AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

BRANSON, Noreen (1910-2003)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0372 BRANSON
Held at: Bishopsgate Institute
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: BRANSON, Noreen (1910-2003)
Date(s): 1941-1967
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 2 boxes
Name of creator(s): Branson | Noreen | 1910-2003 | activist and historian


Administrative/Biographical history:

Noreen Branson was born Noreen Browne, a granddaughter of the 8th Marquess of Sligo. Her mother died of tuberculosis in August 1918. Her father, Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Alfred Browne, was killed in action just 11 days later, so she was left an orphan at the age of eight. Thereafter she and her siblings were brought up by her maternal grandmother at her house in Berkeley Square, London. At 18 she was presented at court. She was passionate about music and insisted on being allowed to study in London. She joined the Bach Choir, through which in 1931 she met her husband, Clive Branson. The son of an Indian Army officer, he was in a similar revolt against privilege. They met at a charity concert in the East End of London and were married in June 1931.
The young couple left the West End and set up home in Battersea. There they were able to use their private incomes to throw themselves into alleviating the wants of the poor of that area. Noreen Branson joining the Independent Labour Party and campaigned for Poor Law reform.
Meeting the veteran socialist leader Harry Pollitt, general secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, she spent a number of years in the 1930s taking messages between the British party and other communist parties overseas. During her husband's absence overseas with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War she also began working for the Labour Research Department. Soon she was publishing articles on social issues in its magazine Labour Research, to which she continued to contribute for the next 60 years.
When the Second World War came, her husband joined the Army and was posted to the Far East. She continued writing for Labour Research, concentrating especially on the problems of the children of workers. Clive Branson was killed in action in Arakan in 1944, and she later published his letters under the title Letters of a British Soldier in India. In 1945 she became editor of Labour Research, continuing to write prolifically for almost every issue, covering the wide range of problems thrown up by the working of the welfare state in those early years of its existence. Her first book, Room at the Bottom, published in 1960 under the nom de plume Katherine Hood, was an analysis of its shortcomings as she perceived them. Britain in the Nineteen Thirties, written with Margot Heinemann and published in 1971 as part of E.J.Hobsbawm's History of British Society series, was a bleak analysis of, as the authors saw it, the failure of the Left to halt the slide to war in that decade.
Branson retired from the editorship of Labour Research in 1972, but continued writing for it and published further works on social history. Britain in the Nineteen Twenties (1976) was another volume in the History of British Society series. Poplarism, 1919-1925 (1979) was an account of the rates rebellion in the poverty-stricken East London borough of Poplar, led by its Labour Mayor, George Lansbury. Branson also contributed to the History of the Communist Party of Great Britain (1985), writing volume three, which covered 1927-1941 and Volume four (1997), covering 1941-1951. She continued as a reviewer until her death in 2003.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of activist and historian Noreen Branson (1910-2003), including: wartime correspondence between Noreen and husband Clive Branson regarding miscellaneous and personal topics, 1941-1943; photographs of artwork and paintings by Clive Branson, n.d.; miscellaneous papers, press cuttings and correspondence regarding Clive Branson's death in 1944 and papers concerning Branson's art career, 1941-1944; typescript Communist Party of Great Britain papers of various classes and publications, possibly compiled by Noreen Branson, c1945; handwritten notes on books, pamphlets and conferences, possibly by Branson or Emile Burns, c1945 -1950; press cuttings regarding the stock exchange and the economy, 1967.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

No further arrangement at present.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Documents cannot be photocopied at present. Digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Finding aids:

No further finding aids at present.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited at the Bishopsgate Library with the working library of the Labour Research Department in March 2007.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Marx Memorial Library holds sketches made by Clive Branson whilst a prisoner of war in Spain, 1938.

Publication note:

These letters were published in: Branson, Noreen,British Soldier in India: the letters of Clive Branson (Communist Party, London, 1944).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry compiled by Stefan Dickers.

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:
27 April 2007

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"