Gift from the German Government, 1937

In its early years the IHR library was largely formed from donations, so that by 1926, three quarters of the collection had been acquired through private benefactions and presentations by governments from Europe and other parts of the World [1]. The German government gave occasional gifts throughout this period, and in March 1937 gave 2600 books covering all periods of German history. The books still form the core of the German collection today. A highlight is the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, an immensely important collection of edited sources for early medieval history across Europe. It was described in the contemporary article in the Times as the “last complete collection... anyone could acquire, except at a price prohibitive to all but a millionaire” [2].

At a formal presentation, Joachim von Ribbentrop attended as German Ambassador and the Vice Chancellor, Mr H. L. Eason, accepted the gift on behalf of the university. Also in attendance were Dr A. F. Pollard (Director of Institute) and Lord Macmillan (chairman of the Court of the University of London). The speeches emphasised the value of historical research in developing a better understanding between the two nations.

The gift was controversial at the time - the Times article describes a student protest – and later. In 1952 a small number of books were withdrawn because they were considered “tendentious” [3]. They are likely now to be regarded as important primary sources. The books can be identified by gift bookplates bearing the emblems of the Third Reich. At various times the IHR has considered covering or removing these bookplates, but after careful consideration they have been retained as part of the volumes’ history.

[1] Birch, D. J. and Horn, J. M., The History Laboratory: the Institute of Historical Research 1921-96, University of London Institute of Historical Research, 1996, p. 31

[2] "Germany's Gift To London." Times [London, England] 17 Mar. 1937: 18. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.

[3] Library committee minutes, 1952