Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

  • Tavistock Institute of Human Relations
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


This collection contains both catalogued and uncatalogued materials. Please contact collections@wellcomecollection.org for more information or to request access to uncatalogued records.

The archive provides a comprehensive record of the formation, establishment and development of the Institute over a period of 70 years from the records of the projects with the War Office Selection Board in the 1940s to those of significant projects into the 21st century. The work of key figures in the development of the socio-psychological approach to business management and the working environment is substantially represented as are signature projects in collaboration with major manufacturing companies in the 1950s and 1960s in the context of Britain's post-War economic revival. There is a wealth of information about social structure in the field work interviews for various projects, including several studies of aspects of the health service. Records of other projects and events organised by the Institute illustrate the range of its consultancy, research, evaluation and training initiatives throughout the later 20th and early 21st centuries.

Some abbreviations used within this catalogue:

AOC Advanced Organisational Consultation

BEA British European Airways

CALM Central Admin Leadership and Management

CASEL Cultural Aspects of Social Exclusion from Labour

CASR Centre for Applied Social Research

CCETSW Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work

CEGB Central Electricity Generating Board

COMPETE Competence Evaluation and Training for Europes

CRU Civil Resettlement Units

CSD Civil Service Dispersal

DHPC District HIV Programme Coordinators

DSIR Department of Scientific and Industrial Research

DWP Department for Work and Pensions

EDRU Evaluation Development and Review Unit

EHE Enterprise in Higher Education

EVS European Voluntary Service

HERO Health & Educational Support for the Rehabilitation of Offenders

HESC Human Element in Shipping Casualties

HFSC Human Factors in Shipping Casualties

HRC Human Resources Centre

ICE Inner City Explorations

IDF Institute Development Fund

IOR Institute of Operational Research

ISR International Synthetic Rubber Co.

LAWDP Learning at Work Development Project

NCB National Coal Board

NDC New Deal for Communities (NDC)

NET Nitrigin Eireann Teoranta

OCTI Organisational Change and Technological Innovation

OCTU Officer Cadet Training unit

OR1 Men interviewed by personnel selection officers at Primary Training Centres and considered potential officers.

PICT Programme on Information and Communication Technologies

R&C Research and Consultancy

RAMC The Regional Alcohol Misuse Coordinator Scheme

RCCI Residential Child Care Initiative

RTB Richard, Thomas & Baldwins

RTC Research and Training Centre

RYU Rural Youth Unemployment

SEAHORSE Support Empowerment and Awareness for HIV/Aids - the online research and self-help exchange

SHA Self Help Alliance

SI Strategic Initiatives

SIOR Scottish Institute of Operational Research

SRNPS Social Research and a Nat Policy for Science (SRNPS)

SSRC Social Science Research Council

STS Socio-Technical systems

SWOT Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

TAP Telematics Applications Programme

TIERRAS Trans-European Research on Telematics Applications for Regional Development Strategies

TSP Training Support Programme

UCMDS Unilever Companies Management Development Scheme

UFER Unit for Family and Environmnetal Research

UKES UK Evaluation Society

WAM Working Association of Mothers



Physical description

438 boxes; 76 uncatalogued boxes


The collection has been arranged adopting principles from the Australian series model system, utilising authority files to create connections between groups of materials. At series level (or in some instances, at item level), a list of "Associated Person Entries" is given beneath the catalogue description. By clicking on a number beside a named individual, you will be able to view their "authority record". This will provide biographical information on the named individual as well as providing a list of records associated with that individual.

The collection is arranged into the following sections, reflecting the broad functions and activities of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations:

A: Governance and Central Administration.

B: Research, Consultancy and Evaluation.

C: Personal Papers.

D: Education and Professional Development.

Acquisition note

These records were donated to the library at Wellcome Collection by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in October 2014; subsequent accruals ongoing.

