Barbara Castle’s 1964 Ministry of Overseas Development was the first of its kind. Working with the Fabian Society, she had helped draw up the blueprint. Although she is perhaps remembered now for her 1969 In Place of Strife white paper, which attempted to rein in the unions, and succeeded in almost toppling the government, she was known then as the chief architect of Labour’s colonial policy, an obvious fit to lead the new ministry.
Castle had been elected to Parliament in 1945. During the Forties and Fifties she made colonial and race issues her own. She was honorary president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and a sponsor of the Movement for Colonial Freedom. While Britain’s then 50-plus colonies continued to exist, she concerned herself with exposing abuses by the British authorities, much to the chagrin of the Colonial Office.