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The Papers of John Ernest Silkin

Reference Code: GBR/0014/SLKN

Scope and Contents

The papers held at Churchill Archives Centre cover Silkin's Parliamentary and Ministerial career, and his other public interests, including the Channel Tunnel, the E.E.C. and the dairy industry. There is material of particular interest on Silkin's difficulties with his Constituency Party in Deptford, and on the Labour Party Leadership and Deputy Leadership elections in 1980 and 1983.


  • Creation: 1950 - 1987

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Closures of individual files are noted in the paper catalogue, please ask staff for further details.

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

18 Mar 1923 Born, son of 1st Baron Silkin PC, CH, younger brother of Samuel Silkin, (later Lord Silkin of Dulwich) Education: Dulwich College, University of Wales, Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1944, LLM) 1942: Joined Royal Navy 1943: Commissioned as Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.V.R., serving in East Indies Fleet, Eastern Fleet and British Pacific Fleet aboard HMS King George V and HMS Formidable 1945: Promoted Lieutenant, R.N.V.R. 1946: Demobilised, returned to Cambridge 1950: Admitted Solicitor. Married Rosamund John (actress). Contested (Lab) St Marylebone. 1951: Contested (Lab) West Woolwich 1954: Son born, Rory L.F. Silkin 1959: Contested (Lab) South Nottingham 1962-63: Councillor for London Borough of St Marylebone 1963-87: Labour MP for Deptford (July 1963-74), Lewisham, Deptford, 1974-87 1966: PC 1966-69: Government Chief Whip 1968-69: Deputy Leader, House of Commons 1969-70: Minister of Public Buildings and Works 1974-76: Minister for Planning and Local Government in the Department of the Environment 1976-79: Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food 1979-80: Opposition Spokesman on Industry 1980-83: Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 1981-83: Opposition Spokesman on Defence and Disarmament 1985-86: Dairy Industry Arbitrator 26 Mar 1987: Died Posthumous publication: "Changing Battlefields: The Challenge to the Labour Party".


36 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

The collection has been catalogued and a copy of the catalogue is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge and the National Register of Archives, London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of John Silkin were given to the Churchill Archives Centre by his widow, Mrs Rosamund Silkin in February 1990.


This finding aid was prepared by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre from an existing catalogue in July 2004. The original catalogue was compiled by Martin Taylor with additions by Alan Kucia in 1993, and retroconverted in 2018.


Silkin, John Ernest, 1923-1987, politician

2004-07-14 16:07:29+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