The life and poetry of Ivor C. Treby

Written by Kasturi Pindar, Bodleian Libraries intern, Summer 2023

Ivor C. Treby (1933-2012) was a biochemistry teacher by profession, though outside of his professional life, he considered himself a gay literary activist, as well as being an avid traveller and a collector of sand. He is perhaps best known for his research and work on Michael Field, the pseudonym of the Victorian lesbian poets, Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper. As a gay literary activist, he wrote his own poetry, which was published in magazines and journals internationally, and in collections released under his own imprint, De Blackland Press. He was also a member of the Gay Authors Workshop from its early years. By the time of his death, he had published five books on Michael Field and over 400 of his own poems. The motifs, imagery and sentiments found in his poems often reflects the various aspects of his life. Though his poetry is less well-remembered, his talent as a poet is clear when exploring his archive. Therefore, this post will highlight some of his poetry through the lens of his life experiences.

Born in Devonport, Plymouth, the son of a shipwright, Treby grew up by the coast. He lived here until he eventually moved to study, attending Exeter College, University of Oxford, where he studied biochemistry. The sea and the shore are themes that run throughout his poetry, testifying to the influence of life by the sea on his formative years. Many of his poems link the sea to his coming-of-age, or to romantic and sexual encounters that impacted his life. Others, such as ‘Respite’, simply express a feeling of calm and restful detachment that he felt when near the sea. His poem, ‘Sea Light’, describes the sea as part of his heritage, as the son of a shipwright, but importantly too as a young, gay man. He references areas of Plymouth that he frequented as a teenager, during his coming-of-age. The first and fourth verses are reproduced below.

‘Sea Light’

The sea was part of my heritage
I know all the old nautical traditions
Have heard of the phantom toffee-gobbler
Could give lessons on how to blow the man down
In a variety of interesting positions

Whenever I see a sailor now, I am back on Citadel Hill
Of an autumn twilight. Across the Hoe’s windy arena
The matelots come. My lads do you still
Walk the Barbican, and wait in Devonport Park
Still relish the hand of a youth on your trouser-leg’s dark concertina?

MS. Treby 16 © Darren Perry

***
After graduating from Oxford, Treby moved to London to teach biochemistry, working at Concord College in Tunbridge Wells, then Chiswick Polytechnic, before moving to Paddington College (now City of Westminster College). In 1978, he was charged and convicted of gross indecency under Section 13 of the Sexual Offenses Act 1956. By this time, he was out to his family and his colleagues. Nonetheless, he was subjected to disciplinary proceedings by Paddington College, as well as intervention by the Department of Education and Science who considered determining him to be a person ‘unsuitable for employment as a teacher’ as a result of his conviction. Historically, his case is important as it shows the limitations of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which is commonly thought to have legalised homosexuality in the United Kingdom. Though the 1967 act legalised homosexuality under certain circumstances, research has shown that following the passing of the act, policing of homosexual activity increased, and convictions of homosexual men for ‘gross indecency’ went up by more than 300%. Men continued to be arrested for actions as small as winking and smiling at other men in the street, or public displays of affection such as kissing and cuddling.

As his career was jeopardised by the Department of Education and Science, Treby defended himself vocally. In a written response to the Department of Education and Science, he wrote:

I feel myself under no obligation to give a ‘full explanation’ of a matter which,
(a) is totally irrelevant to my abilities as a teacher
(b) could only have arisen in a society with a grotesque attitude toward a minority of its people who obtain sexual fulfilment and love with adult members of their own gender. Kindly note the word love.

His conviction, and his vocal defence of himself, testify to how difficult it was to be openly gay, even 10 years after homosexuality had been supposedly legalised in the UK. His poem, ‘We Who Burn’ was written the year after the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and was one of his earliest open avowals of his sexuality. It was first published in The Gay Journal in the year of his conviction. The poem explores what it meant to Treby to be gay in the mid-twentieth century. Themes of silence, death and darkness are interspersed with the loss of youth and a reference to ‘cottages’. Writing about the poem later in life, Treby suggested that it may ‘have a permanent place in the history of gay poetry.’

