Category Archives: Humanities

Buying books on witchcraft in 17th-century London

Letter from bookseller Edward Millington, November 1673

Letter from bookseller Edward Millington, November 1673 (click to enlarge)

The Bodleian Library has acquired an extremely rare autograph letter by the 17th-century English bookseller and auctioneer Edward Millington. The letter, dated 29 November 1673, is only the second known item of correspondence in Millington’s hand and represents a significant addition to evidence of book trade in this period, not least because Millington’s correspondent is both a researcher of witchcraft and a woman. The addressee is  “the Lady Gerhard at Mr Sanders a woollen draper in York Streete near Covent Garden” ;  most probably Lady Jane Gerard, née Digby, baroness of Bromley. At the time the letter was written Lady Gerard had already lost her first husband, Charles Gerard, 4th baron Gerard of Bromley (d.1667) and was yet to marry her second,  Sir Edward Hungerford (1632-1711). Lady Gerard’s discovery of a ‘healing spring’ at Willowbridge in Staffordshire would be recorded in 1676 by her chaplain Samuel Gilbert in a pamphlet entitled ‘Fons sanitatis’ (London, 1676). She died in 1703.

The present letter reveals Lady Gerard to have had a serious interest in writings on witchcraft; tantalisingly, it seems to have been part of a longer correspondence with Millington, the rest of which is now lost. In it he recalls having promised Lady Gerard “an exact account of all the English authors of witchcraft both for and against,”  and mentions a previous “parcell of books” sold to her. Millington himself was well placed to advise on such a topic; in 1669, he had published John Wagstaffe’s ‘The question of witchcraft debated’ out of the print shop he ran at the sign of the Pelican on Duck Lane, Little Britain. By the time of this letter he had moved to his later premises, at the sign of the Bible, but was yet to make his name as an auctioneer; a career that would see him described by Thomas Herne as “certainly the best Auctioneer in the World, being a man of Great Wit and Fluency of Speech… [though] very impudent and saucy” [DNB].

Three early modern books on witches and witchcraft

Books on witches and witchcraft, as recommended by Edward Millington

By 1673 Millington was evidently active in the second-hand book trade; the purpose of this letter to Lady Gerard is to provide a list of further books he was able to supply, with prices. These include “Dr Dees Relation of his actions with spirits,” probably ‘A true & faithful relation of what passed for many yeers between Dr. John Dee […] and some spirits’ (London, 1659); “Ady’s Candle in the Darkness,” i.e. Thomas Ady’s ‘A candle in the dark: or, A treatise concerning the nature of witches & witchcraft’, first published London 1655, and “Lavater Of Walking Ghosts,” which must be an English translation of Ludwig Lavater’s  ‘De spectris, lemuribus et magnis atque insolitis fragoribus’, such as the one published in 1596 as ‘Of ghostes and spirites, walking by night, and of straunge noyses, crackes, and sundrie forewarnings, which commonly happen before the death of men…’. Copies of all three of the books recommended by Millington are available to researchers at the Bodleian – soon they will be able to consult them alongside Millington’s letter of recommendation.

–Jo Maddocks and Mike Webb

War, Health and Humanitarianism

How can we define humanitarianism?

What motivates humanitarian actors like Oxfam and the Red Cross?

How have relief and development organizations competed and collaborated to mitigate suffering from conflicts?

Is political neutrality feasible or necessary?

These and other questions will be addressed in the symposium, ‘War, Health and Humanitarianism’ on 16 June in the Weston Library Lecture Theatre, which brings together historians studying conflicts from the medieval period to the present day. Speakers will include Dr. Rosemary Wall, Bodleian Library Sassoon Visiting Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Global History at the University of Hull, whose current research focuses on conflict in Cyprus, Vietnam and Nigeria in the 20th century and British and French humanitarian responses.

For further information and to register see:

http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/222665/War-Health-and-Humanitarianism_Programme.pdf

Unloading dried milk

Unloading dried milk for the starving people of Biafra at Fernando Po during the Nigerian Civil War, July 1968
MS. Oxfam COM/5/1/51
Credit: Duncan Kirkpatrick / Oxfam

Additions to the Wardrop Collection

On May 17th descendants of the British diplomat Sir Oliver Wardrop visited the Bodleian to donate further items to the Wardrop collection on Georgia. The newly donated material contains correspondence by Sir Oliver written during his period as British High Commissioner for Transcaucasia, 1919-20, and letters written by his sister Marjory on her first visit to Georgia in 1894.