Biographical note

The Tavistock Institute was inaugurated in 1946, originally as the social and industrial division of the Tavistock Clinic, an out-patient psychological centre. The establishment of TIHR was assisted by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Institute was established with the aim of integrating social science disciplines in research, teaching and consultancy. Its staff were drawn from a range of disciplines, including sociology, psychoanalysis, clinical psychology, social anthropology, economics, statistics and medicine. The Institute's early approaches to research included the employment of action research, and the development of socio-technical approaches, and evolved over the course of the Institute's history, including the adoption of systems and field theory combined with new perspectives in psychoanalysis and psychology, through to organisational development and evaluation work.

Much of the early work of Tavistock embodied an action research approach, through which Institute staff took a professional role in assisting with specific practical problems. In these early years, the Tavistock's income was derived from research grants, contract work for clients, largely in industry, but also in Government departments, non-profit and educational organisations, and fees for courses. TIHR divided its work into four main units: Programme Groups A and B within a Committee on Human Resources; Organisation and Social Change and Operations Research Unit; and a Committee on Family and Community Psychiatry. In 1947, Tavistock Publications was founded. A joint library was established with Tavistock Clinic to provide access to literature relating to matters relating to the social sciences and other subjects of interest to the Tavistocks.

In response to the growth of the Institute in the 1950s, two units were established: the Human Resources Centre (HRC) and the Centre for Applied Social Research (CASR). Some years later, in 1963, the Institute of Operational Research (IOR) was established in conjunction with the British Operational Research Society, and led by Neil Jessop, a mathematical statistician. IOR and HRC merged in 1979 to form the Centre for Organisational and Operational Research (COOR). The Institute's evaluation work evolved from the Self Help Alliance project, with a dedicated unit, the Evaluation Development Review Unit (EDRU) being established under the leadership of Elliot Stern in 1990.

There are a number of accounts of its history, including the following:

H. V. Dicks, Fifty years of the Tavistock Clinic (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970)

Eric Trist and Hugh Murray, The Social Engagement of Social Science: A Tavistock Anthology, available online here

Article on the British Library's website, available here

Tavistock Institute website, available here

Related material

Wellcome Library also holds records of the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology (Ref: SA/TIM) and of the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (Ref: SA/TCC). Personal papers of Isabel Menzies Lyth are also held (Ref: PP/IML) as well as personal papers of John Bowlby (Ref: PP/BOW)..

Records relating to the Institute of Operational Research form part of the Operational Research and Operational Research Society Archive at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick (Ref: MSS.335/IOR).

The Tavistock Clinic archive is held by the London Metropolitan Archive and is currently in the process of being catalogued.

Eric Trist's archive is held at York University, Toronto.

Harold Bridger's archive is held by The Mulberry Bush: BRIDGER/2. Bridger was one of the founders of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and includes material on its governance and administration, corrrespondence and publications.

Copyright note

Copyright in Tavistock Institute works is owned by the Wellcome Trust.

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact collections@wellcomecollection.org for more details.

Appraisal note

In 2013-2014, a total of 1097 boxes of material were subjected to a phased, high-level appraisal exercise. Much duplicate or ephemeral material was destroyed. It is likely that the collection will reduce still further during the cataloguing process, as further duplicate material is identified.

Accruals note

Some additions (or 'accruals') to this collection have not yet been catalogued. Summary descriptions of these materials are provided below. To request access to these uncatalogued materials, or to find out more about them, please contact collections@wellcomecollection.org. Some items may have access restrictions which will be explained to you if you request them. Further accruals to the collection are also anticipated.

- Acc 2612: Digital organisational records of the Institute relating to its governance and administration; strategy; research and consultancy work; publishing activities; staff of the Institute; and professional development conferences, covering 1990s-2010. 1766 digital files, approx 2.8GB. Due to the volume of digital material created and held by the Institute, in 2018 Digital Records Management Consultant, Frank Owen of Max Communications, was engaged to scope and develop a tool for appraising and sorting the Institue's born-digital material. A National Archives Scoping Grant was awarded to the Institute to support this work, the report for which can be read here. The Institute has also written a blog post on the process of preparing their digital archives for transfer here.

Permanent link


Accession number

  • 2115
  • 2357
  • 2509
  • 2261
  • 2314
  • 2508
  • 2612