democratic control

Union of Democratic Control

Background to the Collection

The Union of Democratic Control (UDC) was established during the first days of the First World War to work for parliamentary control of foreign policy and a just peace settlement. They were working under the belief that Britain had been dragged into the war because of secret military agreements with France and Russia.

The early leaders of the group, initially called the Committee of Democratic Control, were Charles Trevelyan, James Ramsay Macdonald, Arthur Ponsonby, Norman Angell and ED Morel. The group was formally launched as the Union of Democratic Control in an open letter to the press in September 1914. Morel became the secretary and a committee was established, which included Arthur Henderson, J A Hobson and Bertrand Russell.

In late 1917, the UDC achieved its largest membership of some 10,000 individuals in over 100 branches. Publicity was a major focus of the organisation’s efforts, and during the war 28 pamphlets, 47 leaflets and 18 books were issued, alongside a journal titled The UDC (later Foreign Affairs).

Established on wartime issues, the UDC continued to thrive after the war. Thirty members of the UDC were elected as Labour MPs in 1922. The first ever Labour government in 1924 included five members of the UDC Executive and eight members of its General Council. From the 1920s the UDC concentrated its efforts on highlighting and offering solutions to problems in international affairs, eventually becoming a leading anti-colonial organisation.

In the 1920s, it pressed for the keeping of peace by open diplomacy and a reformed League of Nations; in the 1930s, it challenged the growth of armaments and imperialism in China and East Africa; and in the 1940s it supported the struggles for independence in Asia and Africa. The UDC was eventually wound up in December 1966 in the midst of the disintegration of the British Empire.

What is in the collection?

Material in this collection covers the period 1910-1974. Records include minutes, accounts, subject files, correspondence, press cuttings and publications.

Records relate to the General Council, the Executive Committee, sub-committees, preparation and sale of publications, and touch on the subjects mentioned above.

What areas of research would the collection support?

This collection would support research into WWI politics, peace and democracy campaigning, literature and publishing in WWI, Labour Party history, the history of the League of Nations, anti-colonialism and the disintegration of the British Empire.

Are there any access issues?

There are no access issues associated with this collection and it will be made available to any accredited reader.

Is there any related material?

Related material can be found in the following collections:

  • Papers of Audrey Jupp-Thomas (UDC Secretary, 1940s-1960s) [U DJT].

Please also see our Politics and Campaigning page for further guidance on our political collections.

See the online catalogue description