The material in the Archive mostly originates from within the organisation referred to as The Post Office (the name in common usage for Royal Mail and its predecessor bodies). In addition, some material has been deposited by outside agencies and individuals and some has been purchased. Material relates to the operation, policy, development and social impact of The Post Office.
The General Post Office was established in 1660 as a monopoly service, combining the functions of state postal and telecommunications carrier and spawning similar services across the British Empire. From 1660-1969 it was a State Department but in 1969 it became a statutory corporation named The Post Office. In 1981 the corporation was divided by function: into the Post Office for postal needs; and British Communications for other needs.
From early on the service was innovative for example, being the first known creator of stamps (Penny Post) in 1840. With the growth of communications The General Post Office became about more than paper deliveries within Great Britain but it was also this expansion which would see the Department split up. Design was a factor from the first, stamps required designing and the change of system required advertising. The power of advertising was used to promote The General Post Office as a service and necessity. As poster design began to expand in the early twentieth century The General Post Office increasingly used its medium and its rising stars.