Reference number
  • WED
  • 1931-2011
  • Collection
  • This collection of papers includes correspondence, reports and draft reports, parliamentary papers and amendments, European Commission reports, published articles and journals, unpublished papers and annotated books, reflecting Lord Wedderburn's career.
    Parts of this catalogue are not completed.
  • 141 boxes
Admin history
  • Kenneth William (Bill) Wedderburn (1927-2012) was one of the most significant academic lawyers in Europe. Born in Deptford on 13 April 1927 to Herbert and Mabel Wedderburn, he won a scholarship to Queen’s College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a first in classics and a double-starred first in Law. In 1949 he won the Chancellor’s Medal for English Law. Following two years’ National service in the Royal Air Force, he became a Fellow in the Faculty of Law, Clare College, Cambridge (1951-1964) during which time he persuaded the university to include labour law on the syllabus by disguising it as “industrial law”. In 1953, he was called to the bar in Middle Temple, but only rarely appeared in court. Nevertheless, his knowledge of conservative legislation proved invaluable to the TUC during the year-long miners’ strike, and he appeared on behalf of the NUM in some of the civil litigations relating to the strike of 1984-1985. In 2002, he was involved in the case of Wilson and Palmer v UK; the first successful trade union case to come before the European Court of Human Rights. He was made an honorary QC in 1990.
    In 1964 Professor Wedderburn took up the Chair of Cassel Professor of Commercial Law at LSE, a post he held until 1992 when he became Emeritus Professor. This appointment confirmed his reputation in the field of comparative labour law. He was also visiting professor at Harvard Law School (1969-1970), and at other universities in North America, Europe, Israel and Australia. The first edition of his bestselling book, The Worker and the Law, was published in 1965. A second, expanded edition appeared in 1971. In 1986 a third edition appeared. Three times longer than the first edition, it was no longer an introductory account of the impact of law on employment issues, but a textbook for scholars and professionals. He wrote a number of comparative studies including Labour Law and the Community (1962) with W. Murphy, and Employment Rights in Britain and Europe: Selected Papers in Labour Law (1991). He organised and attended many international symposiums on European labour law, and continued to contribute chapters and write articles for journals up until his death in 2012.
    Professor Wedderburn was created a Labour peer in 1977, becoming Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, a title chosen to reflect his life-long support for Charlton Athletic football club. He was an active member of the House of Lords, and during the Thatcher years, opposed all anti-trade union bills that passed through the Lords. After New Labour came to power in 1997, he tried to improve its reform of trade union law with amendment, but in 2006 he resigned the whip over the Iraq war and “cash for honours” issue whilst remaining a party member. He took it back when Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister.
    Lord Wedderburn’s evidence to the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employment Associations (Donovan Commission) resulted in the Donovan Report of 1968. He came to public attention in 1971, when he began advising the TUC during its campaign against the Conservatives’ 1971 Industrial Relations Bill. He received a standing ovation after his speech on the bill at the Royal Albert Hall on 12th January 1971(see MSS.292/PUB/413/101), and unions started to nominate him to resolve disputes at arbitration panels starting with the eight week Post Office strike in 1971. When the Labour party was returned to power in 1974, he played a major role in drafting the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Bill, and became chair of the TUC’s independent review committee. In December 1975 he was appointed to serve on the Bullock Committee on industrial democracy, and signed a report proposing that major companies appoint trade unionist to their boards. He also became chairman of the Independent Review Committee, established to hear appeals from workers barred from union membership.
    In 1989, he was one of the founders and the first President of the Institute of Employment Rights (IER): a “labour think-tank supported by the unions”, which he hoped would influence legislation passed by future Labour governments, and was the Institute’s president for six years. He was honorary president of the Industrial Law Society (1997-2012), vice president of the Haldane Society, general editor of the Modern Law review for 17 , and an editorial board member of International Law Reports for more than three decades. A member of the All Party Parliamentary humanist group, he was a supporter of the British Humanist Association for many years.
    Lord Wedderburn of Charlton is survived by his third wife, Frances Ann Knight and their son Jonathan, and his three children; Sarah, David and Lucy from his first marriage to Nina Salaman. His second wife was Dorothy Cole (Professor Dorothy Wedderburn, 1925-2012).

    The cataloguing of Lord Wedderburn's papers has been made possible thanks to a grant from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, and generous donations from both individuals and organisations.
  • This collection has been weeded for duplicates.
  • This collection has been organised into 5 sections based on the order of the papers when collected. There are some sections which have not yet been listed.
Access Conditions
  • Items may be consulted without prior permission.
Access status
  • Open