Category Archives: Period

A sympathy for strangers: Oxfam and the history of humanitarianism

On Tuesday 31st October the Oxfam Archive Assistants attended a lecture at St Antony’s College by Princeton University’s Professor Jeremy Adelman, entitled Towards a Global History of Humanitarianism. Professor Adelman’s focus was primarily the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but his narrative had implications for the way we might view contemporary humanitarian agencies such as Oxfam.


Historians have not always been kind in their assessments of international humanitarianism. Alex de Waal was broadly critical of the role such agencies have played when dealing with famine on the African continent: by supplying aid externally, he argues, they inadvertently undermine the democratic accountability of African governments, disincentivizing humanitarian intervention or crisis prevention as a way of preserving political power.[1] To an extent, Adelman spoke in a similar vein: abolitionists may have helped stimulate the rise of humanitarianism in the nineteenth century but colonial penetration itself was often justified in terms of humanitarian intervention, where the white settler was morally and ethically obliged to ‘civilize’ the unsophisticated ‘native’. Humanitarian discourse, Adelman argued, is by its nature racialized, and it invariably reinforces the self-image of Western nations as occupying the apex of a civilizational hierarchy.


This might seem somewhat damning of all Oxfam does and stands for. However, Adelman also spoke of a ‘sympathy for strangers’ which grew out of increasing global connectedness and integration as telegraph cables, railways and steamships curtailed the spatial and intellectual distances between disparate peoples. The camera was, according to Adelman, a fundamental technological innovation in this respect and the relationship between photography and humanitarianism has in many ways been central to the development of charities like Oxfam. Borrowing from Susan Sontag, Adelman suggested that ‘moral witnesses’ – i.e., photographers – record public memories of pain, creating a connection between the ‘victim’ – the subject of the photograph – and the viewer.


In the 19th century missionaries armed themselves with Kodak cameras, and by producing lantern slide shows of their experiences in foreign climes hoped to raise money for future missionary work. But in the Congo Free State, rendered a personal possession of King Leopold of Belgium in 1885, missionaries began to use their cameras to record atrocities committed against Congolese rubber plantation workers. In the face of international scrutiny – which admittedly was somewhat more self-interested than compassionate – King Leopold was forced to cede Congo as a personal asset. It could certainly be argued that such photographs exploited the pain of others, titillating public interest at home without any true empathy for or understanding of the Congolese people. According to Susan Sontag, the ‘knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist’.[2]



But the power of the photograph to reinforce moral or empathetic feeling can be – and has been – used for the genuine betterment of others. From 1957 to the early 1960s Oxfam sent simple Christmas ‘appeal’ cards to its donors, featuring a simple ‘thank you’ message and photographs of individuals helped by the charity. A card from 1958 showed a huge-eyed little girl, sitting wrapped in a coat and woollen socks with a spoon stuck into a beaker of food. The caption read ‘This little Greek girl was found as a baby hungry and dying… Now she is properly fed… because Oxfam sends food, and years ago was able to plant black-currant bushes in her village which are now bearing fruit.’ This photograph does not simply broadcast the pain of strangers. It broadcasts hope, and promises resolution through charitable action. While a healthy scepticism and constructive interrogation of the conduct of international agencies is to be encouraged, we should be careful not to overlook and devalue the charitable efforts inspired by genuine ‘sympathy for strangers’.

[1] Alex de Waal, Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa (1997)

[2] Susan Sontag, On Photography (1973)

Donation of Monier-Williams archive

The Bodleian owes much of its rich collection of Indic manuscripts and books to the personal collection of Oxford University’s Boden Professor of Sanskrit, Sir Monier Monier-Williams and that of the Indian Institute Library, which he founded in 1883. Scholars have long assumed that the library also holds Sir Monier’s papers: these, however, remained with his family.

Sir Monier-Williams’ great great grandson has now most generously donated these papers to the library.  This archival collection includes diaries, material on the controversial election of Sir Monier to the Boden Professorship, his lecture notes and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, all of which provide new insights into his career and the history of Indian Studies at Oxford.


Mary Ann Flaxman revealed as the author of an anonymous diary, Weimar and Lausanne 1805-6

Are these unknown sketches by Mary Ann Flaxman? (MS. Eng. misc. d. 48, fol. 35)

Readers of the Archives and Manuscripts blog will have noted that the internet has been invaluable in helping to discover anonymous authors of diaries in the Bodleian, both recently acquired items (see Search and Searchability), and manuscripts that have been in the library for more than 250 years (see Discovered! A ‘lost’ diary of Sir Edmund Warcup). This latest discovery relates to a diary purchased in 1921.

The diary is described in the Summary Catalogue thus:

45961 Diary of a continental tour, in the Almanach de Lausanne, 1806, with a (fols. 34-5) sketches and b (fols. 51-8) a diary for 1805. iv + 60 leaves.
MS. Eng. misc. f. 48

This rather unhelpful description immediately caught my eye. I was intending to use this intriguing diary as one of the manuscripts to investigate in a workshop held in the Bodleian in 2015 when students were invited to see if it would be possible to supply authors to a group of anonymous travel diaries using internet resources (Travelling Incognito workshop). However, it is a fairly fragile item and it was deemed unsuitable for the workshop.

