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Archives and Special Collections

Welcome to the Politics resource guide

This resource guide provides an overview of some of the collections held by the University of Exeter that may be particularly useful for the study of politics and social history. The boxes below describe collections relating to different themes and contain links to the catalogues, through which you can explore the collections further. 

The resources highlighted in this guide have been identified using our catalogues, but are not exhaustive. You can search our archives catalogue and library catalogue with key word searches to identify further items of interest. More information on searching the catalogues can be found on the Search our Catalogues LibGuide. If you come across any other sources within our collections that you think should be included in this guide, we would be very pleased to hear about them.

Archives and rare books held by Special Collections are available to everyone. More information about accessing the collections can be found in our Visiting Heritage Collections LibGuide. Please note that there may be some restrictions on accessing and copying (including photography) material in the archives and books held by Special Collections in line with current data protection and copyright legislation. Always make sure to check the access conditions on the archive catalogue and email Special Collections before your visit for more information about specific restrictions.

Archives and political ephemera, 17th to 19th century

Seventeenth century commonplace book (EUL MS 32)

  • Manuscript volume containing transcripts of political documents, compiled c 1624
  • You can find more information about this item on our online archives catalogue

Seventeenth and eighteenth century political pamphlets (classmark: Crediton Library Pamphlets)

  • A collection of more than 1,200 seventeenth and eighteenth-century pamphlets relating to history, politics, religious controversy and literature
  • Browse all the items on the Library catalogue

Eighteenth century French political satire (EUL MS 125)

Lady Jersey's Personal Papers (EUL MS 10) Papers of a miscellaneous nature, including invitations to events, political satires, and short communications.

Bills relating to elections in Devon, 1835 (EUL MS 269)

  • Consisting of three poster bills advertising forthcoming elections in Exeter and Devon Southern Division in 1835
  • You can find more information about this collection on our online archives catalogue

Letters of John Bishop Estlin relating to the Abolitionist movement (EUL MS 55)

  • The collection is a series of transcribed letters concerning the efforts made by Estlin and his contacts and colleagues to aid the abolition of Slavery during the period 1844-1866
  • You can find more infomation about this collection on our online archives catalogue

Personal and poltical papers of British politicians and MPs, 19th to 20th century

Papers of Stafford Henry Northcote (EUL MS 81)

  • Stafford Henry Northcote (1818-1887), 1st Earl of Iddesleigh, statesman
  • The papers include typed copies of Northcote's letters to colleagues, friends, family and political associates, including many to Gladstone and Disraeli, 1843-1887; pamphlets; addresses; cartoons from magazines; newspaper cuttings; and other miscellanea.
  • This collection has been catalogued and descriptions can be browsed on our online archives catalogue

Cecil Harmsworth archive (EUL MS 435)

  •                             Cecil Harmsworth (1869-1948) was a politician, Liberal MP, businessman and the first Baron Harmsworth of Egham
  • The archive comprises 27 boxes of material, including diaries; correspondence and papers; speeches and literary papers; photographs; and printed material. A highlight of the archive are the collection of diaries kept by Cecil Harmsworth between 1900 and 1948.
  • You can find out more about the archive on the Special Collections Blog
  • This collection has been catalogued and can be browsed on our online archives catalogue

Personal, political and literary papers of Sir Richard Acland (EUL MS 104)

  • Sir Richard Thomas Dyke Acland (1906-1990) was fifteenth baronet, politician and benefactor
  • The papers include correspondence; literary papers; photocopies of Acland's diary, 1941-1944; typescript 'Personal political memoirs'; books and pamphlets written by Acland; papers relating to radio broadcasts and lectures; press cuttings; papers relating to Court of Appeal documents; and Common Wealth leaflets, information bulletins and reports.
  • This collection is box listed and you can browse descriptions on our online archives catalogue.


Archives relating to the Anti Apartheid Movement, 1960s to 1990s

                            Papers relating to the Exeter and District Anti-Apartheid Group (EUL MS 216)

  • The Exeter and District Anti-Apartheid Group was one of the longest established and most active groups in the UK anti-apartheid movement, and was established as the Exeter and District Anti-Apartheid Committee in c 1966
  • The collection includes seven boxes of material relating to the administration of the Group, including correspondence, promotional literature, DOMPAS newsletters, lists of members, financial records, press releases, presscutting scrapbooks, artefacts (badges, flags, banners, collecting boxes etc.), pamphlets, leaflets, newspapers and periodicals.
  • Find out more about this collection on our online archives catalogue

Papers of Mervyn Bennun relating to anti-apartheid (EUL MS 112) 

  • Mervyn Bennun was lecturer in law at the University of Exeter from 1969-1970 until his retirement in the 1990s when he returned to South Africa. During his time at Exeter University, he was an African National Congress (ANC) activist in the period when the ANC was in exile in Britain, and was involved with the activities of the Exeter and District Anti-Apartheid Group as Chairman and Secretary.
  • The collection consists of papers accumulated by Bennun during his period at the University of Exeter. These are mainly printed materials; included are: press clippings, correspondence, flyers and leaflets, typescripts of articles and other writings (including on the trial of the 'Sharpeville Six'). Some books, pamphlets, and periodicals are also included.
  • Find out more about this collection on our online archives catalogue

Mervyn Bennun collection of journals and pamphlets relating to Anti-Apartheid, 1960s-1990s
A full list of journals relating to Anti-Apartheid can be downloaded here MS 112 Bennun.

