The Ultimate Barbara Castle Reading List

By Ella Staddon, Women*s Officer

Castle in 1965

As you may have noticed, last term the annual Barbara Castle lecture was unfortunately not included on the OULC term card. But as your Women*s Officer and local Barbara Castle fangirl, I feel sufficiently qualified to write an article detailing the various books, articles, online lectures and podcasts that might make up for the missing lecture, and convert everyone to the Barbara Castle fan club. 

Watch

Online lectures

The obvious place to start in accounting for a missed Barbara Castle lecture is with… a Barbara Castle lecture! In this case, the Fabian Women have got you covered, with this excellent “Celebration of Barbara Castle”. It’s around an hour long and features Rachel Reeves, Dame Angela Eagle and Kate Hollern, all covering different aspects of Castle’s long and impressive career. Probably my favourite bit of this celebration is Eagle’s contribution, which includes the story of the pair of them stood by Emmeline Pankhurst’s statue outside Parliament, complaining about how much they disliked Jim Callaghan. 

Women of History: A Celebration of Barbara Castle, Fabian Women
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMYRjvbnROM&t=729s

Historical dramas

Unfortunately, no one has yet written a ten-season series about Barbara Castle detailing every aspect of her life. She has, however, featured in The Crown season 3 (episodes Aberfan, Bubbikins, Coup and Tywysog Cymru) and briefly appears in episode three of The Trial of Christine Keeler. She also, obviously, appears in Made in Dagenham: “Credence! I will give credence to their cause, my God! Their cause already has credence! It is equal pay! And equal pay is common justice, and if you two weren’t just a couple of egotistical, chauvinistic dunderheads you would realise that! God my office is run by incompetents- and I am sick of being patronised, spoken down to and generally treated like the May Queen. Now set up the meeting!” (Go watch it, and check if I got that monologue correct from memory, like the true Castle fangirl that I am).

Interviews

Unfortunately, a lot of Castle’s interviews are now lost to the ages, but some survive on YouTube and are listed below:

Barbara Castle | British Labour Party | Open house with Gloria Hunniford | 1998
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAkMFaJtv9Q

Barbara Castle talks about her Anti-Apartheid Work
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zCaEoVDyeg

Nelson Mandela: Lady Barbara Castle remembers Mandela
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhB7nHj6Ny0

Sex, Drugs and Politics, the Lord Lambton Scandal, Part 3/3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTtwFqhNNgI

Speeches

Much like the interviews, there is not much footage of her speeches left either. The only two that I could find on YouTube were both on the EU/EEC.

Barbara Castle Maiden Speech in the House of Lords 14 November 1990
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDGWeyFtYj8

Oxford Union debate EEC referendum 1975 Barbara Castle
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydw1ZHk0Tmc&t=11s

British Pathé/Associated Press videos

Barbara Castle features in quite a lot of British Pathé videos, so I have not included all of them. If you want to find any more you can look up ‘Barbara Castle’ on the British Pathé’s YouTube channel. 

Barbara Castle Visits Docks (1967) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SYmo9WZnPM

Labour Party Conference (1968) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuTBl5q-K1I

(Red) Queen Opens New Tyne Tunnel (1967) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B96omazSod4

Minister of Transport Visits BR Research Centre (1967)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9p29-d1qtZ4  (there is also footage of Dame Margaret Beckett visiting this same factory nearly 50 years later. I am also in the Margaret Beckett fan club… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZpDoCJMnRc )

Severn Bridge- New Gateway to Wales (1966) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XO0-PZ9Yyc

Mrs Castle Opens The Blackfriars Underpass (1967) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JizwyrXSPsU

Labour Party Conference (1969) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq0YwbD2rHY

Vic Feather New TUC Leader (1960-1969)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYGIHyeZ-jE

Labour Meet at Blackpool (1956)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QsgMTbbTyo

Castle also features in…

Kinnock the Movie (perfect to watch in advance of Kinnock speaking with us later this term!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFgjCP6qpfU

Political Heroes: Emily Thornberry on Barbara Castle https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43925289

Harold Wilson tribute (this includes Castle comparing Wilson to an eel about 2 mins in)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjTyFeAslpE

Listen

Barbara Castle, Desert Island Discs
Could this be the best Desert Island Discs ever recorded? Probably. Anyway, Castle gets into a squabble with the host for telling her she’s only allowed to take one poem to her desert island. It’s hilarious.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/favourites/p0093zs7

