Papers of Sir Ernest Benn (1875-1954), publisher, and Lady (Gwendolen) Benn

Scope and Content

This collection includes: published works by Sir Ernest Benn; papers relating to the Individualist Bookshop Ltd, the Society of individualists and National League for freedom; cuttings books.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in 1875, Ernest Benn first found success as a publisher of technical and trade journals. However, one of his early ventures, running the 'House' journal proved a failure, but nevertheless provided him with some important lessons for the future. Marrying Gwendolen Dorothy Andrews in 1903, together they had three sons and two daughters. By 1925, Benn had owned or controlled 25 papers, largely trade journals, of which 16 had lost money, leaving 9 successful ones. Succeeding to the baronetcy in 1923, he started a book publishing company, Ernest Benn Ltd., which moved into an area of wider readership than the trade journals could achieve. In 1926, he founded the Individualist Bookshop, and found increasing fame as a public speaker, talking on the need to increase the workers' sense of participation in an industry (a view he later regretted), and on personal liberty, and how this was reduced through government intervention. Benn continued to publish throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and was prosecuted in 1950 for failing to fill in the Census form. He retired around this time in favour of his eldest son, John. He died in 1954.

Reference: Christine Shaw, article in 'Dictionary of Business Biography', Vol.1 (London, 1984).

Access Information

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

Other Finding Aids

Custodial History

The collection was deposited with the Centre by the Benn family in 1984.

Related Material

Additional records of Lady (Gwendolen) Benn - diaries and travels