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The archive of John Masefield is now available

On the tote bag that you can purchase from Blackwell’s bookshop on Oxford’s centrally located Broad Street, there is a poem by John Masefield:

I seek few treasures, except books, the tools
Of those celestial souls the world calls fools.
Happy the morning giving time to stop
An hour at once in Basil Blackwell’s shop
There, in the Broad, within whose booky house
Half of England’s scholars nibble books or browse.

Black and white portrait of John Masefield by Elliott & Fry, 1910s, National Portrait Gallery [NPG x82495], CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Deed

John Masefield by Elliott & Fry, 1910s, NPG x82495, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Deed

Masefield, whose archive catalogue is now online, was Poet Laureate for thirty-seven years, and wrote many collections of poems, adventure novels, children’s novels, and plays. And yet when I asked in Blackwell’s out of curiosity whether I could purchase a copy of his poems, I was met with quizzical looks. Few had heard his name, and his works are not stocked. During my time as an intern for the Bodleian Library’s Archives and Modern Manuscripts department, I have learned a great deal not just about archiving, the diligence required, and the many departments involved – conservation, rare books, digital archiving, web archiving – but I have also discovered much about the man behind the tote bag.

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New catalogue: Poems for Anthony Thwaite

The title page of Poems for Anthony Thwaite, 1980

The title page of Poems for Anthony Thwaite, 1980

A volume of manuscript poems written by some of the greatest poets of the twentieth-century has been catalogued online and is now available in the Weston Library.

As Ann Thwaite records: ‘Early in 1980 I wrote to a great many poets, ones whom I thought Anthony admired, asking them if they would be prepared to write out…a poem for him, one they thought would give him pleasure’. The inspiration was a book that Siegfried Sassoon had compiled for Thomas Hardy’s 80th birthday in 1920.

Sixty three poets responded, and the resulting collection includes Philip Larkin’s contribution ‘The View at Fifty’ (unpublished at that time), John Betjeman’s ‘In A Bath Teashop’ (in a hand showing the effects of Parkinson’s Disease), Seamus Heaney’s ‘North’, Fleur Adcock’s ‘Future Work’, Ted Hughes’ ‘The Kingfisher’, Jenny Joseph’s ‘Welfare’, Paul Muldoon’s ‘Ireland’ and Kingsley Amis’ ‘Pill for the Impressionable’ (with an additional ‘Three little tips’).

The original manuscript volume is accompanied by a facsimile copy which contains an additional poem by George Szirtes and an explanatory afterword by Ann Thwaite. The facsimile can now be found in our book collections [order on SOLO].

Anthony Thwaite (1930-2021) was an English poet, critic, broadcaster and editor of the poems and letters of his friend, the poet Philip Larkin. The poets collected in this volume had all been published or broadcast by Anthony Thwaite as literary editor at The New Statesman (1968-1972) and co-editor of Encounter (1973-1985), as editor of the poetry list at publishing company Secker & Warburg, as editor at publisher André Deutsch, or as a radio producer at the BBC and literary editor of the BBC’s The Listener (1958-1965). He also regularly reviewed books for The Observer, Sunday Telegraph and Guardian newspapers and judged numerous literary competions. Ann Thwaite (1932-) is a biographer, including of the authors Frances Hodgson Burnett, Edmund Gosse and A.A. Milne; an author of children’s books; and a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. She won the Duff Cooper Prize in 1985 for her biography of Gosse. Her AA Milne biography was the Whitbread Biography of the Year in 1990.

New Archive of the Conservative Party releases for 2024

Each January the Archive of the Conservative Party releases files which were previously closed under the 30-year rule. This year, files from 1993 are newly-available to access.

Despite the recession of the previous couple of years coming to an end, John Major’s third year as Prime Minister was dominated by internal Party conflict over Europe and low public popularity, manifesting in two significant by-election defeats. These issues are amongst those covered within the newly-released files for 2024, alongside subject files and briefs from Conservative Research Department (CRD), material of the Young Conservatives and Conservative student organisations, and correspondence and subject files of Conservatives in the European Parliament. This blog post will highlight some of the material included in this year’s newly-available files, with a full list linked at the end.

