Trades Union Congress

Scope and Content

Predominantly includes the files of the TUC's central registry, 1920-1991, comprising correspondence, internal and external documents, minutes, reports, printed material and press statements.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Trades Union Congress is a voluntary association of trade unions which was formed in Manchester in 1868. It forms the largest pressure group in the United Kingdom and works to improve the rights and conditions of working people. In achieving its aims the TUC has played a role both in many Government organisations and in the political wing of the Labour movement. Such a history has resulted in its archives being a rich source for the study of the political, economic and social history of the United Kingdom in the twentieth century.

The TUC is governed by an annual Congress at which representatives of affiliated trade unions meet to determine policy and to elect the executive body of the organisation. Between 1869 and 1921, the executive work of the Congress was carried out by the Parliamentary Committee. In 1920, the Committee was composed of sixteen members who dealt with a relatively narrow range of labour affairs. Changes in society during the First World War led to a widening of the TUC's functions and consequently the formation of the General Council in 1921, which was composed of a representative sample of trade unionists. The General Council is assisted by a number of committees, including Finance and General Purposes, Disputes, Education, Organisation, Social Insurance, International, Economic and Production. These in turn are served by departments, the number and nature of which varies according to the needs and priorities of the time. The responsibility for the everyday work of the General Council lies with the General Secretary who is assisted by a Deputy General Secretary and one or two Assistant General Secretaries.

In the regions, the TUC is organised into Regional Councils which cover England and Wales. Trade union activity in Scotland and Northern Ireland is co-ordinated by the Scottish TUC and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, both of which are separate organisations with close working relationships with the TUC. At a local level branches of affiliated trade unions unite to form trades councils.

Reference: Ross M. Martin, TUC: The growth of a pressure group, 1868-1976 (Oxford, 1980).


The TUC kept its records in a central registry which was developed in the early 1920s. It was during this period that it started to keep detailed subject files. These files record the growth and development of the TUC, its relationship with affiliated unions, government, employers and unions in other countries. They were arranged by subject according to a decimal classification scheme. This scheme forms the basis of the catalogue of the archives:

000-099: Trade unionism

100-199: Labour conditions

200-299: Industrial relations

300-399: Capitalism

400-499: Public finance

500-599: Commerce and economics

600-699: Industries

700-799: Politics and government; publicity

800-899: Social issues

900-999: International

These were further sub-divided into smaller units, e.g. 966 is the classification for West Africa and 966.1 for the Gambia.

The Centre's catalogue combines these references with its own prefix, so that a file on the Gambia dating from 1960-5 would become MSS.292B/966.1/1. The prefix MSS.292B identifies the records as belonging to the 1960-70 archive, records catalogued as MSS.292 belong to the 1920-60 archive; those with the prefix MSS.292D to the 1970-90 deposit; those with the prefix MSS.292E to the 1962-1991 deposit. Files with the prefix MSS.292C belong to the supplement to the 1920-60 archive. These files did not originate from the central registry and were deposited at the Centre at a later date than the registry files for the same period.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

The TUC began depositing its registry files in the Modern Records Centre in 1987 with the deposit of the archive for 1920-1960 (MSS.292). There have been four subsequent deposits: the archive for 1960-1970 (MSS.292B) and additional material for 1920-1960 (MSS.292C), deposited in 1995; files for 1970-1990 (MSS.292D), deposited in 1996; and additional files 1962-1991 (MSS.292E), deposited in 2002.

Other Finding Aids

Alternative Form Available

The Parliamentary Committee and General Council minutes, Annual Congress Reports, TUC pamphlets and selected other series of papers are also available on microform. The following are held at Warwick University Library (classmarks given in brackets): annual reports, 1869-1925 (microfilm periodical); pamphlets and leaflets, 1887-1947 (Microfiche 203-204); pamphlets and leaflets, 1948-1966 (Microfiche 439); periodicals and serials, 1918-1977 (Microfilm 2505-2520); Parliamentary Committee minutes, 1888-1922 (Microfilm 293-297); General Council minutes, September 1921-December 1946 (Microfiche 201-202); committee minutes and papers, 1922-1953 (Microfilm 2163-2187).

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this archive, apart from the requirements of copyright law.

Appraisal Information

The collection has been weeded for duplicates.


This is an on-going deposit.

Related Material

Also available in the Centre are the papers of George Woodcock (1904-1979), TUC General Secretary 1960-1969 (MSS.292/6/GW) and Dr Robert Murray (1916-1998), the TUC's Medical and Industrial Safety Advisor 1962-1974 (MSS.292/6/RM). Links to these catalogues are available from this collection level description.

Some manuscript material, such as the Gertrude Tuckwell papers, and TUC publications, are held in the TUC Library at the London Metropolitan University. The archive of the Wales Trades Union Council Cymru (1974-) is available in the Department of Manuscripts and Records, National Library of Wales (references C 1992/5O and C 1996/33).