skip to main content

Spotlight on: the Phillip Knightley Archive

Written by
Published date 23 November 2017

Notebooks and research materials from the Phillip Knightley Archive

Whilst the Archives and Special Collections Centre is probably best known for the Stanley Kubrick Archive, we hold over 25 other collections, with particular strengths in graphic design, film-making, sound arts and journalism. As part of a new series foregrounding these collections, we are focussing this month on the Phillip Knightley Archive.

Phillip Knightley (1929-1917) was an investigative journalist and author who spent the majority of his journalistic career in London at The Sunday Times. He was born in Sydney and first entered the newspaper industry as a copy boy for the Daily Telegraph, Sydney, becoming a trainee reporter on the Lismore Northern Star the following year in 1947. For the next few years, however, he dipped in and out of journalism, working briefly as a Copra trader in Fiji, a door-to-door salesman in Sydney and a gardener in Melbourne before moving to London in 1954, initially working as a correspondent for the Australian Mirror Group before leaving the newspaper industry again. In 1960 he travelled to Mumbai, spending two years working as the editor of a literary magazine, Imprint, which he later realised was funded by the CIA.

In 1965 Knightley moved back to London and started working at The Sunday Times, where he finally felt settled, staying at the newspaper for the next twenty years. His work on the Insight Team is documented in his archive, particularly his painstaking research into the Vestey family; he spent over a year investigating their business empire, eventually revealing that it had been entirely structured to avoid paying tax. The archive shows the process of this investigation, including files of research, Knightley’s correspondence with The Sunday Times and draft chapters of the book he wrote about the investigation.

The archive also reflects Knightley’s growing reputation in his field. It contains drafts of lectures and correspondence related to his work with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, part of the Centre of Public Integrity, of which he was a founding member. However, by far the largest proportion of the material we hold concerns his work on The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq. (Incidentally, Stanley Kubrick read the first edition of First Casualty as part of his research for the film Full Metal Jacket.)  His research and drafts for the book spread across 17 boxes, and includes interviews and collaboration with many well-known war correspondents – there are notes on interviews with Philip Jones Griffiths, Murray Sales and Don McCullin. A century on from the Russian Revolution, it’s interesting to see that Knightley corresponded with a reporter from the Manchester Guardian about the coverage of the revolution in the UK at the time.

Another highlight is material relating to Knightley’s 1988 book Kim Philby: The Life and Views of the K.G.B. Master-Spy, which includes source material and correspondence about Philby with people he had known and worked with.

The archive covers 28 boxes of material, and the catalogue is available to view online here. If you’d like to come in and see the material, we recommend making an appointment in advance which can be done by emailing or telephoning 0207 514 9333.