Europe and the Maastricht Treaty

In early 1992, European leaders signed the Maastricht Treaty to bring greater unity and integration between the countries of the European Economic Committee, creating the European Union. The Treaty officially became effective on 1 November 1993 once each county had ratified it, following referendums in Denmark, France, and Ireland. Whilst no referendum was held in the UK, the Maastricht Treaty did bring divisions to Parliament, especially the Conservative Party. A small number of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs voted with the opposition, who opposed the decision to opt out of the ‘Social Chapter’ rather than the Treaty itself, against ratification. Combined, these MPs were able to defeat the implementation of the Treaty in a series of votes due to the small Conservative majority at the time. Whilst Tory rebels failed in their campaign for a referendum, and Parliament did eventually ratify the Treaty, this happened only after John Major called a confidence motion in his own government. The issue of Europe, and the internal divisions it caused, undoubtedly defined Major’s early years as Prime Minister.

Many of this year’s newly-released files offer an insight into the way the Conservative Party viewed and approached the issue of the Maastricht Treaty, especially the debate over whether to hold a referendum. These can be found primarily in the collections of Conservatives in the European Parliament, CCO 508, and Conservative Overseas Bureau/International Office, COB. The image below shows two documents relating to the question of a referendum. The House of Commons Library Research Paper (left) provides details on the background to the Treaty and the arguments on either side of the debate, whilst the CRD brief of May 1993 (right) lists arguments against a referendum. These include the fact that the House of Commons had firmly defeated a vote on the issue, and that a well-publicised telephone referendum, ‘Dial for Democracy’, had received a poor turnout, suggesting limited public interest in the Treaty.

Maastricht Treaty: The Referendum Campaign – CPA COB/8/5/7, Folder 2.

Newbury and Christchurch by-elections

Internal Party divisions over Europe, alongside slow economic recovery, resulted in the Conservative Party suffering a couple of significant by-election defeats in 1993. The Party lost two seats, Newbury and Christchurch, which they had won by substantial majorities in the 1992 General Election. The Newbury by-election, held on 6 May, saw a swing of 28.4% to the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party losing this seat for the first time since 1923. Only two months later, the Christchurch by-election of 29 July saw an even higher swing of 35.4% to the Liberal Democrats.

This year’s newly-available files contain much material relating to these by-elections, including detailed constituency profiles, briefings, memoranda, and analyses of results. The following images show examples of the ‘lines to take’ created by CRD in the lead-up to these elections. Notably, whilst the Newbury by-election offered two options: ‘The Conservatives hold Newbury’ or ‘The Liberal Democrats take Newbury’, the later Christchurch election included an additional defeat option, allowing for either ‘Tories lose by less than 12,000’ or ‘Tories lose by more than 15,000’. Evidently, expectations had fallen. Whilst the Party won back Christchurch in the 1997 General Election, Newbury remained Liberal Democrat until 2005, illustrating misplaced confidence in the assertion that ‘come the next election, Newbury will return a Conservative candidate’ (CPA CRD 5/21/13).

Newbury by-election: Lines to take – CPA CRD 5/21/13.

Christchurch by-election: Lines to take – CPA CRD 5/21/14.

Conservative student organisations

Amongst the material being released this year are several files of both the Young Conservatives and Conservative Party student organisations, including the Conservative Collegiate Forum (CCF), also known as Conservative Students. Alongside the addition of these new files from 1993, the collection of Conservative Student Organisations, CCO 506/D, has recently been updated and expanded, offering a valuable insight into the political activities of Conservative students throughout the late 20th century. Files being released this year include assorted meeting minutes, conference papers, campaigning and publicity material, and research files. A significant amount of the material within this collection relates to the CCF’s campaign for voluntary membership of NUS (National Union of Students), a campaign which occupied much of their time and resources. The image below illustrates a couple of examples of the briefings and reports created by CCF during the late 1980s and early 1990s as they monitored and documented various student union ‘abuses’ perceived as evidence that student union reform, in general, was needed.

