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The Blunkett Archives

Reference code: 467

Scope and Contents

The Blunkett Archives is an extensive collection which has been amassed by Lord Blunkett throughout his career, and records his journey from one of the poorest areas of Sheffield to the highest level of British politics. The collection dates from the 1940s to the present day and includes political correspondence, policy papers, material relating to his constituency work, press cuttings, speeches, diaries, school reports, personal correspondence, book proofs, sound recordings and photographs. The archive is strongest in the period running up to the election of a Labour government in 1997, although it also includes material relating to his cabinet positions. The archive contains extensive material relating to Lord Blunkett’s roles in opposition including fascinating records concerning his roles as shadow spokesperson for local government and the Poll Tax, and shadow minister for health and then education. It also contains Blunkett’s correspondence relating to his work on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party from 1983-1997. Highlights of the collection include personal papers such as school reports, university applications and photographs; material relating to Lord Blunkett’s working methods, and the challenges he faced due to his blindness; correspondence concerning Labour Party strategy, policy formation and the modernisation and reorganisation of the party following the losses of the 1987 and 1992 general elections; and a complete set of reports to his constituency party, 1987-2015.

The collection is mainly paper based, but it also includes audio-visual material on a range of formats including reel to reel, cassette and VHS tapes and CDs, born digital material, and artefacts such as trophies and awards. There are also a small number of items in braille, plus the extensive use of braille labels on files throughout the collection.


  • Creation: 1940s - 2023


Conditions Governing Access

Available by appointment. Some items are restricted, please see individual descriptions for further details.


David Blunkett and various third party copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

David Blunkett was born on 6 June 1947, in Sheffield, the son of Arthur Blunkett and Doris Blunkett (nee Williams). Blind from birth he was sent to a boarding school for the visually impaired in Sheffield at the age of four, and later attended The Royal Normal School for the Blind in Shropshire. Although his school didn't offer its pupils the opportunity to undertake academic qualification, Blunkett studied at night school over several years to obtain sufficient qualifications to be offered a place to study Political Theory at the University of Sheffield, from which he graduated in 1972.

At the age of 22, whilst still a student, Blunkett entered politics as a councillor for Southey Green ward. In 1980 he became leader of Sheffield Council, a position he held for 7 years during which time the region was known as the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire, a term coined to reflect the left-wing politics of the city and the now defunct South Yorkshire County Council.

In 1987 Blunkett was elected MP for Sheffield Brightside, a seat he held until his retirement in 2015. Blunkett held several positions in the Shadow Cabinet, including shadow spokesperson for local government and the Poll Tax, and shadow minister for health and then education. Blunkett was also a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee and played a key role in the Policy Review conducted by the party in the late 1980s.

In 1997 when New Labour swept to power, Blunkett was appointed Secretary of State for Education, and in 2001 he became Home Secretary. He held the position of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in 2005, before leaving the cabinet at the end of that year. On stepping down as an MP in 2015, Blunkett was awarded a peerage.


277 Box(es)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The majority of the collection was donated to the University of Sheffield upon Lord Blunkett’s retirement from the Commons in May 2015, with a further significant accession transferred from Sheffield Archives to the University in 2017, and additional material discovered in Lord Blunkett’s attic in early 2018. Lord Blunkett continues to add further material relating to his work in the House of Lords on a regular basis.


Accruals expected

Related Materials

Official records relating to Blunkett's time in government are held by the National Archives including within the PREM 49 series of Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office records.

Mariam Yamin
June 2021
Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
Language of description
Script of description
This catalogue was produced with support from Archives Revealed, 2019-2020; and Campaigns and Alumni Relations, University of Sheffield.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Western Bank Library
University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield South Yorkshire S10 2TN United Kingdom
+44 (0) 114 222 7299