Rapid Growth in Population Archives

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Two closely-related archives on population control have recently been catalogued and are now available to researchers at the Wellcome Library. Population Concern (SA/POP) and The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health (SA/PGP) form part of a nexus of closely linked organisations active in the field from the 1970s onwards. Together their records present rich new resources for the study of the debates surrounding this controversial area and add to a significant body of other related archive material.

Population Concern was first formed as a joint project by the Family Planning Association (FPA) and the Simon Population Trust in 1971. At the time there was no specific charity in the UK focused on worldwide population fears (which were highlighted in the short film Full Circle, made for the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1974). The collection contains a variety of material, including administrative documents; minutes and correspondence (see SA/POP/A/1 and SA/POP/A/2 respectively), publications (SA/POP/B/2) and a large amount of reports and correspondence on their many overseas projects (SA/POP/C/1).

Full Circle (1974)

The group changed names regularly over the years but initially started life as the Family Planning International Campaigns Steering Committee and then was briefly renamed as Population Countdown Committee in 1973. In 1976 the group (now just called the Population Countdown Campaign) became a completely separate organisation but was still sponsored by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the FPA. The name was changed yet again (for the final time) to Population Concern in 1977.

During the 1970s and 1980s the charity was responsible for several overseas projects, particularly in countries in Asia, Africa and South America. These would cover areas on family planning, sexual health, “over population problems” and women’s health. (see SA/POP/C/1/1-17) There were also several projects in the UK, working on producing education programmes and databases (SA/POP/B/4/1) to be used in schools as well as doing a variety of fundraising activities (SA/POP/C/2).

In 1991 Population Concern achieved independent charitable status and in April 2003 changed to Interact Worldwide as it now reflected an increasingly rights based approach to sexual and reproductive health issues.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health (SA/PGP) was set up in 1978 as the British Parliamentary Group on Population and Development. Its main aim was to increase awareness amongst Westminster parliamentarians of the long-term implications of world population growth. Initially the Group concentrated principally on the place of population projects in the UK government’s overseas development programme and on securing adequate funding for these from the aid budget. Like Population Concern, the Group had close links to the Family Planning Association. The fund-raising arm of the Association, The Birth Control Trust, provided the services of a Research and Information Officer for the Group. An initial grant was also acquired from Population Concern, illustrating the inter-connectedness of all these organisations. The material in the collection dates predominantly from c.1978-1991 and includes agendas and circulated papers of Group and Committee meetings and files relating to the organisation of meetings and other events. In addition, there are papers relating to the attendance of Group members at international meetings and correspondence with other organisations, notably the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

The collections of Population Concern and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health are part of the Wellcome Library’s Archives and Manuscripts collection. The catalogues may be searched online using the references SA/POP and SA/PGP respectively.

Author: Morwenna Roche

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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