CCF research file: NUS and student unions – CPA CCO 506/65/3.

Rachel Whetstone, Conservative Research Department

Lastly, as in previous years, files of CRD, including subject files, briefs, and desk officers’ letter books, comprise a significant proportion of the newly-released files for 2024. Amongst these are a handful of letter books of Rachel Whetstone, head of CRD’s political section between 1992 and 1993. These offer an insight into the campaigning techniques and opposition monitoring carried out by CRD at this time. The image below shows a memorandum from Julian Lewis, CRD Deputy Director, outlining campaigning methods. Lewis argues in favour of negative campaigning, suggesting ‘We did not win the General Election – Mr Kinnock’s Labour Party lost it, largely as a result of the ‘fear factor’ which we and others had helped generate’ (CPA CRD/L/5/24/8).

Rachel Whetstone letter book: Political section – CPA CRD/L/5/24/8.

All the material featured in this blog post will be available from 2 Jan 2024. The full list of de-restricted items can be accessed here: Files de-restricted on 2024-01-02

The CRD catalogue is currently being updated and will be available shortly. In the meantime, if you wish to access any of the newly-available CRD files, please email conservative.archives@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

The persistence of tradition: the curious case of Henry Symeonis

Christmas is a time for tradition, and the University of Oxford is well known for diligently preserving its traditions for centuries. Many of these have long outlived the people who established them, and some are so old and mired in obscurity that even the University itself has no idea what they are or how they came to be. One such example of this is the strange case of Henry Symeonis.

In 1827 the University undertook a major review of its statutes. The statutes were, and still are, the written set of rules and regulations which governed everything that went on in the University. A product of many centuries, some of these were over already 500 years old by 1827. In going through the statutes as part of this review, the University found something rather odd in the section relating to Bachelors of Arts and the oaths they had to swear in order to become a Master of Arts.

As well as being required to swear that they would observe the University’s statutes, privileges, liberties and customs, as you might expect; and not to lecture elsewhere, or resume their bachelor studies after getting their MA, the Bachelors of Arts also had to swear that they would never agree to the reconciliation of Henry Symeonis (‘quod numquam consenties in reconciliationem Henrici Simeonis’).

Statutes VII section 1.5

The oaths required of those proceeding to MAs, from Corpus Statutorum (Statute Tit VII section 1. 5)

Nowhere in the statutes did it explain who this Henry Symeonis (or Simeonis) was, what he was supposed to have done or why those getting their MAs should never agree to be reconciled with him. Who was Henry Symeonis and why was he specifically named like this in the University’s governing regulations? What had he done to offend the University so much?

For much of the operational lifetime of the oath, no-one appears to have known. Brian Twyne, first Keeper of the Archives and renowned antiquary of the 17th century, claimed in his Antiquitatis Academiae Oxon Apologia of 1608 that Symeonis was a Regent in Arts at Oxford who fraudulently claimed he had a BA in order to obtain admission to a foreign monastery. Twyne gave no evidence or source for this so we don’t know where that might have come from.

Anthony Wood, in his published Life and Times writes about the University’s earlier review of its statutes in January 1651/2 when it was first proposed to abolish the statute concerning Henry Symeonis. He notes that the proposal to remove the oath was refused but gives no reason why. Even by that time, one suspects that the oath was of such antiquity that no-one knew anything about it and it was thought best to leave it be.

The identity of Henry Symeonis was only (re-)discovered in 1912 by the then Keeper of the University Archives, Reginald Lane Poole. In an article for the English Historical Review, he looked at the curious statute and tried to get to the bottom of the Henry Symeonis mystery.

