Barbara Castle

Other names: 

Barbara Anne Betts

Baroness Castle of Blackburn

Date of birth: 
06 Oct 1910
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
03 May 2002
Location of death: 
Ibstone, Buckinghamshire

Barbara Castle spent her formative years in Bradford before attending the University of Oxford where she read philosophy, politics and economics. In 1937, after working for her local Labour Party in Hyde and as a columnist for the left-wing paper Tribune, she became a Labour Party councillor for the borough of St Pancras, where she worked alongside Krishna Menon.

Castle was elected as Labour MP for Blackburn in the 1945 General Election, becoming the youngest woman in the Commons and holding her seat for the next thirty-five years. In the 1960s, she held several ministerial offices, including Minister of Overseas Development, Minister of Transport, Secretary of State, and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity.


Aneurin Bevan, Fenner Brockway, Edward (Ted) Castle, Stafford Cripps (parliamentary private secretary, 1945-7), Michael Foot, V. K. Krishna Menon, Harold Wilson (parliamentary private secretary, 1947-51).

Anti-Apartheid Movement, Independent Labour Party, Labour Party, Movement for Colonial Freedom, Socialist League.

Published works: 

NHS Revisited, Fabian Tract 440 (London: Fabian Society, 1976)

The Castle Diaries, 1974-1976 (London: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1980)

The Castle Diaries, 1964-1970 (London: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1984)

Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst (London: Penguin, 1987)

Fighting all the Way (London: Macmillan, 1993)

Contributions to periodicals: 

Daily Mirror

Sunday Pictorial


Secondary works: 

Brockway, Fenner, What is the M. C. F.? (London: Movement for Colonial Freedom, 1960)

Crossman, R. H. S., The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, 3 vols (London: Hamilton, 1975-7)

De’ath, W., Barbara Castle: A Portrait from Life (Brighton: Clifton Books, 1970)

Howard, Anthony, ‘Castle, Barbara Anne, Baroness Castle of Blackburn (1910-2002)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2007) []

Jenkins, R., A Life at the Centre (London: Macmillan, 1991)

Martineau, L., Politics and Power: Barbara Castle, a Biography (London: Andre Deutsch, 2000)

Perkins, A., Red Queen: The Authorized Biography of Barbara Castle (London: Pan, 2003)

Archive source: 

Cabinet Conclusions and Memoranda, CAB 128 and 129, 1964-9, National Archives, Kew