New Statesman Archive

Scope and Content

Spanning the years 1944 to 1988, the Archive records in minute detail the magazine's affairs, its conduct with politicians and thinkers of the day, and its correspondence with contributors. It falls into two discrete sections: Editorial Correspondence and Review Correspondence. The former includes correspondence to and from the editors on the then-current topics igniting the magazine's leaders, feature pages and letters columns. The latter is principally composed of communications between the New Statesman's distinguished literary editors and their contributors, among them many notable authors and commentators in their own right. Both sections reveal the behind-the-scenes debate generated by the commissioning and subsequent publication of essays and criticism and show how successive editors, deputy editors and literary editors conducted the magazine's business with a blend of diplomacy and vigour. The Archive also contains legal documents relating to staff contracts and correspondence with authors and agents regarding books published by Turnstile Press, the financially unsuccessful New Statesman imprint.

Editorial Correspondence

The Editorial Correspondence relates principally to the period 1944-65 with letters classified by topic. The material is separated into different boxes for each of the editors: principally Kingsley Martin himself, with smaller volumes of material relating to his successors, John Freeman and Paul Johnson. Correspondents from the post-war period include Hugh Gaitskill, G. B. Shaw and Leonard Woolf. The 1950s and early 1960s files include letters generated by the Russell-Khrushchev-Dulles Correspondence. In November 1957, the New Statesman carried 'An Open Letter to Eisenhower and Khrushchev' by Bertrand Russell in which he implored Americans and Soviets to abandon 'the attempt to spread [your] creed by force of arms'. In what was to be an unprecedented (and publicity-generating) coup for the magazine, the letter drew a lengthy personal response from Khrushchev and, later, one from US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

Review Correspondence

The Review Correspondence covers 1956-88, a period during which the literary editors of the New Statesman included such distinguished critics as David Caute, Claire Tomalin and Martin Amis. Their correspondents amount to an impressive body of writers, and the Archive contains lively exchanges with, among many others, W. H. Auden, Salman Rushdie, Terry Eagleton, Ted Hughes, Iris Murdoch, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwen and Stephen Spender. The letters are principally of interest for the light they shed on the process of commissioning arts features and reviews.

Administrative / Biographical History

Launched in 1913 as a radical organ of the left, the New Statesman's origins can be traced back to the Fabian Society. It was some of the more prominent Fabians, Sidney Webb and George Bernard Shaw among them, who first conceived the idea of a weekly magazine, believing it the best means of propagating their values among the educated classes. From its inception, the New Statesman was editorially committed to analysis of issues of public and international interest and the promotion of rational values in society. Launched with a budget of 5000 and a pre-publication subscription list of 2300, its influence rose in the post-war years and the appointment of Kingsley Martin as Editor in 1931 coincided with the weekly's merger with competitors Athenaeum and Nation. A few years characterised by uncertainty of direction followed, but by 1945 the New Statesman had attained a weekly net circulation of 70,000, with an estimated six readers per single issue sold. At its peak in the mid-1960s, circulation had exceeded 90,000 and the magazine was indisputably the leading voice in political commentary in the United Kingdom.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Special Collections Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Bought at auction, Sotheby's London, on 12 December 1991.


Prepared by John Farrant, September 2002, with acknowledgement to Neil Parkinson.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available in the Library and also on its website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, the Library can supply, at a charge, photocopies, photographs or digital copies.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Related Material

SxMs 11, Kingsley Martin Archive

SxMs 55, C. H. Rolph Papers


Edward Hyams, The New Statesman: The history of the first fifty years, 1913-1963(Longmans, 1963)

C. H. Rolph,Kingsley: The life, letters and diaries of Kingsley Martin(Gollancz, 1973)