Tag Archives: Oxfam

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

Oxfam’s founding minutes among the Bodleian’s treasures

Oxfam’s first minute book, recording the founding of the organization on 5 October 1942 in response to suffering behind the Allied blockade in Greece and other occupied countries, is now on display in the ‘Bodleian Treasures’ exhibition at the Weston Library and online.

The exhibition brings together some of the most iconic documents from the Bodleian’s collection of 12 million items, displayed in pairs. The Oxfam minute book is paired with a Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things by ‘a Gentleman of the University of Oxford’ identified as Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). This poem against war and tyranny was published by the 18 year old Shelley in 1811, shortly before his expulsion from Oxford for publishing a pamphlet on atheism.

As we near the 75th anniversary of that crucial meeting in the University Church later this year, we expect renewed interest in the origins of Oxfam. The first minute book will no doubt be revisited!

first minutes

Opening minutes of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, 5 Oct 1942 (MS. Oxfam GOV/1/1/1)

 

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.

New Oxfam catalogues

The fifth catalogue of Oxfam archive materials, describing records produced by Oxfam’s appeals and fundraising function, is now available on the Bodleian Library’s website.

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief’s first appeal, ‘Greek Week’, was a local affair, but raised £12,700 towards the alleviation of famine behind the Allied blockade of Greece through advertisements in the Oxford press, a gift shop selling donated goods, and events such as concerts of Greek folk songs. Following the end of the Second World War, the Committee began collecting food and clothing parcels for the war-affected in Europe, branching out into national press advertising in 1946. This was a pioneering step at a time when professional marketing techniques were rarely applied to charity fundraising and in subsequent years the charity would become known for its hard-hitting, and often controversial, use of advertising.

millions-ad_1966

Advertisement, 1966

Many of these early efforts can be viewed in the archive, which includes a series of newspaper advertisements published between 1943 and 1991. Used with other records such as correspondence relating to early appeals, appeals mailings sent out to supporters to request donations from the 1960s onwards, and a series of market research reports, researchers will be able to trace how the charity’s approach to fundraising evolved over time. This includes its adoption of ‘starving child’ imagery from the 1950s, and conscious use of more positive portrayals of empowered beneficiaries from the 1970s onwards.

Collecting tin

Collecting tin, 1960s

Also of interest will be records, including reports and newsletters, relating to Oxfam’s regular giving schemes, the first of which, ‘Pledged Gifts’, was launched in 1960. This had recruited 26,000 voluntary collectors by 1964, collecting small, regular donations from neighbours and workmates. Equally fascinating are correspondence files and reports relating to the co-funding of Oxfam projects by the Overseas Development Administration and the Commission of the European Communities and their respective successors, both of which began in the 1970s.

In addition to the new appeals and fundraising catalogue, a second, expanded edition of the programme policy and management catalogue has been released. This includes correspondence of the Policy Director and staff relating to organizational campaigns and Oxfam’s role in advocacy on behalf of poor people.

Gender policy and strategy are revealed in the correspondence, reports and publications of the Gender and Development Unit, established in 1984, tasked with raising awareness of socially constructed differences between men and women and the unequal power relationships that result, and incorporating a gender perspective in Oxfam’s programme.

News from GADU - First edition 1987

First edition of ‘News from GADU’, 1987

Records of the regional ‘Desks’ and the Humanitarian Department and their predecessors offer a detailed insight into the running of Oxfam’s development programme and its interventions in humanitarian crises from the early 1970s. These consist chiefly of correspondence between staff employed in numerous countries around the world and colleagues in Oxford. Health Unit materials include papers relating to Oxfam’s development of equipment such as immunization kits for use primarily in emergencies, and the production of the Oxfam energy biscuit which became part of its supplementary feeding programmes.

The second edition of the catalogue of files relating to grants made by Oxfam (‘project files’) will appear soon.

Interns at the Oxfam Archive

Over the summer the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Section hosted five interns who worked on  various projects . The Oxfam team was lucky enough to have two of them: Elena and Gabriel.

E+G

The Interns: Elena and Gabriel

Gabriel Lawson, reading History at Lincoln College, and Elena Müller, MPhil graduate in Modern Jewish Studies from Lady Margaret Hall, had both applied for internships organized and funded by the University of Oxford Careers Service.

