The ILP archives at the London School of Economics is regarded as a “key heritage collection” by the library’s politics curator, DANIEL PAYNE. It contains a huge variety of fascinating material dating from the organisation’s birth 125 years ago, and covering much of its rich history as a significant force in shaping the outlook and development of the Labour movement. Here, Payne provides an overview of what’s available and explains how to search and access the archives.
At the LSE Library we consider the ILP archives one of our key heritage collections. It is highly significant and consistently receives high useage. Over the past 10 years, for example, the ILP collection has been consulted more than 2,200 times in the Women’s Library Reading Room at LSE Library. And in 2017 alone, ILP material was accessed 110 times, while on average our collections were accessed just 15 times that year.
It also fits well with other archive collections we hold related to the early left and Labour Party, such as the archives of the Fabian Society and the Social Democratic Federation.
Scope of the collection
The ILP collection at LSE covers the founding of the ILP in 1893 up until 1978. There is a huge variety of material here ranging across different aspects of ILP’s work, everything from Keir Hardie’s handwritten speech notes to 1930s index cards detailing far right groups and sympathisers. There are election posters from the 1890s and the earliest ILP pamphlets, plus a wide range of photographs, letters and papers, plus much more.
Among the material we hold are:
- minutes of the National Adminstrative Council, plus minutes of various other ILP branches
- correspondence collected by Francis Johnson, the first secretary of the ILP, including letters to or from Hardie, and covering subjects such as election campaigns, labour-related political issues, ILP branch affairs, and personal matters
- conference reports, election ephemera, and a very large collection of ILP pamphlets.
How to browse and search the collection online
Unfortunately, the catalogue is not very user friendly and can be a challenge to navigate – but if you’re interested in researching the ILP please do get in touch and someone from the Library will be happy to help.
The catalogue record for the ILP collection can be found online here. To browse the collection, click the ‘ILP’ hyperlink that appears next to the ‘Ref_No’. You can then browse the collection by clicking through the crosshairs.
To search the collection, head to the ‘Advanced Search’. Type ‘ILP*’ in the ‘Ref No’ field and then type your keyword in the ‘Any text’ field. This will search for mentions of that keyword within the descriptions of the ILP files. For example, if your keyword was ‘Hardie’, this would find all mentions of Hardie in the descriptions of the files contained within the ILP collection.
One of the results would be the first minute book of the ILP, where one of the attendees was Hardie. As you will see from that page, this item has Reference Number ‘ILP/1/1/1’, and this is the number you would need to request to view it in the Reading Room.
None of the ILP collection has been digitised so you do need to come to the LSE Library to view any of the material.
How to access the collection
The archives are free and open to anyone who would like to use them. There are no restrictions; for example, you do not need to a be a student or associated with a university.
You do need to register as a visitor and request the material in advance, so it can be made available for you in the Women’s Library Reading Room on the 4th floor of the Library (near Holborn and Temple Underground stations).
For enquires about any aspect of the ILP archives, please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some ILP material is also held at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, see www.wcml.org.uk