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Laurie Flynn papers on the asbestos industry

  • GB 249 FLYNN
  • Collectie
  • 1893 - 2005

Laurie Flynn's papers on the asbestos industry span the period 1893-2005 and contain information primarily on the occupational health hazards posed by asbestos. This interest is centred on the activities of Cape Asbestos Company Ltd (and all corresponding names including shell entities) as well as the company's overseas subsidiaries.

There are 4 main series:

  • mining in South Africa, 1938-2005
  • asbestos litigation in North America, 1934-2005
  • asbestos in the UK, 1953-2005
  • Cape Asbestos corporate papers, 1893-2000

The focus of the collection is on employer negligence concerning health and safety, as argued in compensation lawsuits brought against the company and its subsidiaries.

Access to the wealth of business and legal papers brought to light primarily through lawsuits led Flynn to question whether multinational enterprises are as progressive as some commentators (notably business historians) have made out. The depositions, affidavits and court exhibits contained in this collection illuminate the role played by corporations and their representatives (in particular company medics and corporate lawyers) in suppressing scientific evidence concerning the risks of asbestos exposure. The Flynn papers also illustrate the lengths to which Cape Asbestos’ legal advisers went to create complex and confusing company structures in order to distance the parent company from liability ("corporate veil").

The collection includes some of Flynn’s notebooks and other background research materials for journalistic projects (among them extensive interviews with South African miners and Glasgow laggers), scripts and transcripts for documentaries, press cuttings, scientific literature, and correspondence with health and safety experts, medical specialists, environmental consultants, tort lawyers and asbestos ban campaigners.

In addition to documenting Flynn’s sustained interest in the workings of multinational asbestos enterprise, the collection also includes a little material relating to gold and diamond mining and the medical impact of atomic testing.

Flynn, Vincent Laurie Macpherson, investigative journalist

Lawsuit against Central Asbestos Company Ltd

Bermondsey based factory Central Asbestos Company Ltd was sued by 7 former workers who had contracted asbestosis. In July 1970, the High Court found in favour of the plaintiffs, concluding that Central Asbestos had breached the Asbestos Industry Regulations of 1931. Damages awarded totalled £86,469. Flynn covered the trial and subsequently followed up the matter, including with HM Inspectorate.

The 7 plaintiffs were Robert Frederick Smith, Francis John McCourt, Ronald Francis Drake, Walter Dodd, Donald Derrick Roof, Edward Edwin Raper and James Sampson.


  • Flynn's notebook on the trial, Smith et al. v. Central Asbestos Company Ltd
  • Flynn's correspondence with Brian Harvey, HM Chief Inspector of Factories; also his notes of an interview with retired factories inspector Miss Alice Crossthwaite
  • press coverage 1970-1974
  • photocopies of HM Inspectorate correspondence 1953-1967
  • copy of Lord's opinions on the appeal of Central Asbestos Company Ltd v. Dodd, June 1972 (appeal dismissed by 3:2)
  • notes of evidence taken at the inquest of another former Central Asbestos worker, Frederick Robert Gibbins, 1972, and photocopy of medical file Edward Edwin Raper
  • photocopy of judgement Smith et al. v. Central Asbestos Company Ltd

University of Strathclyde Department of Physics records

  • GB 249 OF/1
  • Collectie
  • 1862-2003

Records relating to the teaching of physics at the University of Strathclyde and the Royal College of Science and Technology, the Royal Technical College, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College and Anderson's College (the antecedents of the University of Strathclyde).

University of Strathclyde | Department of Physics

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