Archives of the Tawney Society

Scope and Content

The archive comprises a total of 65 boxes: 56 are numbered, 9 are unnumbered. The collection relates to the manifold aspects of the Tawney Society: organization and funding; the minutes of the Society's steering committee monthly meetings; the Society's actual and prospective publications; as well as information pertaining to the funding and sponsoring of its independent studies. Some boxes contain the correspondence of Dr. Tony Flower, head of the Society. The Society's affiliation with the SDP is evident through the presence of some SDP files, papers relating to the Limehouse Group, information on SDP peers and members of Parliament, as well as the minutes of weekly SDP Policy Committee meetings. The archival collection also comprises hand-written notes proposing ideas for the future development of the society or for proposed policy studies undertaken by the society, as well as memoranda circulated among the various members sitting on the steering committee of the Tawney Society. Primary correspondents include: Tony Flower, David Sainsbury, Lord Young of Dartington, and David Owen.

The contents can be summarized as follows:

  • Publications and prospective publications
  • Correspondence of members of the Society's steering committee with various MPs
  • Draft constitution of the Tawney Society, and memorandum.
  • Press releases and newspaper cuttings.
  • Membership lists and applications for membership.
  • SDP publications.
  • Some Liberal publications and circulars.
  • Accounts of the Tawney Society.
  • Minutes of the month-by-month steering committee meetings.
  • Funding for the Tawney Society, and for its special policy studies.

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Henry Tawney (1880-1962) - historian and Christian Socialist who equated the class struggle with a struggle against privilege - was the source of inspiration for the Tawney Society, set up in 1982 in conjunction with the establishment of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Throughout its lifespan the Tawney Society maintained close links with the SDP and was widely regarded as the SDP's main unofficial think-tank, equivalent to Labour's Fabian Society. Members of the Society's steering committee felt that the Society served to complement the SDP's in-house policy committees. The Tawney Society did however sponsor independent studies, such as a study on the cost of withdrawing from the EU (then the EEC). The close links maintained with the SDP ensured that this collection also contains documentation originating from the SDP.


Papers are mainly ordered in numbered boxes and are arranged as follows:

  • Boxes 1-3: Tawney publications 1-44 [with separate Consultation set]
  • Box 4: Tawney newsletters 1-9
  • Box 5: Tawney journal, Spring 1985 - Winter 1988
  • Boxes 6-11: Drafts and correspondence associated with Tawney publications 1-44
  • Boxes 12-13: Tawney journal: correspondence and prospective articles
  • Box 14: Tawney newsletter: correspondence and prospective articles
  • Box 15: London Tawney supplements, November 1983-June 1984: correspondence
  • Boxes 16-18: Potential and prospective publications; correspondence and drafts
  • Box 19: Lord Young of Dartington. Correspondence 1981-85; drafts of articles for publication; notes
  • Box 20: Tawney Society draft constitution/Memorandum of Association
  • Box 21: Tawney Provisional Committee/National Committee; papers and correspondence 1981-85London Tawney Group, circulars, 1986Tawney Society local branches; circulars and correspondence
  • Box 22: Tawney National Committee: papers and correspondence 1986-88 David Sainsbury: funding
  • Box 23: Political Philosophy Forum: papers and correspondence, 1984-87Reform Debates: notes and correspondence 1985-86
  • Box 24: Sustainable Society Group: papers and correspondenceTowards a sustainable society: papers and correspondence, 1983.
  • Box 25: Media and Telecommunications Group: papers and correspondence 1982-84
  • Box 26: Co-operative Group: papers and correspondence 1983-84Industrial Reform Group: papers and correspondence 1985-86, see Box 33
  • Box 27: Economics conference, March 1986: papers and correspondenceConsumer manifesto: notes and correspondence, 1983 Defence policy: correspondence and publications 1982-83 Political Economy Group: correspondence, 1983 Tawney International Group: correspondence, 1985 World Development Group: notes and correspondence, 1982 Higher Education Group: notes and correspondence, 1983
  • Box 28: Tawney research group: National Volunteer scheme'Count us in': notes and correspondence
  • Box 29: Low energy strategy seminar, 1986. Papers and correspondence.
  • Box 30: Tawney research on local government: papers and correspondence, 1982 Tawney Society and 1983 General election: correspondence and notesTactical Voting '87
  • Box 31: Tawney press releasesTawney Society publicity (promotions literature and circulars) Comments from Tawney members on policy issues.
  • Box 32: Tony Flower: correspondence, including:Feedback from Parliamentary candidates, 1983 Tawney lunches, 1986-87 Correspondence with SDP 300 Group Foreign contacts and enquiries
  • Box 33: Correspondence between Tony Flower and David Owen, George Goyder, Dorothy Emmett, Robert Corfe, Geoffrey Walden, Henry Cox.Industrial Reform Group: papers and correspondence 1985-86
  • Box 34-36: Tony Flower, general correspondence
  • Box 37: Local Tawney branches, correspondence
  • Box 38: Summer schools 1986-87: correspondence and transcripts
  • Box 39: Tawney Society elections 1983-86
  • Box 39: Tawney Society elections 1983-86 Tawney fifth anniversary, January 1987First Annual Tawney Conference, September 1982 Telephone survey of Tawney members on their views on the SDP, 1983
  • Box 40: Tawney membership lists 1984-87
  • Boxes 41-44: Tawney membership applications and correspondence
  • Boxes 45-47: Tawney office administration (orders for publications, bookings, quotations, etc.)
  • Boxes 48-55: SDP material
  • Box 48: Tawney/SDP conference on decentralization, March 1982: papers and correspondence
  • Box 49-50: CSD papers, 1982-86
  • Box 51: SDP Policy Committee papers, September 1981-January 1982 Devon SDP papersLimehouse Group: papers and correspondence 1983-84
  • Box 52: Environment Policy Group papers 1984-85
  • Box 53: SDP publications
  • Box 54: SDP publications and circulars 1988
  • Box 55: SDP papers, miscellaneous
  • Box 56: Liberal publications and circulars
  • 5 boxes of newspaper cuttings
  • 1 box of miscellaneous publications (i.e. not Tawney/SDP/Liberal)
  • 2 boxes of duplicated publications
  • 1 box of biographical information on R.H. Tawney, with photo and negative

Access Information

By written application to either the Librarian or Deputy Librarian. A letter of introduction may be required.

Acquisition Information

The Tawney Society.


Entry compiled by David Borg-Muscat, UK Data Archive, University of Essex using material from the Albert Sloman Library Special Collections.

Record entered by Nadeem Ahmad of Qualidata, UK Data Archive, University of Essex.

Other Finding Aids

Detailed outline lists and a catalogue of items in the collection are available online via the web pages for the Special Collections in the Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex.

Conditions Governing Use

By application to either the Librarian or Deputy Librarian, observing the normal conventions of confidentiality and acknowledgment.

Appraisal Information

In consultation with academic colleagues, the Librarian and Deputy Librarian evaluate collections by assessing their relevance to the teaching and research interests of the University.

Custodial History

The "Tawney Society Archives" were deposited by the Tawney Society.


All the collection was acquired as a single donation. It is unlikely that the collection will be added to, but the possibility should not be ruled out entirely.

Additional Information

This material is original.

Corporate Names