Bodleian Libraries acquire Sir Edward Heath Archive

16 June 2011

Heath0007_webThe Bodleian Libraries, with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) have acquired the archive of former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath (1916-2005).  It comprises almost 1,000 boxes and includes a rich and diverse collection of papers from his time in office, in the shadow cabinet, as well as personal papers from his early life including his time as an undergraduate at Balliol College, and his active role in student politics during the 1930s.  

The archive has great research potential as it offers a range of primary sources for scholars and students with an interest in 20th century history and politics. Biographers will also be able to reveal less-known aspects of Heaths’ private life such as his distinguished war service, and of his passion for music and sailing. 

Vernon Bogdanor, Research Professor, Institute of Contemporary History, King's College, London; formerly Professor of Government, Oxford University said: ‘Edward Heath was one of the most influential politicians and prime ministers of the post-war period. His archive will enable historians and political scientists to obtain a deep understanding of his political legacy; and it will undoubtedly serve as a rich resource for graduate students in a variety of disciplines’.

Dr Sarah Thomas said: ‘The Heath archive is an essential link in the chain of papers of 20th century prime ministers that the Bodleian already holds. This unrivalled resource includes the papers of Prime Ministers Asquith, Attlee, Macmillan, Wilson and Callaghan, as well as Disraeli’s from the nineteenth century. Scholars will welcome the opportunity to review public and private papers relating to the entry of Britain into the EU, and the many other political events in which Edward Heath played a significant role. This archive will surely be at the heart of future historical study of post-war Britain.’

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the NHMF, commented: ‘This is a rich and fascinating archive, documenting major historical events that have shaped this country. The National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up 30 years ago to save our most important heritage and the Heath archive represents just that. I am delighted it will now be safeguarded for the public and scholars alike to review and learn from.’

An Oxford alumnus, Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005) served as Conservative Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974 and was Leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1975.  He continued to have a major influence on British politics throughout his life and was Father of the House from 1992-2001.

The Heath Archive complements other holdings of modern British political papers within the Bodleian’s Department of Special Collections, which also includes the Conservative Party Archive as well as the papers generated by numerous politicians of all parties, public servants, diplomats, journalists and broadcasters from 1840 to the present. The Conservative Party Archive was established as a source for academic study at the Bodleian Library, Oxford in 1978.  

The archive has been saved thanks to the generous support of Friends of the Bodleian and numerous private donors and a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

The collection will be catalogued and full access given to scholars and researchers after cataloguing is completed. The date for completion will be advertised as soon as possible but it is expected that some earlier access will be possible on a case-by-case basis.

Picture caption

    Notes for a speech on the failure of negotiations to enter the European Economic Community (EEC), 1963 (EH 1/1/15A). On the final page, in Heath’s hand, a draft version of his well-known words of conclusion appears: ‘We are not going to turn our backs on Europe: we are a part of Europe by geography, history, culture and tradition. We shall continue to work with all our friends for its future strength and unity’. Copyright Bodleian Libraries

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