Malcolm MacDonald Papers

Scope and Content

The personal and official papers of Malcolm MacDonald, covering all periods of his life from early childhood to retirement. For further details, see below under Arrangement.

Administrative / Biographical History

Son of Ramsay MacDonald, Malcolm MacDonald was educated at Bedales School and Queen's College, Oxford and elected Labour MP for Bassetlaw 1929. He held the seat for the Labour Party until 1931 and for National Labour 1931-1935, and was NationalLabour MP for Ross and Cromarty 1936-1945. He held ministerial office in the Dominions & Colonial Office 1931-1940, and was involved, among other issues, in the controversies over the future of Eire and Palestine and the promotion of colonialdevelopment policy. In 1940 he was Minister of Health for a short period and then went to Canada as British High Commissioner, 1941-1946. He was then appointed Governor General of Malaya and his responsibilities were subsequently extended to coverall S.E. Asia. In 1955 he became High Commissioner for the U.K. in India and in 1960 was appointed co-chairman of the international conference on Laos. The final part of his administrative and diplomatic career was spent in Africa - Governor andCommander in Chief of Kenya 1963-4, and High Commissioner for Kenya after it became independent. He was then involved in various diplomatic missions to other parts of Africa especially Nigeria and Rhodesia. After retirement he participated innumerous domestic and overseas concerns, was Chancellor of the University of Durham, and President of Voluntary Service Overseas, and travelled in Africa and China.


The papers and the catalogue are divided into the following broad categories:

  • 1. Early years and education
  • 2. Labour Party
  • 3. Parliamentary career
  • 4. Dominions and Colonial Office (including Australia and New Zealand, Africa, Palestine, India and Ireland).
  • 5. Ministry of Health
  • 6. Canada
  • 7. South East Asia (including Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak, North Borneo, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia)
  • 8. India
  • 9. Laos
  • 10. China
  • 11. Africa (including Kenya, Rhodesia and Nigeria)
  • 12. Retirement (including visits to China, Durham University and Voluntary Service Overseas)
  • 13. Personal Papers (including personal and private correspondence, papers concerning properties and papers concerning personal finance)
  • 14. Writings (including speeches, books, articles, interviews, diaries and autobiography)
  • 15. Printed material (including newspaper cuttings)
Within each section the arrangement is broadly chronological. Papers relating to his official duties are placed first, then official despatches and telegrams, then correspondence. However there has been no artificial separation into thesesub-sections.

The Additional Malcolm MacDonald Papers follow the arrangement of the main collection. In addition to the categories listed above, the additional papers include photographs, mostly of MacDonald himself, and of his school years.

The personal and family section of the Additional papers includes a small quantity of correspondence and other papers of Ramsay MacDonald.

Access Information

The papers have been given to the University under certain conditions and under the superintendence of Trustees. Searchers must sign a declaration promising to observe the conditions of deposit.

The list was compiled before the papers were examined by members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who removed a substantial amount under the 30 year rule and for other reasons. In the published list files from which material was removed inthis way are marked by an asterisk. Batches of the withheld material are returned from time to time under the FCO's on-going procedure for reviewing retained material, and where this has occurred it has been noted in the search room copy of thelist, and the online list has been updated.

Acquisition Information

Presented by the Trustees of the Malcolm MacDonald Papers, 1986; additional papers were given by Andrew Lochhead, 1995, from the papers of his late wife Sheila, Malcolm MacDonald's sister.

Other Finding Aids

Separate published catalogues for the Malcolm MacDonald Papers and the Additional Malcolm Macdonald Papers.

Online catalogue

Separated Material

MacDonald's main photograph collection was given to the Royal Commonwealth Society and is now located, with the Society's other collections, in Cambridge University Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assistwhere possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Sanger, Clyde, Malcolm MacDonald: bringing an end to empire (Liverpool, 1995)