological Society (GB 152 AAR1948), the Institute of Sociology (GB 152 AAR1970), Victor Branford (GB 152 AAR1947), and Alexander Farquharson (GB 152 AAR1972).

Archivist's Note

The Foundations of Sociology Archive (LePlay) was formerly known as Le Play Collection.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this archive, apart from the requirements of copyright law.


Further deposits are not expected.


J. Harris, Private Lives, Public Spirit: A Social History of Britain 1870-1914 (London, Penguin, 1994).  Simon Naylor, Britain and Argentina during the Age of Empire: Four Historical Geographies of Writing at the End of the Nineteenth Century (Keele University PhD, 1998).  Simon Naylor and G. A. Jones, Writing Orderly Geographies of Distant Places: The Regional Survey Movement in Latin America (Ecumene, 1997).

The following works are based on the Foundations of Sociology Archive (LePlay) in some way.