Trades Union Congress Library Collections
The TUC Library is the major research library for the study of all aspects of trade unions, collective bargaining and labour history, with both historical and contemporary coverage. The emphasis is on Britain, but many other countries are represented, especially Europe and the Commonwealth.
The core areas of the collection are the publications of the TUC since its foundation in 1868, reference and historical works on the labour and trade union movement, union publications from the UK and overseas, and documents relating to working conditions and industrial relations in various industries. The collections also contain material collected from the wide-ranging campaigns and policy areas in which the TUC has been involved over the course of its history, including social policy areas such as health, housing, education, unemployment and social security.
A major strength of the Library is the large holdings of pamphlets from unions, pressure groups and campaign movements, collected from the 19th century onwards, which have survived here as in few other comparable libraries. Important research collections cover:- union activities, international affairs, labour biography, women workers, strikes, Labour Party and Communist Party.
You can find many examples of the contents of the TUC Library in the University catalogue.
The collections also contain various archive deposits, including the records of the Workers' Educational Association, the Labour Research Department and the personal papers of Gertrude Tuckwell (1861-1951) and Marjorie Nicholson (1914-1997). For more information see the Archives section below.
History of the Library
The TUC Library was established in 1922 and was based on the integrated collections of the TUC Parliamentary Committee, the Labour Party Information Bureau, and the Women’s Trade Union League. It was run as a joint library with the Labour Party until the TUC moved to Congress House in 1956. The collection was developed for the use of the TUC and affiliated unions, but its specialisation has led to its parallel development as a major research library in the social sciences. In September 1996, the Collections moved to their new home in the London Metropolitan University Holloway Road library.
Outline descriptions of many of our archive holdings are available on the Archives Hub website and the AIM 25 Archives in London. Contact the TUC Collections for a full list.
Catalogues of the major deposits are searchable online via the following downloads:
- Alan Clinton
Alan Clinton 1943-2005 was a historian and author of several books and reports. He was Labour Party councillor for the London Borough of Islington 1982-1997 and Leader of the Council 1994-1997. Consists of one box which includes the 1984-1985 Miners' Strike, Garners Strike (1978-1979), and South London Labour activity 1951-1958.
Alan Clinton Papers
- Denis Delay Papers
Denis Delay 1927-2011 was a member of staff at the TUC from 1960 to 1990. The collection represents his interest in the docks industry and its history. 33 boxes include personal papers belonging to Denis Delay, drafts of his history of industrial relations in the docks, and material collected in relation to his research. It includes correspondence; minutes and papers of the various committees and conferences; publications, leaflets and other ephemera; together with general background information on trade unionism, the docks, shipping, London during the Second World War, social history and politics.
Denis Delay Papers
- Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers
This is the largest collection of publications in the UK from the network of community-based writing groups that stretched across the UK between 1976 and 2007. These voluntary, community-run groups met to allow working-class people to share and discuss their creative writing and facilitate community self-publication. It thrived during a period of significant social, economic and political change in the UK especially through the 1970s and 1980s, and represented a significant counter-cultural movement. Through the medium of poetry, prose, fiction, biography, autobiography and local history, they document the changing experience of working class people over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, and much like oral history, they contain testimony about cultural history and working lives. They also reveal an emerging identity politics focused on issues of the local community, immigration, race/ethnicity, gender, mental health and sexuality, with groups setting up to discuss, publish and represent those identities.
Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers
- The Gertrude Tuckwell Papers
Gertrude Tuckwell (1861-1951) was a trade union organiser and campaigner for Women's rights. This significant archive relates to her work at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century with the Women's Trade Union League, the National Federation of Women Workers and the Christian Social Union Research Committee.
The Gertrude Tuckwell Papers
- Labour Research Department Archive
Founded in 1913 to supply trade unions and other groups with information to use in negotiations, political debates and public meetings. The Archive provides a detailed record of trade union and political struggles in the 20th century.
- London Bookbinders and Paperworkers
88 volumes of London branch minutes and papers from 1840 to 1965. A wonderful illustration of the core of the British print industry through its golden age.
London Bookbinders and Paperworkers
- The Marjorie Nicholson Papers
An archive of papers and collection of books relating to Marjorie Nicholson's work in the International Department of the TUC from 1955-1972. This was a period when former commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas were gaining independence and the TUC worked with their developing trade union movements.
The Marjorie Nicholson Collection
- Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust Archive
The papers cover the work of the Trust which was established in 1922 to commemorate Mary Macarthur, leading trade unionists and women's rights campaigner. The trust aimed to provide a holiday home for disadvantaged working women.
Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust Archive
- Russian Collections
These papers were collected by the British trade union and labour delegations to Russia in 1920 and 1924 and the women's trade union delegation of 1925, and include diaries, letters, photographs and souvenir gifts from the Bolshevik hosts keen to impress their visitors. This is a highly visual collection some of which has been digitised and can be viewed on the Union Makes Us Strong website.
