Cartoon of two politicians as dogs who are chasing another politician which is a hare.

British political parties

"Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve" - George Bernard Shaw.

Explore 20th century British politics through our archives. Daniel Payne shares the highlights from this collection of primary research material.

Daniel Payne portrait image

Author

Daniel Payne

Curator for Politics and International Relations.

Socialism and the Labour Party

An alliance of socialist organisations formed the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, which led to the establishment of the Labour Party. The archives include some of these socialist organisations such as:

As well as the archives of these organisations, there are also a large number of archives of cabinet ministers, MPs and Labour politicians, mostly focusing on post-1945. These include: 

There are also campaigning groups affiliated to Labour Party such as Society of Labour Lawyers, or politically independent organisations such as: the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.

Man stood outside a house with a large 'Labour Will Win' banner on house front.
Neville Sandelson, Candidate for Labour Party, Chichester, 1970.

Liberals and the Liberal Democrats

As well as the archives of both the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, there are also the archives of many individuals and organisations associated with them, such as:

  • David Steel - leader of the Liberal Party from 1976 - 1988.
  • Paddy Ashdown - leader of the Liberal Democrats.
  • Henry Broadhurst - held a ministerial post under the Liberal Government in 1885.
  • Michael Meadowcroft - continued as leader of the Liberal Party after its merger to become the Liberal Democrats.
  • Richard Potter - nicknamed "Radical Dick" and great grandfather of Beatrice Webb, MP in the early 1800s, and founding member of the "Little Circle", which helped establish the Reform Act 1832.
  • Leonard and Catherine Courtney - both campaigners against war who founded the South Africa Conciliation Committee. Leonard was a Liberal Party MP (1875 - 1885) and Catherine was the sister of Beatrice Webb.
  • Young Liberals - a youth wing of the Liberal and then Liberal Democrat Party.
  • There are also papers of individuals associated with the Liberal Party such as the philosopher John Stuart Mill and ex-director of the LSE, William Beveridge.
This is Liberal Policy leaflet with a big face on it.
Liberal Party campaigning leaflet, 1960s. 

Conservatives, UKIP and The Right

  • UKIP - Explore the archives of Alan Sked, Emeritus Professor of International History at the LSE and founder of the Anti-Federalist League which became UKIP. See our blog post for details of what this archive covers.
  • Hector Hetherington - a journalist who interviewed key political figures from 1958 to 1975, such as Thatcher, as well as other prime ministers and MPs
  • Gilbert Longden - Conservative Party politician and one of the founding members of the "One Nation" group.
  • Tory Reform Group promoting the values of "One Nation Conservatism", which includes the papers of Pressure for Economic and Social Toryism (PEST).
  • Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) - a think-tank established by Margaret Thatcher.
  • Reg Prentice - famous for being the most senior Labour Party figure to defect to the Conservative Party.
  • Geoffrey Finsberg - Conservative MP for Hampstead and Highgate (1970 - 1989)
Alan Sked UKIP leaflet
Alan Sked campaigning leaflet for the Anti-Federalist League, 1992.

Elections and referendums

We have a vast collection of campaigning material from general elections, local elections and referendums from the 19th century to the present day.

How to search

This is just a snapshot of the material we hold that covers this subject. You can find these items and many more by using the following search tools:

How to access

Most of the material highlighted here is part of our special collections, which are open to all but must be consulted in our reading room. Find out how to book your place and order material on our access archives and special collections page.

Further help

LSE students and staff looking for other resources such as journal articles and current research may wish to consult the department subject guide for the Government department.

If you need specific help with any of the collections mentioned here get in touch with our Curator for Politics and International Relations, Daniel Payne.