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Special Collections & Archives: The Papers of Lord David Owenaccredited archive service logo

SC&A includes manuscripts and archives, medieval to modern; early and finely printed books, and science fiction collections.

The Papers of Lord David Owen

The Papers of Lord David Owen

The collected papers of Lord Owen, former Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, cover his political career from his early Labour Party membership until his retirement as SDP MP for Plymouth Devonport. The collection includes papers collected during his role as Co-Chairman of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia.

David Owen joined the Labour Party in 1960 and under Labour Governments, he served as Navy Minister, Health Minister and Foreign Secretary. His Labour career was characterised by an unwillingness to accept the Party line when it diverged from his own firmly-held beliefs. In April 1972 he resigned from the Shadow Cabinet over the Labour Party's refusal to support British entry to the EEC.

On 25 January 1981 in response to the increasing dominance of Left-wing policies in the Labour Party he published the Limehouse Declaration with three other leading Labour politicians, William Rodgers, Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins. Announcing the establishment of a Council for Social Democracy it addressed the need for a realignment of British politics. The result was the creation of a new party, the Social Democratic Party or SDP, officially launched on 26 March 1981. David Owen served as Deputy Leader of the new party from October 1982-June 1983, and Party Leader from June 1983-August 1987. The party merged with the Liberals in 1988 and under David Owen's leadership became the Social and Liberal Democrats. This was finally wound down as a national party in June 1990.

David Owen retired as MP for Plymouth Devonport before the General Election of April 1992, he became involved in international business ventures and developed the charity Humanitas. In September 1992, he was persuaded to take up the role of Co-Chairman of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, working for three years towards the formation of a peaceful settlement in the conflict-torn region. He was Chancellor of the University of Liverpool from 1996 to 2009.

Image references:

  • House of Lords offical portrait of Lord David Owen,
  • Spitting Image puppets of David Owen and David Steel. David Owen as James Bond with small David Steel inside his jacket [1981-1990]. D709 3/21/2/20
  • David Owen's election campaign leaflet for Torrington election, 1964. D709 2/2/3/1

Physical exhibitions  

Current physical exhibition in SC&A

On exhibition elsewhere

  • Cunard posters are on display in the VG&M exhibition: Travel in Style – Iconic Cunard Advertising in the 1920s and 1930s
  • Alex Wedding, Eddie and the Gipsy, 1935 is on display in the Holocaust Galleries, Imperial War Museum, London
  • Rose Heilbron student notebooks are on display 22 July - December 2023 in the Lancashire Archives exhibition Shaping the Future: Women's Lives in Lancashire 1950-1980 in their brand new exhibition space at Preston

Past physical exhibitions in SC&A