Poole identified the man in question as Henry, son of Henry Symeonis. Henry Symeonis the elder was the son of a man named Simeon, hence the patronymic surname of Simeonis (or Symeonis) being passed down to his son and grandson. Henry Simeon, our Henry’s father, was a very wealthy townsman of Oxford; in the early 1200s, there were few richer. Our Henry was also wealthy, owning several properties in Oxford and both their names are found in many property deeds of the period.

For example, Henry is listed as a witness to a grant of c1243 of a boundary wall in Cat Street from William Burgess to Nicholas de Kingham. He is named as ‘Henry son of Henry son of Simeon’.

Grant of a boundary wall including Henry Symeonis as a witness, nd (c1243) (OUA/WPbeta/F/43)

But what was the reason for Henry’s condemnation by the University to five and a half centuries of infamy? It was a murder. In 1242 he and a number of other men of the town of Oxford were found guilty of murdering a student of the University. Henry and his accomplices were fined £80 by King Henry III in May 1242 and were made to leave Oxford as a result, forced to stay away (and allowed no closer than Northampton) at least until the King returned from abroad. The King returned in the autumn and by the spring of the following year, we know (from records of his property dealings) that our Henry, son of Henry Symeonis, was already back in Oxford.

What happened next is not easy to work out. There are few University records from that time and we have to rely on others’ accounts of what was happening to decipher the facts of the case. The chroniclers of those times notoriously disagree with each other, and the picture is muddy, to say the least. We know that over 20 years after the murder, on 12 March 1264, Henry III suspended the University and sent it away from Oxford, saying that he could not protect its masters and scholars in the city and that they would be safer elsewhere. The King was making Oxford the centre of his military operations and was unable to guarantee the safety of the students and masters. Many left, a large number moving to Northampton in spring that year where a thriving university was growing.

A fortnight after this, on 25 March 1264, the King issued letters patent saying that he’d pardoned Henry Symeonis for the murder which had taken place 22 years earlier. He ordered the University to allow Henry to return to Oxford to live there in peace provided he was ‘of good behaviour’ and demanded that the University didn’t leave Oxford in protest. The letters patent stated:

that the chancellor and university would be content that Henry son of Henry Simeonis, who withdrew for the death of a man, would return to Oxford and stay there, so that the university should not retire from the said town on account of his staying there; then they should permit him to return without impediment and have the king’s peace; the king, at the instance of Nicholas de Yatingden, of his further grace, has pardoned the said Henry the said death, on condition that he stand his trial if any will proceed against him, and has granted that he may return and dwell there so long as he be of good behaviour and that the university do not withdraw from the said town on account of his return and the death of the said Henry

The interpretation of this series of events is difficult. Poole, in his 1912 article, linked the University’s departure from Oxford in 1264 to its unhappiness at having Henry Symeonis pardoned and thrust back upon them from exile. He suggested that a serious eruption of town-gown violence broke out as a result of the pardon. This cannot be the case, however, as the King didn’t pardon Henry Symeonis until after the University had been told to leave Oxford. Besides, Henry had already been back in Oxford for many years and it would have been a bit late to act on that.

Town-gown relations were, at this time, pretty volatile, the problem being that Oxford wasn’t big enough for two bodies fighting for supremacy in a relatively small space. This had often led to violence, and apparently did again in February 1264 when the longstanding bad feeling between the two flared up. But it seems that this was not, despite some chroniclers attributing it to that, the cause of the University leaving Oxford. Henry Symeonis’s pardon by the King would, however, have only added fuel to the town’s fire that the University was always unjustly favoured by the monarch at the town’s expense.

We know that the Government was aware of the volatile relationship between town and gown and was concerned, in 1264, at the prospect of the University leaving Oxford in protest if Henry was allowed to return. This is presumably why it was made a condition of Henry’s return that the University had to promise not to leave.