There are some oddities about this diary. Most obviously, a simple ‘continental tour’ is not something that would have been lightly undertaken in 1806. Most British travel diaries in this wartime era either date from 1802, during the brief peace of Amiens, 1814, after Napoleon’s first defeat and exile to Elba, and 1815 after his final defeat at Waterloo. Why would anyone be travelling in 1805-6, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars? Napoleon defeated the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz in October 1805, and the Prussians at Jena and Auerstadt in October 1806. So our diarist seems to have chosen a war zone for a tourist destination – indeed, the earlier part of the diary includes a stay in Weimar.  In 1804 Duke Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar married his son to the sister of Alexander I of Russia, and then joined the Prussians in their war with Napoleon. As a consequence of the defeat of the allied coalition, the Duke had to join the Confederation of the Rhine, Napoleon’s new German order following his abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. All in all, not a good time to be a British tourist in Germany.

My first thought was that some mistake had been made. The diary is written in a printed almanac of 1806 – perhaps the manuscript diary was written a few years later? A brief perusal of the short diary soon put me right. The 1805 diary at the end of the volume is clearly headed as such, and the author was in Weimar at this date. There are no substantial entries between February and 20 June, at which date the diarist left Weimar, heading for Gotha then Eisenach, Fulda, Frankfurt and Wilhelmsbad, where the author notes, ‘an alarm on account of the French’, September 1805. By the last entry in this section, Basle has been reached. This section of the manuscript is on a gathering of leaves sown into the binding of the printed almanac towards the end. It is necessary to return to the beginning of the volume to continue the story, which begins 1 January (no year) when the diarist was given a gown as a New Year gift by ‘Mr Hare’. So it was reasonable to assume that the diarist was a woman.

What, then, was the relationship to Mr Hare, and what were they doing abroad in 1805-6? That they were still on the continent in 1806 was apparent from further entries. On 6 January the diarist attended a ball where she ‘danced only once, & with the Prince of Mecklenbourg’, presumably the Prince of Mecklenburg who visited Madame de Staël in Coppet, Switzerland, in 1805 . On the same page she noted ‘finish’d the portrait of Mr H’ which sounds formal enough to suggest that she was something of an artist. As the catalogue entry notes, there are indeed a few sketches in the diary.

Our diarist was moving in quite elevated circles, and Mr Hare seems to have been the key figure in her entourage. This promising lead was reinforced by a stark entry in the diary:

“Sunday 6th April at 7 o’clock in the morn[in]g poor Mrs H expired”

This was crucial information. Entering the words Hare died Lausanne April 1806 into a search engine produced remarkable results. Among these was a Wikipedia entry for Francis Hare-Naylor, which included the information that ‘on Easter Sunday, 1806, Georgiana Hare-Naylor (his wife) died at Lausanne, leaving her children to the care of Lady Jones (her eldest sister). The Handbook of Dates confirms that Easter that year was indeed 6 April. Georgiana was the cousin of her more famous namesake, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Who were the Hares (Hare-Naylors)? How was our diarist connected with them? And what were they doing in Weimar and Lausanne in 1805-6? The answer to some of these questions can be found in the DNB entry for Francis Hare-Naylor. It would appear that the Hare-Naylors went to Weimar for several reasons, a combination of political, social and financial problems in England that made removing to the continent desirable, coupled with Mrs Hare-Naylor’s failing health. Weimar  attracted the family because of the literary circles that were established  there, among whom was Goethe, and because they had developed a good relationship with the ruling Duchess. The move to Lausanne was presumably partly occasioned by the political developments mentioned above. Once Mrs Hare-Naylor had died, the family made a rather hazardous journey back to England. After crossing the Rhine and then the Danube, the diarist noted that they

“pass’d through a number of French troops, always civil”.

By the end of 1806 their journey had taken them to Hamburg, and by 23 July they had landed at Gravesend. It appears that the sketches in the diary might have been done on this voyage: there is a view of the English coast (probably Orford Ness – my thanks to Sumner Braund for helping to identify this), and a number of figures who appear to be lounging on or below deck. Could they be rather bored young Hares?

Sketches in the ‘Almanach de Lausanne’ for 1806. Probably unattributed works of Mary Ann Flaxman. (MS. Eng. misc. d. 48)








The diarist was clearly on intimate terms with the Hare family, but not a member of it. Michael Heafford (University of Cambridge) who has worked on travel diaries and in particular on travellers in Switzerland, made an inspired suggestion. Could she be the Hares’s governess, Mary or Maria Flaxman? This suggestion was the key that unlocked the diary. Everything fell into place, and the locations, the names mentioned, and the sketches, all made sense. Mary is well known enough to have left substantial traces in the records. She was the half-sister of the famous sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826). His DNB entry shows that he had a European reputation – he was even invited to the the Musée Napoleon in Paris in 1802. The DNB article goes on to say:

“In Germany, too, Flaxman was acclaimed as both sculptor and illustrator. His half-sister recorded seeing copies after his sculpture being sold in Hamburg, and in Weimar she met Goethe, who told her how much he admired her brother’s art.”

Augustus J. C. Hare, grandson of Francis and Georgiana Hare-Naylor, gives an account of the Hare-Naylors in Memorials of a Quiet Life, published in the 1870s. He mentions John Flaxman’s friendship with the family, and the advice he gave to Georgina to improve her own painting skills. He also states:

“Flaxman, who, with his sister (who was governess to little Anna), accompanied the Hare-Naylors to Weimar.”

