in private possession
K Morgan, July 1991
Historical Manuscripts Commission
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Enquiries concerning access should be addressed in the first place to the Historical Manuscripts Commission.
Of the leading figures in the Attlee governments, few can have had so volatile nor so intellectually distinguished a career as John Strachey. The son of John St Loe Strachey. the editor of the Spectator, Strachey received his education at Eton and Oxford, leaving the latter without a degree in 1922. Although known at Oxford as a Conservative, Strachey joined the Labour Party and its more radical affiliate the ILP in the winter of 1923-24, As a scion of the establishment he was almost immediately offered the labour nomination for the Aston constituency in Birmingham. with he contested unsuccessfully at the 1924 general election.
The Birmingham Labour Party also enjoyed the services of another highly-placed convert to socialism in Sir Oswald Mosley, and it was with the future Fascist leader that Strachey struck up his most significant political relationship of the 1920s. The so-called Birmingham proposals of 1925 and Strachey’s first book Revolution by Reason, both of which were intended to address the glaring inadequacies of Labour’s economic thinking, were the first fruits of this collaboration. For a time Strachey edited both the ILP’s Socialist Review and the Miner and then in 1929 he contested Aston again, this time successfully. As an MP he associated himself with Mosley’s criticisms of the MacDonald government for its timidity and its financial orthodoxy and in 1931 was one of six Labour MPs who resigned to form the New Party. Later that year, however, he broke with Mosley over the latter’s increasingly right-wing outlook and in a world beset by political reaction and economic crisis Strachey found a new allegiance in Communism.
While never officially a member of the Communist Party, Strachey was throughout the 1930s one of the most effective popularisers of Marxist doctrine and of the CP’s immediate policies. Through books like The Coming Struggle for Power and The Theory and Practice of Socialism Strachey had an enormous influence on the left both in Britain and in the USA, while from 1936 he made a major contribution to the Left Book Club as one of its three selectors and as a pungent political commentator. Towards the end of the decade he came increasingly to be influenced by Keynesianism and Roosevelt’s New Deal. It was this profounder divergence over the possible scope for reforming capitalism that underlay his split with the Communist Party over the character of the war in 1940.
The latter part of the war Strachey spent as a public relations officer with the RAF and as a propagandist with the Air Ministry. During this period he rejoined the Labour Party and in 1945, as the newly-elected member for Dundee, he became Under-Secretary of State for Air in the first Attlee government. Subsequently he became Minister of Food and Secretary of State for War, although he was never given a seat in the Cabinet.
Back in opposition in the 1950s, Strachey once more had time to devote to substantial works of political theory and analysis and with the books Contemporary Capitalism, The End of Empire and On the Prevention of War made a major and distinctive contribution to "revisionist" thinking within the Labour Party. At the same time he remained active in political life. By now very much identified with the Labour right, he would certainly have enjoyed high office in any incoming Labour administration but for his death in 1963 at the age of sixty-two.
Few papers of Strachey’s survive from the 1920s but all the subsequent phases of his career are well represented in the papers with his family. The period in which he embraced Communism and the early 1950s are particularly well covered. The papers were drawn on extensively by Strachey’s two biographers, Hugh Thomas (Eyre Methuen, 1973) and Michael Newman (Manchester University Press, 1989),
The papers were arranged and boxed at Reading University in the 1970s and the following summary listing follows that arrangement. Listed first is a chronological sequence of personal correspondence and miscellaneous papers including publishers’ correspondence and agreements, bills, royalty statements, legal and financial papers etc. only some of the more notable correspondents are mentioned here,
The listing is based on an inspection made on 9 July 1991 and the Commission is most grateful to Elizabeth Al Qadhi and Charles Strachey for their permission to consult the papers.
