Welcome by Lawrence Goldman

[An audio recording of this conference talk is available via the University of Oxford podcast page.]

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Lawrence Goldman. I am the Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, acting as chair today of this seminar to commemorate the centenary of Jim Callaghan’s birth. The seminar brings together the Bodleian Library, the Oxford DNB, Oxford University Press (which publishes the Oxford DNB) and the History Faculty of the University.

I am delighted to welcome our speakers, members of Jim Callaghan’s family and former colleagues of his, members of the university and members of the public. I would also like to thank Helen Langley, the head of modern political papers at the Bodleian who has done most to arrange this event

James Callaghan will need little introduction from me with so many better qualified to talk about him here today. He was, of course, Prime Minister from 1976 -1979. Before that he had been a trade union official, a naval officer, a Labour MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, the holder, in other words of the four most senior offices of state.

We are holding the event in this place because the Bodleian holds Jim Callaghan’s papers which were deposited in stages after 2000 and are housed in fully 422 boxes. They have been open to researchers since 2007.

Many of you will have already spotted the deliberate error, of course: Jim Callaghan was born in March 1912, and we are holding our event not one hundred years later but 101 years later. But as Jim himself might have said – though, in fact, he never did – ‘Crisis, What Crisis?’ I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded us being a year late. And the delay has meant that quite by chance this event takes place on the day a new print supplement of the Oxford DNB is published, covering the lives of those who died between 2005 and 2008, in which Jim Callaghan’s life features in a biography written by his colleague in cabinet in the late 1970s, Roy Hattersley.

Unfortunately Roy hurt himself in exercise over the weekend and is unable to join us this evening.

The evening will be divided into three sections. In the first of these our speakers will each talk about aspects of Jim Callaghan’s life.

Then we will throw the seminar open to questions from the floor.

Let me begin by introducing our panellists:

Lord Kenneth Morgan was for many years a lecturer in the History Faculty here in Oxford and a fellow of Queen’s College. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth and has been a member of the House of Lords since 2000. His biography of Jim Callaghan was published by Oxford University Press in 1997.

Lord David Owen was first elected to the House of Commons in 1966 and sat latterly as MP for Plymouth Devonport. He was Foreign Secretary between 1977 and 1979. As one of the so-called ‘gang of four’ he was a founder and later leader of the Social Democratic Party between 1983-7.

Lord Bernard Donoughue became head of the Number 10 Policy Unit in 1974 under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He continued as head under Wilson’s successor, Jim Callaghan, and he held the position until the defeat of the Labour Party at the May 1979 general election.

Andrew Smith is the Labour MP for Oxford East and an alumnus of St. John’s College, Oxford. After more than a decade as a councillor in Oxford he was elected to the House of Commons in 1987. He was successively Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1999-2002) and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2002-04).

There will also be contributions from Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington, and Michael Callaghan, respectively Jim Callaghan’s daughter and son.


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