During their visit, family members were shown manuscripts already in the Library’s  Wardrop collection by Dr. Nikoloz Aleksidze, who is currently writing a book about the collection.

Descendants of Sir Oliver Wardrop with Dr. Nikoloz Aleksidze showing their additions to the Wardrop collection

Bodleian Treasures: Early Ethiopian Bible Illumination

On Saturday, the 8th of April a group of bibliophiles from the Anglo-Ethiopian Society visited the Weston Library. Their trip from London to Oxford was intended as a study day, attending lectures and a photo exhibition on the illuminated Gospels from the Abba Garima Monastery. During the academic programme, Dr Judith McKenzie spoke about the themes of Garima illumination, while Professor Francis Watson gave a lecture on canon tables. The first part of the day took place at the Ioannou centre and was organised by Judith McKenzie, Miranda Williams, and Foteini Spingou, with photographs by Michael Gervers.
In the afternoon, a small display of Bodleian Ethiopian treasures was ready for the group in the Blackwell Hall. The two fifteenth century biblical codices on display were given to the library by Dr Bent Juel-Jensen in 2006. These exceptional codices come with a wealth of painted miniatures, representing biblical figures from the patriarchs to evangelists. MS. Aeth. c. 14, comprising the Four Gospels in Ge’ez script is thought to come from the Gojjam province in north-western part of Ethiopia. There are four colour miniatures of the Evangelists, one before each Gospel. These were made by Nicolo Brancaleone, a Venetian artist active in Ethiopia.

The other mid-fifteenth century illuminated manuscript, MS. Aeth. d. 19 includes Psalms, hymns of the Old Testament, Song of Songs and Praises of Mary.


The display at the Bodleian was received with great interest and there definitely was a sense of enthusiasm for promoting the collection also in the future. Many thanks to the colleagues in the Oriental collections, as well as Exhibitions department for their support. It was a great pleasure to meet the many members of the Anglo-Ethiopian Society and we look forward to welcoming all back in the future!

The Simon Digby Oriental Collection – curation and care

 In April of 2015, the Trustees of the Simon Digby Memorial Trust deposited a large collection of Oriental Manuscripts belonging to the Late Simon Digby (1932-2010) with the Special Collections Department of the Bodleian Libraries. Almost a year later, the collection was officially donated to the Library.

Mr. Simon Digby, a descendent of Sir Kenelm Digby (d. 1665), whose Western and Oriental manuscript collection the Bodleian Library also holds, was a Fellow of Wolfson College, and a scholar, linguist, translator, and collector. He was Assistant Keeper of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean Museum from 1972. Above all a lover of India, Mr. Digby spent a great deal of time in that country (indeed, he was born and died there). However, the bulk of his collection was amassed in Britain at the auctions of manuscripts from the collections of Thomas Phillipps of Middle Hall (d. 1872); Sir Richard Burn, KCIE, ICS (d. 1947); A. H. Harley (d. 1951); and others.

MS. S. Digby Or. 210 – A 15th-century illuminated manuscript of poetry from Herat in Afghanistan.

The Simon Digby Oriental Collection consists of over 260 manuscripts the majority of which are in Persian, with a handful in languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Turkish, and some in Indian languages including Sanskrit and Gujarati. The collection contains important and rare works in the fields of Indian history, biographies of Sufi Saints, and biographies and poetry of the Persian Poets of the Sabk-i Hindī or Indian Style.

Upon arrival in the Library in April 2015, the entire collection was sent to a specialist conservation laboratory for thorough drying and cleaning. When the books returned, some months later, staff in the Oriental Department began work assigning new shelfmarks, making observations on the general condition of each book and measuring each volume for a custom made archival box. Certain items were also flagged up for extra care from the conservation department of the Library.

Each manuscript is housed in its own custom-made archival box.

At the same time, work began on cataloguing the collection for which Mr. Digby’s extensive notes and handlist proved very useful. These notes together with information obtained through examination of the volumes were converted into online catalogue records in the Fihrist database – a UK based union catalogue of manuscripts from the Islamic world. Browse the S. Digby Oriental Collection on the Fihrist Database [work-in-progress]. To date, 168 entries appear on Fihrist, and work is currently underway to catalogue from scratch the remaining works for which no notes exist.