They did sterling work for us over their six week stint and helped enormously with our ongoing ‘project file’ cataloguing work as well as sorting programme reports, and appraising and repackaging photographic material, which will all make up a part of our Phase 2 catalogues due to be released in the New Year.

multiple pics

The ‘project file process’: large containers full of files to appraise; the new archival boxes; spreadsheet used for cataloguing; final online catalogue

Project files make up over half of the Oxfam archive. They arrive with us from the Oxfam Logistics Warehouse in large containers, each filled with 3-4 cases brimming with files relating to projects funded and carried out in all areas of the world.
With advice and guidance from the Oxfam Project team, Elena and Gabriel managed to appraise 1,911 files between them, deciding on which to keep and which to discard. Those they kept, they catalogued, filling 359 of our ‘archival blue boxes’. Their contribution takes us much closer to our end-of-year targets than we would otherwise have been!
Their work will be added to the online catalogue of project files at the end of Phase 2. The Phase 1 catalogue can be viewed here: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/modern/oxfam/oxfam-proj.html

photos and boxesThe interns also helped with the appraisal of photographic prints from the 1990s, weeding out duplicate and poor-quality photographs, as well as generic shots which did not relate to Oxfam or its work.
Both Elena and Gabriel felt that their time with the archive had helped them to view research in a slightly different light, having gained an appreciation of the work done by archivists in selecting, describing and making archives available to researchers.

Who founded Oxfam?

Last month we celebrated International Archives Day with Oxfam’s first minute book. It reminded us that the make-up of the small group that founded Oxfam has often been debated. The answer could be seen as simply a list of those attending the first meeting on 5 October 1942 that brought the Oxford Famine Relief Committee into being. However, no such list exists and the minutes of that meeting mention only three people by name as being present – Rev. T. R. Milford (Chairman), Professor Gilbert Murray and Mrs. White.

Cecil Jackson-Cole (left) and Canon T. R. Milford (centre) at the Oxfam Summer Conference, 1962. Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries

Cecil Jackson-Cole (left) and Canon T. R. Milford (centre) at the Oxfam Summer Conference, 1962. Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries

Rev. T. Richard Milford of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, where the meeting took place, explained at the outset that

‘the meeting had been called by a small preliminary committee of which he was Chairman and that its five members had been appointed at a public meeting …….. on July 20th.’

A list of names on the first page of the minute book, probably of those appointed at the public meeting, but with numerous later amendments, suggests that it is likely that the following were also present on 5 October: Miss Margaret Macnamara, Assistant Hon. Secretary, Sir Alan Pim, Hon. Treasurer, Wilson Baker, Mrs. Kathleen Compton-Ford, Rev. F. Greaves, R. V. Holt, Dr. Leo Liepmann, Rev. H. R. Moxley, Lady Mary Murray, and Nowell C. Smith.

At the second meeting on 11 December 1942 it was reported that the Hon. Secretary, Mary Pask (who had sent apologies to the October meeting) and the Assistant Hon. Secretary, Miss Macnamara, had resigned. The Chairman introduced the new Hon. Secretary, Cecil Jackson-Cole. Jackson-Cole, businessman and philanthropist, later the founder of charities including Help the Aged and Action Aid, became the driving force behind the work of the Committee by various means including his innovative use of advertising. He continued as Hon. Secretary and later Secretary Emeritus with the Committee (Oxfam from 1965) until his death in 1979.

Oxfam advertisement, Oxford Mail, 1947

Advertisement, Oxford Mail, 1947. Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries

From Oxford to the World: International Archives Day 2015

updated weston and minute bookToday is International Archives Day, with repositories around the world celebrating the archives profession by contributing to a special website a document from their collections that they feel ‘shows the locality served by [their] archive service’. The Bodleian Library’s contribution is Oxfam’s first minute book, a simple, now rather worn, school exercise book used to record the proceedings of the first meeting of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief on 5 October 1942 and subsequent meetings up to November 1948.

The Oxford Committee, set up to lobby for the relief of suffering from starvation behind the Allied blockade in Greece and other occupied countries, is now internationally recognised and respected as Oxfam. Both rooted in Oxford, Oxfam and the Bodleian Library serve a global community.

