Lord Wedderburn – unique contribution to labour law and the trade union movement

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Morrish Solicitors are proud to be supporting the cataloguing and care of Lord Wedderburn’s extensive collection of academic and professional papers which are now stored in the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick.

Lord Wedderburn was a British politician and member of the House of Lords, affiliated with the Labour Party, who died in March 2012, aged 84.

After his appointment in 1951 as a fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge, Bill Wedderburn immersed himself in the study and creation of the new discipline of ‘labour law’, evident in the first edition of The Worker and the Law published in 1965. But Bill Wedderburn was much more than an academic. He was deeply committed to the trade union movement, for which he acted as advisor and advocate in many legal cases and issues.  This was recognised by Jack Jones, former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (which is one of the major founding unions of Unite), who, in the copy of his autobiography (Jack Jones: Union Man) that he presented to Bill, wrote ‘With very best wishes and appreciation of your great help to the cause of trade unionism and the emancipation of labour.’

This deeply felt commitment and activity is reflected in the archive, which contains a wealth of papers on all the major legal issues (including statutes and cases) in labour law since the early 1960s – Rookes v Barnard [1964], Donavan Commission, Industrial Relations Act Democracy, Conservative governments’ legislation (1979-97), coal dispute (1984-5), GCHQ dispute (1984), Labour governments’ legislation (1997 – 2010), and the European Community/Union – to list only the most obvious. There are extensive papers too on Bill’s frequent contributions at international conferences and his work in the House of Lords.

The Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick is renowned for its historical archives on industrial relations, such as the papers of the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress, trade unions (for example, Unite and its constituent unions), and Hugh Clegg, which attract researchers from all over the world. Bill Wedderburn’s papers are a substantial and valuable addition, which will provide vital material for generations of students interested in the political, legal and economic history of industrial relations in the late twentieth century.

The cataloguing will enable students, academics and researchers to utilise the valuable papers and ensure that the legacy of Lord Wedderburn’s work endures.

The Centre has limited resources and a backlog of uncatalogued material, and in order to make Bill Wedderburn’s 100 boxes of papers available and accessible, it needs financial support. The papers are now safely stored at the Centre but cannot be used by researchers until they have been listed and described in detail.

If you would like to make a donation to the appeal in recognition of Bill Wedderburn’s contribution to labour law and the trade union movement, please visit:


Ensure that you state Lord Wedderburn Appeal as your donation choice.



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