Papers of Michael Foot (1913-2010)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers start in 1926 with a copy of a school report belonging to Michael Foot. The collection covers Foot's long political career until 1991.

The papers have been arranged into six series: personal papers, 1926-1991; Tribune office papers, 1955-1989; MPs papers, 1938-1978; cabinet Papers, 1962-1983; leadership papers, 1974-86; back bench papers, 1982-1990 and constituency papers, 1965-1990.

Administrative / Biographical History

Michael Foot, author and Labour leader, was born in 1913, son of the Liberal MP Isaac Foot. During the 1930s Foot worked on various newspapers. In 1940 he and others wrote the polemical book Guilty Men which castigated the appeasers for allowing the country to drift unprepared into war. For many years Foot worked upon the left-wing weekly newspaper, Tribune, becoming Assistant Editor, 1937, Editor, 1948-52 and 1956-9 and Managing Director, 1945-1974.

In 1935 Foot unsuccessfully stood for Monmouth, ten years later he became the Labour MP for Davenport, losing the seat in 1955. Foot was a devout Bevanite, supporting Nye Bevan in his 1950s battles against Gaitskill. Like Bevan, Foot was a skilled orator firmly attached to left-wing causes such as unilateralism. When Bevan died in 1960 Foot inherited his seat at Ebbw Vale (the seat was renamed Blaenau Gwent in 1983). Foot held this seat until 1992.

Initially Foot appeared destined to be a backbencher. However his prospects changed with the Party's shift to the Left during the 1970s. Harold Wilson made him Secretary for Employment in 1974 and the resulting Employment Protection Act, 1975 pleased the Unions but laid the ground for the increased militancy of the late 1970s. In 1976 Callaghan moved Foot to the role of Leader of the Commons. He was therefore in a good position to succeed as leader of the Labour Party when Callaghan retired in 1980.

Michael Foot won the leadership of the election narrowly. Internal strife and the Party's march leftwards marred his period of leadership. The loss of thirty moderate Labour MPs to the new Social Democratic Party in 1981-2 and the Falklands war, which helped to sustain the Tory recovery, further hampered Foot.

The Labour Party 1983 manifesto, an avowedly left-wing programme, described by a colleague as the longest suicide note in history, produced Labour's worst election result in forty years. Shortly afterwards, once Neil Kinnock's leadership was assured, Michael Foot stood down. Since then Foot has devoted more time to his historical and literary works, including studies of Jonathan Swift and H.G.Wells.

Arrangement

The papers are arranged into six series according to subject matter.

Conditions Governing Access

Access by appointment.

Acquisition Information

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.

Note

Collection level description created by Janette Martin.

Other Finding Aids

To date approximately seventy percent of the collection has been file listed. A list is available for consultation at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre. The remainder needs to be sorted and catalogued.

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)161 228 7212.

Appraisal Information

There has been no appraisal, destruction or scheduling.

Custodial History

Michael Foot deposited these papers in the People's History Museum (formerly the National Museum of Labour History) in 1992.

Accruals

Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

The LHASC also holds the Library and Archive of the Labour Party including manifestos, conference reports and press cuttings on Michael Foot.

Elsewhere: correspondence and papers relating to Blaenau Gwent Constituency Labour Party are held at the National Library of Wales. Which also cares for the papers of Foot's political agent, Ron Evans, and correspondence with Leo Abse, 1975-85.

The House of Lords Record Office: The Parliamentary Archives hold correspondence between Foot and Lord Beaverbrook, 1940-1964.

Warwick University, Modern Records Centre holds correspondence with Richard Crossman and Clive Jenkins.

Oxford University: Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, holds correspondence with Charles Greenidge, 1949-56.

King's College London: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, holds correspondence with with Sir BH Liddell Hart, 1940-1965.

Bibliography

Michael Foot by Jones, Mervyn (London : Gollancz, 1994)

Aneurin Bevan : a biography by Michael Foot, Vol.1 : 1897-1945 (London : MacGibbon & Kee, 1962)

Aneurin Bevan : a biography by Michael Foot, Vol.2 : 1945-1960. (London : Davis-Poynter, 1973)