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Correspondents include Aneurin Bevan (1930-31); Sir Evelyn Cecil (1924); Hugh Dalton (1926, 1930); R Palme Dutt (1932-33); Louis Anderson Penn (1933); Victor Gollancz (1932-33); Arthur Horner (1933); John Maynard Keynes (1926); Stephen King-Hall (1924); J Ramsay MacDonald (1924); JT Walton Newbold (1932); Harry Pollitt (1933); RW Robson (1932); Andrew Rothstein (1931); William Rust (1931-32); Shapurji Saklatvala (1932); Joseph Southall (1932); John Wilmot (1925); EF Wise (1932); Leonard Woolf (1930).
Correspondents include Charles Chaplin; Sergei Dinamov, International Union of Revolutionary Writers, Moscow; Dutt; Gollancz; VL Gray; Lionel Robbins; Clough Williams-Ellis; Allan Young.
Papers 1936-38 (2 boxes)
Correspondents include Sir Richard Acland; Emile Burns; Margaret Cole; Dudley Collard; Maurice Dobb; Dutt; Hymie Fagan; Aitken Ferguson; WZ Foster; Joseph Freeman, New Masses; Gollancz; Horner; Leo Huberman; Douglas Jay; Michail Koltsov, Pravda; Jurgen Kuczynski; Kingsley Martin; AL Morton; R Osbert (R Osborn); Henry Parsons, Lawrence & Wishart; Pollitt; Edgell Rickword, Lawrence & Wishart; T Hanhope Sprigg (brother of Christopher Caudwell); Charles Trevelyan; Beatrice Webb; Clough Williams-Ellis; RS Young; Konni Zilliacus.
Including notebook 1940, TS notes on Keynes and on the Left Book Club.
Correspondents include Robert Boothby, Burns, Dobb, Gollancz, Kuczynski, Young.
Correspondents include Burns, Dobb, Evan Durbin, Dutt, Gollancz, Wal Hannington. Francois Lafitte, Ivan Maisky, Ivor Montagu, Pollitt, Raymond Postgate, Rust, Webb.
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Including TS radio broadcasts and other Air Ministry papers 1943-45; papers relating to general election 1945; letters of congratulation on his appointment as minister of Food 1946, correspondents including George Catlin, Seymour Cocks, Zita Crossman, Haydn Davies, Patrick Gordon-Walker, Harold Laski, Dora Russell.
Including some constituency correspondence and miscellaneous ministerial papers; TS notes on Arnold Toynbee’s Study of History with correspondence with Toynbee 1949.
Papers 1950 (4 boxes)
Including ministerial papers. constituency correspondence, Labour Party correspondence; papers relating to general election; TS draft of "The economic prospect"; notes for speech at Enfield 23.7.50 and related correspondence.
Correspondents include David Astor; PMS Blackett; James Cameron; Richard Crossman; Tom Driberg; Yves Forges; Martha Gellhorn; Gollancz; Lord Layton; Jean Mann; Toynbee; Sir Angus Watson; Amabel Williams-Ellis; Clough Williams-Ellis; Kenneth Younger.
Papers 1951 (4 boxes)
Including TSS speeches at Dundee 1.5.51, Keighley 19.5.51. Cumnock,15.6.51, Laurencekirk 28.7.51., Dundee 16.9.51 with related papers.
Correspondents include Frank Allaun; Clement Attlee; Richard Crossman; Percy Cudlipp; John Freeman; Leslie Hale; Peter Howard; Sir Alan Lascelles; RWG Mackay; Leah Manning; Duncan Sandys; GM Thomson.
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Including TS articles on the army for John Bull.
Correspondents include Astor; Gollancz; Allen Lane; Lascelles; Thomson.
Correspondents include Thomas Balogh; Blackett; Colin Clark; Hugh Gaitskell; JK Galbraith; Gollancz; Nicholas Kaldor; Robbins; Sir John Slessor; Geoffrey Stevens; Watson; Amabel Williams-Ellis; Harold Wilson.
Correspondents include Gellhorn; Gollancz; Sir Basil Liddell Hart; Lord Nathan.
Correspondents include Sir Anthony Buzzard; Gollancz; Liddell Hart; EJ Kingston McCloughry.