We also know that both the town and University of Oxford were unhappy about the growth of a rival university in Northampton. Henry III had allowed a university to be established there in 1261 (on the request of the burgesses of the town), the third in England, behind Oxford and Cambridge. At the time, it was believed that it wouldn’t damage its older rivals but such a large number of masters and students from Oxford migrated there that Northampton was soon felt to be a threat to the two more ancient universities. The city of Oxford pressed the King to terminate this threat and on 1 February 1265 he formally closed down the university at Northampton and forbade the establishment of any future university there. All this was playing out against a backdrop of civil war and political unease, with Henry III engaged in a war with his brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, and both Oxford and Northampton being heavily involved in the conflict.

Further research is needed to discover the exact details of what happened here but it seems that Henry Symeonis had bought the King’s pardon and his permission to return to Oxford. The King was willing to allow his return if the University agreed to it. But the University refused and chose to ignore the King’s order of 25 March 1264, resuming its hostility to Henry Symeonis. In fact, it felt so strongly about it, that it gave Henry Symeonis the unique honour of being named in its own statutes, making the University’s dislike of him official and perpetual.

The oath against Henry Symeonis continued in the University’s statutes for centuries after the events of 1264. Having survived earlier reviews of the University’s statutes, it was finally abolished five and a half centuries later. The records of the decision taken in 1827 are frustratingly brief and unenlightening. Convocation (the body of MAs of the University and its chief decision-maker at the time) took the decision to abolish the oath in February that year, but no background information nor reason for the decision is recorded. It is possible that’s because nobody knew exactly what they were abolishing.

The case of Henry Symeonis is a very strange example of the longevity of some University customs, long after they’ve lost relevance or meaning. The persistence of tradition in the University is famous, but this appears to have been an extreme example of using tradition to hold a very, very long grudge. By naming Henry Symeonis in its statutes as a figure of institutional hatred for centuries, it actually resulted in prolonging his celebrity, immortalising a man whom it had considered a villain.

For RL Poole’s 1912 article in the English Historical Review (vol 27, no 107, July 1912 pp515-517) see https://www.jstor.org/stable/550611#metadata_info_tab_contents

A pleasing coda to the story is that Henry III’s ban on a university at Northampton was finally ended in 2005 when a new university was established there, a mere 740 years after the suppression of its predecessor. See Drew Gray’s article on the ‘Ancient University of Northampton’ on the University of Northampton’s website at Microsoft Word – Ancient_University_of_Northampton[2].docx

The migration of Oxford students to Northampton is discussed in ‘The Alleged Migration of the University of Oxford to Northampton in 1264’ by FM Powicke in Oxoniensia (vol 8/9, 1943-4) at powicke.pdf (oxoniensia.org)

And for more information on Oxford and the Second Barons’ War see The University of Oxford and the Chronicle of the Barons’ Wars on JSTOR  in the English Historical Review (Jan 1980, vol 95, no 374, pp99-113).

 

 

‘Handicapism is a mental disease of the able-bodied …and it affects us all…’

So reads a pin badge found in the collection of Keith Armstrong at the Bodleian Libraries Special Collections. The Bodleian holds just one box of Armstrong’s collection (the rest are held by the Bishopsgate Institute in London), but within it we can find evidence of Armstrong’s multifaceted life. Born in South Africa in 1950, Armstrong was an activist and public campaigner for disability rights. At six months old, he contracted polio, confining him to a wheelchair for most of his life. He spent much of his childhood in Oxford, attending Ormerod School, a school for children with physical disabilities. In his adulthood, he helped found the Liberation Network of People with Disabilities, and at different intervals, he was a member of the London Transport Passenger Committee and the committee of Camden Dial-a-Ride.

His collection at the Bodleian Libraries gives us an insight into the different aspects of Armstrong’s life: as a campaigner and voice for disabled rights; a creator of typewriter art; and a poet. It also shows us a darker side to his beliefs. At age 16, he began editing and publishing his own poetry and literature magazine, The Informer. The first issue of his magazine contained an article written by a contributor, Brian Crittindon, containing a repeated number of racial slurs and seeming to argue for Jim Crow laws in the US and against immigration into the UK. As the editor-in-chief of The Informer, it is impossible to ignore Armstrong’s role in producing and distributing material containing hateful language. With the records available, it is difficult to know whether Armstrong held onto these views into adulthood, or if he would have looked back with regret later in life. Whilst his achievements as a disability rights activist are undeniable—his work led to improvements in train and tube access, and to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995—it does remind us of the fact that when examined from all sides, those we admire in history often held views that are incompatible with our own values. It’s therefore important to be able to understand and appreciate the work of those who came before us, whilst acknowledging the impact of their faults and facets which were harmful to others.

