The Papers of Robert Edwards, MP

Scope and Content

The Bob Edwards papers cover a wide range of issues from a long and varied career. Much of the collection relates to Edwards parliamentary career and his involvement with the Chemical Workers Union and other trade unions. There is a box of material from Edward's years fighting for Republican Spain. This material includes letters from when he served alongside George Orwell with the POUM Brigade, press cuttings, articles and material from the Spanish Workers Defence Committee.

There is also a section on industrial common ownership, including minutes, newsletters and lecture notes on industrial democracy. There are files on foreign policy including colonial policy and the anti- apartheid movement. Another box contains miscellaneous subjects files, which cover a broad range of issues from atomic energy, housing, pollution, steel industry to multinational companies.

The papers also contain autobiographical files including a visit to the USSR in 1926 and the Lancashire Hunger march of 1934. There are papers covering his years on Liverpool City Council and the Stretford and Newport by-elections of 1939 and 1945. There is also a file on his wife May Edwards (1901-1970), the daughter of the Labour MP Elijah Sandham (1876-1944). She served as mayor of Chorley 1953-1954.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert (Bob) Edwards (1906-1990) was born in Liverpool and educated at Council Schools and Technical College. As a young man he went on an ILP Guild of Youth Delegation to Russia and travelled extensively in the Soviet Union where he met Stalin, Molotov and Trotsky. Although employed himself he led the Lancashire Hunger Marchers to London in 1934. Edwards served the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. He was leader of the ILP Contingent that went to Spain in 1936 and served as a Captain in the International Militia.

Edwards held a number of political and trade union posts: member of Liverpool City Council, 1929-32; National Chairman of the Independent Labour Party 1943- 1948; General Secretary of the Chemical Workers Union 1947-71; National Officer of Transport and General Workers' Union 1971-76; Leader of Parliamentary Delegation North Atlantic Assembly 1968-70; Vice-President Assembly of the Council of Europe 1969-1970; Member of the European Parliament 1977-1979; Chairman Defence Committee W.E.U. 1966-70; Chairman of Chemical Section of International Federation of Chemical and General Workers Unions from 1971.

Edwards unsuccessfully contested, as an ILP candidate, Chorley in 1935, Stretford in 1939 and Newport in May 1945. He sat as a Co-operative and Labour MP for Bilston from 1955- 1974 and for Wolverhampton S.E from Februrary 1974.

Bob Edwards published two books, Chemicals- Servant or Master and A Study of a Master Spy. He died in 1990.


The papers have been arranged into the following sections, miscellaneous subjects, foreign policy, personal files, Spain, Chemical Workers Union/ILP, constituency and parliamentary papers, and industrial common ownership. Further arrangement and more detailed cataloguing is expected in future.

Access Information

Access by appointment.

Acquisition Information

In 1991 The Edwards family deposited the Bob Edwards papers at the People's History Museum (formerly National Museum of Labour History) in Manchester. The collection is now held at the Labour History Archives and Study Centre, which is based at the head office of the People's History Museum and managed by the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.


Collection level description created for the Archives Hub by Janette Martin.

Other Finding Aids

Currently a box list is available. In future a more detailed list will be prepared.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Prior written permission must be obtained from the Archive for publication or reproduction of any material within the Archive. Please contact the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, 103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD, Tel.: +44 (0)161 834 5343.

Appraisal Information

No appraisal, destruction or scheduling has taken place.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

The Labour History Archive and Study Centre, also has press cuttings on Bob Edwards and holds the Archive of the Labour Party. The archive of the Independent Labour Party is held at the London School of Economics.