Correspondents include Astor.
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Correspondents include Gollancz, RT Paget, EP Thompson.
Papers 1960-62 (4 boxes)
Including TS of "The future of the British left".
Correspondents include Astor; Alastair Buchan; Buzzard; Joe Corrie; Geoffrey de Freitas; Dutt; Gaitskell; Gollancz; Henry A Kissinger; Arthur Koestler; Melvyn Lasky; Liddell
Hart; Reinhold Neibuhr; Paget; Toynbee; George Urban, Radio Free Europe.
Correspondents include Fenner Brockway; Liddell Hart; Urban.
Writings and lectures 1946-63 (3 boxes)
TSS of The Frontiers (written 1941, published 1952); The Just Society (1951); Contemporary Capitalism (1956); The Challenge of Democracy (1963); also first draft of On the Prevention of War (1962) and MS of an unpublished book on the Blackwater c1961-62.
TSS of radio talks on "Security in the air" c1946; "Democracy", three talks for Radio Singapore c1961; "The challenge of democracy", series for Radio Free Europe 1962-63.
TSS of five lectures delivered in Singapore 1961 ("What was imperialism?", "Lenin’s theory of imperialism reconsidered", "Will new empires arise?", "The hare and the tortoise", untitled).
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The Strangled Cry 1959-63
Papers relating to The Strangled Cry (1962) including TS of the title essay; correspondence with Victor Gollancz Ltd (prospective publisher), the Bodley Head Ltd (eventual publisher) and Denys Kilham Roberts, Society of Authors 1959-63; correspondence with readers and reviewers including WH Auden, Stephen Spender, JK Galbraith 1962; cuttings.
Other publications c1956-62
Contracts, articles, reviews, correspondence with publishers etc relating mainly to Contemporary Capitalism, The End of Empire (1959), On the Prevention of War.
Army affairs and civil aviation 1950-63
Papers relating to army affairs 1950-63 including correspondence relating to conscription and army pay 1957-59; correspondents include LJ Cuming, No Conscription Council; Sydney Elliott; Gaitskell; Liddell Hart; William Rodgers, Fabian Society; Christopher Soames.
Papers relating to civil aviation 1957-61.
Institute of Strategic Studies circulated papers 1958-63.
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Miscellaneous undated material (3 boxes)
Notebooks (3) with political and economic notes 1930s.
Address book c1950s.
Draft articles, memoranda etc including statement on People’s Front 1930s; notes on anti-Semitism; synopsis of Allen Hutt’s Post-war History of the British Working Class with annotations by Strachey and Dutt c1936; synopsis of "What is to be done?" (published in 1938 as What Are We To Do?); "Proposal for a new association,’ 1942; "Labour’s way ES win the war and the peace" c1942-43; memorandum to Attlee on proposed 4-power meeting January 1951; "Cyclical changes in man’s nature" 1950s; notes on industrial democracy 1950s; untitled novel.
Undated correspondence including with Anthony Crosland, Gollancz. Philip Jordan. Amabel Williams-Ellis.
Papers on his death 1963 (3 boxes)
Letters (c200) to Celia Strachey on his death; correspondents include Austen Albu; Tony Benn; John Biggs-Davison; George Brown; Buchanan; James Callaghan; Barbara Castle; Crosland; Richard Crossman; Tam Dalyell; Sir Maurice Dean; Geoffrey de Freitas; Indira Gandhi; Gollancz; Douglas Jay; Roy Jenkins; Arthur Creech Jones; Jennie Lee; JPW Mallalieu; Dick Mitchison; Toynbee; Shirley Williams; Young.
Obituary notes and cuttings.
Transcript and tape recording of interview with Strachey broadcast posthumously on BBC Third Programme 20.11.63.
Papers of Celia Strachey 1964-72
Correspondence relating to Strachey’s official biography with Amabel Williams-Ellis 1964 and Hugh Thomas c1964-72.
Notebook containing part of a MS autobiography.
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