The Beaverbrook Papers
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- Held At: Parliamentary Archives: GB-061
- Catalogue Reference: BBK
- Former Archival Reference: Historical Collection 184
- Date: 1869-1976
- Level: Fonds
- Extent: 13 series containing 4,197 files
- Creator Name: Aitken; Sir; William Maxwell (1879-1964); Lord Beaverbrook; 1st Baron
- Administrative or Biographical History: William Maxwell Aitken was born on 25 May 1879 at Vaughan, Maple, Ontario, the third son and sixth child in a family of ten children (an elder sister died of diphtheria aged six) of a Presbyterian minister, the Rev William Cuthbert Aitken, who had emigrated to Canada from Torpichen, West Lothian. His mother was Jane Noble, daughter of an Ulsterman who had become a prosperous farmer and storekeeper in Vaughan. A year after 'Max' was born his father moved to a comfortable living in Newcastle, New Brunswick where Max spent a happy and adventurous childhood and attended a local public school, Harkins Academy until the age of sixteen. After failing an entrance exam to Dalhousie University, he was persuaded to enter a law firm in Chatham by his friend R B Bennett but soon left and after following Bennett to Calgary began selling insurance, switching successfully to selling bonds just at the right moment during the Laurier boom years. He found a patron in John F. Stairs, financier and Conservative, who helped set him up in a finance company in Halifax.
After marrying Gladys, the beautiful daughter of Colonel (later General) Charles William Drury of Halifax, he moved to Montreal where he embarked on progressively larger financial deals until he became a millionaire. He was involved in large and controversial amalgamations including the formation in 1909 of the Canada Cement Company which caused ructions for many years to come. The next year the Aitkens came to England where Max, aided by fellow Canadian Bonar Law, stood as a Conservative in the Liberal-held seat of Ashton-under-Lyne which he won by 196 votes after a whirlwind campaign. This was followed by a knighthood in the New Year's Honours lists which was not universally well received. Whilst remaining close to Bonar Law he rapidly increased his financial and political links and set up his main home, Cherkley Court, in Surrey where he entertained leading politicians including Lloyd George and Churchill.
When war broke out he represented the Canadian government as 'Canadian Eyewitness' and was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian Militia. In 1916 he became the Canadian Representative at the Front and was awarded a baronetcy despite objections from King George V. He also chaired the War Office Cinematograph Committee for the British Government and in the following year he became the Canadian War Records Officer. He also agreed to give up his seat in the Commons to Sir Albert Stanley (later Lord Ashfield), whom Lloyd George wanted to appoint President of the Board of Trade, and so he was made Baron Beaverbrook (again the King objected to no avail). But he had to wait another year before he was given a post in Lloyd George's Cabinet. In February 1918 he was appointed Minister of Information and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
After the war, whilst still dabbling in politics behind the scenes, Beaverbrook concentrated on his business interests, particularly newspapers. For several years he had financial links with the Daily Express which he finally controlled by the end of 1916 and for the next decade he set about creating the empire which was to become Beaverbrook Newspapers, progressively adding the "Sunday Express" (1918), the "Evening Standard" (1923) and the "Scottish Daily Express" (1928) and turning huge losses into healthy profits. Eventually by 1936 the Daily Express achieved the largest circulation in the world with two and a quarter million sales and over four million by 1954. In using his newspapers as propaganda tools in his efforts to gain power and influence, Beaverbrook embarked on a number of campaigns including his Empire Crusade of imperial preference pitted unsuccessfully against Stanley Baldwin, the 'No More War' campaign of appeasement and, as a final fling, the anti-Common Market campaign of 1962.
When Churchill became Prime Minister during the Second World War Beaverbrook was invited into the War Cabinet with the successive posts of Minister for Aircraft Production, 1940-1941, Minister of State, 1941 and Minister of Supply, 1941-1942. Beaverbrook then resigned and pursued the pro-Russian campaign of 'Second Front Now' but re-entered the government in September 1943 (but not the Cabinet) as Lord Privy Seal.
After the war and the Conservative Party's election defeat, Beaverbrook was returned to the political wilderness again and concentrated on his newspapers and writing and commissioning books. He also set up trust funds (to avoid death duties) and made generous charitable endowments in New Brunswick. In 1963 he married for the second time (Gladys having died in 1927) Marcia Anastasia, known as 'Christofor', the widow of his old friend Sir James Dunn and daughter of John Christoforides. He died of cancer on 9 June 1964.
Beaverbrook had one daughter and two sons, the youngest of whom had died in a yachting accident in 1947. Having refused the barony, the eldest became Sir Max Aitken and succeeded his father as Chairman of Beaverbrook Newspapers.