Detail from MS. S. Digby Or. 129 – A history of the coinage of India.

Speaking about the Library’s acquisition of the S. Digby Collection, Bahari Curator of Persian Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Alasdair Watson, said, “Mr. Digby was, perhaps, one of the last of the true ‘gentleman collectors’, and his collection is substantial both in terms of numbers of items as well as richness of content. Acquiring a collection such as this is a really once-in-a-lifetime experience for any library curator and it is a great privilege to be involved in its long-term preservation and care as well as in helping to make it available for scholarly study.”

 

 

 

 

Percy Manning catalogue

The new catalogue of the Percy Manning collection is now available online.

Percy Manning centenary poster

Manning centenary

Percy Manning was a historian, folklorist and archaeologist with a special interest in Oxfordshire. When he died in 1917 he bequeathed his extensive collection to the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum. It includes not only his own research notes and books on Oxfordshire history but also his personal collection of everything from medieval manorial records to watercolour paintings by established artists to actual archaeological finds (the archaeological papers went to the Ashmolean, and the artefacts to the Pitt Rivers). It’s a fascinating collection, full of hidden and forgotten histories as well as beautiful paintings and drawings of buildings and views across Oxfordshire which date back to the eighteenth century.

Created with the financial support of the Marc Fitch Fund, this new finding aid brings together all our existing descriptions of the Percy Manning archive, which were previously scattered across a variety of book, manuscript, map and even music catalogues. It also allowed us to do something new: to list all the Oxfordshire places that are named or referenced in the collection, whether it’s a manorial map of Bladon, or a snippet of folklore from Bicester. If you live in Oxfordshire, try searching for your town, village, or city, and see what you can find!

Oxford is celebrating Percy Manning’s centenary this spring with an array of events and activities including (but not limited to!) an exhibition in the Weston Library, a study day on 18 February at the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, a lecture at the Weston on 22 March, a museum trail at the Pitt Rivers Museum, an Ashmolean showcase of Percy Manning’s archaeological finds and a City Museum exhibition on Mummers and Maypoles. Other events include the unveiling of a blue plaque, family activities, music workshops, and a Centenary Celebration Concert with Magpie Lane and the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers. Full listings are available at the Folk in Oxford website.

Discovered! A ‘lost’ diary of Sir Edmund Warcup of Northmoor, 1670-1674

Gallen-almanack-1672

Warcup’s Gallen Almanack of 1672

The Rawlinson Almanacs

One of the joys of the Bodleian’s collections is that they are so rich and complex that there are still discoveries to be made, even among collections that have been here for 200 years or more. The sheer scale of the great and ongoing task of making the collections intelligible and available to researchers means that inevitably in attempting to cover broad areas, some individual items are missed.

Almanacs appear to be a case in point. While 17th-century almanacs can be found via SOLO, they are quite often only briefly described. But a number of them are unique items, containing manuscript memoranda, accounts and even diary entries. I have found an interesting late-17th century diary in the course of researching our collections of Gallen almanacs, as we have recently purchased a Gallen almanac of 1667 which contains a very interesting diary indeed – look out for news of this in the near future.

There are a number of almanacs in the Rawlinson collection, that vast and miscelleneous treasure house of books and manuscripts bequeathed by Richard Rawlinson in 1755. Many of these are in a separate sequence, shelmarked Rawl. Alm. Five almanacs bound together, including a 1672 Gallen almanac, have the shelfmark [Octavo] Rawl. 439. However, though SOLO does not record the fact, if these five little almanacs began life as printed books, they are no longer, because their owner kept his diary in them between 1670 and 1674.

 

Sir Edmund Warcup’s diaries unearthed

My attention was first drawn by the bold signature of one R. Warcup on one of the pages. Warcup was a name known to me. Sir Edmund Warcup (or Warcupp) was a lawyer and magistrate who makes it into the pages of the Dictionary of National Biography largely on account of his notoriety as an over-zealous pursuer of papists during the (mostly imaginary) Popish Plot of 1678. Subsequently he realigned himself with the Anglican-Tory interest in the aftermath of the Exclusion Crisis. Some of his papers relating to the interrogation of supposed plotters can be found in the manuscript collections in the Bodleian. His memorandum book on legal business 1652-1666 is in the Rawlinson collection (MS. Rawl. D. 930), and further miscellaneous papers are in MS. Rawl. D. 384. These papers, acquired as a result of Rawlinson’s bequest of 1755, were supplemented by further papers given to the Library by St. John’s College, Oxford, in 1953, comprising largely depositions taken before Warcup about the Popish and Presbyterian plots, 1678-82 (MS. Eng. hist. b. 204).