There is a separate entry for Mary Ann Flaxman in the DNB, under the main entry for her brother. This too highlights the Hare-Naylor connection, and shows that Mary was an artist in her own right:

“Mary Ann exhibited at the Free Society of Artists, the Society of Artists, and the Royal Academy between 1786 and 1819. … For several years she lived as a governess with the Hare Naylor family, first in Italy and afterwards in Weimar. From 1810 she lived with John Flaxman and his wife in Buckingham Street until the sculptor’s death in 1826.”


Sketches and paintings by Mary Ann Flaxman are held in various repositories, and some of her letters are in the British Library. All that remained for me to do to complete the reattribution of the diary was to see if the handwriting of her letters and the style of her sketches matched what was in front of me. Claire Wotherspoon of the British Library very kindly supplied me with scans of some of Mary’s letters in Add MS 39782, and I can confirm that the handwriting matches that of the diary. There are also sketches by Mary Ann Flaxman in the same collection. To my untrained eye at least, there is nothing in the sketch below that makes me think that Mary was NOT the creator of the sketches in the diary reproduced above.

Sketch by Mary Ann Flaxman (BL Add MS 39792 B)

The diary is now being recatalogued.


Mike Webb

The Braun Family Archive: Second edition catalogue now available

The second edition of the catalogue of the Braun Family Archive is now available here.

More than 50 boxes – MSS. Braun 168-221 – have been added since the first catalogue was published in February 2015. In addition to the papers of, and collected by, Thomas Braun and his parents Konrad and Hildburg Braun, the archive now includes a collection of family verse and writings, as well as correspondence, personal documents, writings, memorabilia and photographs of Gerhard Braun, his wife Anneliese and daughter Ruth.

Gerhard Braun (1893-1946) was Konrad Braun’s elder brother. By profession he was an obstetrician and gynaecologist. As a young man he served as a medical officer in the First World War and then as an American POW. In 1927 he married Anneliese Finster (1901-1996), and adopted her daughter Ruth (‘Rüthli’, 1926-1999).

Braun family photo, c. 1931

The Friedmann-Brauns, c. 1931: Gertrud and Felix Friedmann-Braun with Ruth, at the back Konrad, Hildegard, Johannes, Anneliese and Gerhard Braun. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Due to the Friedmann-Brauns’ Jewish ancestry, the family faced discrimination and persecution under the Nazi regime. After losing his posts in the public health system and seeing his previously successful practice limited to private patients and the to Jews only, Gerhard Braun was arrested in the course of the November pogrom in 1938 and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was detained for five and a half weeks. He was released in December 1938, on condition that his family paid a large sum in tax and that he emigrated.

12-year-old Ruth was sent ahead to safety in England in late 1938, staying with family friends – Curt and Hilde Sluzewski who had had already emigrated from Germany – in London. Gerhard and Anneliese followed in early 1939. Since they had been forced to leave behind most of their possessions, and Gerhard Braun was forbidden to work, the family, for more than three years, was reliant on the generous support of Marcel Wolfers, a merchant in the China trade.

Gerhard Braun was detained as an ‘enemy alien’ at the Huyton internment camp near Liverpool for several months in 1940. Only from 1942 was he able to practice medicine in England, as a junior hospital doctor in Birmingham. However, his health had been seriously impaired by his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis and he died in 1946, at just 52 years of age.

Gerhard Braun at the piano

Gerhard Braun at the piano. – Photograph by permission of Christopher Braun

Anneliese and Ruth Braun eventually moved from Birmingham to London, where they shared a house in Golders Green until Anneliese Braun’s death in 1996. Mother and daughter were extremely close, and together they were known as ‘the Pummels’ to family and friends.

Anneliese Braun was an amateur writer since her youth, and some of her poems and short stories had been published in German newspapers before 1933. Even before coming to England in 1939, she had begun to write in English as well, and later she also translated works by other writers, including Monika Mann, Ruth Tenney (Marcel Wolfer’s wife) and Veronica Erdmann-Czapski, with whom she was friends.

Ruth Braun, having attended Birmingham Theatre School as a young woman, also had a lifelong interest in drama and music – in many ways, following the family tradition. Her ‘adopted grandfather’, Felix Friedmann-Braun (1861-1934), had been a brilliant amateur pianist in Berlin, and his four children grew up in a prosperous, cultured family with many links to leading literary, musical and artistic figures in Germany.

Poster for a recital by Hildegard Braun in Berlin, 1918. The Bechstein-Saal, a chamber music hall with more than 500 seats, had been opened 1892 with a series of concerts by Johannes Brahms, Anton Rubinstein and the like. Hildegard Braun certainly was in good company! – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Daughter Hildegard was a successful professional singer, the youngest son, Johannes, an actor. Konrad Braun was a keen amateur violinist and played in a string quartet with friends (Curt ‘Slu’ Sluzewski, amongst others), while Gerhard had inherited his father’s talent as a pianist. Gerhard also composed short pieces of music, such as birthday serenades for Ruth, and set to music verses by his wife Anneliese and poems by Ruth Tenney. Some of his compositions survive in the archive (MS. Braun 221), and together with a collection of family verse compiled by Thomas and Christopher Braun (MSS. Braun 168-169), these give a wonderful glimpse of the important role that music, literature and writing played in the Braun family’s life – as a profession, as a pastime and for pleasure, and not least, as a source of a sense of identity, dignity and hope in times of hardship.

