Mendelson Collection

Ref: Special Collection

Title: Mendelson Collection

A personal collection of printed books and journals in German and French of the 20th century mainly on politics, economics, history, literature and the fine arts, assembled by John Jakob Mendelson, M.P.

Dates: 1908-1977 (a few earlier items)
Extent: c. 3000 vols.
Name of creator: John Jakob Mendelson

Administrative / biographical history:

The collection is a part of the personal library of John Mendelson, Labour M.P for Penistone 1959-1978. On his death in 1978 his library was bequeathed to the Northern College, a residential adult education college at Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley, which later arranged for the French- and German-language material to be placed in the University of Sheffield Library on permanent loan. Although covering a wide range of subjects and countries, the collection relates principally to politics, economics, history, literature and the fine arts, and is particularly rich in material on German and French political and economic history, especially of the twentieth century, including works on the rise of fascism, communism and socialism, and post-war conditions in Europe after 1945. German language material predominates, accounting for approximately three-quarters, and French one quarter, of the collection, and runs of several German language serials are represented. John Mendelson spoke German and French fluently, and this interest is reflected in the composition of his personal book collection.

John Jakob Mendelson (1917-1978), an intellectual on the left of the Labour Party, was born of Polish parents and educated in France, and at the University of London where he took the degree of BSc Econ. He gained experience of industrial affairs by working in factories in the North of England. Service in the Army during World War II brought him the rank of Captain. His connection with Sheffield and its University was close: in 1949 he was appointed Lecturer in Economics and Public Administration in the Department of Extramural Studies, a post which he held until entering Parliament at a by-election in 1959, and he served as Vice-President of the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council. In the Commons he became politically a force on the Left, firstly in the Bevan group and later in the Tribune group of MPs, though his independent viewpoint on various issues led to clashes with other members.

During the debate on German rearmament in 1959 Mendelson joined with Richard Crossman in tabliing a Commons motion condemning any possible proposal to provide West Germany with atomic weapons, and he was a leading critic of American involvement in Vietnam, travelling to the United States to discuss American policy with members of the US Government. But after the February 1974 General Election, when many younger and more extreme MPs joined the Tribune Group, his name was omitted from the list of contenders for places on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.

[Notes based on the Times obituary 22 May 1978 and entry in Whos Who]

  • Related collections: Fascism in Europe Collection; The Ian Kershaw Archive; The Ian Kershaw Collection; Zaidman Collection
  • Source: Presented on permanent loan by the Northern College, 1985
  • System of arrangement: Classified
  • Subjects: Germany History 20th century; German literature; France History 20th century; French literature
  • Names: Mendelson, John Jakob, 1917-1978
  • Conditions of access: Academic researchers by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: According to document
  • Finding aids: Catalogued on STAR and listed.