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Archive of Sir Edward Heath


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The collection consists of approximately 4,500 boxes and includes personal and family correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, printed ephemera and photographs relating to most aspects of Heath's personal and family life, wartime service, early post-War employment (with the exception of his period of employment with the Civil Service and banking), and political career.

From 1965 and throughout the period of Heath's premiership and beyond up to 2004, the majority of the material appears to have been collected and filed on Heath's behalf by his Private Office staff, and it is clear that all aspects of his life were administered to some degree by his Private Office; correspondence for instance, and engagement requests, were routinely intercepted by the Private Office staff. Although Heath's personal opinions and commentary are still often evident, it is consequently not always possible to disentangle these from those of his Private Office.

Heath's political career comprises approximately 60% of the collection, although much more survives from his period as a backbench MP after 1975 than for his periods as a Minister and Prime Minister, which most likely reflects the fact that most of the material created in those roles will have been transferred to The National Archives. While the political papers component of the Heath Archive particularly reflects the party political aspects of his roles, there is also much to do with policy-making, including when in Government. A substantial proportion (approximately 20%) of the political papers consists of correspondence with members of the public, most of which was dealt with on Heath's behalf by his Private Office.

During the 1990s when Heath was writing his memoirs, gaps in his own archive were often filled with photocopies from other relevant archives, including collections held by The National Archive, Churchill Archives Centre, and the Bodleian Library.

A small proportion (less than 1%) of the Heath Archive consists of audio-visual and 'born-digital' material.


  • Creation: 1916-2004


99.15 Linear metres (661 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Material of a sensitive personal nature is closed.

Material not yet catalogued is closed. The project to catalogue the archive is ongoing and series will be made available, subject to the above proviso, as they are catalogued.

Preferred Citation

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

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

  1. MS. Heath E/2/2/1-407
  2. MS. Heath E/2/3/1-22
  3. MS. Heath E/2/5/1/1-76
  4. MS. Heath E/3/1/1-9
  5. MS. Heath E/3/2/1-39
  6. MS. Heath E/3/3/1-73
  7. MS. Heath E/3/4/1-39
  8. MSS. Heath F

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6555


Archive of Sir Edward Heath (1916-2005), primarily relating to his political career as a Conservative MP (1950-2001), Cabinet Minister (1959-1964), Leader of the Opposition (1965-1970) and Prime Minister (1970-1974), but also including material relating to his family life, interests in music and sailing, charitable and business interests, and literary works.

Biographical / Historical

Sir Edward Heath (1916-2005) was a Conservative politician, sailor, musician, and author. He was born at Broadstairs, Kent, and educated at Chatham House Grammar School in Ramsgate before attending Balliol College, Oxford (1935-1939) as a commoner, subsequently winning the organ scholarship. He graduated with a second class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1939. Whilst at Oxford he was both President of the Oxford University Conservative Association (1937-1938) and President of the Oxford Union (1938-1939).

Following a debating tour of the United States (1939-1940) Heath was called up for military service and was commissioned into the Royal Artillery, serving in Liverpool, Normandy and Germany. He left the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel, though joined the Honourable Artillery Company, a territorial regiment, and remained active in this throughout the 1950s.

After the War Heath worked as a civil servant at the Air Ministry (1946-1947) but was required to resign from this post after being selected as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bexley. He then worked as news editor of the Church Times (1948-1949) and at the merchant bankers Brown, Shipley & Co (1949-1950) until his election to Parliament at the 1950 General Election.

He was appointed as an Opposition Whip by Winston Churchill (1951), becoming joint Deputy Chief Whip (1952), sole Deputy Chief Whip (1953) and, under Eden, Chief Whip (1955). he joined the Cabinet following the 1959 General Election when Macmillan appointed him Minister of Labour. The following year he was moved to the Foreign Office (1960-1963) with the formal title of Lord Privy Seal (Home, the Foreign Secretary being in the Lords), with responsibility for overseeing the UK's first attempt to join the European Economic Community (EEC). Under Douglas-Home, Heath was made President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development (1963-1964), before becoming Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (1964-1965) after the Conservatives lost the 1964 General Election.

Heath won the leadership election in 1965 to become Leader of the Conservative Party and set about rebuilding the Party for return to government, overseeing a major policy review prior to, and beyond the 1966 General Election. As Prime Minister (1970-1974) Heath's government had to contend with a worsening economic outlook and deteriorating industrial relations, which effectively brought about the reversal of flagship policies such as the National Industrial Relations Court, as well as a rise in Welsh and Scottish nationalism. Attempting to pacify Northern Ireland following the outbreak of The Troubles, Heath's Sunningdale Agreement (1973) was repudiated by the Ulster Unionist Party, and he was personally targeted by the IRA. Internationally, Heath achieved more of his goals, negotiating the UK's entry into the EEC (1973), and improving relations with China.

