Post-war literary archives and manuscripts

Angela Carter
Angela Carter, novelist and short story writer (photo: Fay Godwin © The British Library Board)

We hold the archives of pre-eminent novelists, poets, publishers and literary societies whose work has enriched contemporary British culture

About the collection

We are increasingly collecting archives in both paper and digital formats. The range of material in our archives is extensive, including handwritten drafts, proofs, letters, diaries and emails.

Examples of our archives and manuscripts include: 

  • Novelists Robert Aickman, Beryl Bainbridge, J G Ballard, John Berger, Angela Carter, Lawrence Durrell, Eva Figes, Ian Fleming, B S Johnson, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Hanif Kureishi, Shiva Naipaul, George Orwell, Mervyn Peake, Jean Rhys, Will Self, Graham Swift, Edward Upward, Keith Waterhouse, P G Wodehouse
  • Poets W H Auden, Al Alvarez, John Betjeman, Wendy Cope, Bob Cobbing, T S Eliot, David Gascoyne, Seamus Heaney, Lee Harwood, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Laurie Lee, Andrew Motion, Sylvia Plath, Kathleen Raine, Stevie Smith, Meary James Thurairajah Tambimuttu, Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins
  • Publishers and societies Carmen Callil, Golgonooza Press, Macmillan & Co, Turret Books/Bernard Stone, Virago Press, Punch magazine, Poetry Book Society, The Society of Authors, The Royal Literary Fund
  • Popular culture The Beatles lyrics, the archive of Barry Miles

You can also find archives and manuscripts relating to post-war theatre.

What is available online?

You can find a selection of digitised material from the collections on our Discovering Literature: 20th Century website. Featured authors include W H Auden, J G Ballard, E R Braithwaite, Angela Carter, T S Eliot, Ted Hughes, Hanif Kureishi, George Orwell and Sylvia Plath.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

You can consult literary archives and manuscripts in our Manuscripts Reading Room. Use our online catalogue, Explore Archives and Manuscripts, to find and request your material.

You may need to provide us with a letter of introduction or further information in order to access manuscripts and archives. Use the online catalogue to find out whether access conditions apply.

We don't generally allow access to uncatalogued material, but please contact the Manuscripts and Maps Reference Enquiry Team for further advice on this.

What is available in other organisations?

The following resources will help you find material held in other institutions:

Further information

How to guides

Find and request Lord Chamberlain's Plays

How to locate items in our largest single manuscript collection

How to reuse images of unpublished manuscripts

Guide to the copyright of unpublished documents

Access manuscripts and archives

Accessing manuscripts and archives and obtaining a Letter of introduction or recommendation

Get a Reader Pass

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms

Guide to Explore Archives and Manuscripts

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to browse the collections and how to request items

About Explore Archives and Manuscripts

With Explore Archives and Manuscripts you can search for information about our rich and unique archive and manuscript collections.

Find Persian manuscripts

Details of Persian manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

Find Arabic manuscripts

Details of Arabic manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

Find papyri

How to identify papyri and request them

Search for Cyrillic items in the catalogue

How to search for Cyrillic items in the catalogue

Find charters, rolls, and seals

How to access medieval and early modern European documentary collections

How to get a Reader Pass if you are under 18

How to apply for an under 18 Reader Pass

How to order images

Instructions on how to order images of the British Library's collections from our Imaging Services