The Great War centenary: the archive collections

Archive collections

The many faces of the Great War, political, scientific, social and military, are clearly reflected in the archive collections. There are five in particular that contain a quantity of material which is of interest to researchers and historians.  Please click on any of the images for larger versions.

Lord Cherwell, Frederick Lindemann

As Cherwell was scientific adviser to Winston Churchill, and a close personal friend, his archive collection is better known for it’s Second World War content.  However, among the scientific research, writings and conferences in Section C of the collection are papers and correspondence relating to Cherwell’s work at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, 1915-1918. He worked on various projects there connected with range and direction finding, detection of submarines and aircraft, and aircraft spin, and these are documented here. In file D.51 there is also correspondence with A.C.G. Egerton, one of Cherwell’s earliest colleagues, of which 1914 relates to Cherwell’s and Egerton’s attempts to assist the war effort and includes a copy of their letter for 8 August 1914 offering their services to the War Office. There are other letters between him and scientific colleagues, including W.H. Nernst (D.167-D.172) and R.W. Pohl (D.180).

Cherwell archive collection C.13/2

Cherwell archive collection C.13/2

Lord Emmott

Alfred, Baron Emmott, was a politician and cotton manufacturer who was an MP, served as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, directed the War Trade Department, chaired a commission looking into the desirability of decimal coinage and was Chairman of the Foreign Office Committee collecting information on conditions in Russia, among other roles. His collection has three areas of interest:

  • diaries from 1914-1915 (I),
  • correspondence and memorandum, 1912-1921 which includes material such as an account of the North Sea battle by an officer of the 5th Battle Squadron, 11 Jun 1916 (ff 37-44) (II) and a file of memorandum and correspondence on the need for a permanent trade intelligence bureau, Nov-Dec 1916 (ff 59-94), (II)
  • miscellaneous press cuttings, 1913-1920 (ff 1-287) (III/16)

Lord Gainford (Pease family)

The Pease family was a prominent English and mostly Quaker family associated with Darlington and County Durham.  The family established the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the 1820s and a family bank, the failure of which in 1902 forced several of them close to bankruptcy. Nine members of the family were Members of Parliament, including the first Quaker Member of Parliament.  They were also heavily involved during the 19th and early 20th centuries in woollen manufacturing, railways, coal mines, and politics and the collection, therefore, contains correspondence, papers and publications giving a valuable insight into social and political history from that period. However, there are many sections of particular relevance to the First World War:

  • Box 34 contains Joseph Albert Pease’s (JAP) diaries from 1915, which include private particulars of war events given to the Cabinet and accounts of trips to France with the Claims Commission, 1915-1917.
  • Boxes 35-37 contain JAP’s war reminisces from 1914-1920.
  • Box 49 has press cuttings of political activities and post World War One social activities, while boxes 53, 54 & 55 contain cuttings, telegrams, letters and House of Commons voting records and campaign literature, various memorial services, including Kitchener and Unknown Soldier, along with many cuttings about early broadcasting, 1914-1924.
  • Box 58 contains press cuttings and leaflets on World War One, for example maps of the different battle fronts, memo regarding Anglo-German negotiations on the subject of the limitation of armaments and cognate matters and leaflets from the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee.
  • Box 85 includes correspondence and leaflets from the war years, covering subjects such as JAPs son enlisting, how the family views the war as Quakers, notes on classes for recruits at White City and leaflets by JAP on education and the war and ‘Why did we go to war?’.
  • Boxes 86-91 contain material and correspondence from 1915-1919, much relating to the war at home and abroad.
  • Box 122 contains Cabinet memos from 1912 and 1916, including ‘secret history of negotiations with Germany’, while box 123 has selected war papers sent to JAP, 1916, boxes 124-128 cover his time at the Board of Education, 1911-1915 and boxes 129-130 his time as Postmaster General, 1916.
  • Box 144 has printed reports on foreign newspapers for the Cabinet, 1915-1917.
  • Box 147 contains papers relating to the Claims Commission, 1917-1920.
  • Box 163 includes miscellaneous printed political pamphlets, 1895-1918, many during the war years, as does box 164.
  • Boxes 178 and 179 has miscellaneous correspondence & papers, 1911-1918, much between JAP and his son, Joseph, at the front.
  • Boxes 189-192 form part of the Elsie Pease’s collection, JAP’s wife, and contain mostly correspondence with friends and family during the war years.
  • Miriam Pease’s, JAP’s eldest daughter, correspondence and diaries for the war years are in boxes 197 and 198.
Gainford archive collection 34/1

Gainford archive collection 34/1

Guild Socialism

These papers are a collection of records of the Guild Socialist movement from 1915 to the mid 1920’s. They include National Guild League minute books, propaganda publications, material from overseas (including America, Australia, India and Japan), special interest groups (including agriculture, women and the Douglas credit scheme) and League conference material.  Much of the material is from the latter years of the war into the early 1920’s but serve to illustrate Guild thinking locally and internationally at this time.

Lord Mottistone

The papers of John Edward Bernard Seely, Lord Mottistone, have been divided into six main classes: general correspondence, political papers, official papers, military papers, literary papers and press cuttings. They cover his very varied career; from his time at the War Office, as a soldier during the First World War, in the House of Lords and to Chairman of the National Savings Committee.  There is much in the collection of relevance therefore, but of particular interest are:

  • I. General correspondence, MSS Mottistone 2 & 3 which cover the war years.
  • III Official papers, MSS Mottistone 11, 12 & 13, papers of the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID) covering the lead up to war and the early years such as documentation regarding the Standing Sub-Committee of the C.I.D. on possible attacks on the British Isles from overseas, including arrangements for home defence in the event of invasion and on the control of aircraft. These include much discussion on the use, or not, of airships, an offer from Birmingham to supply a military aircraft and moves to establish a Liverpool flying corps.
  • III Official papers, MSS Mottistone 15 & 16 contain printed Cabinet memorandum from 1913 & 1914, while MSS Mottistone 17-22A cover War Office documentation and MSS Mottistone 23 documents the Ministry of Munitions and Air, 1918-1919.
  • IV Military papers, MSS Mottistone 24 is a military dossier, 1914-1918 containing items such as notes and memoranda on enemy and allied movements and attacks, including a map of trenches, account of a raid by the Canadian Cavalry Brigade on February 12th/13th 1918 and letters from casualties, all signed, of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade wishing Seely all the best if the rumour is true of his imminent departure from command, June 1918.
  • Other notable items include MSS Mottistone 25/15-104 Seely’s war diary as special service officer to Sir John French, 1914-1915 and MSS Mottistone 38, an album of press cuttings, photographs and cartoons, 1917-1920.
Mottistone archive collection 24/7

Mottistone archive collection 24/7

Further details on these and all the Library archive collections can be found on our website.

The Bodleian Library is also participating in the First World War centenary with an exhibition and talks.


About Nuffield College Library

We are a social sciences library serving Nuffield College and the University of Oxford
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