A song written down for Konrad Braun “von seinem Papa” – by his father, Felix Friedmann-Braun, 1911. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Poem written by Konrad Braun for his wife Hildburg’s 30th birthday on 14 May 1940. Just a year earlier, they had emigrated from Germany to England to escape persecution by the Nazis. The poem was published 63 years later, transcribed and translated by their son Thomas Braun, in The Oxford Magazine, No. 216, 2003. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Find out more about the Braun family story, and about the archive, here.

The Braun Family Archive was donated to the Bodleian Library by Christopher Braun, London, in several tranches between July 2010 and May 2017, together with a grant towards the cost of preparing the catalogue.

A Brief Encounter with Jane Austen’s Aunt and Cousin, Paris 1786

Eliza de Feuillide, nee Hancock (1761-1813), by an unknown artist

Visitors to the Jane Austen exhibition (Which Jane Austen?) will have seen a small diary whose anonymous author attended a party in Paris where both Jane Austen’s aunt and cousin were present.

Although the diary has been in the Bodleian since 1945, the Jane Austen connection had not been noticed until I stumbled across it in 2015. In June of that year a number of History and English students came to a workshop in the Weston Library to help us discover the authors of some anonymous manuscript travel diaries in Bodleian collections. We called the workshop ‘Travelling Incognito?’ Archivists in Special Collections surveyed the diaries briefly before the workshop to assess them for readability, condition and potential research interest. During this process, a page in one of the diaries, MS. Eng. misc. e. 250, caught my attention. The catalogue entry for the diary is brief: ‘Journal of a tour in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, late 18th cent. 60 leaves; marbled wrappers.’ The author mostly describes towns, houses and gardens he visits, and perhaps apart from his visit to the Royal Court at Versailles where he saw Marie Antoinette, there is nothing especially remarkable about the diary. No year is mentioned, but we can date it to 1786 from the correlation of days and months and some references to recent events. One or two pages for no apparent reason are written in French, and it was on one of these pages (fol. 19v ) that I noticed some interesting names in reference to a dinner in Paris on 17 June. The description of the dinner reads as follows:

Saturday 17th

… Nous avons aujourdhui dine chez Monsr. Pattle ou il se trouvait le Doct. Geary, deux Anglais, Made Hancock anglaise & sa fille[,] un Curé[,] Mde Villette & Monsr. Pattle qui se trouvait bien indispose, mais il nous a reçu avec beaucoup d’honnetété & nous a conté beaucoup d’Histoires –  Mde Hancock en des Indes & connait tres bien Mons Sumner, Mde Yorke, la famille Birch &ca. Le Doctr ma dit que sa fille etait de Monsr Hastings. …

[We dined today at Mr Pattle’s, where were Doctor Geary, two Englishwomen, Madame Hancock and her daughter, a Curé, Madame Villette and Mr Pattle, whom we found was very unwell,  but he received us with great sincerity, and recounted to us numerous stories. Madame Hancock was in the Indies, and knew well Mr Sumner, Madame Yorke, the Birch family etc. The Doctor told me that her daughter was Mr Hastings’s …]

What are we to make of this? At first I was struck by the author’s apparent interest in India. The fact that Madame Hancock had been ‘en des Indes’, and had known various people out there, was clearly of interest to the author who may well have had connections with India and the East India Company, and appears to have had mutual acquaintances there with Mrs Hancock. The name of the host, Pattle, was sufficiently unusual to be worth an internet search, so I tried my luck and put the names Pattle, Hancock, Sumner, Yorke and Birch into a search engine together with India. The results were encouraging. One ‘hit’ was on a document created by the British Library, People and Places.  A guide to materials relating to India at the British Library Western Manuscripts Collections.  This guide revealed that one Thomas Pattle had been a director of the East India Company; that Richard Sumner was also an East India Company official, and that Warren Hastings, as Governor-General of India, had corresponded with him. The names Yorke and Birch are also listed in an Indian context, but the name that really stood out was that of ‘Tisoe Saul Hancock’, Surgeon at Fort William (Bengal), especially as his name came up in the context of letters he had written to Warren Hastings. Also mentioned in the British Library Guide was ‘Mrs Hancock’. Copies of Mr Hancock’s letters to his wife and daughter, and his will, are among the papers of Sir Warren Hastings. The significance of all this is that Tysoe Hancock’s wife was Philadelphia Hancock, nee Austen. She was Jane Austen’s aunt.

Portrait of Warren Hastings by Tilly Kettle, c.1772 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

So now let us return to the dinner at Mr Pattle’s house in Paris in June 1786. Those knowledgeable about the history of Jane Austen’s family will have noted straightaway that the ‘fille’ of Mrs Hancock, also present at the dinner, must be Eliza. And of course, Eliza and her mother were in France in 1786 because Eliza had married a French Army Captain, Jean-François Capot de Feuillide. Jean-François made the mistake of making (possibly bogus) claims to aristocracy and ended up a victim of the guillotine, by which time the Hancocks had returned to England. Eliza was thus Jane Austen’s cousin, and Jane knew her well. She was 14 years older than Jane, and according to the article on Jane in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Eliza was ‘a frequent visitor to Steventon and a powerful influence on her cousins.’ Her vivacious and witty nature is thought to be reflected in the character of Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, published shortly after Eliza’s death in 1813. By then, Eliza had married Jane’s brother Henry, so that she was Jane’s sister-in-law as well as her first cousin. The most interesting thing about the passage mentioning the dinner in Paris is the apparent reference to a story circulating at the time, that Eliza was the natural daughter of Warren Hastings (stated in the rather bald French, ‘sa fille etait de Mons r Hastings’). Whatever the truth or otherwise of the rumours surrounding her birth, and this subject remains controversial among Austen scholars, it is very interesting to see that the story was apparently circulating in Paris in 1786, even among those very close to Mrs Hancock and her daughter.

