Collection MS 420 - Sir William Nicoll EU papers

Identity area

Reference code

MS 420


Sir William Nicoll EU papers


  • c.1980 - 2010 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

6 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Born in Dundee, Sir William Nicoll was an only child. Growing up in a tenement, his father was a joiner. He attended Morgan Academy, then won a scholarship to University College, Dundee, which was then part of the University of St Andrews.
Nicoll passed the civil service exams and moved to London in 1949 to join the Board of Trade. Married Helen Morison in 1954, at the same time he became Editor of The Reel, a post he held in 1954 and 1955. The next year he was posted to Calcutta as trade commissioner, cutting short his editorship. Within ten years he had risen to become private secretary to Douglas Jay, the Labour heavyweight whom Harold Wilson had appointed president of the Board of Trade.
From there Nicoll was seconded to the Foreign Office and served 20 years as one of the UK's senior men in Brussels. He became familiar with the French language and had a narrow escape from an IRA letter bomb while there.

Nicoll rose to become Director General of the Council of the European Communities, and was knighted in 1992. In retirement, he lectured, edited the European Business Journal, wrote books on the European Union and advised candidate countries hoping to join it.

Sir William was a lifelong teetotaller, and keen Scottish country dancer.

Archival history

Files were kept in Sir William Nicoll's office at the home of Lady Helen Nicoll following his death.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers relating to Nicoll's work and research interests, mainly policy documents, reports, analysis and publications about the UK's relationship with Europe and the European Union


Not expected

System of arrangement

Usually chronological within series. This collection generally regards the European Union and related politics. Subjects include analysis of European treaties and the British Civil Service. The collection comprises mainly copies of: typed reports, newspaper articles, copies of departments within the EU agreements, letters to Sir Nicoll rearding the European Union moving forward, press releases on E.U., and some of his collection of books on world politics. Even in retirement, Sir Nicholas was contacted for help as an expert and respected figure within European politics, and he kept up to date with current happenings with European politics. The collection extends from 1975 - 2012 in general, with a couple documents ranging back to 1930.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act (2018), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, 2018) and any other relevant legislation or restrictions. Clinical information is closed for 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges may be made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply; please check with the Duty Archivist.

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Description control area

Description identifier

MS 420

Rules and/or conventions used

Description compiled in line with the following standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description; International Council on Archives, ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997



Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



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