Historical election material and propaganda

As May 7th draws ever closer, we thought we would take a look in the Nuffield College Libary archive collections to see what election material and propaganda consisted of in the days before social media, televised leaders’ debates, twenty-four hour new channels and online discussion forums.  The material also highlights the important issues of the day for past elections, which can be compared to today’s top concerns. While some of the collections have only a small amount of material, such as:

  • the 1945 General Election addresses of G.D.H. Cole (Cole, G.D.H., D2/7/6,7) and Herbert Morrison, Labour candidate, East Lewisham (H. Morrison, D3/12)
  • analysis of the 1964 election results (H. Morrison, B1/56, B1/57-59, B1/60) and H. Fairlie’s analysis of the 1955 election prospects in the Daily Mail (H. Morrison, B1/5)
  • press cuttings about individuals’ election campaigns, such as John Seely’s candidature for the Isle of Wight constituency in 2 general elections 1923 & 1924 (Mottistone, 40)

Others hold much more information and examples of election material such as leaflets, posters, speeches and other propaganda.

Willet Ball, 1873-1962 (part of the Small collections)

Willet Ball was born in Lincoln in 1873 and received his education at Lincoln Middle School.  In 1888 he began work as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway Company and in 1893 he joined the National Union of Railwaymen and Social Democratic Federation.  In 1900 Ball became sub-editor of the Railway Review, which he then went on to edit between 1917 and 1933.  He stood as the Labour candidate for the Luton division of Bedfordshire in December 1918 and December 1923.  This collection contains:

  • Letter to the electors from Willet Ball, the Labour candidate for Luton Division of Bedfordshire, 1918 (D/31)
  • Book of stamps for sale in aid of Luton Divisional Labour Party, fighting funds for Ball, 1918 (D/32)
  • General election leaflet promoting Willet Ball, 1918 (D/34)
  • South Beds parliamentary election letter to “our soldiers and sailors” from Willett Ball, 1918 (D/35)
  • Luton Division parliamentary election letter to the electors from Willet Ball, 1923 (D/36)
D/34 General election leaflet promoting Willet Ball, 1918

D/34 General election leaflet promoting Willet Ball, 1918

D/36 Luton Division parliamentary election letter to the electors from Willet Ball, 1923

D/36 Luton Division parliamentary election letter to the electors from Willet Ball, 1923

D/32 Book of stamps for sale in aid of Luton Divisional Labour Party,

D/32 Book of stamps for sale in aid of Luton Divisional Labour Party,


By far the biggest collection of election material, however, is in the Gainford collection.

Gainford, Lord (1860-1943)

This collection covers the papers of Lord Gainford (1860-1943), including 6 members of the Gainford family: Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, 1st Bt. (1828-1903), his wife Mary (1835-1892), Joseph Albert Pease, 1st Baron Gainford (1860-1943), his wife Ethel (Elsie) (1867-1941), Miriam Blanche Pease (1887-1965) and Joseph Pease, 2nd Baron Gainford (1889-1971).  The collection contains correspondence, papers and publications about the family businesses, the economy, local and national politics and the two world wars, giving a valuable insight into social and political history from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.

Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease’s papers contain election papers, canvassing documents, speeches and cartoons, 1833 – 1902.  His son, Joseph Albert Pease (JAP), had even more involvement in political life however as, between 1892 and 1916, he was Liberal M.P. Tyneside Division, Northumberland, Liberal M.P. Saffron Walden Division, Essex and Liberal M.P. Rotherham Division, W.R. Yorkshire.  His papers contain material such as political speeches, press cuttings of his first parliament (1893-1985), correspondence to the elecorate and other politicians (1891-1916), canvassing rules, Tyneside Liberal Association rules, notebook, election expenses & chequebook, results and figures (1892, 1895 & 1900). Much of the election material and propaganda is from the Saffron Walden elections, 1901, 1906 & 1910.  This includes a selection of posters, large and small, for the 1900 General Election, including ‘The Tories nation of peace and goodwill’ (114) and even some anti-Liberal propaganda!


Gainford 117/19  Election propaganda against JAP

Gainford 117/19 Election propaganda against JAP

Gainford 114 / Election poster, 1900

Gainford 114 / Election poster, 1900

Gainford 114 / Election poster, 1900

Gainford 114 / Election poster, 1900

Gainford 114 / Election poster 1900

Gainford 114 / Election poster 1900


Other items of interest include party songs, letters to the electorate, flyers and even party badges and a cloth election poster for JAP.

Gainford 117/11 JAP election badge

Gainford 117/11 JAP election badge

Gainford 117/8 Election flyer, 1910

Gainford 117/8 Election flyer, 1910

Gainford 115/22 Liberal Party flyer

Gainford 115/22 Liberal Party flyer

Gainford 111/98 Liberal Party election song

Gainford 111/98 Liberal Party election song

Gainford 112/15 Liberal Party songs

Gainford 112/15 Liberal Party songs

Gainford 113/3 Cloth election poster for JAP

Gainford 113/3 Cloth election poster for JAP

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About Nuffield College Library

We are a social sciences library serving Nuffield College and the University of Oxford
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