So my first thought on seeing the signature of R. Warcup was that this almanac might in some way be connected with Sir Edmund. A closer inspection revealed firstly, that the signatures (there are more than one) were in a different hand from the rest of the manuscript notes; secondly, a Robert Warcup is mentioned in the text as ‘brother’; and thirdly, the notes were partly a diary and partly memoranda, and the diary begins in January 1670 (New Style) with an account of rumours circulating at Court about the Queen’s wish to divorce Charles II and retire to Ham House. The diarist seems to have been active in spreading the gossip about, until one of his confidants went straight to the King and the diarist was told never to speak of the matter again!

Warcup-diary-entry-1670

Warcup diary January 1670 [New Style] – gossip about the Queen

 Internal evidence suggested that the diarist might be Sir Edmund Warcup himself, particularly the several references to Northmoor, Oxfordshire, his country seat. The DNB article mentions a diary of 1676-1684, edited and published by K. G. Feiling and F. R. D. Needham in the English Historical Review in 1925. Much to my surprise, this diary turned out to be in the Bodleian. The editors stated in their 1925 article that ‘certain journals of this Edmund Warcup, hitherto, it is believed, imprinted, have lately been discovered in the Bodleian Library’. They are in fact among the Rawlinson Almanac collection and have the shelfmarks Rawl. Alm. 201-203, though I have found no trace of a catalogue of these discoveries either in SOLO or in the Printed Books with MS Additions catalogue. There are two volumes of a diary 1676-1684, and a further volume comprising little more than brief memoranda 1708-11. So although these diaries were discovered in 1925, and the edition by Feiling and Needham has been cited by scholars of Restoration history ever since, the original diaries have remained as nothing more than printed almanacs in our own catalogues. And the annotated almanacs I have discovered take Warcup’s diary back to 1670. Feiling and Needham missed it for one simple reason – it is not in the Rawlinson almanac series. The 1670-1674 diary was for some reason now unfathomable, given the shelfmark [Octavo] Rawl 439. Presumably at some early stage in its life, it became separated from the others.

Warcup-diaries-binding

Three volumes of Warcup’s diary. The two to the right unearthed in 1925, the one on the left in 2016. Acquired 1755.

Feiling and Needham’s edition provided all the remaining evidence needed to be sure it was Sir Edmund’s diary I was looking at. The introduction in the EHR article mentions that Warcup, after a spell out of favour occasioned by his over-free use of Arlington’s name ‘to cover some financial transactions of his own … resumed in 1667 a long career as farmer of the excise for Wiltshire and Dorset, again became a justice, and added a commissionership in wine licences.’ Part of the newly discovered diary is indeed a ‘Journall into the West in anno 1673 about the wyne lycences’; and Arlington is mentioned  very early in the diary when Warcup notes that on 3 January 1670 ‘Lady Arl[ington] presented M. to Q. who kissed her hande’.  Q. is clearly the Queen, and M. is harder to fathom, but might be the Duke of Monmouth (see below).

Any remaining doubts about authorship were dispelled as soon as I compared the diary with the ones discovered in 1925. The binding, handwriting and even historic damp damage were alike in all the volumes. There were even memoranda cross-referenced from the ‘new’ volume to the others.

Warcup-diary-entry-1679

Entry from Warcup’s 1679 diary in Rawl. Alm. 201. Warcup is exasperated at the scepticism shown towards evidence of a Popish Plot offered by the notorious Titus Oates whom Warcup was all too ready to believe.