None of this has helped us to identify the author of MS. Eng. misc. e. 250, but it does suggest a network that might be pursued. And during the course of the Travelling Incognito workshop, the student assigned to work on this diary discovered that the author had visited Mr Pattle on 13 June. His house was in Place Royale, and the author delivered to him ‘our letters and parcels’, one of which was from Mr Hastings, thanking Mr Pattle for his offer of his services ‘on the trial’. So it certainly would appear that there is some connection between the author and Warren Hastings, and that perhaps some official business took him to Mr Pattle’s house.  Warren Hastings’s impeachment for alleged corruption in India began in 1787 and he was acquitted after a trial that lasted until 1795.

It was during this first visit that Mr Pattle invited the author to dine on the 17th. He describes Mr Pattle as a 76-year-old man with one eye. This identifies Mr Pattle as Thomas Pattle of Paris, whose will of 1788 is among the Prerogative Court of Canterbury records held at the National Archives. Mrs Maria Villette, presumably the Madame Villette noted in the diary, was a major beneficiary, in recognition of the care she had taken of Pattle and his affairs.  Julia Margaret Cameron, nee Pattle, the noted photographer and great aunt of Virginia Woolf, was Thomas Pattle’s great granddaughter.

This takes us some way from the brief entry in the anonymous diary however. Of more interest in this context is a reference to the same Thomas Pattle and his Paris residence in the correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (see  The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Electronic Edition, ed. Sprigge et. al., InteLex Corp., Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.A., 2000). Just a year before the anonymous diarist met Thomas Pattle and the Hancocks in Paris, on 17 August 1785, Jeremy Bentham wrote a letter to his father, Jeremiah, on 17 August 1785:

“I scribble in haste from Mr. Pattle’s Country house at Argenteuil, formerly the House of the Marquis du Chatelet, and Residence of Voltaire, present Mrs. Villette, Mr. Pattle, Captn and Mrs. Brook and Mr. Roger Metcalfe… .”

Later in the letter he adds:

“I met your Friend Dr. Keary here on Sunday who made the most affectionate Enquiries after you.”

It may not be significant, but it was a ‘Dr Geary’ who confided to the anonymous diarist the story of Eliza Hancock’s alleged origins. The editors of the Bentham correspondence were not able to identify Dr Keary. Could our diarist have mispelt his name? The editors did have something to say about Thomas Pattle however, noting that Samuel Bentham, Jeremy’s brother,  had stayed with a Mr Pattle at Paris in 1775.

In September 1785 Jeremy Bentham wrote to Jeremiah from Florence, ending a long letter with the following:

“I don’t know that I saw Lady Craven. I had a pretence to call on her from having seen her beautiful little boy, Keppel at Mr. Pattle’s (Mrs. Villette and she are great friends) … .”

This brings us once more into the Jane Austen orbit, for she had connections with the Cravens through her great friend Martha Lloyd, and through Thomas Fowle who was betrothed to Jane’s sister Cassandra before his untimely death in the West Indies, both of whom were descended from a junior branch of the Craven family. The Countess Craven in Jane’s day, daughter in-law- of the Lady Craven  mentioned by Bentham, read and offered her opinions of some of Jane Austen’s novels, as indeed did Warren Hastings (see footnotes in the The Letters of Jane Austen  published by OUP, 1995; online database version published by InteLex Corp., Charlottesville, 2004).

The diary remains on display in the Which Jane Austen? exhibition in the Weston Library until 29 October.

Dancing all night with Aphra Behn: a recently acquired diary of Jeffrey Boys of Betteshanger, 1667


The library recently acquired a little Gallen almanac of 1667. This work, itself a rare book (we have traced a handful of Gallen almanacs in the Bodleian, and none for 1667), has become a unique manuscript as it contains a diary of Jeffrey (or Jefferay) Boys of Betteshanger, Kent for the year 1667. The catalogue has just been published online. Although the diary covers only 12 pages (one per month), it is of considerable interest as a record of Restoration London. In the words of the bookseller  Samuel Gedge, who identified the author and the significance of the diary, the diarist “offers a masterclass in Restoration dandyism: gambling, socialising, drinking, dancing and theatregoing”.

Jeffrey Boys (1643-1703) was a young lawyer at Gray’s Inn, one of many sons of John Boys (d. 1678), possessor of the manor of Betteshanger in Kent. John Boys was married three times, and the numerous references to brothers, sisters and cousins in the diary refer to step-relatives and brothers and sisters-in-law as well as full siblings, and all can be traced in pedigrees of the Boys family and John Boys’s will held in the National Archives. Jeffrey’s mother and father make a brief appearance in the diary when ‘Father & Mother Let’ come to London. Jeffrey’s mother was named Letitia.

