The series contains 12,933 items of correspondence exchanged between 1879-1969, with 1381 correspondents. Owing to the inclusion of copy letters, both correspondence from and to Scott is included in the collection, providing evidence of both sides of the exchange which takes place. Items in the series also include newspaper cuttings from the Manchester Guardian and a variety of other publications, internally and externally generated memoranda, pamphlets, flyers, and staff index cards, providing details of employment history.
Scott’s editorial correspondence contains letters exchanged with figures of historical importance and eminence in almost every imaginable field, from politics and economics, to history, science and the arts. These individuals often contributed articles to the paper, and met with the editor to discuss current events and affairs. Examples of correspondents include politicians such as Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill, and also Marion Phillips, first woman organiser of the Labour party, and Mary Agnes Hamilton, politician and broadcaster. Campaigners for women’s suffrage are represented in the correspondence by Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst, and Charlotte Despard, amongst many others.
The Liberal perspective of Scott and the Manchester Guardian can be seen in the interactions between Scott and Roger Casement, Irish nationalist, Rabindranath Tagore, poet and educationist, Emily Hobhouse, social activist and charity worker, Chaim Weizmann, Zionist, and social reformers Eleanor Rathbone and James Joseph Mallon. Scott creates a dialogue with these individuals about their fields of expertise, using the paper to provide a platform for the promotion of their views and causes. The editors and proprietors of other newspapers are also featured in the correspondence, including William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Express, and James Louis Garvin of The Observer. Their correspondence includes discussion of current events and politics, and also expressions of admiration for Scott and the Manchester Guardian.
Literary figures also feature in the correspondence, such as George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, William Butler Yeats, Harley Granville-Barker and Arthur Ransome. Prior to writing Swallows and Amazons, Ransome acted as a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in Russia and Estonia, also writing a long running column for the paper on fishing.
In addition to occasional and expert contributors, there is a vast array of correspondence with members of staff of the paper, relating to editorial, technical, business and staffing concerns. Also included is correspondence with distinguished members of staff and with the notable editorial team assembled by Scott, including C.E. Montague, L.T. Hobhouse, W.T. Arnold, Allan Monkhouse, Neville Cardus, J.L. Hammond, and James Bone. These letters provide insight into the operation of a newspaper, alongside an impression of the colossal impact of events such as the First and Second World Wars. The correspondence also provides evidence of discussion of a vast range of national events of political and historical import, including the Boer War, the General strike 1926, the Easter rising, and the fortunes of the Liberal party. The exchange of views on international events also feature heavily, including the treaty of Versailles, negotiations for peace and disarmament following the First World War, the Spanish Civil War, and the rise of Fascism in Italy and the Nazi party in Germany.
Threaded through Scott’s correspondence is material relating the influence of the paper’s location in Manchester, and the significance of the Manchester Guardian in the history of the city. It can be seen in the paper’s approach to trade and industry, to the arts, and to education. The centrality of trade and industry in Manchester meant that these subjects became a focal point of the Manchester Guardian. Such was the Manchester Guardian’s influence, that by 1920, Scott was able to employ the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes to produce a series of supplements for the Manchester Guardian Commercial on proposals for the reconstruction of Europe following the First World War.
Scott believed in the importance of producing a high quality of articles and reviews on the arts, and ensured coverage in the Manchester Guardian for literature, art, theatre and music. This would lead to a close relationship between the paper and Manchester’s resident symphony orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra. Scott would also become a supporter of the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Manchester Art Gallery, and of the production of Ford Madox Brown’s Manchester murals for the city’s town hall.
Scott also used the Manchester Guardian to champion the importance of access to education, evident in his work as a trustee of Owens College, which would become the University of Manchester. Scott was also one of the founders of Withington Girls School, established in 1890. This belief in the importance of education for women may be seen as an element of his more general perspective on women’s rights, which would lead to his influential support of the women’s suffrage movement.