Fonds RAB - Papers of Lord Butler

Identity area

Reference code



Papers of Lord Butler


  • 1788-1982 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

252 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Richard Austen Butler was born at Attock in the Punjab on 9 December 1902, the son of Sir Montagu Sherard Dawes Butler, Indian Civil Servant and later Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge. He attended Marlborough School whence he won an exhibition to Pembroke College Cambridge. Firsts in Modern and Medieval Languages and in History led to a Fellowship at Corpus Christi College, but Butler decided on a Parliamentary career and was elected to the seat of Saffron Walden, a constituency that he served until his retirement from Parliament in 1965. His first office was as Under-Secretary in Samuel Hoare's India Office, a post that he held from 1932 to 1937. This was followed on the accession of Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister by a stint in the Ministry of Labour and in 1938 he was moved to be Secretary of State in the Foreign Office under Halifax. In 1941, Churchill moved him to be Minister of Education, where he piloted through the 1944 Education Act which bears his name.
Following the defeat of the Conservatives in 1945 Butler was made Chairman of the Conservative Research Department, and set about reforging Party policy, promoting moderate Conservative ideas. His position was central to much post-war Conservative thinking and he retained it until 1964. From 1951 to 1955 he was an able Chancellor of the Exchequer and from 1957-62 Home Secretary, where he beat off opposition from the pro-corporal punishment wing of the party to push through a new Criminal Justice Act. In 1962 he took control of the new Central Africa Department, where his considerable skill at negotiation produced some unlikely results. In the Labour victory of 1964 Butler held his seat, but he left politics in 1965 on being offered the Mastership of Trinity College and a life peerage. He held the Mastership until 1977, when statute dictated that he step down. He died in 1982.

Archival history

Lord Butler gave the papers to Trinity College during his Mastership

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

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Scope and content

Personal papers 1918-65; personal correspondence 1916-76; family papers 1788-1956; official papers 1904-68; official correspondence files 1933-66; general political files 1929 76; Conservative Party material 1933-64; constituency papers 1918-64; speeches and articles 1929-79; press cuttings 1926 76; photographs 1868-1964

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System of arrangement

The political papers follow very much the system of arrangement used by RAB's various secretaries while in office

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Material in J and at G46 are CLOSED for 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

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      Language and script notes

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      Finding aids

      This catalogue was produced by Jonathan Smith in 2019. It is based on a typescript catalogue produced by Alan Kucia and Jonathan Smith in the 1980s and 1990s.

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      Publication note

      See Anthony Howard, 'RAB: The life of R A Butler' and R A Butler, 'The Art of the possible'

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