The most extraordinary aspect of the diary however is Boys’s meetings with the female playwright Aphra Behn, with whom he is clearly acquainted. Aphra goes by the name of ‘Astrea’, and her identity might not have been established but for the fortunate discovery in 1930 of another Jeffrey Boys diary of 1671. Astrea was apparently a name Aphra Behn adopted when she was a spy in Antwerp. Sadly, the whereabouts of the original diary is not presently known, but the discoverer, though not recording where he saw it, wrote it up in Notes and Queries, noting that Boys records that he saw Astrea’s play the Forc’d Marriage, and then that ‘Astraea’s boy brought me her play the Amorous Prince’.

[May] 29 Sisters, Mrs An. Farew[ell], Astrea & divers men set up dauncing at Spr[ing] gard[en] all night

The 1667 diary shows that Jeffrey Boys’s connection with Aphra Behn was more intimate, and went back further than could be discovered from the the 1671 diary. She makes her first of five appearances in Boys’s 1667 diary on 29 May when Boys, his sister, Astrea and ‘divers men set up dauncing at Spr[ing] gard[en] all night’. The date of this first entry is noteworthy because it is known from other sources that Aphra Behn had returned from her spying mission to Antwerp earlier that month (see her entry in the Dictionary of National Biography). It is clear from this entry that Boys already knew Astrea, and as she is treated in the same way as all his other friends and relatives mentioned in the diary, it is likely that they had known one another a long time.


The diary has numerous interesting references to life in Restoration London. On 14-15 Jan 1667 Boys records attendance at various plays. He saw the ‘Indian Queen’ (‘it not having been acted in a long time’) and its companion the ‘Indian Emperor’ performed over two days, ‘the whole Court almost except th[ei]r Maj[est]ies being there’. This was Thomas Killigrew’s production, the man who was later to stage Behn’s plays and who was also connected with her spying activies. In February 1667 Boys helped to set up an Anatomy Club, missing its first meeting as he was watching Spanish rope dancers. At a later meeting he saw ‘a dog well anatomized’.

November  ….lost my cloake in Lincolns In field  … bought new sword [he lost his old one]. had new Periwig.

Boys also attended the ‘Humorous Lovers’ by the ‘Duchesse of Newcastle’ exactly, he says ‘as shee writ it’. It is supposed that the Duke of Newcastle actually wrote the play, but Pepys also saw it at the same time, and he too believed it to have been written by the Duchess.

Boys seems to be following Pepys around. He and his companions saw a ‘riding of Skimington’ on 10 June 1667 in Greenwich. This was a form of community retribution meted out on people deemed to be acting anti-socially, and Pepys witnessed the very same incident in Greenwich on the same day:

[from Pepys Diary 10 June 1667] ‘…in the afternoon took boat and down to Greenwich, where I find the stairs full of people, there being a great riding there to-day for a man, the constable of the town, whose wife beat him.’

The diary gives an interesting picture of places of entertainment in post-Fire London. Several taverns are mentioned, the favourite being the Bacchus, where once again we find Boys and others dancing all night with Astrea in December 1667. In October Boys was up all night again, this time at ‘La Frouns’ (or possibly La Trouns – if anyone has information about this institution, please let us know). Among his companions on this occasion were ‘Ld Bellamounts daughters Lady Frances and Persiana’. Frances Bard, daughter of the Earl of Bellomont, was Prince Rupert’s mistress and mother of his natural son Dudley.  According to some accounts, the relationship ended in 1667.

At the end of the volume, Boys has copied out the steps for various country dances – perhaps he and Aphra Behn tried a few of them!

Looking back and pushing forwards: 75 years of Oxfam

As an Archives Assistant spending the next twelve months helping to catalogue the Oxfam Archive, I probably shouldn’t admit how woefully ignorant I was of Oxfam before I started. I knew their shops sold cheap books and nice Christmas cards. I knew you could buy someone a goat or a toilet for Christmas, and that this goat or toilet would go to someone who lived somewhere without a sewage system or a supermarket selling pasteurized milk. But beyond this, I’d never really stopped to think who ‘Oxfam’ were and what they meant. It came as a surprise that ‘Oxfam’ wasn’t just a made-up word but came from Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, and that a charity which was born in one small city has spread its offices and infrastructure across the globe. I’ve learnt a lot in the two months since I started. But Oxfam’s 75th birthday party, held in Oxford’s town hall on Friday 6th October, taught me a lot more. 

some of the archive material used for the ‘show and tell’ sessions


At the Bodleian we were involved with preparations for the 75th anniversary in a low-key way, answering enquiries from Oxfam staff regarding photographs which would be used in exhibitions and slideshow presentations. Between the 4th and the 6th October there were also opportunities for Oxfam staff and volunteers to view some of the highlights of the Oxfam archive in the Bodleian, and this proved a learning experience for me as well. Through objects such as a scrapbook documenting fundraising and a damp-gnawed but still-legible gift-shop cashbook from 1948-9, I realised the importance of innovatory and motivated figures like Robert Castle and Joe Mitty, who respectively established the first permanent Oxfam shop and helped make the charity-shop phenomenon what it is today. A particularly memorable entry in the cashbook was simply ‘Dog’, which sold for 5 shillings – we presume the dog was ornamental, especially as an ‘Elephant’ was also sold at around the same time!

