In its early years the IHR library was built up by actively seeking donations, and much of the collection was formed from bequests and gifts by individuals and organisations. The accessions records highlight the collaborative nature of library collection development; many donations were shared between the IHR and other libraries to build on existing collection strengths or through an agreed division of collection policy. The list below shows some of the major bequests and gifts as well as collections built up from named funds or from a particular individual’s library. The collections are not all housed together, but in most cases have book plates indicating their provenance.

The library continues to receive gifts but has refined its collection policy. This and space constraints mean that it is not usually possible to accept entire libraries as it was in the earlier part of the IHR’s history. Please contact us if you would like to discuss donations, or see other options for supporting the collections.

Named collections

Beer, George Louis

A sizable portion of the IHR’s colonial and early national holdings in the United States collection was donated to the library by the widow of George Louis Beer between 1921 and 1925. Over these five years the Beer family donated over 2,920 volumes to the library. Beer was a leading economic historian of early North America and the eighteenth-century British Empire. His work focused on the development of the Atlantic economy and British imperial policy throughout the American colonial period. His two major works on the evolution of the British Atlantic economy, Origins of the British Colonial System, 1578-1660 (1908) and The Old Colonial System, 1660-1754 (1912), were groundbreaking studies that established Beer as the pre-eminent scholar of the ‘Imperial School’ of history. Beer's work stressed the commercial benefits of the imperial relationship and, as such, was in keeping with the spirit of the Round Table group who invited him to become their journal’s American correspondent in 1915, a position he held until 1918. He also attended the Paris Peace Conference of 1918-1919 as a member of the US delegation.

The majority of the volumes donated to the IHR library by the Beer family reflect George Beer’s research interests in the history of colonial North America. His donations included dozens of secondary studies of the American colonies and many archival compilations of sources relevant to the study of early American economy, society and government. Such resources include the Barrington-Bernard Correspondence, 1760-1770, an edited collection of the letters of Sir Francis Bernard the Royal governor of Massachusetts and New Jersey on the eve of the American Revolution, and the Minutes of the Executive Council of New York. Much of the remaining collection of books bequeathed to the IHR by Beer’s widow consisted of works relevant to his later career as a Round Table correspondent and foreign affairs consultant. These works included parliamentary papers for the years from 1884 to 1919 as well sources pertaining to European imperialism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries including, for example, the Annuaire du gouvernement générale de l'Afrique occidentale française : 1915-1916

Ben Bankhurst, North American Fellow 2014-15

Biggar, Henry Percival

Henry Percival Biggar (1872-1938) was responsible for the early development of the Canadian collections at the IHR during the 1920s and 1930s. The son of Irish immigrants, Biggar was born in Carrying Place, Ontario and educated at the Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto before becoming an archivist at the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa. While in Europe he received a doctorate in history at Oxford and published several titles on European exploration in North America including The voyages of the Cabots (Paris, 1903), The Voyages of Jacques Cartier (Ottawa, 1924) and The Works of Samuel de Champlain (Toronto, 1922-1936).

Biggar was central to the acquisition campaign for the Public Archives and later participated in the organization of historical manuscripts in the national collection, a project he wrote about at length in the first two volumes of the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. From 1905 he served as the European representative of the Department of Canadian Archives, a position he occupied until his death in 1938. He was instrumental in the founding of the Canadian Historical Society in 1922 and served as its first secretary. As secretary he oversaw the transcription of important manuscripts relevant to the early history of Canada held in Parisian and London archives for deposition in the Public Archives of Canada. In this role he also secured many important donations for the society, including the Dartmouth Papers in 1923. Biggar was an activist for Canadian and imperial charities in the capital, serving as the National Commissioner of the Canadian Red Cross Society during the early years of the Depression. He was also involved in the organization of the early Anglo-American conferences held at the IHR in the 1920s and 1930s. As such, he was a tireless campaigner for North American studies in London.

From 1921 onwards Biggar donated books from his personal library to the IHR. As such, the strengths of the Canadian collections reflect his research interests in the areas of early European exploration of North America and the history of New France before the British conquest of 1759/60. Biggar’s largest donations of books and pamphlets arrived in the IHR over the course of the summer of 1926 and the winter of 1927. These donations, amounting to over 540 items, were purchased from Biggar’s collection by his colleagues and other notable Canadians living in London including Sir Alexander Whitehead and two other men, one Mr. McLaren and one Mr. Sale.  In 1938, the IHR library committee valued the Biggar Library, then consisting of 562 volumes and 256 pamphlets, at £950. This total did not take into account the 50 unnamed books on North American Indian culture and Canadian geology or the 100s of pamphlets all of which had been transferred to the University of London library in 1936. Biggar was also instrumental in establishing the Canadian Lectureship Fund in order to grow the library’s Canadian collection.