- SOGAT London Women's Branch Records
A small collection of papers, minute books and publications covering the print industry 1917-1992 and the role of women trade unionists; including equal pay disputes.
SOGAT London Womens Branch
- Workers' Educational Association Library and Archive
The history of the organisation founded in 1903 to encourage adult literacy and lifelong learning. It was closely linked to the universities extra-mural departments, university tutorial classes and the trade union movement. The WEA were closely involved in campaigns for better state education and in particular, were involved in the campaign which preceded the 1944 Education Act. The WEA is now a national voluntary organisation existing primarily to provide adults with access to organised learning. It is a registered charity and is non-party in politics and non-sectarian in religion. The WEA has over 650 local branches and 28 local organisations including 23 national trade unions who are affiliated at the national level.
In 2018 we received the Bernard Jennings Papers which covers his research into the history of the Workers’ Educational Association and adult education in general.
Special format collections
There are a number of special format collections. Please note that these are developing collections and the lists below are updated as required.
- posters - over 900 posters in the TUC Collections have been listed as at January 2016
- photographs - the collection of over 11,000 photographs has not yet been catalogued and is only available for TUC and University use, but many may be seen on our history websites
- press cuttings - over 900 files of newspaper cuttings relating to personalities, trade unions and other organisations
- VHS videos - contact library for details of holdings. DVDs received since 1999 are included in the online catalogue
- 1926 General Strike newspapers
History websites and digitised resources
- The Union Makes Us Strong
An introduction to the history of the TUC and the trade union movement, including a Timeline of union history, the full text of the annual TUC Congress Reports 1868-1968, and hundreds of digitised images and documents selected from the TUC Library.
- The Workers' War
Discover the contribution working people made to the war effort during the Second World War, via oral history interviews, academic articles and hundreds of digitised images and documents.
- Winning Equal Pay
Explore the history of the struggle for equal pay for women. Includes videos on the subject of prominent equal pay strikes and hundreds of digitised images and documents.
- Britain at Work 1945-1995
Discover how the British workplace has changed during the post-war period, via oral history interviews, academic articles and digitised images and documents
Copyright Notice: The images in the TUC Image Library remain the property of the Creators and as such come under Copyright law. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents is forbidden without the express permission of the said Creators and Copyright holders. For permission requests, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source notes on special collections:
- Education for Social Justice in the TUC Library
- Sources for Caribbean Studies in the TUC collections
- Sources for the History of Education
- Sources for the History of Race Relations and BAME Workers
- Sources for the study of the European Labour Movement in the TUC collections
- Sources for the study of Women and Gender Issues in the TUC collections
- Researching housing, construction and city planning in the TUC collections
- Sources for the study of Black Trade Unionists in the TUC Library
- Researching LGBT issues in the TUC collections
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Complete Guide
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Activism
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Art
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Design
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Disability
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Food
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Gender
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Jewish Life
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection LGBTQ+
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Literacy
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Local London
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Mental Health
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Migration
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Mining
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Multilingual
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Publishing
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Race
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection War
- Federation of Worker Writer and Community Publishers Collection Work
Exhibitions for loan
The TUC Library has produced a number of exhibitions in recent years and has more in the pipeline. These consist of lightweight A2 sized (42 x 59.4cm portrait) boards that can be easily posted to anyone planning an event. Contact email@example.com for details. The cost of postage must be covered for the out and return journeys or appropriate transport arranged.
Exhibitions currently available for loan
Solidarity and the Miners' Strike 1984-85
Solidarity and the Miners' Strike 1984-85
The Impact of the Russian Revolution on the Left in Britain 1917-1926
The Impact of the Russian Revolution on the Left in Britain 1917-1926
A Special Relationship - a history of the connections between American and British Labour Movements
A Special Relationship
The Workers United - commemorating the 150 anniversary of the TUC through its Library Collections
The Workers United
Young Workers and Unions - agents for change
Young Workers and Unions
NEW (2021) The Life of Mary Macarthur - to Fight to Struggle to Right the Wrong
The Life of Mary MacArthur
Searching the TUC Library catalogues
Most of the TUC Library acquired since it moved to London Metropolitan University in 1996 is on the University’s online catalogue.
However, the majority of the Library accumulated beforehand, from our foundation in 1922, was recorded on a Card Catalogue consisting of approximately 130,000 cards.
We recommend you use both as finding aids for your research.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a searchable transcription of the original 1888 register which is held in the TUC Library. A digitised version and background information is available.
The Special Collections Reading Room (Wash Houses, Aldgate)
Tuesdays - 10am to 5pm
Fridays - 10am to 5pm
Please note the Reading Room will close at 5pm on Tuesday 20th December and reopen at 10am on Friday 6th January 2023
For enquiries that relate specifically to Special Collections please email: email@example.com
16 Goulston Street
London E1 7TP
Nearest underground (Tube): Aldgate East (Circle and Hammersmith & City) and Aldgate (Metropolitan)
Nearest Bus(es): 415, 25, 67, 115, 205, 254
Parking Details: Parking is very restricted.