Skip to main content

The Marconi Archives

 Collection

  • How to
    request
The Marconi Archives comprise A. Papers relating to Marconi and the development of wireless telegraphy, c.1873-1957; B. Archives of the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Ltd., Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd., the Marconi Company Ltd., GEC-Marconi Electronics Ltd. and Marconi Electronic Systems Ltd., 1880-2004; C. Archives of the Marconi International Marine Communication Company Limited, 1900-98; D. Archives of the M-O Valve Company Ltd., 1919-72; E. Archives of the Radio Communication Company Ltd., 1924-65; F. Archives of Cable and Wireless Ltd., 1929-37; G. Archives of the English Electric Company Ltd., 1871-2000; H. Archives of Willans and Robinson Ltd., 1918-98; I. Archives of D. Napier and Son Ltd., 1958-96; J. Archives of the Vulcan Foundry Ltd., 1864-c.1995; K. Archives of Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd., 1938-62; L. Archives of the English Electric Valve Company Ltd., 1961-2003; M. Archives of Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd., Elliott-Automation Ltd. and related companies, 1897-2000; N. Archives of the Power and Traction Finance Company Ltd., 1922-50; O. Archives of Switchgear and Cowans Ltd., 1959-79; P. Archives of the Westinghouse Electric Company Ltd., the British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company Ltd. and the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd., 1889-1998; Q. Archives of the British Thomson-Houston Company Ltd., 1895-1999; R. Archives of Associated Electrical Industries Limited, 1899-2000; S. Archives of the Edison Swan Electric Company Ltd., 1897-c.1965; T. Archives of Birmingham Electric Furnaces Ltd., later Birlec Ltd., 1928-54; U. Archives of Siemens Brothers and Company Ltd., 1860-1993; V. Archives of W.T. Henley's Telegraph Works Company Ltd., 1919-96; W. Papers of Hugo Hirst, 1st. Baron Hirst of Witton, 1850-1967; X. Archives of the General Electric Company plc, 1881-2003; Y. Archives of Salford Electrical Instruments Ltd., 1952-67, 1990; Z. Archives of Woods of Colchester Ltd., 1949-99; AA. Archives of Avery Berkel, 1992-9; AB. Archives of GEC Alsthom, 1937-99; AC. Archives of the Plessey Company and its successors, c.1950-2001; AD. Archives of constituent companies of the General Domestic Appliance Company Ltd., 1907-c.2000; AE. Archives of Ferranti Ltd. and GEC Ferranti Ltd., 1952-92; AF. Archives of VSEL plc, NNC Ltd. and GEC Marine, 1984-98; AG. Archives of U.S. companies acquired by the General Electric Company, 1986-99; AH. Archives of other companies acquired by the General Electric Company, 1971-99; AI. Acquisitions of archives by the companies from external sources, c.1900-1996; AJ. Non-company papers, 1925-99.

Dates

  • 1850-2004

Extent

448.0 Linear metres (4480 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

Most material is available. Some material (predominantly personnel records including data on individuals who may be living) is restricted and is identified accordingly.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Marconi 1].
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Marconi 1-4027; MSS. Photogr. a. 18-37; b. 60-136; c. 234-456; d. 43-157; e. 33-50

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6026

Overview

Catalogue of the Marconi Archives, encompassing archives of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd., the Marconi International Marine Communication Company Ltd., the English Electric Company Ltd., the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd., the British Thomson-Houston Company Ltd., Associated Electrical Industries Ltd., the General Electric Company plc and other associated companies; together with personal papers of Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), electrical engineer, and Hugo Hirst (1863-1943), businessman.

Biographical / Historical

The Marconi Archives encompass records of many of the companies ultimately absorbed into the General Electric Company, latterly known as Marconi plc and the Marconi Corporation plc. An outline of the history of the principal companies concerned is given here; individual histories of constituent companies are given at the start of the relevant series.

Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd. was formed in 1897 as the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Ltd., its name changing in 1900. It was originally created to enable Guglielmo Marconi to develop and exploit his innovative work on wireless telegraphy. It was taken over by the English Electric Company Ltd. in 1946, but continued in existence as a separate subsidiary, renamed the Marconi Company Ltd. in 1963. It also retained a substantially separate identity following the merger of English Electric with the General Electric Company in 1968, as GEC-Marconi Electronics Ltd. In 1998 it was reorganised as Marconi Electronic Systems Ltd. and was merged with/sold to British Aerospace the following year, becoming BAE Systems.

