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Archive of Denis Healey


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Comprises the personal, political and literary papers of Denis Healey, photographs, press cuttings, audiovisual material and speeches, and papers relating to Edna Healey.


  • Creation: Creation: 1880-1888, c. 1900-c. 2017
  • Creation: Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-2017


29.57 Linear metres (435 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Japanese
  • French
  • German
  • Dutch; Flemish
  • Italian
  • Hungarian
  • Russian
  • Latvian
  • Finnish
  • Georgian
  • Greek, Modern (1453-)
  • Arabic
  • Maltese
  • Danish
  • Norwegian
  • Swedish
  • Spanish; Castilian
  • Panjabi; Punjabi
  • Hindi
  • Icelandic
  • Chinese
  • Tamil
  • Malay
  • Turkish
  • Polish
  • Czech

Conditions Governing Access

Material of a sensitive personal nature, royal correspondence, correspondence related to the system of awarding Honours, and audio-visual material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Healey 1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Healey 1-435

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12077, 12690


Personal, political and literary papers of Denis Winston Healey (1917-2015), politician.

Biographical / Historical

Denis Winston Healey was born 1917 in Mottringham, Kent. He moved to Keighley, Yorkshire at age of 5. He was educated at Bradford Grammar School, then Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Greats. During the Second World War, Healey served in the Royal Artillery, and saw action in North Africa and Italy. He left the army with the rank of Major.

Healey became involved in the Labour movement while at Oxford. He was a member of the Communist Party from 1937-1940, and was elected chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club in 1939. He was elected as Labour candidate for the seat of Pudsey and Otley in the 1945 general election, but was not elected. He served as International Secretary of the Labour Party, acting as foreign policy advisor and helping to re-establish relations between the Labour Party and other European socialist parties. Healey was elected as Member of Parliament for Leeds South East in 1952 by-election, and following constituency boundary changes, as MP for Leeds East in 1955 general election. He held this constituency until his retirement in 1992.

In 1959 Healey was elected to the Labour Party Shadow Cabinet under the leadership of Hugh Gaitskell as colonial and Commonwealth spokesman. Under Harold Wilson, Healey was appointed Shadow Defence Secretary, and when Wilson became Prime Minister for the first time in 1964, Healey served as his Defence Secretary. Under his tenure, in line with Cabinet policy defence expenditure was cut and Britain's military involvement outside of Europe was reduced. After Labour's defeat in the 1970 general election, Healey became Shadow Foreign Secretary.

In 1972 he was appointed Shadow Chancellor, and became Chancellor of the Exchequer throughout the second Wilson ministry. On Harold Wilson's resignation in 1976 Healey ran for the leadership of the Labour Party, but was eliminated in the second ballot. He maintained his role as Chancellor under James Callaghan, a time marked by the decision to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund, and was Shadow Chancellor under Callaghan after Labour's defeat in the 1979 general election. He came second to Michael Foot in the 1980 Labour leadership election, but instead ran unopposed for the position of Deputy Leader, and narrowly defeated Tony Benn in the 1981 deputy leadership election. Healey acted as Shadow Foreign Secretary under Foot and Neil Kinnock until 1987, when he retired from the Shadow Cabinet. He retired as an MP in 1992, and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Healey of Riddlesden in the County of West Yorkshire. Healey was a founding member of the Bilderberg Group, and was the first Labour politician to voice his support for Tony Blair, although he would later oppose Blair's decision to use military force in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Healey married Edna Edmunds, whom he had met while they were both studying in Oxford, in 1945. They had three children. He was a keen amateur photographer, and also had a great interest in painting, poetry and music. He died in October 2015 at his home in Alfriston, East Sussex.


Original order has been preserved where possible, but the collection has needed extensive arrangement to create a usable structure. The papers are arranged by type of material and by subject.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Placed on deposit at the Bodelian Libraries by the estate of Denis Healey in 2017. Notebook in MS. Healey 60 was donated in 2017 by Chris Myant.


  • The Time of my Life, Denis Healey (1989)
Catalogue of the Archive of Denis Healey
Finding aid prepared by Francesca Alves
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom