Oswald Mosley Papers, principally deposited by Lady Diana Mosley

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises personal and political papers of Sir Oswald Mosley, including some papers of his second wife, Lady Diana Mosley (formerly Guinness, nee Mitford). The papers largely cover the post-war period from the 1940s-1980s, although a small amount of earlier material can be found in the collection. For the majority of surviving earlier papers of Sir Oswald Mosley covering the 1920s-1940s, please consult the catalogue of papers deposited by Nicholas Mosley [catalogue reference OMN: catalogue ].

The papers catalogued as reference OMD shed light on Oswald Mosley's political ideologies after the war, particularly his ideas of 'Europe a Nation' and his political activities as leader of the Union Movement, established in 1948 until his withdrawal from active leadership of the party in 1966. The papers continue to cover his political activities and public life from 1966 until his death in December 1980, including his attempts to rehabilitate his character through the press, television and radio appearances during the late 1960s and 1970s. During this period, Mosley was supported by the work of Robert Row and Jeffrey Hamm of the Union Movement, 'Mosley Secretariat' and Sanctuary Press.

The papers comprise correspondence on personal and political matters covering the period 1921-1981, including correspondence with his biographer, Robert Skidelsky; political and literary writings of Sir Oswald Mosley, including copies of some of his publications, typescripts and manuscript drafts; a number of broadcast transcripts; transcripts of lecture and speeches delivered by Sir Oswald; sound recordings of television and radio broadcasts relating to Oswald Mosley, Diana Mosley and the Union Movement; papers relating to Sir Oswald Mosley's autobiography 'My Life', published in 1968; legal papers relating to libel actions pursued by Oswald Mosley against the BBC and British and international newspapers; papers relating to the detention of Diana and Oswald Mosley under Defence Regulation 18B during the period May 1940-November 1943 and restrictions after their release; papers relating to objections to David Pryce-Jones' book 'Unity Mitford-a Quest'; subject files created by Union Movement and Mosley Secretariat officials, including press cuttings; memoranda to Oswald Mosley from Robert Row and Jeffrey Hamm of the Union Movement and Mosley Secretariat on political and administrative topics; publications, including periodicals, of the British Union of Fascists and Union Movement; a large selection of press cuttings relating to Oswald Mosley's personal life, his political activities, national and international political and economic issues during the 1950s-1970s and cuttings relating to Mosley and Mitford family members; a small number of personal items, including photographs, passports, language notebooks and collected books.

Administrative / Biographical History

Oswald Ernald Mosley, eldest son of Oswald Mosley and Katherine Maud Heathcote, was born on 16 November 1896. He attended Winchester school and Sandhurst, and was commissioned into the 16th Lancers cavalry regiment at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, but later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He injured his leg in a flying accident while in England, shortly after gaining his pilot's certificate and was recalled to his former regiment, spending the winter of 1915-1916 in the trenches. He was invalided out of the war due to his damaged leg in 1916, and spent the last two years of the war working in London in the Ministry of Munitions and in the Foreign Office.

He was elected Unionist MP for Harrow in 1918 and was a member of the National party coalition led by Lloyd George. He rapidly became disillusioned with the government and in November 1920 he left the government over the Black and Tan atrocities in Ireland, which he condemned in the House of Commons. His political outlook at the time, informed by his experiences during the war, his sympathy for ordinary working people, and his concern to improve social conditions, was thought to be more suited to the Liberal party, and he was involved in discussions with Robert Cecil during the early 1920s to form a Centre Party, but he was re-elected as an Independent MP for Harrow in the General Elections of 1922 and 1923. He joined the Labour party in 1924, and stood for election in Ladywood, Birmingham that year, being narrowly defeated by Neville Chamberlain. He was supported in his political career by his first wife, Cynthia Curzon, whom he married in 1920. Cynthia also joined the Labour party, and accompanied Mosley on visits to India in 1925 and the USA in 1926 to study labour conditions. The couple had three children, Vivien (b. 1921), Nicholas (b. 1923), and Michael (b. 1932). Cynthia Mosley died of peritonitis in 1933.

