Wellcome Library society and culture

Explore primary source material that illuminates health, medical and wider issues in society and culture.

Wellcome Library society and culture

The Wellcome Library is open

  • Monday 10.00-18.00
  • Tuesday 10.00-18.00
  • Wednesday 10.00-18.00
  • Thursday 10.00-20.00
  • Friday 10.00-18.00
  • Saturday 10.00-16.00

The Archives and Manuscripts Collection includes a wide range of topics relating to:

physical and mental disability
ethics and bioethics
social and political campaigns for reform

The materials span the 19th to the 21st centuries, with most collections dealing with individuals and organisations during the 20th century.
Read more about featured collections

Paralympic pioneer
Archivist Lesley Hall writes about Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a 1930s refugee from Nazi Germany and a pioneer in the treatment of spinal injuries whose personal papers are held by the Library. From the Wellcome Library blog.

‘Beds not Bombs’: the archive of the Medical Campaign against Nuclear Weapons
For the members of the Medical Campaign against Nuclear Weapons (now Medact), prevention was the only cure, nuclear disarmament the only way to prevent nuclear disaster. Project Archivist Elena Carter writes about their archive in Wellcome Library blog.

Abortion Law Reform Society archive

The Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) was founded in 1935 for the legalisation of abortion in certain circumstances. This was achieved by the 1967 Abortion Act: the Association continues to combat attempts to restrict the availability of legal abortions and to ensure that the intentions of the Act are being carried out. The full catalogue description of the Society’s archive includes a brief history of ALRA.
Archives sources guides

Our archivists have compiled extensive lists of material relating to health and medicine in societal and cultural contexts.

These in-depth sources guides provide access to detailed information held in the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. From the catalogue lists you may also request material from closed stores for viewing in the Library.

An overview of our holdings of archives of organisations and papers of individuals involved in research on various forms of physical and mental disability or providing services and support to those with disabling conditions.


Pressure groups
Materials relating to organisations pressing for various changes within the medicine and health field, and also engaged in broader campaigns for reform and change.

Medical charities


Slavery and anti-slavery
How to order material

All of the items in the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts Collection must be requested from the closed stores for viewing in the Rare Materials Room. Find out more about request and delivery services.