Tag Archives: Labour

9. Fighting All the Way: Barbara Castle’s Cabinet Diaries

Barbara Castle was a Labour politician who served as a Cabinet minister in two governments, 1964-1970 and 1974-1976.  After each Cabinet meeting, she typed up what had been said, from memory and her shorthand notes, creating this week’s object, her Cabinet diaries.  These were later published.

The Cabinet Diaries

The Cabinet Diaries – typescript and more

Barbara Castle never shrank from controversy: she was at the heart of the introduction of seatbelts and the breathalyser to improve road safety, the Equal Pay Act, and, as Secretary of State for Employment, the 1969 white paper “In Place of Strife” which sought to curb the power of the trades unions.  Her diaries show government actually happening, and her candid thoughts about everyone involved.  In his review of her 1974-1976 volume in the London Review of Books, Edmund Dell said, “Barbara Castle’s diary of the period 1974-76 shows more about the nature of cabinet government – even though it deals with only one Cabinet – than any previous publication, academic, political or biographical”.

The Cabinet Diaries in published form plus Castle's autobiography

The Cabinet Diaries in published form plus Castle’s autobiography

The unpublished diaries are exciting to use even though they also exist in published form.  The publications omitted some material (mainly technical), and also lose the vitality of Castle’s input.  The diaries are a melange of typescript, shorthand, handwriting, doodles and caricatures, and give a sense of how she composed them.

Castle’s papers were left to the Bodleian Library (she studied at Oxford University), but she bequeathed her diaries to Bradford University because the city meant so much to her.  Although not born here, she spent her formative years in this hotbed of radical politics.  The University awarded her an honorary degree in 1966.

Barbara Castle at Bradford University in 1966 at the installation of the Chancellor

Barbara Castle at Bradford University in 1966 at the installation of the Chancellor

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6. Radical Reading: Reynolds News, Sunday Citizen

Reynolds's Illustrated News 17 August 1930 p.1

Reynolds’s Illustrated News 17 August 1930 p.1

Reynolds News was a radical weekly newspaper published from 1850-1967.  Founded by prolific popular author and Chartist G.M.W. Reynolds, the paper later passed from family ownership to the National Co-operative Press.  It changed its name several times, ending up as The Sunday Citizen.  Find out more about Reynolds News, its name changes, and the story of the set at Bradford University on the collection web page.

Reynolds News is significant for historians because it offers an alternative to papers of record, such as The Times.  It was politically radical and aimed at working class readers.  Contents were often sensational, featuring plenty of  glamour, sex, crime, and sport, alongside thoughtful pieces about politics and ideas.  Well-known authors and thinkers contributed, notably J.B. Priestley, who wrote over fifty articles and book reviews for the paper.

J.B. Priestley article, Reynolds' News 9 June 1940 p. 6

J.B. Priestley article, Reynolds News 9 June 1940 p. 6

Unfortunately, as usual with historic newspapers, our set is in very poor condition.  Even the conserved volumes cannot stand much handling.  This is frustrating because the rich and relatively underused content cannot be easily shared with readers.  Furthermore, the paper is not indexed.   We are delighted that the British Library digitised the 19th century volumes of Reynolds in its British Newspapers programme, making them searchable and really usable for the first time in their long lives.

Is this man an anarchist?  Union advertisement from Reynolds News 5 October 1919 p.3

From Reynolds News 5 October 1919