The English Electric Company was incorporated in 1918, being formed by amalgamations and acquisitions of the Coventry Ordnance Works, the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Dick, Kerr and Company Ltd., the United Electric Car Company Ltd. and Willans and Robinson Ltd. The Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works at Stafford was acquired in 1920. English Electric took over Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd. in 1946, and was itself merged with the General Electric Company in 1968. While its subsidiary Marconi Company retained its identity following the merger, English Electric was eventually absorbed into both the General Electric Company and its subsidiary GEC-Marconi Electronics.

Associated Electrical Industries Ltd. was formed in 1929 as a holding company for the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd. and the British Thomson-Houston Company Ltd. Metropolitan-Vickers was originally created in 1899 as the British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. Ltd., its name being altered in 1919 following a change of ownership, while British Thomson-Houston was established in 1896. Both Metropolitan-Vickers and British Thomson-Houston remained in existence after 1929 and continued a long-established rivalry despite the common ownership. Their distinct identities continued until 1960 when their activities were actively absorbed into the parent Associated Electrical Industries. In 1967 Associated Electrical Industries was merged with the General Electric Company, into which it was quickly absorbed.

The General Electric Company was created as the General Electric Apparatus Company in 1886 by Hugo Hirst and Gustav Byng from a small electrical business established in London by Byng (Gustav Binswanger and Company, using Byng's original name). It became the General Electric Company in 1889, and was made a public company in 1900. It became increasingly successful especially under the influence of Hirst. Initially manufacture was focussed on electric bells and light fittings, but this expanded to a wide range of electrical equipment - resulting in the firm's slogan 'Everything Electrical'. The managing directorship of Arnold Weinstock from 1963 onwards saw GEC's rapid expansion, not least due to mergers with Associated Electrical Industries in 1967 and the English Electric Company in 1968. Further takeovers and mergers made the company one of the largest private employers in the UK. Policy changes following Weinstock's retirement in 1996 saw several elements of the company being sold off, and it was relaunched as Marconi plc in 1999 (following the disposal of its subsidiary Marconi Electronic Systems). A further relaunch as the Marconi Corporation plc in 2002 was ultimately unsuccessful in saving the company from financial difficulties, and a large portion was sold to Ericsson in 2005, with the remainder forming the successor telent plc, now telent Ltd.

Arrangement

The principal series have been arranged in an order reflecting the archival inter-relationships of the companies and individuals represented in the Archives, while also taking into account the dominance of Marconi company records. Papers of Guglielmo Marconi himself, his assistant George Kemp, and significant records relating to the development and applications of wireless telegraphy have been treated as a separate initial series, based on an existing series created by the company. Records of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company (in its various incarnations) form the first series of company archives proper, and are followed by archives of various subsidiary and associated companies, notably the Marconi International Marine Communication Company.

The next major series comprises the archives of the English Electric Company which took over Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company in 1946. This is succeeded by archives of other companies acquired by English Electric, together with its subsidiaries.

The next three series cover the closely associated Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company, British Thomson-Houston, and Associated Electrical Industries (which acquired the first two companies in 1929). Records of other companies acquired by AEI follow, then some papers relating to Siemens Brothers which have a disparate archival history, having connections with both English Electric and Associated Electrical Industries.

Both English Electric and Associated Electrical Industries were merged with the General Electric Company in 1967-8, and archives of this company are next in the company sequence, preceded by the closely-related personal papers of Hugo Hirst, GEC's co-founder and managing director. The arrangement concludes with archives of other companies acquired by or associated with the General Electric Company.

For each series of company archives, a general scheme of arrangement has been followed (with some minor variations to reflect particular archival arrangements identified). This considers the papers under the following subseries: corporate and administrative records; legal records; property records; financial records; staff records; research and development records; production records; product records; promotional records; publicity and public relations records; commemorative records; and records relating to the company's history.

The arrangement of papers within individual series varies according to original record-keeping practices and/or the nature of the series concerned.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Archives were given by Marconi plc to the University of Oxford in 2004, together with the company's historic equipment which is now housed in the Museum of the History of Science.

Existence and Location of Copies

Images of many items in the series relating to Marconi and the development of wireless telegraphy are to be found in MarconiCalling, a website exploring the life, science and achievements of Guglielmo Marconi. Selected links to specific sections of MarconiCalling are given below where appropriate. MarconiCalling was developed by Marconi plc and given to the University of Oxford.
Title
Catalogue of the Marconi Archives
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Michael J Hughes
Date
2008
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Cataloguing generously funded by Douglas Byrne through the auspices of the Wireless Preservation Society

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Contact:
Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom