Denis Healey’s archives to be stored in the Bodleian

Wilson-era notes and letters accepted in lieu of £75,670 of inheritance tax

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

The personal archives of former minister Denis Healey have been acquired by the Bodleian Libraries.

Lord Healey, who died in 2015, was a senior Labour politician who was twice defeated in bids for the party leadership. He was an MP from 1952 to 1992 and served as both Defence Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer during the 1960s and 1970s.

The documents were provided through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, which enables taxpayers to pay inheritance tax by ‘transferring important works of art and other important heritage objects into public ownership’.

The Labour minister’s “extensive” archives were accepted by Arts Council England, which runs the scheme, in lieu of £75,670 of inheritance tax, and date from the 1930s until 2015.

He was a popular political figure who was famed for his use of, sometimes inflammatory, political rhetoric and his bushy eyebrows. In 1978, he referred to Geoffrey Howe’s criticism of him as being akin to being “savaged by a dead sheep”.

However, some of his language caused controversy at times. One comment, describing fellow MP Ian Mikardo as “out of his tiny Chinese mind” caused an upset in Anglo-Chinese relations.

The archives themselves contain a number of personal documents – including photos, diaries and press cuttings – which portray the role that Healey played in 20th century politics.

They also include personal correspondence with major political figures, such as Clement Attlee, and personal notes taken during meetings of the Wilson cabinet, as well as an account of a visit to Nazi Germany in 1938.

Chris Fletcher, the Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, said: “We are delighted that the Bodleian Libraries has been allocated Denis Healey’s personal archive and it’s particularly appropriate that it will be kept in Oxford where he began his political career.

“We are very grateful to Healey’s family and to the AIL scheme for this excellent outcome”.

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The Chairman of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel, Edward Harley, said: “I am very pleased that the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme has helped it to find a home where its potential for scholarship will be fulfilled.

“I am confident that this archive will prove of great interest to scholars of 20th Century politics.”