Warcup’s later diaries have long been established, thanks to Feiling and Needham’s extracts, as a major source for proceedings in the Popish Plot. Although the recently discovered diary covers a perhaps less interesting phase of Warcup’s career, it is nevertheless a valuable document. It contains a mixture of London and Oxfordshire entries. Warcup’s career began in London where he was he was a JP, and he had connections with Shaftesbury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The London sections include much court gossip and records meetings with courtiers. For example, in November 1670 Warcup describes an encounter with the Duke of Monmouth and the Prince or Orange:

“At the Dukes Play house. D.M. led An to her coach. We were at Lincolnes Inn Revels. M. there spoke to us, & at 7 next morne, Prince of Orange, Mon. & Ld Rochester came & danced & caused Pitts & his son fidlers to play before our doore, and threatned to fire Pitts his house.

Sunday night at Court, and well receved by all the Court from high to low. Abt 2 of the clocke came the same company without musicke. Mon. drove the coach; all swore rashly. Mon. prest them to silence, becaus where they were. I feare some outrageouse act.”

As already mentioned, there is a 1673 West Country diary which describes the process of selling rights to trade in wine to various merchants in Bath, Bristol and other West Country towns. Otherwise, much of the diary is taken up with Oxfordshire matters.

 

Warcup and Northmoor

The memorial to Sir Edmund Warcup, who died in 1712, is in the church at Northmoor, Oxfordshire. I made a visit on Boxing Day intending to take a photograph of his monument for this blog post, but unfortunately the parish has not managed to resist the temptation to use Warcup’s rather fine monument as a table, and I found it piled high with kneelers, parish newsletters and other bits and pieces. It seems that Edmund Warcup has not only been neglected by the Bodleian! I carefully moved a large and heavy folding table leaning up against one side to take a picture of the rich stonework.

Northmoor-church-Warcup-monument-detail

Side of Sir Edmund Warcup’s memorial, Northmoor church

The church has other very interesting remains from the late Stuart period, including a west gallery said by Pevsner to have been erected in the 1690s. At one end is a 1701 inscription bearing the name of Richard Lydall, with a wonderful verse carved into it:

Northmoor-church-west-gallery

‘Richard Lydall gave a new bell/ And built this bell loft free/ And then he said before he dyed/ Let ringers pray for me/ 1701’

‘Rude, undecent & violent’ disputes

The charming rural idyll that this may conjure up is destroyed when one discovers the nature of the relationship between Lydall and Warcup. Richard Lydall appears in Warcup’s diary in rather contentious circumstances. There are two  memoranda dated March 1672 [New Style], and signed by E. Warcup, R.W. (his brother Robert) and others. The first states that Richard Lydall before witnesses ‘declared he never saw the circle libell but in Mr Henry Martins hands, & that he (HM) only shewed it to him (RL)’. There follows a rather cryptic statement from Lydall that

“he & Mr Martin were at Westchester the last Whitsuntide when Mrs Martins mounds & the colledges were pulled up”.

The second memorandum provides more enigmatic clues about this incident. Now Lydall admits that the wrtiting of the superscription on this ‘circle libell’ was very like his own, and

“that he beleived there were 40 foote and 20 horse out at Whitsuntide last when the mounds were pulled up, that he was out with a brome in his hand that night, that hee sawe the 2 libells with the prints of gates over them in the hands of Wm Bedford, Wm Bedwell, & at the parsonage”.

Worse still, the libel was shown to many persons, and Mrs Martin’s maid, among others, had read it.

This obscure reference must surely relate to a dispute between various Northmoor farmers and Warcup about enclosure of common land in the parish. A decree in Chancery, 1672 (C78/1264, very fortunately scanned and published on a website hosted by the University of Houston) outlines the whole case, and names the people mentioned in the memoranda in Warcup’s diary. ‘Mrs Martins mounds and the colledges’ must refer to some kind of boundaries that might have been destroyed in protest about the enclosure. The Chancery decree which was drawn up just a few months after the incident, certainly enjoins the parties to erect new mounds and fences:

“all the new mounds & fences to bee made betwixt party & party from Gaunt house & Stanlake Broad to Babliocke hythe as alsoe from master Hewes his plott adjoyning to West Mead & soe downe to Northhurst … shall bee ditched & throwne up…”

The ‘college mounds’ must have belonged to St John’s College, Oxford, landowners in the parish and one of the parties to the decree. It would appear that Warcup was enclosing fields and ran into dispute with his neighbours, and that the libel somehow related to that. The decree is extemely lengthy and lays out the rights and obligations of all parties in the formation and use of the enclosed lands. According to A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One), Warcup acquired Northmoor manor in 1671. His diary for 1671-1672 is almost entirely taken up with aspects of the Northmoor enclosure, with notes of meetings and accounts of expenditure. The memoranda about the ‘circle libell’ appear at the end of this sequence. On 5 March 1672 Warcup had noted in the diary that William Bedford admitted having seen the ’round libell’.

