FOOT: Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot: Papers, 1926-1979

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Archive Reference: FOOT  
Title: Papers of Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot
Dates: 1936-1979
Level of description: collection (fonds)
Extent and medium: 4 archive boxes
Name of creator: Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot
Catalogue last updated: Catalogued first created in July 2022


Biographical history

Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot (1905–1978), politician and lawyer, was born on 24 August 1905 in Plymouth, the eldest child in the family of five sons and two daughters of Isaac Foot (1880-1960), MP and solicitor, and his wife, Eva Mackintosh (1878-1946).  He was educated at Bembridge School, Isle of Wight and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he took a second in modern history in 1927. He was president of the University Liberal Club in 1927 and of the Oxford Union one year later, before becoming secretary to his father in the House of Commons after the latter's election in 1929. 

He was called to the bar at Gray's Inn in 1930, joining the western circuit.

Foot was brought up in a political household, and three of his brothers, Hugh Mackintosh Foot (Baron Caradon), John and Michael Mackintosh Foot, were to become parliamentarians. Foot contested Tiverton as a Liberal in the 1929 general election before topping the poll at Dundee in 1931. He sat alongside his father until Isaac Foot's defeat in 1935; both were on the side of Herbert Samuel and free trade during the crises which rent the Liberal Party asunder during that parliament. 

In 1933 he married Dorothy Mary Elliston, a Conservative political hostess, daughter of William Rowley Elliston, at one time recorder of Great Yarmouth. There were no children of the marriage.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Foot was unable to enlist because of a tubercular right arm, and instead joined the Royal Observer Corps. He was recalled by Churchill in 1940 to become parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare, a post he held for the duration of the conflict, working under Hugh Dalton. He was engaged in several missions abroad regarding the blockade of the axis powers and was also, in 1945, a member of the British delegation to the San Francisco conference which framed the United Nations charter.

Foot lost his Dundee seat in the Labour landslide of 1945. He prevaricated during repeated attempts by the city's Liberals to re-adopt him as their parliamentary candidate, sensing that the party's position there was irredeemable. Instead, he was adopted for North Cornwall, losing in 1950 and also in 1951. He resigned as a vice-president of the Liberal Party, and from being prospective candidate for North Cornwall, in 1954, before following his friend Lady Megan Lloyd George  into the Labour Party in July 1956.

Out of parliament Foot became a bencher of Gray's Inn in 1952 and took silk two years later. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace from 1946 to 1948, was appointed a member of the Committee on Intermediaries in 1949 and chaired the Observer Trust from 1953 to 1955. It was at this time that Foot cultivated his links with legal practice in the Commonwealth, being admitted as an advocate in the Gold Coast, Ceylon, Nigeria, Northern Rhodesia, Sierra Leone, India, Bahrain, Malaysia, and Southern Rhodesia. He specialized in constitutional and civil liberties cases, defending Dr Hastings Banda, then leader of the Nyasaland African Congress Party, when he was gaoled in Southern Rhodesia, and Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah, the former chief minister of Kashmir, in the Kashmir conspiracy case. He was expelled from Nigeria in 1962 while challenging the Emergency Powers Act on behalf of the western Nigerian premier, Alhaji D S Adegbenro, and was refused entry the next year when he sought to represent Chief Enaharo on a treason charge after his expulsion from the United Kingdom. Lord Diplock described him as 'an ambassador of common law throughout the Commonwealth' (The Times, 20 June 1978), and he established one of the first multiracial chambers in the Temple.

He was returned for Ipswich at a by-election in 1957 after the death of Richard Stokes, ironically heading off a Liberal revival in the process. He was chairman of the Society of Labour Lawyers from 1960 to 1964 and when Labour returned to power, in 1964, he was appointed solicitor-general, accepting a knighthood at the same time. He resigned his post in 1967.

Foot again turned to his legal career after he left the government. He was Treasurer of the Bar in 1968 and was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1970; in the previous year he had defended Bernadette Devlin (later McAliskey), MP for Mid-Ulster. He continued to practise extensively throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in Malawi and Hong Kong. In 1974 he was awarded an honorary LLD from Dundee University and two years later published British Political Crises, which offered some autobiographical insights in a narrative which dwelt on the decline of the Liberal Party as a major political force. 

He died on 18 June 1978, during a case in Hong Kong, by choking on a sandwich in his hotel room. His remains were cremated in Hong Kong.


Scope and content: the collection comprises legal files, administrative papers, photographs and newspaper cuttings.


Language/scripts of material: English 
System of arrangement: there was no discernible original order; the material was found piled haphazardly into four large cartons.
Conditions governing access: open 20 years after last date on file other than material containing personal data.  Closed items are designated in red.
Conditions governing reproduction: copies may be made for private use.  Requests for permission to publish any material copied or extracts thereof should be made to the copyright holder.  A Copyright Declaration – request for copies or a  Copyright Declaration - self service photography form must be completed. 
Copyright: vested in the Sir Dingle Foot Mackintosh Estate until expiration of copyright in 2048 (70 years after Sir Dingle Foot’s death).  
Physical characteristics: paper and photographs.


Archival history: there is no surviving record as to how the material came to be in the Institute Library.  A note in one of the original containers indicates that it comprises papers not required by Churchill College Cambridge, which took custody of some of Sir Dingle’s papers.
Immediate source of acquisition: the material was transferred in March 2001 from the IALS Library to the Archives.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: all non-annotated printed material was destroyed on 7 March 2001.  Further material was appraised and destroyed in June 2022.
Terms of deposit: none
Accruals: no further accruals are expected.


Related material held elsewhere

  • political, legal and personal papers, 1925-1978: Cambridge University Churchill Archives Centre
  • correspondence and papers, c.1913-1950: London School of Economics, British Library of Political and Economic Science
  • letters to Sir Garnet Wilson, 1940-1943: Dundee City Archives
  • correspondence with Sir B H Liddell Hart, 1965-1968: King’s College London, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives.


Archivist's note

Rules or conventions: original catalogue compiled in 2022 by Zoë Karens in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.
The catalogue has been compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: 2022.

Page last updated: 14th September 2022

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