Pamphlets relating to Anti-Apartheid are catalogued and can be found on the Library catalogue

Political propaganda, 20th century

                            Japanese propaganda cartoons (EUL MS 33)

  • Five printed items of Japanese propaganda, presumably designed to incite Anti-British feeling in India during the Second World War
  • You can find more information about this collections on our online archives catalogue
  • All items in this collection have been digitised and are available to view via our Digital Collections website

The 'Young Conservatives' Movement

J. Holroyd-Doveton: Research papers for 'Young Conservatives' (EUL MS 401)

  • Loose research materials and pamphlets for book entitled 'Young Conservatives a history of the Young Conservative Movement'. All copy material with the exception of a few letters and minutes.
  • Find out more about this collection on our online archives catalogue

Books and pamphlets relating to women and politcs in the Hypatia Collection, late 19th to 20th century

The Hypatia Collection consists of approximately 10,000 books and journals by or about women. Part of its richness stems from the inclusive collecting habits of its creator who acquired many ephemeral titles and books on subjects and by writers traditionally excluded from the academic canon in her aim 'to make available published documentation about women in every aspect of their lives'.

The collection includes a section on politics, comprising books, journals relating to women's rights and women in politics and political movements.

To search the collection more broadly for items relevant to politics, use the Advanced Keyword Search page of the University of Exeter Library Catalogue. Type 'Hypatia' into the search field and another keyword or name. To restrict the results to results to Special Collections materials, select *Special Collections, Old Library* under *Location*.

More tips on searching the Library Catalogue can be found in the Library's LibGuide on Search Tips: Improving Your Results.

Books and journals in the Hypatia Collection are available for consultation in our reading room by advance appointment (we ask for at least 48 hours' notice). You can contact the Special Collections team for more information about this collection at An appointment to visit to the Reading Room can be booked via the Visiting Heritage Collections LibGuide.

Middle East Collections

The University of Exeter is fortunate to hold substantial collections relating to the Middle East. The archives are particularly strong in the area of the Persian Gulf, with notable collections including the papers of Sir William Luce (1907-77), British Governor of Aden (1956-60), Political Resident in the Gulf (1961-66) and Special Representative for Gulf Affairs (overseeing Britain’s withdrawal from the region) from 1970-72;  Sir Charles Belgrave (1894-1969), Advisor to the Rulers of Bahrain from 1926-57; the working papers of journalist Jonathan Crusoe (1953-91) relating to Iraq and Kuwait, and a small selection of documents and photographs belonging to diplomat Sir John Wilton (born 1921) relating to Qatar and Kuwait.

Material specific to Oman includes the personal papers and photographs of John Shebbeare (1919-2004), British advisor to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, and the extensive collection of research papers and Omani manuscripts of John Craven Wilkinson.

Other highlights include the research papers of Egyptian scholar Nazih Ayubi (1944-95), the papers of journalist and Middle Eastern specialist Michael Adams (born 1920), copies of the papers of  Richard Howard Stafford Crossman (1907-1974) on Palestine in the late 1940s, material – including recorded interviews – relating to Professor Abdullah al-Fattah Muhammad El-Awaisi’s thesis on the Muslim Brotherhood, the personal diaries of Admiral G.H.P. White (1819-38), Personal and research papers of Sir John (1909-90) and Lady Diana Richmond (1914-97) relating to the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a large collection of copies of political documents, papers of Henry Michael Barker relating to his family’s centuries-old involvement in Egyptian commerce, plus correspondence and reports relating to the political activities of brothers Nabih Al-Azmah (1886-1972) & Adil Al-Azmah (1888-1952) and the Kurdish research papers of Omar Sheikhmous.

For more information, see our Middle East Studies LibGuide

Find out more about individual archives within the Middle East Collections on our Special Collections Blog

The Middle East material held in our archives can provide historical and political insights into a region that remains of crucial significance to international affairs, global economic development and world peace. As the source of most of the world's petroleum, the location of the birth of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths and a perennial flashpoint for religious, ethnic and political tensions, the Middle East continues to demand compelling scholarly interest across almost every field and discipline. The diversity of our archival collections could support a wide range of research projects, particularly if such research is pursued across different archives along either thematic or geographical lines. 

