The Barbara Castle Cabinet Diaries

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

1. The Cabinet diaries : typed by Barbara Castle from her shorthand notes, covering the periods January 1965-March 1971 and January 1974-April 1976. 2. Transcripts : typed transcripts of the originals. 3. Photocopies : photocopies of some of the originals and some of the transcripts, marked for editing and publication. 4. The Bradford Pioneer : bound volume for 1925.

Administrative / Biographical History

Barbara Anne Betts was born in Chesterfield in 1910. Her father, a civil servant, was a member of the Independent Labour Party and became a contributor to the ILP journal, The Bradford pioneer, which he later edited. Barbara was educated at Bradford Girls' Grammar School and St Hugh's College, Oxford. A left-wing member of the Labour Party, Castle was one of the founders of Tribune, the socialist weekly. In the 1945 General Election Barbara Castle (she had married Ted Castle, a journalist, in 1944) was elected M.P. for Blackburn, a seat that she retained for 34 years. Following the Labour victory in 1964, Prime Minister Harold Wilson put Castle in charge of the newly-created Ministry of Overseas Development. "I decided on 26 January that I ought to start keeping a regular record of what was happening" : begun in January 1965, she maintained this political diary throughout her periods in office. Her success at this Ministry was recognised and she was made Minister of Transport in 1965, where she was responsible for the introduction of breathalysers, compulsory seat belts and national speed limits. In 1968 Castle became Secretary of State for Employment : she worked on equal pay legislation, redundancy payments, and on prices and incomes policy. Much of this was received favourably, but the partial implementation of the 1969 white paper on industrial relations, In Place of Strife, brought conflict with the trades unions and from within the Labour Party. Labour lost power in the General Election of 1970 but returned to government in 1974. Castle was made Secretary of State for Social Services, and in this post she introduced payment of child benefit to mothers and worked on the State Earnings Related Pensions Scheme. Her attempt to equalise services in the National Health Service with abolition of pay beds met with considerable opposition, and legislation was still in process when Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister in 1976. His successor, James Callaghan, dropped Castle from the cabinet, ostensibly on the grounds of age. Castle was a Member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1989. In 1990 she entered the House of Lords as Baroness Castle of Blackburn. She continued to campaign on a range of issues, particularly on pension rights. She died on the 3rd May 2002.

Conditions Governing Access

Available to researchers, by appointment.


In English. Some shorthand.

Alternative Form Available

This collection includes transcripts of the original diaries, photocopies of parts of the originals and photocopies of parts of the transcripts.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals. Applications for permission to make published use of any material should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian in the first instance. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

It is understood that a collection of Barbara Castle's personal and literary papers has been left to the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.


These papers were used by Barbara Castle for her publications The Castle diaries 1974-76 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980), The Castle diaries 1964-70 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984), and her autobiography Fighting all the way (London: MacMillan, 1993).