See the International Archives Day website here:
http://www.internationalarchivesday.org/wordpress/?page_id=25

The Oxfam minute book is at: http://www.internationalarchivesday.org/wordpress/?portfolio=bodleian-library-department-of-special-collections

Oxfam Archives: water and sanitation

Oxfam is a world leading expert in public health in emergencies. We recently put on a small display of material from the Oxfam archive showing how the development of its work in water and sanitation, both in humanitarian emergencies and longer term development, is recorded in the archive. Documents included reports, photographs, information booklets, posters, and files relating to grants made for water and sanitation work. A few have been highlighted in the photos below.

Display of documents from the Oxfam Archive relating to water and sanitation

Display of documents from the Oxfam Archive relating to water and sanitation

One of the first references to water projects in the archive is this photo of Winifred Coate, a retired headmistress turned relief worker who struck water in the ‘waterless desert’ at Zerqa, north of Amman, Jordan, in 1963 with the help of an Oxfam grant. This supported a very successful community of Palestinian refugees.

Photograph: Winifred Coate at Zerqa, 1963 (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries MS. Oxfam COM/5/1/94 Folder 2)

Photograph: Winifred Coate at Zerqa, 1963. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Oxfam COM/5/1/94.

A  leading figure in Oxfam’s work in water and sanitation was Jim Howard (1926-2003); a water engineer by training, he joined Oxfam in 1965 as Field Director in India.

Oxfam Sanitation Units

Photographs: Oxfam Sanitation Units in use in Bangladesh, 1970s. Photo taken by Jim Howard. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Oxfam COM/5/1/12.

When he started, Oxfam was not itself operational but granted funds for work to local organisations. In a report in October 1966, Howard suggests that it may be time for Oxfam to do more and increase its specialisation in water:

‘I look forward very much to the time when Oxfam….. offers skill as well as funds. We could for instance, narrow our field to water resources, well-drilling, simple irrigation techniques, and make this our speciality.’

Brochures for the Oxfam Sanitation Unit developed by Jim Howard and produced by Marston Excelsior Ltd., 1976-1978. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Oxfam PRG/5/5/14.

Brochures for the Oxfam Sanitation Unit developed by Jim Howard and produced by Marston Excelsior Ltd., 1976-1978. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Oxfam PRG/5/5/14.

From 1970, Howard worked with Oxfam as Technical Officer and Chief Engineer. He developed a sanitation unit that could be brought in to emergency situations and rapidly set up. He was in the front line of virtually every major international emergency between 1965 and 1991, when he retired, including the Bihar famine in the late 1960s, when Oxfam first became operational in emergency work, the Bengal refugee crisis, 1971, Cambodia, 1979, the Ethiopian famine, 1984-1985, and the aftermath in Iraq of the first Gulf War, 1991.
Journalist John Pilger said of Howard:

‘In all my career, going to places of upheaval, I’ve never seen the course of human suffering turned back by one person as I did with Jim Howard in Cambodia.’

The display also featured examples of material produced for the general public relating to Oxfam’s work in water and sanitation, calculated to raise funds and raise awareness:

poster and advert-smallThe following mailing focuses on Oxfam’s water and sanitation work in emergencies, particularly the work it was at that time carrying out in refugee camps and feeding centres following famine in Ethiopia.

An appeal for regular donations sent out to supporters of Oxfam, featuring Jim Howard, 1985. Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Libraries, MS Oxfam APL/3/6/6 Folder 2

An appeal for regular donations sent out to supporters of Oxfam, featuring Jim Howard, 1985. Oxford, Bodleian Library,  MS Oxfam APL/3/6/6 .

Agencies such as Oxfam are increasingly considering gender when planning water and sanitation projects, for example whether facilities are placed in safe locations for women to use and whether female beneficiaries have the opportunity to make their needs known.

Issue of Oxfam's Gender and Development journal, Volume 18:1, March 2010 focusing on water. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Oxfam PRG/9/8/1/8.

Issue of Oxfam’s Gender and Development journal, Volume 18:1, March 2010 focusing on water. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Oxfam PRG/9/8/1/8.

