National Athletics Archive, University of Birmingham

The Cadbury Research Library, at the University of Birmingham, holds the extensive ‘National Athletics Archive’. This comprises archival materials primarily relating to the history and development of athletics in the United Kingdom throughout the late 19th to early 21st centuries.

Organisational papers

Material includes records of national organisations administering athletics such as the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA), the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association (WAAA), the Sports Council and the English Cross-Country Union (ECCU). There are also records relating to regional organisations including papers of the Midland Counties Amateur Athletic Association (MCAAA), the Midland Counties Women’s Amateur Athletic Association (MCWAAA), the Midland Counties Cross-Country Association (MCCCA), the Northern Cross-Country Association (NCCA), the Southern Counties Amateur Athletic Association (SCAAA) and the Southern Counties Cross-Country Association (SCCCA).

Personal papers of athletes and athletics commentators

In addition to organisational collections, the National Athletics Archive includes various discrete collections of individual athletes and athletics commentators. These include the papers of Arthur Newton, Arthur Winter, Dennis Cullum, Dave Roberts, George Adam, Harold Abrahams, Howard Payne, Joe Binks, John Jewell, Joe Percy, Mel Watman, Phil Thomas and Squire Yarrow.

‘Unofficial’ papers

The Archive includes a ‘artificial’ collection of almost 4,000 programmes, primarily relating to UK athletics meetings; typescript results; compiled statistics; material and ephemera relating to individual local clubs and organisations; papers relating to major athletics championships including the Olympic Games, British Empire and Commonwealth Games, World Championships and European Championships. Oral history recordings, often with accompanying typescript transcripts, feature interviews undertaken with numerous athletes and athletics commentators.

There is a small miscellaneous section comprising letters, the majority of which concerning the publication of athletics books, magazines and articles as well as comments on the accuracy and information contained therein. The collection includes examples of personal correspondence such as manuscript letters from Roger Bannister and Harold Abrahams, sent to various recipients. There are a small number of printed annuals and publications as well as an extensive sequence of photographs, newspaper cuttings, artefacts and ephemera.

Research potential

Taken as a whole, these papers are a valuable resource to athletics historians. They are of potential use for exploring gender studies, the history of place, the development of advertising as well as wider issues relating to sport, recreation, health and wellbeing throughout the 20th century.