What The Papers Said – the Editorial Correspondence of C.P. Scott in the Guardian Archive

I have now come to the final week of work on the Guardian Archive. C.P. Scott’s editorial correspondence series has been catalogued, all 12,933 letters of it, dating between 1879 and 1969, and the catalogue is now available on the Archives Hub. I have also enjoyed assisting on a workshop on archives for A-level students, running collection encounters and taking part in the Manchester Histories Festival.

I’ve had an excellent small team of volunteers, who have produced great catalogues and guides on material in the archive on the Boer War, and on women’s suffrage, and together we have curated a small exhibition in the Rylands Gallery, to promote some of our most interesting finds. I’ve also had the opportunity to write some articles about the archive, and explore its links to Manchester, including pieces for the Archives Hub, the Manchester Region History Review and for education page of the Guardian itself.

C.P. Scott, 1846-1929. Reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd

Scott’s correspondence is a fascinating window on the history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The letters include discussions with Scott on the political, economic and social issues facing Britain, and also discussion of these issues in countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. There are correspondents of renown from Herbert Hoover to Emmeline Pankhurst, and Mahatma Gandhi to George Bernard Shaw.

As the correspondents are arranged alphabetically, the time period and the subject matter varies considerably from one to the next. Discussion of the paper shortage in the first world war can be followed by the land apportionment act in Southern Rhodesia, and then arrangements for music criticism are followed by articles on the tomb of the Pharaohs. I have learned about the Armenian genocide, and about bone setters.

So, as this project draws to a close, I’d like to record some general observations, gleaned from cataloguing the series:

  • C.P. Scott was a real master of the short, snappy letter. I don’t think I read any external business letters which ran to longer than one page.
  • Memos are the equivalent of internal email in the early 20th century, where the members of staff talk about correspondents between themselves.
  • The women in this series are extraordinary. Owing to the time period, it’s unsurprising that they are so heavily outnumbered by male correspondents, but the women that feature include social reformers, politicians, and activists, scholars and journalists.
  • Staples (one of the banes of an archivist’s existence) begin to appear about halfway through the time period covered by this series. Prior to this, pins were used in their place.
  • Letters of recommendation written by C.S. Lewis are particularly eloquent.
  • There is really only one correspondent in the series that I haven’t been able to properly identify. If anyone can shed some light on W.H. Woodward, I’d be in your debt.

Many of the letters post-date Scott’s retirement, and the series also contains newspaper cuttings and leaflets, and personal letters between members of the Scott family. I’ve therefore had to conclude that, despite its title, the editorial correspondence of C.P. Scott is not all editorial, not all correspondence, and not all with C.P. Scott.

This has been a challenging and rewarding project, and I am very pleased to have contributed to improving the accessibility of this outstanding archive.

1 comment on “What The Papers Said – the Editorial Correspondence of C.P. Scott in the Guardian Archive

  1. Pingback: Cataloguing the First World War correspondence of the Manchester Guardian | John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

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