  • Relations between the Middle East and the West. The recent murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has drawn worldwide attention not only to the conduct of the House of Saud but also to the reasons for the long-standing support offered to the Saudi regime by America and the UK. The ability to analyse contemporary political events and policies relies upon an understanding of the complex array of alliances, oppositions, armed conflicts and economic collaborations that have taken place during the last two centuries and beyond, and our archival collections contain a great deal of material on British involvement in the region, from Charles Belgrave's activities as 'Adviser' to the Sheikhs of Bahrain to John Richmond's diplomatic work in Kuwait and Sudan, as well as Sir William Luce's role overseeing the withdrawal of British forces from the Persian Gulf in the early 1970s and his efforts to balance regional stability with the maintenance of Britain's interests and influence. The personal nature of these archives present opportunities for researchers to obtain candid and unexpurgated opinions on key events and personalities. What is the relationship between British perceptions of Iran in the 1930s and current support for Iran's political opponents? How much of the contemporary geopolitical map of the region has been determined by Western activities in the Middle East, and what are the implications of this for the future? Material to answer these questions can be found not only in papers dealing directly with military intelligence, administration or diplomacy in the region itself, but also in the wealth of academic writings, conferences and groups such as the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) or Arab-British Chamber of Commerce through which such relations continue to be promoted.

  • Energy, Resources and Development. The discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf in the 1930s transformed not only the Middle East itself but also Western policy in the region. Charles Belgrave's diaries chronicle the dramatic changes in Bahrain's landscape, economy and culture as the oil industry developed, as well as the influx of Western visitors that descended upon the island in consequence. Although the development of Isa Town in Bahrain was undertaken after Belgrave's departure, there are several items on the construction of this desert town in the Luce collection. Comparisons could be made between Belgrave's relationships with the rulers of Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and those of Sir William Luce two decades later, as the flourishing oil economies shifted the balance of political power as well as western attitudes towards Kuwait and Iraq. The papers of Jonathan Crusoe contain a wealth of material on the Iraqi oil industry in the 1980s up till the end of the Gulf War in 1991, as well as detailed information on other industrial, commercial and agricultural practices in the country. We also hold a substantial collection of working papers belonging to John Craven Wilkinson, who worked in the oil industry in the Middle East before devoting much of his later career to writing about Oman. 

  • The Kurds: independence and identity, isolation and integration. The Kurdish people are a large ethnic minority who live in an area - sometimes referred to as 'Kurdistan' - that spans the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Armenia. They have their own culture, literature and language, with two main dialects - Sorani, which is written in Arabic, and Kurmanji, the dialect spoken in Turkey and written using the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. The Kurdish people have been victims of ethnic repression throughout the 20th century, facing forced assimilation in the countries where they live. We have a uniquely valuable resource for Kurdish studies in the papers of Omar Sheikhmous, a founding member of  the 'Patriotic Union of Kurdistan' (PUK) who has dedicated his life and career to political, academic and cultural activities on behalf of the Kurds. The collection includes pamphlets, press cuttings, conference papers, unpublished writings and original archival material relating to Kurdish political resistance movements. There is also a smaller collection of material in the Crusoe archive relating to the activities and welfare of Iraqi Kurds.

  • Pan-Arabism. While the papers of Charles Belgrave and William Luce reveal the extent of British fears about the growth of the Pan-Arab movement - an ideology that espouses cultural and political unity for all Arabs under the banner of a single Arab nation - and the Crusoe collection contains valuable documentation on the history of the Ba'ath party and the Pan-Arabism of Saddam Hussein, researchers seeking to study the Pan-Arab movement should read this material in conjunction with that held in the archives of Nazih Ayubi, Nabih Al-Azmah and Adil Al-Azmah. Their involvement in the politics of Syria, Egypt and other Arab countries is documented in reports, correspondence and other records, as well as research papers and draft publications.

Material from these collections can be located using our online archives catalogue and more information on specific archives is periodically posted on our Special Collections Blog.

How to search the catalogues

Searching for rare books relating to political or social issues:

Rare books and reserve collections can be found by searching the University of Exeter Library catalogue

  • Enter a keyword, title or author in the search bar
  • To restrict the results to a specific time period, enter a date range under *Refine your results* and *Creation Date*
  • To restrict the results to results to Special Collections materials, select *Special Collections, Old Library* under *Location*

Searching for archives relating to political or social issues:

Archive material can be found by searching the University of Exeter Special Collections archives catalogue

  • Narrow down your search by going into advanced search
  • Enter a keyword or title (you can search specific people as a keyword)
  • If you already know an item’s reference number you can search by this
  • Restrict the date to a specific period if required by entering a date range (e.g. 1910s, or 1900-1920)

You can find more search tips in our 'Searching our Catalogues' LibGuide

Video explainer - How to search the archives catalogue

Watch the video explainer above for a quick guide to searching the archives catalogue

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