The most important element of this small archive comprises three exercise books in which Margaret Collin detailed her daily activities and observations during a tour of the Soviet Union in July and August 1937 (MEC/4). Collin witnessed Stalinism at its height, with rapid industrialisation, the collectivization of agriculture, and pervasive state control of all aspects of cultural and intellectual life, as well as the provision of welfare, improvements in housing, education and medical services. Collin spoke extensively to ordinary Russians, during train journeys and while visiting towns and cities, although their comments were always guarded.
In her journals Collin attempts to offer a balanced assessment of the Soviet experiment. Unlike some western visitors to the country, she was not blind to the shortcomings of Communism nor taken in by state propaganda. But neither does she report the worst aspects of Stalin's brutal regime: the mass deportations and disappearances, and large-scale starvation caused by collectivization, which were largely hidden from foreign observers. Instead, the real value of the journals lies in Collin's intelligent, acute and detailed observation of everyday life under Stalin.
Other parts of the archive include newspaper cuttings relating to Margaret's obtaining a Mary MacArthur Scholarship in 1930, which enabled her to study economics at Ruskin College, Oxford (MEC/2), and three photographs of Margaret and her fellow students at Oxford (MEC/3). There are also modern photocopies of Margaret Collin's certificates of birth, marriage, etc. (MEC/1).