The Editorial Correspondence of C.P. Scott in the Guardian archive

Archives Hub feature for April 2017

Explore descriptions relating to liberalism on the Archives Hub.

First edition of the Manchester Guardian, 1821.
First edition of the Manchester Guardian, 1821.

The Guardian is one Britain’s leading newspapers, with a long standing reputation as a platform for Liberal opinion, and an international online community of 30.4 million readers. Founded in Manchester in 1821, it was created by John Edward Taylor, a cotton manufacturer. In the wake of the Peterloo massacre, the paper was intended as a means of expressing Liberal opinion and advocating political reform. Over the next 100 years, the paper originally known as the Manchester Guardian would be transformed from a small provincial journal into a paper of international relevance and renown.

The Guardian archive consists of two main elements: the records of the newspaper as a business; and a very extensive collection of editorial correspondence and despatches from reporters, and was donated to the University of Manchester John Rylands Library in 1971. From April 2016-March 2017, a project entitled ‘What The Papers Say’ was undertaken to catalogue the editorial correspondence of Charles Prestwich Scott, which contains nearly 13,000 items from over 1,300 correspondents.

Charles Prestwich Scott, 1931.
Charles Prestwich Scott, 1931.

Charles Prestwich Scott (1846-1932) presided over the Manchester Guardian for 57 years, cementing the Liberal editorial philosophy of the paper, and ensuring a consistently high standard of journalism and journalistic integrity. He championed causes including women’s suffrage, home rule for Ireland, and the establishment of a Jewish homeland, and stood out against Britain’s policy in South Africa during the Boer war, and conscription during the First World War, supporting the formation of the League of Nations and negotiations for peace in Europe.

C.P. Scott’s editorial correspondence series contains letters exchanged with figures of historical importance and eminence in almost every imaginable field, from politics and economics, to history, science and the arts. These individuals often contributed articles to the paper, and met with the editor to discuss current events and affairs. Examples of correspondents include politicians including Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill, and also Marion Phillips, first woman organiser of the Labour party, and Mary Agnes Hamilton, politician and broadcaster.

Excerpt of a letter to C.P. Scott from Winston Churchill, 9th May 1909
Excerpt of a letter to C.P. Scott from Winston Churchill, 9th May 1909, on interruptions to his speeches by Suffragists.

Campaigners for women’s suffrage are represented in the correspondence by Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst, and Charlotte Despard, amongst many others.

Excerpt of a letter to C.P. Scott from Emmeline Pankhurst, 27th December 1910
Excerpt of a letter to C.P. Scott from Emmeline Pankhurst, 27th December 1910, on the death of her sister, Mary Jane Clarke.

The Liberal perspective of Scott and the Manchester Guardian can be seen in the interactions between Scott and Roger Casement, Irish nationalist, Rabindranath Tagore, poet and educationist, Emily Hobhouse, social activist and charity worker, Chaim Weizmann, Zionist, and social reformers Eleanor Rathbone and James Joseph Mallon. Scott creates a dialogue with these individuals about their fields of expertise, using the paper to provide a platform for the promotion of their views and causes.

The editors and proprietors of other newspapers are also featured in the correspondence, including William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Express, and James Louis Garvin of The Observer. Their correspondence includes discussion of current events and politics, and also expressions of admiration for Scott and the Manchester Guardian.

Literary figures also feature in the correspondence, such as George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, William Butler Yeats, Harley Granville-Barker and Arthur Ransome. Prior to writing Swallows and Amazons, Ransome acted as a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in Russia and Estonia, also writing a long running column for the paper on fishing.

In addition to occasional and expert contributors, there is a vast array of correspondence with members of staff of the paper, relating to editorial, technical, business and staffing concerns. These letters provide insight into the operation of a newspaper, alongside an impression of the colossal impact of events such as the First and Second World Wars.

Threaded through Scott’s correspondence, and the Guardian archive, there is also a real sense of the influence of the paper’s location in Manchester, and the significance of the Manchester Guardian in the history of the city. It can be seen in the approach to trade and industry, to the arts, and to education.

The centrality of trade and industry in Manchester meant that these subjects became a focal point of the Manchester Guardian. Such was the Manchester Guardian’s influence, that by 1920, Scott was able to employ the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes to produce a series of supplements for the Manchester Guardian Commercial on proposals for the reconstruction of Europe following the First World War.

Scott believed in the importance of producing a high quality of articles and reviews on the arts, and ensured coverage in the Manchester Guardian for literature, art, theatre and music. This would lead to a close relationship between the paper and Manchester’s resident symphony orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra. Scott would also become a supporter of the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Manchester Art Gallery, and of the production of Ford Madox Brown’s Manchester murals for the city’s town hall.

Manchester Guardian, 24th Oct 1921, p. 12.
Manchester Guardian, 24th Oct 1921, p. 12.

