Unrecorded legacies

May 19, 2000

Thomas Balogh was economic adviser to the cabinet in 1964-67. A Hungarian emigre, he became both confidant and eminence grise to Harold Wilson, who made him a life peer in 1968. In the 1970s, he served as an energy minister and deputy chairman of the British National Oil Corporation. According to Michael Kandiah of the Institute of Contemporary British History, Balogh was privy to top-level talks about the pound's devaluation, North Sea oil and entry into the Common Market.

Balogh was also a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and he promised to sort out his papers and leave them to the college neatly stacked in 20 boxes when he died. However, when he did die in 1985, Balliol found itself with 154 cardboard boxes stuffed with papers on its hands.

There is no doubt, Kandiah says, that the Balogh papers would make fascinating reading for contemporary historians. "He was an outsider who saw everything. He would help match the personal and the public records of the Wilson years."

But 15 years on, with only one archivist and a sizeable backlog of other collections to sort, Balliol has had to leave the Balogh collection virtually untouched. "We have not yet had time to catalogue them, and as they are not sorted you cannot let people rummage through them," says Penelope Bulloch, Balliol's librarian.

Or as Kandiah more brutally puts it: "The papers are mouldering in Balliol and we can't look at them because the college has not got the money to catalogue them."

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