The first four Oxfam Archive catalogues are available to view via the Bodleian’s Online Catalogue of Archives and Manuscripts by searching for ‘Oxfam’.

For more information on the Oxfam Archive cataloguing project please view our project page

First catalogue of Oxfam ‘project files’ now available

Researchers using the Oxfam archive now have access to a valuable new resource, with the completion of cataloguing of almost 2,400 ‘project files’ spanning 50 years. The files reveal the use and impact on communities of grants made by Oxfam as part of its programme of long term agricultural, economic, health and other development work, and response to natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies.

File relating to a grant made in 1968 to the United Mission Hospital, Tansen, Nepal, and published annual lists detailing grants made (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Library)

File relating to a grant made in 1968 to the United Mission Hospital, Tansen, Nepal, and published annual lists detailing grants made (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Library)

The files contain documentation regarding applications to Oxfam for grants, and the making of grants, between 1954 and 2004 and are arranged according to the agency or partner applying for the grant and by country. Although the content and level of detail in the files varies, a typical file will contain the initial project proposal by the agency or partner, Oxfam’s Grant (later Project) Application Summary Form approving the grant, financial information, correspondence, and reports on the use of the grant, progress with the work, and its impact. Some files also contain photographs of beneficiaries and the work being carried out.

Together the files will provide a useful insight into the sort of work being funded by Oxfam at different times and in different parts of the world and its effectiveness in fighting poverty and saving lives.

Refugees from the civil war in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) in India, 1971. In response, Oxfam launched a health programme serving 500,000 people and, on the creation of Bangladesh the following year, its largest country rehabilitation and development programme to that date. Photo credit: Alan Leather / Oxfam (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Library)

Refugees from the civil war in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) in India, 1971. In response, Oxfam launched a health programme serving 500,000 people and, on the creation of Bangladesh the following year, its largest country rehabilitation and development programme to that date. Photo credit: Alan Leather / Oxfam (Oxfam Archive, Bodleian Library)

The catalogue of project files is available now via the Bodleian Library’s website, alongside three additional Oxfam catalogues released in the autumn, describing records of the organisation’s programme policy and management, records of its campaigning work and records of its internal and external communications.

Two further tranches of project files are expected to be catalogued and made available in early 2016 and mid-2017.

Oxfam archive catalogues arrive online

MS. Oxfam COM/1/8/51: One of the many posters listed the Oxfam Communications Catalogue

MS. Oxfam COM/1/8/51 (1981) : One of the many posters listed in the Oxfam Communications catalogue

The first three catalogues to come out of the ongoing Oxfam archive project, compiled with the generous support of the Wellcome Trust, have been made available on the Bodleian Library’s website here.

The three catalogues cover, respectively, records of Oxfam’s programme policy and management, records of its campaigning work, and records of its internal and external communications. In total, more than 850 boxes of archive material and almost 500 posters have been newly opened to researchers.

Among the programme policy and management records are minutes of the committees directing Oxfam’s development and humanitarian programme from the 1950s, such as the Overseas Aid and Field Committees, and supporting bodies like the Medical Advisory Panel, plus correspondence and papers of the International Directorate. These range from airmail letters from Colonel Widdowson, Oxfam’s ‘Travelling Secretary’, during his visits to potential beneficiaries in Africa and Asia in the early 1960s, to post-2000 papers relating to planning around strategic change objectives and regionalisation. Also of particular interest will be policy papers and reports produced by the Public Affairs Unit from the 1970s and later Policy teams.

Records of campaigns include publicity materials, reports and correspondence relating to individual campaigns, such as the influential Rational Health campaign of the 1980s, which advocated the safe use and equitable distribution of medicines. Researchers will also be able to consult communications materials such as Annual Reviews and Grants Lists, press office correspondence, supporter periodicals, posters and many of Oxfam’s early photographs, dating from the 1950s to the 1980s, which will provide additional detail about the organization’s work.

A further 590 boxes of archive material is expected to be opened to researchers by early autumn with the launch of a fourth catalogue, of Oxfam ‘project files’. Almost 2,400 files, detailing the use and impact of grants made by Oxfam, will be available for study.