Papers of: Cancer Research Campaign formerly British Empire Cancer Campaign (founded 1923)

Scope and Content

Records of the Cancer Research Campaign formerly the British Empire Cancer Campaign, covering all aspects of the Campaign's organization and activities. Sections A-C comprise committee minutes, agenda and papers, 1923-1976. The minutes of central headquarters committees are extensive, but there are serious gaps in the top level committees: Grand Council, the Executive Committee and the Scientific Advisory Committee. Efforts to locate the missing records have so far been unsuccessful. In addition, many minutes of sub-committees are either incomplete or unsigned copies. The collection contains very few records of regional branches; and information regarding either their existence or whereabouts is scant. The main body of the archive, Sections D-R, consists largely of files generated by Campaign headquarters, mainly the General Secretary's office. Files contain correspondence, reports, pamphlets, legal documents, press cuttings, articles, off-prints, posters, ephemera, etc. They cover the Campaign's history and organisation; senior members; relations with regional councils, branches, affiliatated bodies and other cancer organisations, both in the UK and overseas; cancer research and government provision; fund raising; research materials and equipment; cancer cures and causes; views and enquiries from the general public; cancer education and publications. There is also a series of press cuttings volumes, and three publicity films made in the 1950s.

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Empire Cancer Campaign (BECC or `the Campaign') was founded in 1923 "to attack and defeat the disease of cancer in all its forms, to investigate its causes, distribution, symptoms, pathology and treatment and to promote its cure" [Memorandum and Articles of Association]. It was founded amidst rivalry and even hostility from the well-established Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF or `the Fund') and the Medical Research Council (MRC). The ICRF felt that the Campaign would jeopardize its existence and the standing of other well-known cancer research institutions, especially regarding fund-raising; the MRC was concerned that the Campaign would challenge its supremacy within the scientific hierarchy and its control of the direction of biomedical research. Despite this controversial beginning, the Campaign became a very successful and powerful grant-giving body, allocating funds (obtained on an entirely voluntary basis), to universities, hospitals, research institutions and individuals, for a wide range of both clinical and biomedical cancer research. In 1963 the words `for Research' were added to the Campaign's title, partly to strengthen its legal position with regard to doubtfully worded legacies to `cancer research'. However, this title was found to be rather cumbersome for everyday use and the words `British Empire' tended to cause confusion with the word `Imperial' in the minds of the public. In 1970, the title Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) was adopted. For details of the early history of the Campaign and its relationship with the ICRF and MRC see A history of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund 1902-1986 , Dr Joan Austoker (OUP: 1988). Some information on the Campaign's origins and development of its regional organization can be found in Appendix I of the hard-copy list. Current information on the Campaign can be found on their website:


By section as follows: A. Committees and Meetings: Central Headquarters, 1923-1975; B. Committees and Meetings: Branches and Regional Councils, 1927-1969; C. Annual General Meetings, 1935-1976. D. Origins, Organisation and Legal, 1923-1973; E. Senior Campaign Members, c.1923-1974; F. Relations With Regional Councils and Branches of the Campaign and Other Local Cancer Organisations in the UK, 1923-1975; G. Relations With Overseas Cancer Research Organizations Affiliated to the Campaign, 1925-1964; H. Relations With Other Cancer Research Charities and Organisations (UK and overseas), 1947-1975; J. Cancer Research and Government Provision, 1938-1978; K. Cancer Congresses and conferences, 1954-1975; L. Fund Raising, 1929-1974; M. Apparatus, Equipment and Chemicals, 1923-1981; N. Cancer Cures and Causes, 1923-1981; P. Enquiries from the General Public, 1963-1974; Q. Cancer Education, 1928-1979; R. Campaign Publications and Films, 1928-1953; S. Press Cuttings.

Access Information

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with Archives and Manuscripts staff and after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

These records were transferred to the Wellcome Library by the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford, in July 1996 (Accession No 644). The collection is currently held by Archives and Manuscripts on a permanent loan basis.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued by Amanda Engineer, Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library, June 2001. Hard-copy catalogue available in Wellcome Library.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Amanda Engineer

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Custodial History

These records were deposited in the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford, in the mid-1980s via Dr Joan Austoker while she was working on her History of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and a posited history of the Cancer Research Campaign. Very little regarding the circumstances and terms of that deposit have been ascertained.

Related Material

Material held by Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library: See Sources Leaflet No 35 `Cancer'. The Wellcome Library holds incomplete sets of the Campaign's Annual Reports and its journals The Cancer Review (published 1926-1932) and The British Journal of Cancer (founded in 1947).


For information on the foundation and early years of the Campaign see A history of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund 1902-1986 , Dr Joan Austoker (OUP: 1988).