Written by Kasturi Pindar, Bodleian Libraries intern, Summer 2023.

UK Disability History Month – 16 November – 16 December (ukdhm.org)

Collection: Papers of Keith Armstrong, typewriter poet | Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts (ox.ac.uk)

The catalogue of the archive of C.F.C. Hawkes – available soon!

Christopher Hawkes (1905-1992) was an eminent archaeologist of European prehistory who made Oxford a centre for archaeological research and post-graduate teaching. This led to the foundation of the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford, of which Hawkes was the first director. His interest in learning about the past started when he was a child, when he visited monuments such as Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge, and continued through his time at New College, Oxford, where he took part in excavations at Brecon, Wroxeter and Winchester. After achieving a first-class degree, he worked at the British Museum in the department of British and Medieval Antiquities until he was appointed the new chair of European archaeology at Oxford in 1946. He stayed in Oxford with his second wife, archaeologist Sonia Hawkes, and continued to publish for many years after his retirement in 1972.

This collection comprises his personal and professional papers, including correspondence with colleagues and former students. His working notes show the wide scope of his work and include illustrations and drawings completed in his distinctive style.

 

Lt. Col. Charles Pascoe Hawkes (1877-1956) served in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1900-1920, and was a barrister at the Inner Temple from 1902 until 1950. He was a political caricaturist, drawing for Granta, Cambridge University, and for the Daily Graphic. A keen traveller and an avid documenter of his adventures, his collection includes photograph albums titled ‘Kodakings in divers places’ and sketchbooks from his trips to Scotland, Europe and North Africa.

This collection will be available soon.

Catalogue of the archive of C.F.C. Hawkes

Tracing the impact of war through the correspondence of C.F.C. Hawkes

Guest post by Eleanor Newman, Summer intern in the Modern Archives & Manuscripts Department

As a Classical Archaeology DPhil student, I was thrilled to learn that my job as Archives Processing intern would be cataloguing the work files of Professor C.F.C. Hawkes (1905-1992), founder of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford. A complex but brilliant scholar, his archives are made up of everything from scribbled notes to full publications, drawings to photographs, and even a real Roman potsherd discovered in Colchester. The files of Hawkes contain a fountain of knowledge on archaeology from Prehistoric Europe to Bronze Age Greece to Roman Britain and beyond, and provide a wonderful insight into the life and career of an established archaeologist.

The correspondence of C.F.C. Hawkes has been particularly interesting, revealing close friendships, bitter rivalries, and even full-blown archaeological scandals (on more than one occasion). What I have found particularly striking, however, are the consistent references to the unstable political climate of the early 20th century and the effects of war on the field of archaeology. A collection of letters from this time highlight the devastation caused by the Spanish Civil War and World War II and the impact on the careers of archaeologists who were, otherwise, just trying to go about their lives.

Hawkes, like many of his colleagues, was called up for duty during WWII. A letter from Hawkes to the Headmaster of Colchester Royal Grammar School (1944) [MS. 21042/162, Colchester] reveals that he had “war-time duties”, which involved working for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. M. R. Hull, curator at the Colchester and Essex Museum states in a letter addressed to Hawkes (1942) [MS. 21042/162, Colchester] that he was part of the Observer Corps, which was taking time away from his ability to do archaeological work. Of course, war time duties carried great responsibility and may have even been traumatic, but I had personally never considered the impact that it must have had on careers which people such as Hawkes and Hull had dedicated their lives to.

