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.
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.
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.