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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4230
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1935-1983
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 4.11 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Standing Conference for Local History x British Association for Local History


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Standing Conference for Local History:

The Standing Conference for Local History was one of a number of bodies parented by the National Council for Social Service with a view to promoting the social and cultural well-being and activities of local communities. NCSS had taken an early interest in county local history work. In 1934 a Local History Sub-Committee was set up with the initial object of obtaining grants to assist development of local history work in rural areas, and in 1936 the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust allocated an annual grant for three years, to start in 1937, for an NCSS 'Local History Fund for Villages' The Sub-Committee set out the type and terms of assistance from the fund, but the Second World War intervened before real progress could be made, and matters lapsed until 1947. The Sub-Committee was revived in September of that year, and the NCSS soon took still more positive action by replacing it in December 1948 with the Standing Conference for Local History and so created the first national co-ordinating body for local history.

Although it does not show too clearly in the SCLH archives, the bedrock structure within which it functioned and which was crucial to its progress was the encouragement by the NCSS of its most important organisational adjuncts, the county-based Rural Community Councils, to promote and adopt a parallel parental role to County Local History Councils/Committees. Just as the NCSS provided a secretarial and administrative base for voluntary activity at a national level, the RCC's did this at county level, allowing the establishment as time went on of an increasingly viable and effective linkage between local societies and individual local historians, Local History Councils, and the Standing Conference. This linkage has been an important and arguably a key factor in the phenomenal post-war growth in interest in and enthusiasm for local history studies. It brought with it, no less importantly, the very needful link between the professional and the 'amateur' devotee of local studies which has both stimulated and vindicated that growth.

In its thirty three years of existence, SCLH was never permitted the luxury of complacency, being always too aware of the nagging of its grass roots volunteer constituency, whether at learned institution or parish pump level, for more effort at everything. All in all, the Standing Conference did a successful and important pioneer job, to be remembered with affection and recorded with respect.

The SCLH archives, despite some deficiencies, provide a reasonably good picture of its ambitions and the development of its activities and influence. Because the NCSS stood in loco parentis to it, it seems likely that the archives of the parent body will provide supplementary evidence of its work, not least in respect of the amount and disposition of its funding, which was always an NCSS responsibility.

The British Association for Local History:

The National Council for Social Service was itself replaced in the 1980's by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and this reflected, among other changes of emphasis, a requirement that the bodies previously funded by the NCSS should become independent, self-funding bodies. As part of this process the Standing Conference ceased to exist in 1982 and was replace by the British Association for Local History, which came into being on 1 April 1982.

To assist the new Association to establish itself, the NCVO continued to fund its secretarial and administrative work at the Bedford Square offices under the long serving SCLH Secretary Bettie Miller, for an initial period of some two years. Without this breathing space it would have been very much more difficult for the Association to get off the ground. That it has not only done so but has in a relatively short time established itself on a sound and effective footing is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of its voluntary officers and committees and of its growing staff. BALH can already be seen to be consolidating and expanding on the work of its pioneer predecessor.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Standing Conference for Local History, later known as the British Association for Local History. The records comprise: minutes and related papers 1949-1982; Regional Meetings correspondence and related material 1968-1973; subject files covering a large number of topics 1949-1981; general correspondence and papers 1938 - 1981; correspondence and papers regarding publications by the Standing Conference/National Council for Social Service 1951-1982; copies of publications 1950-1983; and The Local History Recording Scheme files which originated from an early NCSS scheme and cover certain counties 1935-1979.

Also minutes 1982-1996, correspondence 1979-1994, administrative files and papers 1981-1997, and editorial files relating to the publication The Local Historian 1970-1990.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Standing Conference for Local History LMA/4230/A and Administration LMA/4230/B.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Weeded by Mr. W. R. Serjeant in 1997-1998 before arriving at the LMA.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were deposited in 1999.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For records of the National Council for Social Service/National Council for Voluntary Organisations see LMA/4016.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
June to August 2010.

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