Sylvia Pankhurst, Great Lives
If anyone needed any proof that Castle is a massive suffragette fangirl, this is it. This is also hosted by Joan Bakewell, so it’s basically two amazing feminist socialists talking about another amazing feminist socialist.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/favourites/b0076433

Barbara Castle, Great Lives 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/favourites/b068w44x 

Barbara
This is a brilliant radio documentary on Castle, and features my all-time favourite Castle quote too! (‘You will not set free all the dynamic capacity of our country if this little masculine self-contained club of government is going to be able to continue to keep women out.’) 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/favourites/b00tk7sf

Women’s Hour Power List 2016 (This has an excellent bit with Harriet Harman talking about Castle)
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/favourites/b084thlc 

Made in Dagenham The Musical
https://open.spotify.com/album/5wFbVTKEZNUBzkCOKSPRm5

Read

Barbara writes!

Historian Charlotte Lydia Riley once tweeted that Barbara Castle was the only good journalist-turned-politician, and proof can be found in the numerous books she published! Castle’s memoir Fighting All the Way, written in 1993, is a fantastic read and the Castle Diaries are hilarious, although you may start questioning how the Wilson government ever got anything done when they’re all falling asleep during the budget, tripping down stairs and getting very drunk. She also wrote a very short book on the Pankhurst sisters, thus demonstrating once again that she was a massive history nerd and suffragette fangirl.

Barbara is written about!

I haven’t actually read either of the biographies of Castle written by Anne Perkins and Lisa Martineu, however I am aware they are supposed to be very good. They are both available in the lower Rad Cam. She gets two chapters in Paula Bartley’s Labour Women in Power (a book I highly recommend- it is incredibly well written and researched) which can be found in the Upper Gladstone Link, and a chapter in The Honourable Ladies vol.1 1918-96, which is available online on library computers. An alternative to tracking down half a ton of books is reading articles that have been written about Castle, which I have attached below. 

Barbara Castle: Obituary
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2002/may/03/obituaries.anneperkins

Baroness Castle of Blackburn
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/may/04/guardianobituaries.obituaries

Barbara Castle, Labour heroine and champion of women’s rights, dies at 91
https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/may/04/obituaries.politics

Political leaders pay tribute to Baroness Castle
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2002/jul/09/politicalnews.uk1

Harriet Harman: ‘We feminists don’t go in for heroines much, but Barbara Castle is mine’ (this article is fantastic, particularly if you want to read about Castle telling Harman “Harriet, there is one thing you need to remember: all prime ministers are bastards.”) 
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/11/harriet-harman-barbara-castle-heroine

Labour’s greatest hero: Barbara Castle
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/sep/19/labourconference.labour

Barbara the brave – a woman to reckon with
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2002/may/05/labour.politicalcolumnists

The red Baroness 
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1995/jan/22/uk.comment

How Barbara Castle Fought to Expose the British Empire’s Shame in Kenya
https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/04/barbara-castles-campaign-against-kenyas-colonial-prison-camps

The Return of the Tribune Rally 
https://tribunemag.co.uk/2019/09/the-return-of-the-tribune-rally

Red queen in the pink 
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1999/sep/25/1

Barbara Castle: Transport Minister 
https://tribunemag.co.uk/2019/08/barbara-castle-transport-minister

‘Committing Political Suicide’: Barbara Castle, ‘In Place of Strife’ and the Battle to Save the Trade Unions 
https://tidesofhistory.com/2020/03/08/committing-political-suicide-barbara-castle-in-place-of-strife-and-the-battle-to-save-the-trade-unions/

Labour’s Turning Points: The Unions and ‘In Place of Strife’ https://tidesofhistory.com/2020/12/29/labours-turning-points-the-unions-and-in-place-of-strife/

1970 Equal Pay Act: Barbara Castle’s Fight For Equality
https://tidesofhistory.com/2017/05/29/of-course-i-am-opposed-to-equal-pay-how-barbara-castle-bounced-the-labour-party-into-equal-pay/

‘Another Historic Advance’: The Equal Pay Act at 50
https://tidesofhistory.com/2020/06/16/another-historic-advance-the-equal-pay-act-at-50/

Happy Birthday Equal Pay? (A bit of self-promotion since I wrote this article last month for the blog!) 
https://oxunilabour.wordpress.com/2021/12/30/happy-birthday-equal-pay/

100 years of Suffrage: The Labour Women That Made History https://tidesofhistory.com/2018/02/05/100-years-of-suffrage-the-labour-women-that-made-history/

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