Failing to win an overall majority in the February 1974 General Election, or bring coalition negotiations to a successful conclusion, Heath resigned as Prime Minister in March 1974. He remained as Party Leader, but failed to win the October 1974 General Election. Although the leadership selection rules at the time did not allow for a challenge to an incumbent leader, Heath agreed to this being changed, and put himself up for re-election in February 1975 in an attempt to assert his authority, but was defeated by Margaret Thatcher. He remained as a backbench MP until 2001 – from 1992 as the longest-serving MP or 'Father of the House' - taking an active part in the 1975 referendum campaign on the UK's continued membership of the EEC, and maintaining an opposition to the monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher throughout the 1980s.

Outside of Parliament, Heath had developed an aptitude for music in childhood. As Organ Scholar at Balliol, Heath played daily in the college chapel, and was a member of both the Oxford Bach Choir and the Balliol Choral Society. He attended concerts regularly throughout his career, often conducting orchestras himself, even as Prime Minister. Heath also developed an interest in sailing, sailing regularly at weekends in his yacht Morning Cloud and captaining the British team to victory in the Admiral's Cup as Prime Minister in 1971.

Following his premiership, Heath developed substantial business interests and took on various fee-paying consultancy roles, which mostly paid him income through Dumpton Gap, his private holding company. These included the accountancy firm Arthur Andersen, the Chinese shipping firm China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), the Saudi Arabian think tank Centre for Global Energy Studies, investment fund Dresdener Kleinwort Benson, Commercial General Union's China Index Fund, and the International Advisory Council of International Reporting Information Systems.

For more detail see entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


The arrangement of the archive essentially reflects the arrangement which was imposed on the archive by staff of Heath's Private Office when the material was in situ at Heath's residence, Arundells, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, where it was reorganised and listed during the 1990s.

With minimal re-arrangement, the archive has been (or will be) catalogued into 15 key series as below, which aim to represent a thematic approach to Heath's career:

  1. A: Personal and Family Papers
  2. B: Political Papers: Pre-Parliament (to 1950)
  3. C: Political Papers: Bexley and Sidcup constituency matters (1946-2001)
  4. D: Political Papers: Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial (1951-1965)
  5. E: Political Papers: Leader of the Opposition (1965-1970)
  6. F: Political Papers: Prime Minister (1970-1974) and Leader of the Opposition (1974-1975)
  7. G: Political Papers: Backbench MP (1975-2001) and Retirement (2001-2004)
  8. H: Articles, Broadcasts, Speeches, Press releases and Press cuttings
  9. J: Memoirs and Literary Works
  10. K: Charitable Work; Music and the Arts
  11. L: Photographs
  12. M: Published/Printed Material
  13. N: Business Interests
  14. O: Audio-visual Material
  15. P: Born-digital Material

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The archive was purchased by the Bodleian Library in 2011 from the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Friends of the Bodleian.

Prior to its relocation to the Bodleian Library, the archive was physically stored at Sir Edward Heath's former residence, Arundells, Cathedral Close, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1 2EN

Related Materials

For Heath's periods as Leader of the Opposition, 1965-1970 and 1974-1975, there is much overlap with material held as part of the Conservative Party Archive, also at the Bodleian Library.

The National Archives also holds material relating to Sir Edward Heath as follows:-

  1. Minister of Labour (1959-1960): series LAB 77/4 and LAB 77/5
  2. Lord Privy Seal (1960-1963): Series FO 800
  3. Prime Minister (1970-1974): series PREM 15, PREM 5/510 and PREM 5.511


  • Sailing: A Course of My Life (1975)
  • Travels: People and Place in My Life (1977)
  • Music: A Joy for Life (1997)
  • The Course of My Life (1998)
  • Joy of Christmas: A Selection of Carols (1978)
Catalogue of the Edward Heath Archive
Original finding aid edited by Jeremy McIlwaine with contributions by Rachael Gardner (2016), Iram Sadar (2018), Carl Cooper (2018), Ben Peirson-Smith (2018), Alice McDonald (2018), Kelly Burchmore (2018) and Miten Mistry (2018).
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Carnegie Foundation
Edition statement
This is the second edition of this catalogue. Further material will be added in subsequent editions as a result of ongoing cataloguing work.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom