The major part of the collection is comprised of the correspondence of Professor H.J. Dyos (1921-1978), with leading urban, economic and social historians from around the world. Having established the Urban History Newsletter in 1963, Dyos was able to capitalize on the contacts he had with these scholars, by asking them to report on the urban activities in their country. In this way he was able to keep all those interested in the field up to date with the latest developments.
To start with, the Newsletter was published twice yearly and contained conference reports, book reviews, a register of research and details of work completed. The Newsletter and the number of subscribers expanded yearly, and in 1974, it was succeeded by the Urban History Yearbook. The editorial part of the Newsletter, however, continued to be issued on an occasional basis.
A large part of the correspondence concerns the organisation of the Urban History Group's annual conferences. The group, created in the early 1960s, grew out of the British Economic History Society, and its conferences were arranged to coincide with those of the Society. The first symposium of the Group was held at the University of Leicester in 1966. The proceedings were later published under the title of The Study of Urban History. The attendance numbers grew each year as people from other disciplines, as well as social and economic history, were keen to attend.
The collection also contains research and correspondence relating to Dyos's book, Victorian Suburb, A Study of the growth of Camberwell published in 1961. This grew out of his doctoral dissertation The Suburban Development of Greater London, South of the Thames, 1836-1914, which was approved in 1952 by the University of London. He intended to complete other volumes on Camberwell and although preparation and research had begun, other writing commitments prevented him from completing anymore. However, he was able to develop some of the themes that came from his research into Victorian London. A selection of such writings were collected and reproduced in Exploring the Urban Past: Essays in urban history by H.J. Dyos, edited by David Cannadine and David Reeder.
Dyos was constantly in demand to give lectures both in Europe and North America. He was very keen on illustrating his talks with slides and hence, developed quite a sizeable number which now form part of the collection. There are also some drawings which were used in publications, most notably Victorian Suburb and the great two volume The Victorian City: Images and Realities, edited by himself and Michael Wolff.
Dyos's involvement in the field of urban history didn't end at the university walls and the contents of the collection reflect this. He increasingly took on public roles such as chair of the local Broadcasting Council and membership of the Inner City committee of the Social Science Research Council (now ESRC). He was active in local conservation work, gave his support to environmental studies and in 1976, succeeded Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as chairman of The Victorian Society. He was still, however, deeply involved in the administrative side of university life and always a very committed teacher, giving advice and encouragement to all who asked.
The cataloguing of the collection entailed the sorting and listing of papers, book notes, research papers and slides. The collection has come together from different parts of the university including donations from the late Dr David Reeder and the late Mrs Olive Dyos. It now forms part of the Centre for Urban History's library holdings and will culminate in the creation of an on-line catalogue, accessible from the Centre's library.