Guardian (formerly Manchester Guardian) Archive
Date range: 1821-1970s.
The Manchester Guardian was founded by John Edward Taylor (1791-1844) in 1821, two years after the Peterloo Massacre.
In the 1880s and '90s, under the editorship of the legendary Charles Prestwich Scott (1846-1932), it was transformed from an essentially provincial journal into a newspaper of national and international standing.
Scott pursued a consistently radical, liberal editorial stance during his fifty-seven years in the post, even in the face of public hostility. He championed Irish Home Rule, condemned the excesses of imperialism, and criticized British policy in South Africa immediately before and during the Boer War.
The Manchester Guardian's radicalism continued under successive editors. In 1959 the title of the newspaper changed to the Guardian, to reflect its national distribution and news coverage, and in 1970 the main editorial offices and production facilities moved to London.
The newspaper and its archive are a major source for studies of the political, military, economic, social and technological developments of the 20th century.
The archive consists of two elements: the records of the newspaper as a business, and editorial correspondence and despatches from reporters.
Business records include:
- partnership contracts and legal documents relating to the foundation and subsequent ownership of the paper, leases of properties, and libel actions
- financial records such as ledgers, cash books, balance sheets and financial correspondence
- circulation and distribution records, including detailed sets of statistics
- employment records and records relating to the production of the newspaper, containing information on developments in printing technology, changes of premises, working conditions, wage rates and trade union employment agreements
The correspondence and despatches are a source of immense importance for studies of almost every aspect of the late 19th and 20th centuries.
The period of Scott's editorship (1872-1929) is represented by two classes of correspondence.
There are nearly 4,400 personal letters to and from Scott, exchanged with some 1,100 individuals. The second class comprises editorial correspondence, numbering 13,000 items from over 1,300 persons.
Scott's correspondence reveals his close personal and political contacts with many of the leading statesmen and politicians of his time, such as Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Lord Haldane, Lord Grey of Fallodon, Ramsay MacDonald, Lord Beaverbrook, Lord Beveridge, Sir Samuel Hoare and Leslie Hore-Belisha.
His interest in causes such as women's suffrage, Irish nationalism and the establishment of a Jewish homeland is illuminated in correspondence with the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, the subsequent Irish rebel Sir Roger Casement, and the Zionists Chaim Weizmann and Sir Lewis Namier.
Leading literary figures also feature in the correspondence, such as George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, John Masefield and Arthur Ransome.
In the post-war period, under the editorships of Alfred Powell Wadsworth (1944-1956) and Alastair Hetherington (1956-1975), Labour politicians figure prominently, such as George Brown, James Callaghan, Richard Crossman, Hugh Gaitskell, Roy Jenkins and Harold Wilson, while Jo Grimond represents the Liberals.
Among the prominent Guardian staff members who feature in the correspondence are Neville Cardus, Alistair Cooke, Bernard Levin, Malcolm Muggeridge, Peter Preston, Terence Prittie, Arthur Ransome and Brian Redhead.
The large collection of despatches submitted by the Guardian's foreign and war correspondents is perhaps the richest source for the historian.
Almost every major event and crisis of the 20th century is represented in the archive:
- the First World War
- the Russian Revolution
- the Abdication Crisis of 1936
- the rise of Fascism and the Second World War
- the founding of Israel and the later Middle East conflicts
- the Suez Crisis
- the Korean and Vietnam Wars
- the Cold War
- the development of the European Economic Community and so forth
There are also files on industry, technology, transport, the churches, the police, and social issues such as housing, employment and poverty.
- the papers of W.E.A. Axon (journalist)
- the papers of W.P. Crozier (editor, 1932–1944)
- the papers of A.N. Monkhouse (critic)
- the papers of C.E. Montague (journalist)
- the papers of Howard Spring (journalist)
- the papers of A.P. Wadsworth (editor, 1944–1956)
- Peter McNiven, 'The Guardian Archives in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 74 (1992), pp. 65–84.
Published microfilm of C.P. Scott papers: The Papers of C.P. Scott, 1846–1932, from the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (Marlborough: Adam Matthew Publications, 1992).
The Guardian Newspaper and Media Archive, based in London, looks after the newspaper's recent archives.
The University of Manchester is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.