Skip to main content

The Papers of Ernest Bevin

Reference Code: GBR/0014/BEVN

Scope and Contents

The Papers consist of political papers, correspondence, speeches and press cuttings, mainly relating to Trade Unions, the Ministry of Labour and National Service, and the Foreign Office.


  • Creation: 1889 - 1965

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

Ernest Bevin was born in Somerset in March 1881. He had little formal education, having briefly attended two village schools and then Colebrook Board School (1898-1890) and Hayward's School, Crediton (1890-1892). At the age of eleven, he went to work as a labourer, then as a van driver in Bristol, where he joined the Bristol Socialist Society.

Between 1900-1906, Bevin married Florence Anne Townley, with whom he had 1 daughter. Bevin's paid work as a Trade Union official began as National Organiser of the Dockers’ Union (1910-1921). He was General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, 1922-1940, a member of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, 1925-1940 and Chairman of the Trades Union Congress, 1937. He served on a number of commissions and enquiries, including the Macmillan Commission on banking and the Economic Advisory Council.

He was elected unopposed to the House of Commons as the Labour MP for Central Wandsworth in 1940 (a seat he held until 1950) and served in Churchill’s coalition government as the Minister for Labour and National Service (1940-1945). After the 1945 General Election, he became Foreign Secretary in Attlee's Labour government. In the 1950 General Election, he was elected as MP for Woolwich East. He became Lord Privy Seal in March 1951.

Bevin received an Honorary LLD from Bristol University in 1945 and an Honorary Fellowship of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1946. He died in April 1951.


78 archive box(es)

Language of Materials



The collection was received in a state of some disorder which has been partly resolved.

Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In August 1967, Sir Alan Bullock, later Lord Bullock, transferred to Churchill Archives Centre that part of the late Ernest Bevin's papers which he had used for the second volume of "The Life and Times of Ernest Bevin" (BEVN 1-9). 11 more series of papers (BEVN II) were deposited by Lord Bullock in March 1983.

Related Materials

Most of the pre-1940 papers are held at the Modern Records Centre, University Library, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL (reference MSS.126/EB).


The Bevin collection was originally catalogued in 1975 and 1983. The typescript was then converted to electronic form as part of the A2A project co-ordinated by the National Archives (2001). In 2013, Francesca Alves transferred the catalogue information to Churchill Archives Centre's catalogue database and added further details and enhancements to the descriptions. Biographical information obtained from the Dictionary of National Biography.


Bevin, Ernest, 1881-1951, Statesman and Trade Union Leader

2013-09-10 10:55:47+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087