References to war and its ongoing impact have appeared in unexpected circumstances throughout this archive. Correspondence between Hawkes and two colleagues working in Ireland, Seán Ó Ríordáin and Gerhard Bersu, refers to a dispute between the latter two about the approach to archaeology in Ireland in the early 1950s [MS. 21042/156, Ireland]. Bersu claims that Irish archaeologists should follow the continental European approach, while Ríordáin stresses that, actually, the Irish approach is perfectly good. The drama and, in some places, comedy of this dispute is overshadowed by one devastating fact: Gerhard Bersu was working in Ireland at this time because, as a German of Jewish ancestry, he had been removed from his position as director of the Römisch‐Germanischen Kommission in 1935 and was forced to flee Germany, eventually taking refuge in Ireland. As a letter from 1950 reveals, it was still not safe for him to return to Germany even five years after the end of the war [MS. 21042/156, Ireland].

Bersu was not the only one of Hawkes’ colleagues displaced from their home as a result of conflict. In 1947, a letter to Hawkes details the emotional struggle of Pere Bosch-Gimpera, a Spanish archaeologist and the Minister of Justice of Catalonia in the government of Lluís Companys, following the Spanish Civil War [MS. 21042/156, Iberia 1]: “I read…with emotion that my ancient colleagues and pupils remember me and still think that I have done something for the archaeology of my country…I fought more than 20 years for having a real Archaeological Museum in Barcelona and to make an organisation of Archaeology in Catalonia, and when things began to become settled I had to fly away.” This story told by Bosch-Gimpera, who fled to Mexico following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, reflects the personal and professional devastation caused by conflict. Not only did he leave behind friends and colleagues, but he also was not able to witness the impact of his campaign for archaeology in Barcelona and broader Catalonia. A heart-breaking read, this letter shows one man’s touching dedication to archaeology through turmoil.

Finally, Hawkes’ correspondence reveals the severe physical impact of war on museums and collections of artefacts. Museums were no longer able to function as research facilities, as a letter from M.R. Hull to Hawkes in 1940 [MS. 21042/162, Colchester] suggests: “To what extent is the [British Museum] still functioning?” Instead, practical measures for the preservation of material took urgent priority over research and analysis. In a letter from 1947, Bosch-Gimpera details the earlier evacuation of artefacts from a museum in Spain to prevent their destruction by bombings [MS. 21042/156, Iberia 1].

Unfortunately, these preventative measures were not always successful. A devastating letter from A.J.E. Cave, Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, to Hawkes details the damage caused by the London blitz in 1941: “You will be sorry, I know, to learn that our Museum was practically totally destroyed by enemy action on May 10th-11th, and that a mere handful of specimens alone remains of our former incomparable collections. The devastation is truly terrible: I cannot even attempt to describe the extent of this national loss. The most famous historical specimens in British biological science are gone for ever and two centuries of labour and collecting are wiped out at one foul blow. We were burned to the foundations in some places and material placed underground for ‘safety’ has suffered with the rest. A nucleus remains, it is true, for a future Museum, but nothing can ever replace the priceless specimens in osteology, anatomy, pathology and physiology now utterly vanished.” The extent of this loss is inconceivable and its impact on research is surely ongoing even now.

The correspondence of C.F.C. Hawkes highlights the ongoing struggle of archaeologists through conflict in the 1940s. These heart-breaking stories are reflections of the, sometimes surprising, impacts of war on individuals and their work. They are also inspiring demonstrations of persistence and tenacity during difficult times, and echoes of the love that these men held for archaeology.

The catalogue of the archive of Averil Cameron –available soon!

Averil Cameron is a historian of late antiquity, classics and Byzantine studies. She was professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History at King’s College London and Warden of Keble College, Oxford, from 1994 to 2010.

She has been associated with various academic societies including as founding director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London. Since 2018 she has been President of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies.

She has published several works, including; Agathias (1970), History as Text (1989) and The Byzantines (2006). The archive comprises papers and correspondence mainly relating to Cameron’s academic work. This includes books, published and unpublished lectures, and articles.

This collection will be available soon.

Catalogue of the archive of Averil Cameron

Three books of Averil Cameron