US mini logoHome | A-Z Index | People | Reference | Contact us
Special Collections : Library
special collections home | access | services | the collections | library home

Common Wealth Party Archive

Please go to the new Special Collections Website at The Keep

This page is no longer updated. Please visit our new pages at The Keep:

These pages may contain out of date information. Links to these pages may no longer work in the future.

Collection Description

Formed in July 1942 by the merger of the 1941 Committee with the Forward March movement, the Common Wealth Party’s agenda was socialist with a manifesto of public ownership and morality in politics. A leaflet entitled ‘What is Common Wealth?’ listed its five key policies as ‘common ownership, vital democracy, equal opportunity, colonial freedom and world unity’. The Party was initially chaired by JB Priestley, but it was his successor, Sir Richard Acland MP, who led Common Wealth to success in the three by-elections it contested. However, Acland resigned after widespread defeat in the post-war General Election of 1945, when only a single member of Common Wealth was returned. Many members joined Labour, but the dwindling Party continued its campaigns until 1993.

The collection at Sussex includes the Common Wealth Party’s official documents and the personal papers of two of its MPs: Hugh Lawson and Acland himself. There is also a number of taped interviews with surviving members of the Party, including Acland, Peggy Duff and Betty Allsop. These were conducted by Dr Angus Calder in 1964–65 as research towards his DPhil thesis. The Archive is particularly strong on the years of the Party’s most vigorous campaigning.

The Common Wealth Party Archive also holds minutes of meetings, conference papers, a Mass-Observation-authored report on their activities (see the Mass-Observation Archive) from April 1943, printed leaflets, and local and branch records. A further collection of Party material contains pamphlets, series and periodicals.

Sir Richard Acland’s papers contain correspondence with, among others, JB Priestley, Victor Gollancz, Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Anthony Eden, Naomi Mitchison, and the Bishops of Birmingham, Bristol, Chelmsford, Chichester, Ely and Liverpool (Acland was a devout Anglican). There is also a collection of press-cuttings. The papers of Hugh Lawson include correspondence with Party headquarters, conference papers, papers from the Skipton by-election Lawson contested and won (1943–44), from his time as an MP (1944–45) and from the General Election campaign of 1945. There is correspondence with, and questionnaire responses from, organisations interested in the Party’s work. These include the British Medical Association and the National Council of Women of Great Britain.

The collection of papers held at the University of Sussex was acquired in three parts: The Common Wealth Papers I, II, and III. The numbering of the three collections is continuous, and forms one sequence.

Common Wealth Papers I

The first collection of papers donated to the University of Sussex was brought together, largely by the efforts of Dr. A. L. Calder forming the basis of his 1968 DPhil thesis, The Common Wealth Party, 1942–45. These papers derived from four principal sources:

  • the National Committee of Common Wealth provided a core of central records
  • Mr. D. F. L. Stuckey donated records of the Harrow and Pinner branch
  • Sir Richard Acland and Mr. Hugh Lawson each deposited substantial collections of personal papers
    further papers, official or personal, have been added by Mrs. Betty Allsop (former Regional Agent), Miss Freda Clegg (former Branch Secretary in Bristol), Mr. C. S. McRonald (former Regional Secretary on Merseyside), and Mr. J. Rodney Waite of the Lincoln branch.
  • Dr. Calder has gathered and deposited correspondence and records of interviews. The collection relates almost wholly to the years of the party's most vigorous national activity. The order of the papers is essentially that of the donors.

    Common Wealth Papers II: 1943 - 1990

    In the Autumn of 1990 the officers of Common Wealth offered the remainder of their records for addition to the original Common Wealth deposit of 1974. This collection comprises 28 boxes.

    The Common Wealth Papers III

    In February 1995 the officers of the Common Wealth Party deposited a further 4 boxes of material, said to be final.





    Page maintained by: Library Web Team Disclaimer | Feedback