Fonds GB 0210 JAMTHS - James Griffiths papers

Identity area

Reference code



James Griffiths papers


  • 1897-1975 (accumulated 1912-1975) (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.506 cubic metres (30 boxes); 1 large box, 1 small box (September 2020).

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

James Griffiths (1890-1975), trade union leader and MP, became the first Secretary of State for Wales. He was born in Betws, Carmarthenshire, on 19 September 1890, the youngest of ten children who also included the poet David Rees Griffiths (Amanwy, 1882-1953). Educated at Betws Board School, he left at the age of 13 to work at Ammanford No. 1 colliery (Gwaith Isa'r Betws), where he eventually became Lodge Secretary. He continued his education by attending night school. At work he became involved with the socialist movement, and helped establish a branch of the Independent Labour Party in Ammanford in 1908, soon becoming its secretary. He was also the secretary of the newly formed Ammanford Trades Council, 1916-1919. As a pacifist, he opposed World War One, and while campaigning on this issue, he met Winifred Rutley, who became his wife in 1918. He won a scholarship to the Central Labour College, London, 1919-1921. On returning home he worked as Llanelli Labour Party agent, 1922-1925, an agent for the Anthracite Miners' Association, 1925-1936, and President of the South Wales Miners' Federation ('the Fed'), 1934-1936. In 1936, he was elected Labour MP for Llanelli, joining the National Executive in 1939. Following World War Two he was made Minister for National Insurance by Attlee, 1945-1950. In this capacity he introduced Family Allowances, a new Industrial Injuries Act, and the National Insurance Act 1948. He was also Chairman of the Labour Party, 1948-1949. He became Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1950. Within two years however the Labour Party was out of office. During the long period in opposition he was deputy leader of the Labour Party, 1955-1959, and spokesman on Welsh affairs. Having campaigned for a Secretary of State for Wales since the 1930s, Harold Wilson appointed him the first Secretary of State for Wales following Labour's 1964 General Election victory. He held the post until 1966. He published an autobiography, Pages From Memory (London: Dent, 1969), and retired from Parliament in 1970. He had two sons and two daughters. He died in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames, London, on 7 August 1975, aged 84, and was buried at the Christian Temple in Ammanford. He corresponded with Mary Silyn Roberts (née Parry), who was involved with Coleg Harlech in its early days.

Archival history

One group of papers was donated to Coleg Harlech by James Griffiths prior to his death in 1975. These were transferred to the National Library of Wales in 1996.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Mrs Winifred Griffiths, widow of James Griffiths; Teddington; Donation; 1975-6.
Mrs Winifred Griffiths; Teddington; Donation; 1977-8.
Coleg Harlech (per Mr J. W. England, Warden); Harlech; Donation; 1996-7.
Mr David Griffiths; London; Donation; September 2020; 99126210402419.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Letters, newspaper cuttings, notes, pamphlets and periodicals, typescripts, reports, volumes of parliamentary debates, and other papers of James Griffiths relating to the following: the coal industry and the South Wales Miners' Federation, 1912-1967; the Labour Party, 1919-1975; the Central Labour College, 1919-1922; National Insurance, 1931-1954; the Colonies, 1939-1972; his work as Secretary of State for Wales, 1964-1966; papers relating to Welsh affairs including devolution, the Welsh Reconstruction Advisory Council, education and local government reorganization, 1935-1975; constituency affairs, 1937-1969; overseas visits, 1936-1968; the Nigeria-Biafra War, 1968-1970; papers relating to his autobiography Pages from Memory, including letters from Gwilym Prys Davies and others, 1961-1969, notebooks, [1960s], typescripts, [1964]-1969, and cuttings of reviews, 1969; unpublished reminiscences, 1955-1974; notes and typescripts for lectures and speeches, 1940-1971; typescripts of broadcasts by Griffiths, 1937-1967; typescripts of articles and reviews, 1940-1974; newspaper cuttings, 1919-1974; and other miscellaneous personal matter, [1930s]-1975; and papers relating to Mrs Silyn Roberts, 1897-1954.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

All records donated to the National Library of Wales have been retained.


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged into the following: early career; political career; Welsh affairs; papers relating to his autobiography Pages from Memory (1969); and speeches, addresses, broadcasts, articles, reviews, reminiscences, press-cuttings, etc., subdivided according to subject.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • English
  • Welsh

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Welsh.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A hard copy of the catalogue is available at the National Library of Wales.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Further papers of James Griffiths are Oxford University: Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, MSS Brit Emp s 365; Manchester University: Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Labour Party Archives. Further papers of Mary Silyn Roberts are in the University of Wales Bangor, Department of Manuscripts and Archives.

Related descriptions

Publication note

These papers were used by James Griffiths to write his autobiography, Pages from Memory (1969) and also by J. Beverley Smith for his essay in James Griffiths and His Times (1977).

Notes area


Title based on contents of fonds.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Project identifier


Access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

March 2003.


  • English



The following sources were used to compile this description: NLW, Schedule of James Griffiths Papers; The Dictionary of National Biography 1971-1980.

Archivist's note

Compiled by Rhys Jones for the ANW project.

Accession area