David Douglas Bequest

In 2002 the IHR Library was the grateful recipient of Professor David Douglas’s personal library of Anglo-Norman and French books. These were part of a larger collection donated to Keble College, Oxford by his daughter Ann Douglas. The college recommended that the section relating to the history of Normandy and Medieval France would be more valuable to researchers located alongside the IHR’s considerable holdings in this area, and Ann Douglas kindly agreed that they be transferred to the Institute.

After completing an Oxford DPhil under the supervision of Sir Paul Vinogradoff, David Douglas (1898-1982) continued at first to work in the tradition of English social history exemplified by Vinogradoff and by Douglas’s friend Sir Frank Stenton. However, always committed as he was to the belief, which was unusual among his contemporaries, that the history of England could only be understood in a broader context that went back to the Roman Empire, he became interested in the 1930s in the history of the duchy of Normandy. A remarkable series of articles and books followed, including his renowned William the Conqueror in the English Monarchs series. A bibliophile who collected an exceptional personal library, he also had a major impact on the four universities for which he worked, namely Glasgow, Exeter (then the University College of the South-West), Leeds, and Bristol and, in particular, on the libraries of the last two. The story of his acquisition of the marvellous collection of second-hand books, mainly French cartularies, for the Brotherton Library at Leeds is legendary; the books were acquired in 1940 from Rotterdam despite the Second World War and the advance of the German armies. The acquisition for the IHR of his personal library augments an existing strength in French History and also represents a tribute to a historian who made an outstanding contribution to understanding of the European and English Middle Ages.

The collection of around 600 books is mostly located within the IHR's French Provincial area, as well as in the French and British sections. The bequest also contains some sixteenth and seventeenth century books and a specially rebound annotated copy of J. Horace Round's Calendar of documents preserved in France [1] which are kept in closed access for safekeeping but can be made available on request. The items can be identified by a book plate in the front of each volume, and browsed on our online catalogue.

[1] see R. H. C. Davis, David Charles Douglas 1898-1982, Proceedings of the British Academy LXIX (1983), p.524

Background information on David Douglas was kindly written by Professor David Bates