Scott used the Manchester Guardian to champion the importance of access to education, evident in his work as a trustee of Owens College, which would become the University of Manchester.  Scott was also one of the founders of Withington Girls School, established in 1890. This belief in the importance of education for women may be seen as an element of his more general perspective on women’s rights, which would lead to his influential support of the women’s suffrage movement.

For more information on the Guardian archive, and the collections held at the John Rylands Library, please visit:

Jessica Smith
The John Rylands Library
The University of Manchester


Explore the Editorial Correspondence of C.P. Scott collection (1821-1970s) on the Archives Hub.

Explore the Archive of the Guardian (formerly Manchester Guardian) collection (1821-1970s) on the Archives Hub.

Browse the University of Manchester Special Collections  on the Archives Hub.

Guardian News and Media Archive
The GNM Archive mainly holds records that relate to the Guardian since its move from Manchester to London in the 1960s (and some earlier records though the majority are held at the John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester).
Explore the Guardian News and Media Archive collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.


Review of 2006

Archives Hub Christmas CardIt’s been an eventful year for the Archives Hub, so I thought I’d take this chance to select a few highlights.

Development work has been proceeding fast on the Spokes software. John Harrison (over in Liverpool), Jane and Steve have put a lot of energy into this and we’re also grateful to all the ‘early adopters’ who’ve given us so much useful feedback. I’m sure that 2007 will see widespread uptake of this software, which gives institutions a low-cost way of presenting their EAD files online. ELGAR is the Spoke installation at the John Rylands University Library here in Manchester, which has not been live for long, but which is already appearing in search engine results for searches on the names of John Rylands collections.

The Hub’s collections of the month have been brilliant this year: I think my favourite one was June’s look at Romanies and Gypsiologists, which is a great example of the way that services like the Archives Hub can bring together related collections from a range of archive-holding institutions. Thanks to Paddy for all the work that he does on this aspect of the service.

We’ve had a couple of interruptions to the Archives Hub’s service this year: a major power cut to Manchester Computing’s building in May and a hard disk failure in October. Steve ensured that the interruptions were as brief as possible!

We are a small team here, with five of us sharing an office, but all three of the men became fathers during 2006, so best wishes to all the new families for their first Christmas.

In the last week a complimentary review of the Archives Hub and other MIMAS services was published in the Guardian newspaper (scroll down the article to ‘The MIMAS Touch’), which was an excellent way to end the year.

We wish all our users, contributors and colleagues a happy Christmas and a fulfilling 2007.

The image is of the 2006 Archives Hub Christmas card, in case you didn’t get a hard copy version. Snowflakes were made using the Make a Flake site.

Irish blues

The library of Trinity College Dublin was featured in Material World this week on BBC Radio 4. The programme discussed the use of Laser Raman spectroscopy, which is a non-destructive way of analysing the contents of the pigments in the illustrations of the 9th-century Book of Kells. It had originally been thought that the blues in the paintings were made from lapis lazuli, causing elaborate theories of very early trade links between Ireland and Afghanistan to be developed. The new technique showed that the blue was in fact created from woad, which is slightly less exotic and exciting, but much more easily explained. Keeper of manuscripts Bernard Meehan and keeper of conservation Susie Bioletti both featured in the programme, which is available online until next Thursday.

Death again

I was going to post about the mention of the Cumbria Archive Service on Radio 4’s The Today Programme yesterday morning, but then two pieces of news about the National Archives and Library in Iraq caught my attention. One was a posting by Jeffrey B. Spur on the History News Network stating that the institution has been closed, the other was Patricia Sleeman’s message to the JISCmail archives-nra list, inviting archivists to read the diary entries of the institution’s Director, Saad Eskander, which have been mounted on the Society of Archivists’ website.

These items put PR triumphs by UK archivists into perspective, but you can hear Anne Rowe (Cumbria’s County Archivist) talking about the more mysterious seventeenth century deaths in Cumbria in The Today Programme until next Thursday.

Random death

Geoff Pick of the London Metropolitan Archives made an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s statistical programme ‘More or Less’ this evening, talking about the way the V1 rockets hit London in 1944. The way the bombs landed, often in clusters, meant that many people thought that they were being deliberately aimed at certain targets. The London County Council Architect’s Department’s maps of the locations of the strikes were used by R. D. Clark, a statistician, to prove that they were in fact perfectly random. During the next seven days you can listen to the programme through the BBC’s website.

P.S. For what it’s worth, I tried very hard to find a reference number for these maps, but with no joy. Please chip in if you know better…

Philip Pullman on libraries

There was a good promotional article on libraries and librarians in The Times on Saturday. Though I don’t think Philip realises quite how much librarians are involved in bringing information online and improving the quality of online information (not to mention providing online access within libraries).

Paying for publicly funded data

An interesting story in last week’s Guardian about the cost to the economy of buying back data which has been created using public money (OS maps, Highways Agency video feeds and so on). It contrasts the situation in the UK with that of the US, where this kind of data is available free of charge and has resulted in the creation of innovative services like Google Maps.