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SOAS Library

NGO, Charity and Campaign Group Archives

We hold a growing collection of archives of internationally important nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), charities and pressure groups who work or campaign on issues relating to the developing world.

These archives comprise unique collections of primary source material, including unpublished correspondence, minutes, internal reports, field notes, surveys, and original campaign material. As a number of these NGOs and campaign groups have a history of cooperation and interaction, the archive collections provide a unique and valuable unified primary resource for study.

The collections hold obvious value to students and researchers in the fields of development studies, history and politics, but will be of significant value to researchers across disciplinary boundaries seeking to analyse and understand the pressing issues confronting the developing world, such as democracy, development, poverty, social movements, civil society, legal systems, human rights, health, food security, migration and diaspora, race, gender, class, religion, social and economic change.

Key NGO, Charity & Campaign Group Collections

Christian Aid

Christian Aid Week donation envelope, 1958

Christian Aid Week donation envelope, 1958

Christian Aid is a faith-based anti-poverty charity, based in the UK. It has a global focus, working for poverty relief, international development and poverty eradication. Christian Aid undertakes its international work through local structures, such as churches or voluntary organisations.

Christian Aid's origins lie in the group Christian Reconstruction in Europe, an organisation created by UK churches to help refugees following the Second World War. In 1948 the organisation was renamed the Inter-Church Aid and Refugee Service and the focus of work shifted towards world-wide poverty and development issues.

In 1957 the Inter-Church Aid and Refugee Service held its first Christian Aid Week to encourage public awareness and financial support for its work. The success of the week prompted the organisation to change in name to Christian Aid.

During the 1960s Christian Aid increasingly focused on development alongside relief work. By 1970, the organisation was funding over 100 development projects in 40 countries. 

During the 1980s and 1990s Christian Aid began campaigning on global political issues, including South African apartheid, fair trade and the dropping of Third World debt.  By 2000 Christian Aid was funding up to 700 local organisations in over 70 countries worldwide.

View the Christian Aid catalogue 

War on Want

‘War on Want - A Plan for World Development’, 1952

‘War on Want - A Plan for World Development’, 1952

War on Want is a UK-based non-governmental organisation, which campaigns against poverty, inequality and injustice across the world. It focuses on what it considers to be the social and economic root causes of global poverty. 

The charity's origins lie in a letter by the left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz to The Guardian newspaper in 1951, which called for an international fund 'to turn swords into ploughshares'. The Association for World Peace was subsequently formed, with future Prime Minister Harold Wilson chairing its committee on world poverty. His report, 'War on Want - a Plan for World Development' led to the creation of an War on Want committee. In 1959 an independent War on Want was formally constituted as a charity.

War on Want was notable among early anti-poverty charities in its emphasis on the need for political, social and economic change, alongside immediate disaster relief. It campaigned for an increase in international aid and called for the abolition of third-world debt as early as 1962. Its political approach to poverty was at times controversial, leading to tensions with the UK Charity Commission. 

The group participated in raising funds to send to aid to small-scale international projects, prioritising self-help schemes over traditional aid and development. The early work of War on Want primarily focused on Southern and Eastern Africa and South Asia but this broadened during the charity’s expansion in the 1980s, with new projects and campaigns on Central America, the Middle East and the UK.

Financial difficulties forced the charity into administration in 1989. However, War on Want was re-launched, albeit on a smaller scale, in the early 1990s. Since then the organisation has concerned itself with issues raised by globalisation, campaigning on issues such as trade justice, workers’ rights and third-world debt.

View the War on Want catalogue

Movement for Colonial Freedom/Liberation

The Movement for Colonial Freedom Annual Report, 1960-61

The Movement for Colonial Freedom Annual Report, 1960-61

The Movement for Colonial Freedom (MCF) was a British anticolonial campaign group and political civil rights advocacy organisation.

The MCF was founded in 1954 as an amalgamation of a number of smaller campaign groups, including the British branch of the Congress of Peoples' against Imperialism. The MCF had a strong association with the British labour movement; the prominent Labour members of parliament Fenner Brockway and Tony Benn were founder members and officers, while affiliated organisations included national trades unions, constituency Labour parties, and co-operative societies.

The MCF supported independence and national liberation movements organising for political freedom for peoples in European colonies, while domestically the group also campaigned against racism and discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in British society. The MCF pursued its aims via lobbying governments and organising public events, including campaign meetings, petitions and demonstrations. It published a bi-monthly journal called Colonial Freedom News (renamed in 1966 as Liberation). The MCF was also fundamental in the creation of broader single-issue campaign groups, including the UK Anti-Apartheid Movement, Committee for Peace Nigeria (during the Nigerian Civil War) and British Council for Peace in Vietnam.

By the late 1960s, when many former European colonies had gained political independence, the MCF refocused its attention on what it understood as the emergence of new neocolonial relations in the form of the continued economic, political and military dependence of newly decolonised countries on more economically developed countries. 

In 1970, the MCF was renamed as Liberation, mirroring the title of the group's journal, to reflect the organisation’s new priorities following the end of widespread formal colonial rule. Today, Liberation continues to campaign nationally and internationally against what it views as the modern forms of imperialism, neocolonialism and economic exploitation present in a globalised world, and aims to support human rights, the abolition of discrimination, peace and disarmament, and the economic and political self-determination for the peoples of the Global South.

View The Movement for Colonial Freedom catalogue

View the Liberation catalogue

Selected other NGO, Charity & Campaign Group Collections