Fonds GB 0210 LEOABSE - Leo Abse Papers,

Identity area

Reference code



Leo Abse Papers,


  • 1961-1996 / (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2.043 cubic metres (225 boxes, 3 folders); 4 large boxes (June and July 2010); 3 small boxes (February 2011).

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Leo Abse, politician, was born in 1917 in Cardiff, Glamorgan, the son of a Jewish family. He was educated at Howard Gardens High School and (after the Second World War) the London School of Economics. His younger brother is the poet and author Dannie Abse. Leo Abse left school to work as a factory worker, becoming involved in political activity, and displaying strong sympathies with the Communist Party, visiting Spain clandestinely in 1939 during the Civil War. He served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, subsequently attended the London School of Economics, and then returned to Cardiff to study law. He joined a Cardiff law firm (of which he eventually became senior partner); he served as a member of Cardiff City Council between 1953 and 1958, and fought for the Labour Party Cardiff North in the general election of 1955. He was the first solicitor to be granted audience in the High Court in 1986. He was Labour MP for Pontypool from 1958 until 1983, and for Torfaen from 1983 until his retirement in 1987. He served as chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, 1976-1987, and acted as leader of the Labour anti-devolution campaign in Wales in the 1979 Referendum. At Westminster, Abse proved an effective backbencher, acting as sponsor or co-sponsor for Private Member's Bills relating to divorce, homosexuality, family planning, legitimacy, widows' damages, industrial injuries, congenital disabilities and relief from forfeiture. He also initiated the first Commons debates on genetic engineering, Windscale, and in vitro pregnancies. He has written several books among them, Private Member (1973); Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice (1989); Wotan, My Enemy (1994), The Man Behind the Smile (1996) and Fellatio, Masochism, Politics and Love (2000).

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Donated by Leo Abse, London, in two groups, Group 1 (mainly political papers) in 1990, and Group 2 (political papers after 1987, personal papers, and papers relating to his books), 1999. A further donation was received from Mrs Ania Abse, London, June and July 2010, and a further consignment was received February 2011.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

General and parliamentary correspondence, 1961-1987; constituency correspondence, 1970-1987, files relating to constituency affairs, 1947-1987; files relating to the following: Welsh affairs, 1985-1987, including transport, 1959-1973; health service, 1960-1978; Welsh language and nationalism, 1966-1979; devolution, 1970-1979; Select Committee for Welsh Affairs, 1975-1985; the Labour Party, 1964-1987, mainly annual conferences and general elections; industrial affairs, 1958-1985, penal reform, 1961-1987, children, 1968-1987, abortion, 1969-1979, nuclear energy, 1977-1987, genetic engineering, [c. 1977] - 1985; and personal papers, mainly letters, [1930s]-1946, and articles, notes and diaries, [1930s]-[1980s]. A further consignment of papers were received. These remain uncatalogued.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

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


Accruals are possible.

System of arrangement

Arranged into two groups by date of deposit. Group 1 has been arranged as follows: A general and parliamentary correspondence; B constituency correspondence; C constituency affairs; D Welsh affairs; E Labour Party ; F personal. Group 2 is arranged into political papers; personal papers, papers relating to his publications. Each class is divided into numbered sections by subject, and each document in these sections has been placed in broad chronological order and numbered.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Constituency files are closed for 50 years after the last date in each file: exemption s.40, Freedom of Information Act 2000. 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 regulations apply.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes


Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

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

Finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area


Title supplied from 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

January 2003


  • English



Archivist's note

Compiled by Seri Crawley for the ANW project. The following sources were used to compile this description: NLW, Schedule of Leo Abse Papers; Who's Who 2003; Debrett's People of Today, November 2003.

Accession area