Warcup’s feud with Lydall continued beyond 1672. In MS. Rawlinson D. 384, fols. 44ff  we find a copy of a suit of Richard Lydall and Frances Fairebeard, widow, both of Northmoor, against Edmund Warcup, concerning his exclusive right to seats in the aisle of Northmoor church, heard in the church courts in Oxford. The document runs to nearly fifty pages and includes sworn depositions of many Northmoor parishioners, a number of whom appear in the Chancery decree mentioned above, and in the memoranda about the ‘circle libell’. The case reveals that there was no love lost between Warcup and Lydall.  It seems that Warcup’s right to the pew had been established by an earlier ruling, but Lydall resented the pretensions of this newcomer to the parish. The court document states that

“there was a doore or doores with a locke or lockes & wainscott partition or some other fence erected & sett up to secure the use & right of the said isle to him the said Edm. Warcupp & his family”

Lydall was charged that he, or others appointed by him

“didst on or about the thirteenth day of November last past [1677] (being a day appointed by his most sacred Majesty for a publick fast) breake downe the doore with lock partition or fence of the said isle in a rude undecent & violent manner contrary to the order & decree of thy lawfull Ordinary [the Bishop’s representative in the Church court].”

Furthermore,

“after the said breaches and defects were repaired & mended at the proper costs & charges of Edm. Warcupp .. you the said Rich. Lydall not being content with thy misdemeanours … (but persisting therein & adding thereunto) didst on or about the 17 day of November last past (being a Sunday) againe breake downe the aforesaid fence & doore … & after that thou or some other by thy direction … didst alsoe place two stooles or other seates in the said isle & didst thereupon seate thy selfe & wife or some other on thy part & behalfe, to the great disturbance of the said Edm. Warcupp Esqr his Lady & family …”

 

warcup-v-lydall

MS. Rawl. D. 384, fols. 44ff – Lydall attacks Warcup’s pew

 

Have you seen this manuscript?

I am clearly not the first person to have seen Warcup’s diary in [octavo] Rawl. 439, but the lack of any record of it in either our printed book or our manuscript catalogues suggests that I am probably the first to have recognised it as such. If anyone has found or used the diary before, or is aware of any citation of it in a book or article, I would be interested to hear from you.

Index of Chandra Shum Shere manuscript collection now digitized

Chandra Shum Shere1On 20th December, the Bodleian’s Clay Sanskrit Librarian, Dr. Camillo Formigatti, was pleased to be able to announce the launch of a complete digital version of the Index Catalogue of MSS. Chandra Shum Shere by T. Gambier Parry, revised and completed by E. Johnston. This small project was made possible by a generous grant from the Max Müller Memorial Fund.

The PDF files are available on the Finding Aids – Oriental Manuscripts & Rare Books: South and Inner Asia webpage of the Oxford LibGuides website. They are listed under the section Sanskrit. Dr. Formigatti has prepared a set of three different files:

• Index Catalogue of MSS. Chandra Shum Shere vol. 1 (A-Tarpaṇa)
• Index Catalogue of MSS. Chandra Shum Shere vol. 2 (Tarpaṇa-Muktāvalī)
• Index Catalogue of MSS. Chandra Shum Shere vol. 3 (Muktāvalī-Haumikaprāyaścitta-Modern Indian Languages)

Each file is available in two different resolutions: the first for fast internet connections and fit for printing, the second for slower internet connections and to be displayed on-screen. All files are provided with bookmarks for easy navigation.

We hope this basic navigation tool will help all manuscript lovers to find their way through the thousands of manuscripts in this valuable collection.

A ‘happy and fruitful’ relationship: Seretse Khama in the Oxfam archive

The recent release of ‘A United Kingdom’, a film about the inspiring true story of Sir Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana, and his British-born wife, Ruth, got us thinking about Oxfam’s links with the country.