Oxfam’s first permanent shop on Broad Street, Oxford


The anniversary celebrations themselves took place on Friday 6th October in Oxford’s Town Hall. We were treated to cake and tea in the Assembly Room, and then moved into the ornate Main Hall where the Oxfam choir sung us into our seats. The full hall made me realise not only the importance of Oxfam as a UK employer, but also as a social institution which generations of people have grown up with. Many of the volunteers were elderly, but a gurgling baby at the back of the hall indicated that the Oxfamily spans all ages.


My job is to catalogue Oxfam’s project files, bundles of correspondence, receipts and reports which document how development work plays out on the ground. This is what Stan Thekaekara, founder-director of trade model ‘Just Change’ and one of the evening’s speakers, would call the ‘worm’s eye view’. I was much less aware of the ‘bird’s-eye view’, the need for an overarching vision and policy and the tension that can result between the bird and the worm, between the decision-makers at home and the boots on the ground. This was something discussed by the panel hosted by Duncan Green, strategic advisor at Oxfam GB. The panellists debated the need to reorient the global economic system away from exponential growth and a capitalistic zero sum game, but also the importance of listening to the communities worst-affected by this system and providing them with the knowledge that could help improve their lives.

the programme for the evening’s events



In a discussion on the future of Oxfam, Mark Goldring (Oxfam GB’s Chief Executive) suggested this focus on communities was already being embodied by Oxfam International, the worldwide confederation of Oxfam affiliates. Oxfam International Executive Director Winne Byanyima was optimistic as she announced that Oxfam International’s headquarters would shortly be moving to Nairobi, and the celebratory talks concluded with reiterations of Oxfam’s commitment to end poverty.

While the optimism and passion of the speakers was inspiring, I couldn’t help but notice the tragic irony of the fact that, twenty-five years ago, Oxfam’s 50th anniversary celebrations were overshadowed by the influx of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh, and that 2017 has witnessed renewed attacks and allegations of genocide by the Myanmar authorities. Despite Oxfam’s energy and determination, I can’t help but think that, while human hatred continues to fuel governments, human suffering will not be easy to uproot.

Professor George Gow Brownlee’s lab notebooks now available

George Gow Brownlee (photograph from the Royal Society)

George Gow Brownlee (photograph from the Royal Society)

The archive of Professor George Gow Brownlee, FMedSci, FRS, is now available online. Professor Brownlee was born in 1942 and took his degree and then a PhD at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, studying under double Nobel Laureate Fred Sanger at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (in 2014 he published a biography of Sanger). He worked for the Medical Research Council in Cambridge from 1966 until 1980 and then came to Oxford as a Fellow of Lincoln College and the first E.P. Abraham Professor of Chemical Pathology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, a chair he held until retirement in 2008.

Professor Brownlee’s research interests were in molecular biology and he and his group made significant discoveries in sequencing RNA and DNA during the early days of that field of research. In 1977, his group discovered the existence of pseudogenes – abnormal, mutated genes – which are now known to be ubiquitous in the genome of all organisms. After 1980, Brownlee became more involved in applied medical problems, and managed to isolate the clotting factor IX gene (also known as Christmas factor), which is present in people with haemophilia B. This led to improved treatment for people with the disease. He went on to work on gene regulation in influenza. In 1999 he and Ervin Fodor, whose contributions feature heavily in this archive, were able to isolate recombinant influenza virus, which led to improved vaccines for children.

These lab notebooks, which span most of Professor Brownlee’s career, form a rich scientific record that interestingly covers failed experiments as well as the experiments that led to major discoveries. And as a bonus, the catalogue is based on Professor Brownlee’s own descriptions of the notebooks, so it offers a level of detail that couldn’t be replicated by anybody else. The archive is likely to be of interest to scientists in the field as well as medical historians.

Now available: Catalogue of the Archive of Sir James Gowans

The Archive of the immunologist Sir James Gowans  (b.1924) is now available (online catalogue).

James Learmonth ‘Jim’ Gowans, after obtaining his medical degree from King’s College Hospital in 1947, came to Oxford on a Medical Research Council Studentship to work under Howard Florey, and was awarded a DPhil in 1953.

During the 1950s he did pioneering work on the life cycle of the lymphocyte, establishing that the small lymphocyte continuously recirculated from the blood to the lymph and back again, and that this cell was at the centre of immunological responses.
In 1962 he became Henry Dale Research Professor of the Royal Society at the Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, and from 1963 he was also Director of the Medical Research Council’s Cellular Immunology Research Unit at the Dunn School.

In 1977 Gowans left his research career to become the Secretary of the Medical Research Council and during 10 years in office oversaw, or was involved with, a number of major projects and initiatives, notably the establishment of Celltech as a company to develop biotechnology research into commercial opportunities, folic acid trials to prevent the development of neural tube defects, the Rothschild proposals for the reorganisation of medical research funding in the UK, the setup of the Voluntary Licensing Authority for Human in-vitro Fertilization and Embryology, and MRC AIDS Directed Programme.
From 1989-1993 Gowans was the Secretary-General of the Human Frontier Science Program, Strasbourg.

