Howard League for Penal Reform

Scope and Content

This collection includes: signed minutes of executive and other committees, 1927-1955; annual reports and accounts, 1867-2002; papers of Committee on the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 and other committees and working parties, 1970-1979; notebooks and associated records compiled by secretaries of the Howard Association, (c1876)-1906; subject files, 1833-1979; Howard League periodical and other publications, 1920-2002; research material, 1788-1987, including photographs and other illustrations of institutions and inmates in the UK and elsewhere, 19th cent-1959; records relating to Thomas Barwick Lloyd Baker [1852]-1886; records of Martin Wright, 1955-2002.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Howard Association was formed in 1866, taking its name from the philanthropist and penal reformer John Howard (1726?-1790). The organisation adopted its current title in 1921, following an amalgamation with the Penal Reform League (PRL). The Howard League exists to work for an improvement in prison conditions and rehabilitation of offenders.

The National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty was established in 1925; in 1948 it merged with the Howard League for Penal Reform. The Council's papers were deposited along with those of the League. The League papers also include those of Thomas Barwick Lloyd-Baker (1807-1886). Baker was a writer on penal conditions and founded the Hardwicke Reformatory school in 1852.

Reference: Chris Cook and David Waller, 'The Longman Guide to Sources in Contemporary British History 1: Organisations and Societies' (Longman, 1994); Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford); Christoph, James Bernard, 'Capital Punishment and British Politics: the British movement to abolish the death penalty 1945-57' (London, 1962).

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

There are restrictions on access to some documents. Unpublished financial records are closed for 30 years, other records fall within the Data Protection Act and are closed for the lifetime of the subject.

Acquisition Information

MSS.16A comprises manuscript notebooks belonging to successive secretaries of the Association, (William Tallack and Edward Grubb) recording visits to prisons in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and overseas, 1895-1906; articles and published letters on penal reform by Thomas Barwick Lloyd-Baker, 1858-1881 and other miscellaneous items. This was purchased by the University of Warwick Library in October 1966 and transferred to the Modern Records Centre in 1974.

MSS.16B includes League minute books, 1927-1955; the League's inter-war international papers; 'Penal Reformer', quarterly periodical of the Howard League and National Council for the Abolition of Death Penalty 1934-1939; and other publications of the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. This was deposited on 8 November 1974 and 11 February 1975.

MSS.16C contains miscellaneous documents on juvenile delinquency, 1833-1966; the papers of the League's predecessor, Penal Reform League, annual reports, 1911, 1913 and leaflets; and papers from the Hardwicke Reformatory, 1854-86. This was purchased by the University of Warwick Library in October 1966 and transferred to the Modern Records Centre in 1974.

MSS.16D comprises legal correspondence and was deposited on 17 June 1977.

MSS.16E consists of reports and year books published by the Central Howard Association Inc., 1901-1921 (incomplete). It was deposited on 5 July 1977.

MSS.16F comprises papers of Martin Wright, 1970s. It was deposited on 18 January 1982.

MSS.16G contains letters to the press by Martin Wright as Director, 1973-1977, and Dr Wright's copies of minutes and papers of Council and other committees, 1984-1999. It was deposited on 24 September 2002.

MSS.16X (originally assigned the reference MSS.16H) consists of annual reports and other publications. It was transferred from the University of Warwick Library on 10 February 2002 as a gift.

MSS.16i and MSS.16J consist of additional papers of Martin Wright, with annual reports and other publications. They were deposited on 11 February 2003 and 2 August 2005.

Other Finding Aids


Further deposits are expected.

Related Material

Bound volumes of printed reports and pamphlets from the Howard Association, 1867-1912, are held in Warwick University Library's Special Collections - see library catalogue for further information.

Further papers relating to the Floud Committee have been deposited in Northamptonshire Record Office.

Records of the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1923-[1949] (MSS.16B/ADP) are listed separately.

Records of Radical Alternatives to Prison, 1972-1987 (MSS.110), and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO), 1888-1978 (MSS.67), are also held at the Modern Records Centre.