Director Amma Asante’s film opened the BFI London Film Festival in October, and tells how Khama, who was chief-in-waiting of the Bamangwato people of Bechuanaland (later Botswana), met Ruth Williams, an office clerk, while studying law in London in the 1940s. Despite opposition to their interracial marriage from the British Government, apartheid South Africa, and initially, tribal elders in Bechuanaland, Khama went on to to be the democratically-elected premier of his country, overseeing its independence in 1966, and a long period of economic growth and development.

In 1961, Oxfam took a significant leap forward with the appointment of T.F. (‘Jimmy’) Betts, ex-colonial servant and brother of the Labour politician, Barbara Castle, as its first resident ‘Field Director’, tasked with managing its development programme in Southern Africa. Previously, local voluntary agencies were entrusted to oversee the use of Oxfam funds, supported by occasional visits from Oxford staff. In 1962, one of Oxfam’s largest grants to that date – £90,000 – was allocated to work in the three British High Commission Territories of Bechuanaland (Botswana from independence in 1966), Basutoland (Lesotho from 1966), and Swaziland. The programme in Bechuanaland included repair work on water catchment dams to alleviate the effects of drought, training of farmers in modern techniques, and other agricultural initiatives. Over the course of the 1960s, Oxfam invested around £500,000 in the country, nearing £1 per head of population.  Khama’s regard for Oxfam and vice versa is revealed in two letters that we are currently cataloguing. The first, dated 24 June 1974, by Oxfam’s Director, Leslie Kirkley, informs Khama that after over ten years of collaboration, Oxfam feels that the time has come for it to concentrate its efforts “in other parts of the world where the problems are more intractable”. Kirkley praises the progress and achievements made by Botswana and Khama’s “concerned and enlightened leadership”. He also comments on the importance that the work in Botswana has had for Oxfam:

“Botswana has, and will continue to have, a special significance for Oxfam, as it was there that we began to practise our role as a long-term development agency and the experience gained has been of invaluable help to us as we have extended our activities to other parts of the world and constantly adjusted our thinking and policies over the years.”

Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries

Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries

 

Khama’s reply, dated 7 August 1974, expresses thanks to Oxfam for its work in Botswana, undertaken during the course of a “happy and fruitful” relationship, noting:

“We shall always be extremely grateful to Oxfam for the assistance which you have been giving us over the years. We have by no means solved all of our problems, but we have at least made significant progress in a number of fields, and much of the credit for this must go to Oxfam.”

Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries

Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries

 

Three photographs recently donated to the archive show the Khamas and Jimmy Betts in 1964, visiting a community centre in Serowe, Bechuanaland, built with Oxfam’s assistance.

Jimmy Betts and Ruth Khama inside the community centre. Photo credit: Hugh McIntosh. (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries)

Jimmy Betts and Ruth Khama inside the community centre. Photo credit: Hugh McIntosh. (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries)

 

Jimmy Betts and Seretse Khama outside the community centre. Photo credit: Hugh McIntosh. (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries)

Jimmy Betts and Seretse Khama outside the community centre. Photo credit: Hugh McIntosh. (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries)

 

Jimmy Betts and Ruth Khama with others (unidentified) in the library of the community centre. Photo credit: Hugh McIntosh. (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries)

Jimmy Betts and Ruth Khama with others (unidentified) in the library of the community centre. Photo credit: Hugh McIntosh. (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries)

‘A United Kingdom’ is currently in cinemas.

Thai Manuscript Conservation Association Workshop at the Bodleian

On 14th and 15th December staff from Bodleian Special Collections and Digital Library Systems and Services welcomed representatives from the Manuscript Conservation Association of Thailand. Delegates included Mr. Boonlert Sananon, President of the MCA, Mr. Boonlue Burarnsan, Vice President of the MCA, and Mrs. Phatchanun Bunnag, Registrar of the MCA.

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During the first day of the workshop delegates discussed the latest developments in TEI /XML cataloguing standards for Thai manuscripts at the Centre for Digital Scholarship. On the morning of second day of the workshop the delegates visited the Conservation workshop. This was followed by a lecture by given Mr Saneh Mahapol, from the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture on the conservation of palm leaf books in Thailand.

The workshop ended with delegates helping the library to identify and make basic TEI descriptions of uncatalogued Thai manuscripts in the Bodleian’s collection.

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