Alongside his posts at the Medical Research Council and the Human Frontier Science Program, and after his retirement, Gowans was a consultant and advisor, non-executive director or trustee for a number of companies, organisations and charities, including the World Health Organization Programme on AIDS, 3i – Investment in Industries, the Tavistock Trust, the Charing Cross Sunley Research Centre, Synaptica, EICOS – European Initiative for Communicators of Science, St. Christopher’s Hospice, General Motors Cancer Research Foundation.
Amongst many awards he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1963, and knighted in 1982.

The archive mainly comprises professional and scientific correspondence, and related papers such as briefing papers and reports, relating to all stages of Gowans’s career, as well as general (personal) correspondence, papers relating to awards, honours and memberships, conferences and visits, publications, and selected photographs.

The material was catalogued with the generous support of Sir James Gowans.

Children’s Papers: Series 1 catalogue of Opie Archive now available

The cataloguing of the first series of the Opie Archive, which comprises children’s papers, as well as related correspondence from school teachers, has now been completed. The catalogue is available to search online here.

The material in the first 13 boxes spans most of the 1950s, during which time, Iona and Peter Opie were working on their book, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, which was published towards the end of 1959. They began by placing an advert in the Times Educational Supplement, seeking teachers willing to assist in their research. Those who responded, soon put the Opies in touch with further colleagues in other schools, until they had recruited a wide network of enthusiastic teachers across the country. In order to keep track of their dizzying number of correspondents, the Opies kept meticulous notes in a series of small address books, in which each contact was assigned a reference code. The material in the first 13 boxes is, therefore, arranged in order of the reference codes of those contacts who had sent in each batch of papers. The subsequent 20 boxes, following the publication of The Lore and Language, date mostly from 1960 onwards. From this point, the material is instead arranged alphabetically, by the area the material had come from – from Aberdeen to York.

The Opie address books, which hold the key to all their many correspondents

The papers, often accompanied by colourful illustrations, list the children’s favourite counting out and skipping rhymes, describe games such as ball games, chasing games and marbles, explain slang terms and expressions currently in use, recount the latest playground fads and crazes, and outline various traditions, superstitions and other playground lore that have been passed down to them. Some of the games described would make modern-day readers flinch, such as the popular game “Knifey”, which involves throwing a pocket knife to stick in the ground near the opponent’s leg. The children’s papers are usually prefaced by a note from their teacher, often apologising for spelling mistakes in their pupils’ work, and sometimes recalling their own childhood songs and games. The teachers’ insights are often particularly interesting, such as when one teacher observes that the few English-language songs and rhymes known to the children in their predominantly Welsh-speaking school in Ruthin, north Wales, appear to be the legacy left by children from Liverpool, who had been evacuated there during the war.

The series also includes a sub-section of material received from sources other than schools, such as from fellow researchers working in the same field as the Opies, or a collection of local rhymes and songs from across Scotland, gathered by the editors of the Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper. This section also includes ten boxes of children’s essays submitted to the Camberwell Public Libraries Essay Competition, passed on to the Opies by Camberwell’s Chief Librarian. These competition entries provide a fascinating glimpse into the children’s thoughts and lives. The essays are very clearly rooted in their time, which is apparent not only through the 1950s and ’60s hairstyles and fashions, discernible in some of the charming, childish illustrations, but also in the children’s responses to essay topics such as “What I want to be when I leave school”, in which all the girls aspire to be nurses, dressmakers and typists, while their male counterparts seek to become firemen, policemen and train drivers. Other interesting responses were elicited by the 1955 essay title “A visit to the moon” – some children setting their stories firmly in the realm of fantasy, imagining being transported to the moon by fairies or goblins, while others wrote of rocket ships, but set their stories in the far distant year 3000, little imagining that the moon landing could become a reality in just over a decade’s time.

Shiny, new, archive boxes, all labelled up and barcoded!

To begin with, the bundles of papers were mostly still packaged in the same old, brown envelopes in which they had been stored by the Opies. Part of our task, in order to preserve the material long-term, was to remove all the harmful fasteners that could cause damage to the papers over time, such as rusty paperclips, pins and staples, as well as brittle, dried-up elastic bands. The papers could then be repackaged into standard, acid-free archive folders and boxes. In those instances where whole batches of papers had been folded or rolled up within their envelopes, the process of unfurling and flattening them to lie safely and neatly in their archive folders, was rather time-consuming.

Some of the rusty fasteners, removed from the Opie schools material

Our final task was foliation – which means physically numbering all the individual leaves (or “folios”) in each box, in pencil, so that the original order of the pages will never become muddled. The foliation process demanded sustained concentration, as it was all too easy to either miscount or accidently skip a page, especially given that the leaves in each bundle were all different sizes. Once such an error is discovered, all the subsequent numbers in the sequence are then, of course, likewise out of sync – a highly frustrating occurrence which we sought to avoid! In total, we numbered over 24 and a half thousand leaves across 46 boxes.

The Opie cataloguing project is generously funded by the Wellcome Trust. While the catalogue of this first series has now been completed, please note that work on the remaining Opie Archive is still ongoing, and sequences of the Opie Archive will continue to become temporarily unavailable whilst preservation, cataloguing and digitisation work is being carried out. We will try to accommodate urgent researchers’ requests for access wherever possible, however, if you need to consult material from the Opie Archive before June 2018, please do ensure that you contact us with as much advance notice as possible, so that we can advise on the availability of the material in question and make any necessary arrangements.

Supported by the Wellcome Trust