The Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick has recently received the papers of Lord Bill Wedderburn, after his death in 2012. An extensive collection of almost 100 boxes of his academic and professional papers is now waiting to be sorted and listed.
After his appointment in 1951 as a fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge, Bill Wedderburn immersed himself in the study and creation of the new discipline of ‘labour law’, evident in the first edition of The Worker and the Law published in 1965. But Bill Wedderburn was much more than an academic. He was deeply committed to the trade union movement, for which he acted as advisor and advocate in many legal cases and issues. This was recognised by Jack Jones, former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (one of the major founding unions of Unite), who, in the copy of his autobiography (Jack Jones: Union Man) that he presented to Bill, wrote ‘With very best wishes and appreciation of your great help to the cause of trade unionism and the emancipation of labour.’
This deeply felt commitment and activity is reflected in the archive, which contains a wealth of papers on all the major legal issues (including statutes and cases) in labour law since the early 1960s – Rookes v Barnard , Donovan Commission, Industrial Relations Act 1971, Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974, Bullock Committee on Industrial Democracy, Conservative governments’ legislation (1979–97), coal dispute (1984–5), GCHQ dispute (1984), Labour governments’ legislation (1997–2010), and the European Community/Union – to list only to the most obvious. There are extensive papers too on Bill’s frequent contributions at international conferences and his work in the House of Lords.
The Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick is renowned for its historical archives on industrial relations, such as the papers of the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress, trade unions (for example, Unite and its constituent unions), and Hugh Clegg, which attract researchers from all over the world. Bill Wedderburn’s papers are a substantial and valuable addition, which will provide vital material for generations of students interested in the political, legal, and economic history of industrial relations in the late twentieth century.
The Centre has limited resources and a backlog of uncatalogued material, and in order to make Bill Wedderburn’s 100 boxes of papers available and accessible, it needs financial support. The papers are now safely stored at the Centre but cannot be used by researchers until they have been listed and described in detail.
We are therefore making an appeal for financial contributions towards cataloguing and care of the collection. We would like to raise £40,000 to cover the costs of an archivist for 12 months to sort and arrange the papers, and to digitise selected materials. Will you please consider making a donation to this appeal in recognition of Bill Wedderburn’s unique contribution to labour law and industrial relations? Please note that as a charity, donations to the University of Warwick benefit from tax relief (Gift Aid). Contributions will enable students, academics and researchers to utilise these valuable papers and ensure that Bill Wedderburn’s work endures.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, Chair of the Modern Records Centre Advisory Board
Former Chair of the Modern Records Centre Advisory Board, Former General Secretary of UNISON
John Hendy QC
Old Square Chambers
Professor Sir Bob Hepple QC FBA
Hon President Industrial Law Society