Mosley was elected Labour MP for Smethwick in 1926, and was elected to the party's National Executive Committee the following year. He was re-elected in the general election of 1929, and was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by Ramsay MacDonald, with special responsibility for unemployment. In response to the economic crisis and large scale unemployment of the period, Mosley proposed a programme, known as the 'Mosley Memorandum', which aimed to stimulate the economy and provide employment by using public funds to promote industrial expansion. When the Cabinet rejected these proposals, Mosley resigned from the government. He formed the New Party in 1931, supported by Cynthia, and by other former Labour MPs including John Strachey, John Beckett and Robert Forgan, as well as others including Harold Nicolson and Cyril Joad. The New Party contested several seats at the 1931 General Election but failed to win any. Mosley was drawn to the success of Italian fascism in solving some of the economic and social problems of the early 1930s, and made several visits to Rome, meeting Mussolini in January 1932. He disbanded the New Party and formed the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932. Some of those who had supported the New Party became officials in the BUF, but others were uneasy about Mosley's adoption of fascism, and by the anti-semitic views increasingly expressed by the movement. The BUF was initially successful, and attracted large numbers of new members and some mainstream support. However, a meeting at Olympia in June 1934 was disrupted by political opponents, and the ensuing violence had an adverse effect on BUF support.

The militaristic elements of the BUF, such as the uniforms, fascist salute and organised marches, together with the movement's willingness to exploit existing tensions by employing anti-semitic rhetoric and campaigning in Jewish areas in the East End of London, highlighted sinister parallels with the Nazi regime in Germany, and BUF activities were undermined by the passing of the Public Order Act in 1936 which outlawed the wearing of political uniforms, and the use of threatening and abusive language, and restricted rights to organise marches.

The BUF campaigned against war with Germany, and held a Peace rally at Earls Court in the summer of 1939. After the outbreak of war, the movement continued with its peace campaign. Mosley, along with many other BUF members and supporters, was imprisoned under Defence Regulations 18B in May 1940 amidst fears of a German invasion of Britain. He was initially held in Brixton prison, but in 1941 he was moved to Holloway to join his second wife, Diana. Mosley had married Diana, one of the Mitford sisters, and the divorced wife of Bryan Guinness, in 1936 in Berlin, although they had been in a relationship for some years before this. Mosley had two sons with Diana, Alexander (born 1938) and Max (born 1940). Oswald and Diana Mosley were released from prison in 1943 on the grounds of Mosley's ill health, and the couple were placed under house arrest. They settled first at Crux Easton in Hampshire, and moved to Crowood in Wiltshire in 1945 where Mosley ran a farm.

In February 1948, following the publication of his book 'The Alternative', he established the Union Movement, which advocated British integration in Europe, with the exploitation of British colonies in Africa to provide foods and other raw materials that European countries lacked. The Union Movement also campaigned against immigration to Britain from Commonwealth countries. Mosley established the Euphorion Press in an attempt to publish the works of right-wing authors, and Diana Mosley edited a monthly right-wing journal, 'The European' between 1953 and 1959. The Mosleys left England in 1949 and settled first in Ireland at Clonfert in County Galway, and afterwards in France at 'La Temple de la Gloire' in Orsay. They continued to make regular visits to England, and Mosley stood for election for the Union Movement in North Kensington in 1959 and Shoreditch and Finsbury in 1966. He resigned from active leadership of the movement in 1966, at the age of 70, and began to focus on the rehabilitation of his character, through the publication of his autobiography, 'My Life' in 1968, and his appearances on television and radio. A biography of Oswald Mosley was published by Robert Skidelsky in 1975. Oswald Mosley died on 3 December 1980.

Sources: Administrative history for the British Union Collection held at the University of Sheffield Library, http://www.shef.ac.uk/library/special/bunion.html Accessed March 2005; Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, 1975; Nicholas Mosley, The Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley, 1896-1933, 1982; Nicholas Mosley, Beyond the Pale: Sir Oswald Mosley and Family, 1933-1980, 1983.

Arrangement

The papers were in considerable disorder when received by University of Birmingham, due to their complicated custodial history. Where sequences of records were found to have a distinct original order or arrangement, this has been maintained when cataloguing and a note of this can be found in descriptions at series level in the catalogue. Papers have been arranged in the catalogue in eleven series, according to record type or subject:

  • OMD/1 Personal and political correspondence.
  • OMD/2 Political and literary writings.
  • OMD/3 Speeches, broadcasts, interviews and conferences.
  • OMD/4 Autobiography and related papers.
  • OMD/5 Personalia.
  • OMD/6 Legal papers.
  • OMD/7 Union Movement and Mosley Secretariat subject files.
  • OMD/8 Administrative papers of the Union Movement and Mosley Secretariat.
  • OMD/9 Publications of the British Union of Fascists and the Union Movement.
  • OMD/10 Press cuttings.
  • OMD/11 Publications and papers of other political organisations.

