British Library acquires Benn archive

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The British Library has acquired the archive of Labour’s left-wing firebrand MP, Tony Benn, in lieu of tax, it was announced today.

The archive, which Benn, the longest-serving Labour MP, accumulated throughout his life was valued at £210,000.

“Tony Benn’s Archive is an extraordinarily wide-ranging and rich resource for historians and researchers and is a great gift to the nation” said Rachel Foss, head of contemporary archives and manuscripts at the British Library. “The Benn Archive will be hugely valuable for current and future generations of researchers into post-war British politics and society, into the Labour Party and the labour movement, as well as into the long and influential career of Tony Benn himself. It is a very substantial addition to the British Library’s growing collections of contemporary archives in the field of politics, campaigning and activism.”

The collection begins in Benn’s childhood with the earliest diary from when he was nine years old, and covers the rest of his life to his death in 2014 aged 88. Ashe heir to Viscount Stansgate he had to set aside his peerage in 1963 to be elected to the House of Commons, and was a member for 47 years.

He served in the cabinets of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan but while in opposition in the 1980s emerged as a prominent left-wing figure, when the term “Bennite” came to refer to radical socialist politics. When he left Parliament in 2001 he became president of the Stop the War Coalition until his death.

“It was Tony Benn’s wish that his political and personal papers should go to the British Library” said the trustees of the Tony Benn Estate. “This decision means that his unique archive will now be available to the public, academics and journalists wanting to understand more about his life and the period of politics it covered.”

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