John Platts-Mills (U DPM)

Who was John Platts-Mills?
photograph of John Platts-MillsBorn 1904 in New Zealand Platts-Mills was a barrister and Queens Council with a successful legal practice at the English Bar. He became a member of the Inner Temple in 1929, was made a Bencher of the Inner Temple in the 1960s, and was head of Cloisters Chambers until his retirement in 1991. He was a dedicated hard-left socialist who worked extensively on civil rights cases and public enquiries in the domestic and international arenas.

He was a life-long Labour Party supporter despite being expelled in 1948 over the Nenni Telegram Affair and not being readmitted until 1969. He was married to the painter Janet Cree in 1936 and they went on to have six sons. They lived in East Sussex and were involved in a number of farming projects. Although retiring as head of Chambers in 1991 he continued his legal practice almost until his death at the age of 97 in 2001.

What does the collection contain?
Papers in this collection include correspondence, writings, notes, collated material, press cuttings and diaries of Platts-Mills documenting various aspects of his professional and personal life including:

  • Involvement in high profile legal cases including the Shrewsbury Trial, the murder trial of the Kray Twins, cases surrounding the introduction of the Mental Health Bill, the Hull Licensing Judges case, cases resulting from the 1984 Miners’ Strike
  • Involvement in various domestic and international public enquiries including those into the Manchester Students Union Riot, the Hull Prison Riot, the Sizewell B Enquiry, and the International Commission of Inquiry into the Crimes of Israeli Forces against the Peoples of Palestine and Lebanon
  • Involvement in various movements including those against the rise of Neo Nazism and the use of nuclear power
  • Involvement with various societies and groups including the Society for Cultural Relations with Russia, the Anglo-Soviet Friendship Society, the Haldane Society, the British Peace Council, the World Peace Council, Lawyers v The Bomb, and the National Council for Civil Liberties
  • Involvement in the plight of political prisoners and human rights cases in various countries including Yemen, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda, Greece, and Romania
  • Personal issues including the Nenni Telegram Affair, expulsion from the Labour Party, re-admittance to the Labour Party, properties owned, business ventures, and family members

How can the collection help me in my research?
If you are researching any of the following areas it is likely that aspects of the collection will be of potential interest to you:

  • Socialist legal history of the 20th century
  • Labour Party politics in the mid-20th century
  • Anglo-soviet relations in the mid-20th century
  • Public Enquiries in the mid 20th century
  • International Enquiries in the 20th century
  • Early Rhodes Scholars
  • Perceptions of hard left socialists in Britain during the 20th century
  • Impact of associations with communism on political careers during the mid-20th century in Britain
  • Political networking and influence

Are there any access restrictions on this collection?
Due to the personal and legal sensitive information contained in many of the records in this collection there are several levels of access restrictions as follows:

  • Files open to all accredited researchers at Hull History Centre
  • Files open to academic researchers with necessary permissions
  • Files closed for 100 years under the Data Protection Act.

For further information about accessing material in this collection please consult the online catalogue and contact the University Archivist Judy Burg at

Is there other material that complement this collection at the Hull History Centre?
Hull History Centre also holds the following collections which might provide extra context to the papers of Platts-Mills: Liberty (formerly National Council for Civil Liberties) [U DCL] British Soviet Friendly Society [U DX/347]. We also have a copy of the biography John Platts-Mills, Muck, Silk and Socialism: Recollections of a Left-Wing Queen's Counsel (Paper Publishing, 2002) [(R) KB 33/P5]