Correspondence and General Files
Arnot's voluminous correspondence spans the years 1917 to 1975, and there are series of general files containing material from 1896 to 1974. An important series of early letters are those dating from 1917-1918, which document Arnot's experiences during an 18 month period of imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs as a politically-motivated conscientious objector [U DAR/2/1-12]. The extensive list of individuals and organisations with which Arnot corresponded gives some indication of his wide-ranging political commitments and activism, which did not diminish until he was well over eighty years of age. Amongst Arnot's contacts on the Left were included G.D.H. Cole, Tom Mann, E.P. Thompson, Winifred Horrabin, Wal Hannington, Fenner Brockway and Eric Hobsbawm, as well as a number of trade unions and societies, such as the British - Soviet Friendship Society, the Shaw Society and the Society for the Study of Labour History [U DAR/2/49-54 & 1/49].
Diaries and Memoirs
Of particular historical value for the early decades of the twentieth century are the memoirs which Arnot began to compile in the late 1960s [U DAR(2)2/5-36]. Much more than personal reminiscences, these are records of key figures on the Left and defining events during the most politically formative period of Arnot's life. Beginning with the 1906 general election, the topics covered include the outbreak of the First World War, the railway strike in 1919, the foundation of the Communist Party, the situation in Russia in the early 1920s and the launch of Labour Monthly [U DAR(2)/2/12, 18, 26, 23, 33, 8, 15 & 24]. The political contributions of various individuals, such as Willie Gallacher and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, are also discussed [U DAR(2)/2/25 & 36].
The Official Histories of the Miners' Trade Unions
In terms of sheer scale, the papers are dominated by the work which Arnot undertook in writing the official history of the miners' trade unions in Britain. As well as the usual range of research notes, drafts, proofs and illustrations associated with such scholarship, Arnot acquired an extensive collection of original sources, the majority in printed form, from the trade unions within the scope of his study. This is of particular note in the case of the Scottish miners' unions- the records of the Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan Mineworkers' Association and its communist-inspired rival the Mineworkers' Reform Union of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan are an important, if incomplete, source for studying the relationship between the Communist Party and the trade union movement in the early 1920s [U DAR(2)/4/85-116 & 132-148]. An outstanding single item, the provenance of which is somewhat obscure, is a bound volume of transcripts of the radio bulletins issued by the British Broadcasting Company for the duration of the General Strike in May 1926 [U DAR(2)/3/38]. Other material relating to the General Strike includes typescript notes of a series of meetings which were held in November 1926 between the Miners' Federation of Great Britain and the government, labelled as 'most secret', and a draft copy of the commentary on the strike by the General Secretary of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, A.J. Cook, entitled 'Nine days that shook British capitalism' [U DAR(2)/3/29-31 & 44]. Unfortunately Arnot's copy of the account of the proceedings of the Northumberland and Durham General Council and Joint Strike Committee, which documents his central role in the General Strike in the North East, has not survived, although there are typescript schedules listing the membership of the organisation [U DAR(2)/3/46]. Amongst the earliest trade union records collected by Arnot is a volume of printed annual reports of the Amalgamated Association of Miners of West Bromwich, which covers the years 1873 to 1887 [U DAR(2)/3/1]. However the majority of the material dates from the early to mid-twentieth century.
William Gallacher MP
Within the first deposit, a limited collection of papers by Willie Gallacher, the Communist Member of Parliament for West Fife from 1935 to 1950, are to be found. Included is his correspondence with Arnot and his wife Olive from 1945 to 1965 and draft extracts from various novels, poems and other writings which Gallacher composed primarily in the 1940s [U DAR/7/1 & 2-11]. Gallacher's political activities within the Communist movement are only indirectly covered by this material.
Communist Party of Great Britain
The early development of the Communist Party itself is covered by the material which Arnot assembled in the late 1950s in the process of working on a projected history of the party. Correspondence, minutes of meetings, biographical notes and various original records of the party are included - of particular note are those relating to the Communist Unity convention in July 1920, which formally established the Communist Party of Great Britain [U DAR/6/1]. In addition, the internal workings of the Communist Party are revealed by an incomplete series of congress documents for the years 1935, 1943, 1956, 1957 and 1961 which Arnot preserved amongst his papers. The records of the 25th Special Party Congress held in April 1957 are especially important, given that this congress constituted the first opportunity for the party as a whole to re-assess its position after the Soviet suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising [U DAR(2)/10/25-42]. The material documents the process of revising the party programme, The British road to socialism, and includes the report of the Commission on Inner-Party Democracy [U DAR(2)/10/29-32 & 33]. However an indication of the impact of events in Hungary on the morale of the membership is revealed by the text of an undelivered speech by Peter Fryer, appealing against expulsion from the party for his condemnation of the Soviet invasion [U DAR(2)/10/40].
William Morris Society
The early development of the William Morris Society is covered in some depth, from the perspective of Arnot's involvement in events. A series of correspondence from the early 1950s between the various founder members discusses the form commemoration of William Morris should take, prior to the meeting at Red House in 1953 which informally established the Society [U DAR(2)/12/1-3]. In addition the formulation of the Society's rules and statement of aims is covered [U DAR(2)/12/4 & 5]. Of particular interest for the late 1950s is the material documenting the response of the Society to the withdrawal of an edition of Morris's writings from the Moscow Book Exhibition in 1959, on the spurious grounds that it made unfavourable comparisons between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany [U DAR(2)/12/83-87]. The work of the Exhibition Committee involved in organising the 1957 exhibition 'The typographical adventure of William Morris' is detailed in a number of reports, as is the Society's campaign against an Air Ministry proposal to site an aviation aid close to Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire [U DAR(2)/12/61-70 & 79-82].
Marx Memorial Library
A similar depth of coverage is provided by Arnot's papers relating to the establishment of the Marx Memorial Library and his role in developing the institution as a centre for Marxist education. As Principal, Arnot served on both the General Council and the Finance and General Purposes Committee and accumulated an incomplete series of minutes and agenda documenting this work [U DAR(2)/11/13-16 & 47-50]. In addition there are a number of reports received by the General Council discussing relations with the trade union and co-operative movements, and the development of educational work [U DAR(2)/11/43, 44 & 52-56]. By far the greatest proportion of the material comprises syllabuses and lecture notes of the courses held in the 1930s and 1940s by the Faculties of Political Economy and Science [U DAR(2)/11/73-115]. The subjects covered are extremely wide ranging, from the standard themes of socialism/communism, revolution and the Soviet Union, to the more unusual, such as heredity, the building industry, Chartism, women, youth and co-operation. Arnot himself acted as lecturer and tutor, pioneering the study of political economy [U DAR(2)/11/104-110].
Arnot was a prolific writer of articles, lectures and pamphlets - his papers contain the drafts of a number of these, mainly on the subject of trade unionism and the miners, and an extensive series of articles published in Labour Monthly from the 1930s to the 1970s [U DAR/6/8]. Of particular interest is the material gathered for a projected history of Labour Monthly in 1962 and the drafts of a series of articles on the history of the Labour Research Department from 1972 [U DAR/6/3 & 7].
Finally, of the miscellaneous items within the two deposits, the draft of S.H. Whitehouse's 'The world of labour: fifty biographical portraits of key labour leaders', dating from 1905 and including extensive press cuttings from the Reynolds newspaper, is noteworthy [U DAR(2)/13/17]. A small collection of family photographs, including Arnot himself, and a copy of the Pioneer song book 1844 - 1944 are also of interest [U DAR/11/63 & 11].