- Acquisition: The papers were transferred from the Beaverbrook Library to the House of Lords Record Office on permanent deposit on 7 April 1975.
- Category: Personal/Political Papers
- Description: The Beaverbrook Papers contain correspondence and a variety of papers, photographs and other images, maps and a few artefacts covering every aspect of the life and work of Lord Beaverbrook, politician and newspaper proprietor, from 1869 to 1972. They include general social and political correspondence and papers in England and in Canada covering Beaverbrook's early years in Canada including his financial dealings (BBK/A), his constituency correspondence as an MP, much detailed correspondence and papers on the Empire Crusade (BBK/B) and also special correspondence with prominent people including politicians, some artists and writers (BBK/C).
There are both private and official papers, including Cabinet Papers, and correspondence covering Beaverbrook's work for both the Canadian and British governments during the First World War ending in the nine month period he was Minister of Information. A large amount of material (BBK/D) is concerned with his activities during the Second World War covering his various ministries both in and out of Cabinet. Business papers include correspondence with newspaper editors, managers and other staff, correspondence and papers concerning financial arrangements, newsprint, cinema and film industry, various companies including Canada Cement and other Canadian Companies after 1910 and a number of trusts including the Beaverbrook Foundations.
Beaverbrook's working papers for most of his books have been kept and include numerous extracts and copies of original and secondary sources, some original documents, drafts and galley proofs (BBK/G). In addition there are some office memoranda and secretarial files. Beaverbrook's private business and financial papers relate to all the properties he owned - houses, farms, yachts, caravan and racing stables (BBK/J) and there are personal correspondence with family and friends, school records, engagement diaries, visitors' and wine cellar books, petty cash books, medical records, film and tapes of various commemorative occasions (BBK/K). Press cutting books contain newspaper articles about Beaverbrook and those written by him (BBK/L) and there are some photographs and a few prints selected from various sources (BBK/P).
- Language: English unless otherwise stated
- System of Arrangement: The Beaverbrook Papers are arranged in 13 series as follows:
BBK/A Canadian Correspondence and Papers
BBK/B English General Correspondence
BBK/C Special Persons Correspondence
BBK/D World War Two
BBK/E World War One
BBK/F Campaigns, Propaganda and Speeches
BBK/G Material for Publications
BBK/H Newspaper and Business Correspondence
BBK/I Office and Secretarial Files
BBK/J Private and Personal Business Papers
BBK/K Personal Papers and Family Correspondence
BBK/L Press Cuttings
BBK/P Photographs and Other Images
Published books that were identified as part of the Beaverbrook collection were catalogued under the Parliamentary Archives BOOK fonds. These are BOOK/102
BOOK/104, 123, 197, 201-202, 212-213, 242-244, 293, 306, 322-325, 327-340, 342-343, 345, 349-350, 468, 525, 537, 541-542, 607, 627, 638, 679, 721, 768, 806, 848, 854-855, 1044, 1051, 1079-1087, 1102, 1104, 1111, 1126, 1177, 1181-1182, 1211, 1231, 1241, 1243, 1268, 1275, 1277, 1289, 1353, 1355, 1419, 1424, 1440, 1449, 1505, 1521, 1556, 1559, 1569, 1629, 1724, 1734, 1753, 1767-1768, 1783, 1787, 1842, 1898, 1975, 2001-2002, 2004, 2036, 2039-2040, 2058, 2085-2086, 2164, 2189, 2198, 2249-2250, 2277, 2283, 2400, 2435, 2531, 2595-2596, 2853, 3525, 3606, 3839-3840, 3844, 3849, 3865, 4029-4032, 4045, 4603, 4612, 4616, 4663, 4700, 4702, 4714 and 4735.
- Related Record:
- Access Status: Open
- Reproduction Conditions: Permission to reproduce material from the Beaverbrook papers can be provided by the House of Lords Record Office on behalf of the Beaverbrook Foundation Trust. Researchers wishing to be granted permission should write to The Clerk of the Records.
- Publication Notes: Katharine Bligh, "Catalogue of the Beaverbrook Papers in the House of Lords Record Office. Volume I: Canadian and Business Papers" (TSO, 1997); Chisholm & Davie, "Beaverbrook: A Life" (Hutchinson, 1992); Gregory P Marchildon, "Profits and Politics: Beaverbrook and the Gilded Age of Canadian Finance" (University of Toronto Press, 1996); A J P Taylor, "Beaverbrook" (Hamish Hamilton, 1972)