Introduction to the Churchill Papers.

Reference code: CHUR

Previous record: CHAR

Date: 1945-1965


The papers of Sir Winston Churchill (WSC) are held at: Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge, CB3 0DS (Repository Code: 014).

The papers have been divided into 2 groups. The papers dating from before 27 July 1945 when Churchill's first term as Prime Minister ended are known as the Chartwell Papers (catalogue reference CHAR) and were originally owned by the Chartwell Trust. The papers dating from after 27 July 1945 (catalogue reference CHUR) are known as the Churchill Papers and were given to Churchill College by Lady Churchill. This introduction focuses on the latter group of papers which will be referred to as the post war Churchill Papers.

In April 1995, grants from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the John Paul Getty Foundation enabled the Chartwell Papers to be bought from the Chartwell Trust and consolidated the ownership of all the Papers in a charitable trust, the Sir Winston Churchill Archive Trust. The papers will be held in perpetuity at Churchill Archives Centre where they are available for consultation by members of the public.

Custodial history: Since 1974 the Churchill papers have been housed at Churchill Archives Centre. The papers were previously held at the house of Churchill's son, Randolph Churchill, at Stour, East Bergholt, Suffolk while he worked on the official biography of his father. When Randolph died in 1968 the papers were transferred to the Bodleian Library, Oxford where Martin Gilbert continued work on the official biography.

Sorting, arrangement and cataloguing: The initial process of arranging and compiling a catalogue to the papers of Sir Winston Churchill was carried out by the staff of the Public Record Office (PRO) between 1961 and 1964. In contrast to the Chartwell papers, the post-war Churchill papers remained largely in the order in which they had been accumulated and used for business. Their arrangement was based on the assessment of complete files (rather than the classification of individual papers). It was very difficult to divide all WSC's papers at a particular point in time so that there is some chronological overlap between the Chartwell and Churchill Papers.

Though the basic structure of the classes of the post war Churchill Papers is the same as the arrangement of the Chartwell Trust papers there are important differences in the distinctions between classes and their detailed arrangement. The differences arise from the more orderly arrangement in which the papers had been maintained. For the most part, except for the literary material (CHUR 4), the papers had been placed in files and were sometimes arranged according to their subjects (such as "political" and "private and personal"). These series were sometimes inconsistent, papers had been transferred between them, and their subject matter overlapped. No attempt was made to split and distribute these series and they have been assigned to the classes to which the majority of their papers belong.

Similarly, the original files were not split or distributed chronologically and many cover a number of years. The classes often contain groups of files which correspond with the original series and these groups have been chronologically arranged. The files themselves often cover several years and contain earlier material which was brought forward as business recurred. The electronic catalogue includes details of the complete chronological span of the files although the printed catalogue (available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre) gives an indication of the period during which the file was in active use.

The computer software used to catalogue the papers means that the descriptions of all catalogued documents can be searched for references to individual people or subjects. This means that the inevitable inconsistencies in the classification scheme are much less of an obstacle to the retrieval of relevant information. The post war Churchill papers have been described at class and file level.

The staff of the PRO destroyed redundant duplicates (mainly spare prints of "The Second World War" and "The History of the English Speaking Peoples").

The extent of the post war Churchill Papers is: 800 boxes of 1,412 files.

The papers consist of original documents accumulated by Sir Winston Churchill including personal papers, public and political papers; constituency papers, literary papers; speeches and official papers.

Contained records

Reference Record Date
CHUR 1 Personal 1945 - 1965
CHUR 2 Public and Political: General 1945 - 1965
CHUR 3 Political: Constituency: Woodford [Essex] 1943 - 1965
CHUR 4 Literary 1924 - 1965
CHUR 5 Speeches 1942 - 1960
CHUR 6 Official: Prime Minister 1951 - 1955