Researchers should be aware that there is some overlap between these sequences. For example, the main files of press cuttings can be found in series 7 within the Mosley Secretariat and Union Movement subject files and in series 10, but some press cuttings can also in be found in files of correspondence and papers in other sections of the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Access

The majority of this collection is open to all registered researchers. The collection contains personal information of some living individuals. Access and use of this information is covered by our 'Access to Archives and Manuscripts' declaration in order to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. Where records relating to living individuals are of a sensitive nature, further access restrictions have been applied to the records, either in the form of a closure period or by the creation of serving copies of documents with personal data removed. Where a closure period has been applied, small sections of the collection will not be generally available to researchers until the date specified at file or series level.

Acquisition Information

Deposited with Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham by Lady Diana Mosley in 1994, with an additional deposit in 2005. A further deposit of papers was received from a member of the Mosley family in 2006.

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue is available on the University of Birmingham's online archive catalogue: http://calmview.bham.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=XOMD A paper copy is also available for consultation in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections reading room.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Many of the sound recordings in this collection are reel-to-reel recordings and require migration to a modern format before they can be made accessible. These are not currently available to researchers.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Philippa Bassett and Angela Skitt, 2011. Administrative history produced by Helen Fisher, 2005. Catalogue completed August 2011. Prepared in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Director of Special Collections (email: special-collections@bham.ac.uk). Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the papers of Oswald Mosley is complex. Oswald and Diana Mosley moved residence frequently, between locations in England, Ireland and France, and is it likely that some papers have been lost. From information provided by Lady Diana Mosley, it is known that some pre-war papers of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists were destroyed during bombing in the Second World War. Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley's biographer, also refers to some fascist records being seized by police in 1940 and a fire at Mosley's home in Ireland in 1954 [R. Skidelsky, 'Oswald Mosley', MacMillan, 1975, p. 545]. The papers now at the University of Birmingham have been gathered from a number of sources, in accessions 1994/21, 1994/30, 2005/71 and 2006/32 as outlined below.

Shortly before his death in 1980, some of Oswald Mosley's political and personal papers were transferred to the custody of his son, Nicholas Mosley, and were used as research material for the first volume of his biography of his parents Oswald and Cynthia Mosley, 'The Rules of the Game' published in 1982. After Oswald Mosley's death, some papers in the possession of Lady Diana Mosley were also made available to Nicholas Mosley for use during his research.

In 1994, the University of Birmingham reached two separate agreements for the deposit of papers of Sir Oswald Mosley, firstly for those in the possession of Nicholas Mosley, and a second agreement for papers in the possession of Lady Diana Mosley. The majority of papers deposited by Nicholas Mosley in 1994 can be found catalogued as reference 'OMN' [accession 1994/21]. However with permission of the depositor, a small number of items were catalogued as part of the Diana Mosley deposit where it was appropriate to restore original provenance. Information about this is retained on the deposit file.

The majority of the papers in accession 1994/30, deposited by Lady Diana Mosley, were held in two locations. Some papers were stored at her home in Orsay, France; other secretariat papers came from a small office kept by the Mosleys in London and were temporarily cared for by John Warburton and Fred Bailey after the office closed. These papers were collected together in London in 1994 and were transferred to the University of Birmingham. These papers are catalogued here as reference 'OMD'.

A small additional deposit of records in 2005 included additional sound recordings and one manuscript notebook of Oswald Mosley [accession 2005/71]. In 2006, further manuscript notebooks of Oswald Mosley, containing drafts of his autobiography and letters to his biographer, were deposited by another family member [accession 2006/32]. These additional items have been included in this catalogue, reference 'OMD'.

Accruals

No accruals are expected.

Related Material

Collections also held at Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections: OMN: Oswald Mosley Papers: Nicholas Mosley deposit; MS124: Papers of Jeffrey Hamm; MS196: Publications of post-war British Fascist movements, MS784: Newspapers 'Action', 'The Blackshirt', and Fascist Week'.

Location of Originals

GB 0200 British Union Collection; GB 0200 MS 238 John Beckett Collection; GB 0200 MS 166 William Joyce Manuscripts; GB 0200 MS 119 Robert Saunders Papers; GB 0200 MS 180 Blackshirts.

'Comrade', the journal of the Friends of Oswald Mosley, 1986-2006, available online at: www.oswaldmosley.com/comrade

Bibliography

R. Skidelsky, 'Oswald Mosley' (MacMillan, 1975); Nicholas Mosley 'The Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley, 1896-1933' (1982); Nicholas Mosley 'Beyond the Pale: Sir Oswald Mosley and Family, 1933-1980', (1983).

Subjects