Provenance in the Biggar collection

  • A presentation copy of Joseph-Guillaume Barthe’s (1816-1893) Le Canada Reconquis par la France (Paris, 1855) presented to the French illustrator and student of Delacroix, Maurice Sand (1823-1889) includes a letter from the author bound among the front flyleaves of the book. It is dated Quebec, 15 September 1867 and discusses a meeting between Barthe and Sand in Paris in 1861 and an overview of the book.La Canada Reconquis par la France argues for renewed French immigration to Quebec in order to rejuvenate French Canadian language and culture. For more information on Barthe see the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  • The first volume of the IHR copy of Etienne Michel Faillon’s Histoire de la Colonie Francaise in Canada contains a long citation from the work in Biggar’s hand. It also contains a letter, bound among the front leaves, with information about the book.
  • The library holds several books purchased by Biggar during his time as a student in Paris in the 1880s. Biggar recorded the location and year of purchase on the front flyleaves of many of these books including Leon Deschamps’s Un colonisateur du Temps de Richelieu, Isaac de Razilly (Paris, 1887) and Pierre Boucher’s Canada in the Seventeenth Century (Montreal, 1883).

Ben Bankhurst, North American Fellow 2014-15

Canadian Lectureship Fund

Henry Percival Biggar established the Canadian Lectureship Fund in the early 1930s in order to promote the study of North American history in London and to expand the library’s holdings in Canadian history. Throughout his years in London Biggar diligently promoted the professionalization and study of Canadian history in the UK. In 1926 he organized a fund to endow a lectureship in Canadian History at the University of London. In 1932 Biggar stipulated that the interest from this fund, then standing at £600, be used by the IHR Library Committee to ‘buy books to be presented to the Canadian section of the Institute library’. Many of the library’s holdings in the area of European exploration in North America were purchased through the Canadian Lectureship Fund including, for example, Paul Gaffarel’s Histoire de la découverte de l'Amérique, 2 vols (Paris, 1892) and Henry Murphy’s The Voyage of Verrazzano (New York, 1870). Perhaps the most substantial additions to the library purchased under the aegis of the Lectureship fund were the initial two dozen volumes of the Archives de Quebec series. Biggar’s collection preferences continue to influence the IHR’s acquisition policy regarding Canadian titles as many of the series first purchased under his direction, including the Archives de Quebec, and Ontario History, have been updated as new titles become available. The IHR is currently exploring ways we can build upon the Colonial collection’s strengths in Francophone and early Canadian history. 

Ben Bankhurst, North American Fellow 2014-15

Conway Collection

The Conway Collection of 1,170 items was donated to the Institute of Historical Research over a ten year period between 1921 and 1931 by Lady Katrina Conway née Glidden (1856-1933) and Sir. Martin Conway (1856-1937), Baron Conway of Allington. The collection consists of books and pamphlets on European and American topics published from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Owing to its family provenance, the collection is closely associated with Manton Marble Collections held at the Senate House Library and the Houghton Library, Harvard University as well as the Conway collections housed at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Royal Geographical Society, and Cambridge University. Lady Conway was the step-daughter of successful American newspaper magnate Manton Marble (1834-1917) who married her mother following the death of her first husband (Katrina’s father) in 1909.  Katrina’s husband, Sir Martin Conway was a prominent art critic and historian who published widely on topics ranging from Joshua Reynolds, mountaineering, and Zionism. In 1901 he became the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University before being elected to represent the universities in Parliament as a Unionist MP (1918-1931). He was the first director-general of the Imperial War Museum and served as a trustee on the boards of the Wallace Collection and the National Portrait Gallery. Both Martin and Katrina were friends and correspondents of the American novelist Henry James. Martin & Katrina’s daughter Agnes Conway (1885-1950) was an early member of the IHR.

The majority of works in this collection consist of works dealing with the government and foreign policy of the United States. Sir Martin Conway donated the first tranche of books to the library at the foundation of the Institute in 1921. These works include many volumes of Supreme Court reports and hearings and the annual reports of both houses of the US Congress. Both Lady and Sir Conway continued to donate books to the library throughout the 1920s. In 1931 the library used money from a fund set aside for the development of the American collections to purchase 284 titles from Lady Conway. The majority of these titles also focused on US government records and included several late eighteenth-century editions of the proceedings of the House of Representatives and Senate. Other interesting books in the collection include two bound tract volumes of pamphlets about the Northeast border dispute (1783-1842) between the United States and Great Britain over the boundary between the state of Maine and the colony of New Brunswick. The 1931 purchase of Lady Conway’s collection also included the published papers of notable political figures including the Papers of Jeremiah Black, Supreme Court Justice (1851-1856) and Secretary of State (1860-1861).

Ben Bankhurst, North American Fellow 2014-15. Additional information provided by Amara Thornton, 2022.

Davis, E Jeffries

The bookplate ‘Presented to the IHR by Miss E. J. Davis Bequest’ appears in fifty-odd volumes that came to the Library through Eliza Jeffries Davis (1875–1943). From a well-to-do farming family in Worcestershire, and a London graduate in 1897, she worked first as a schoolteacher in Bedford (1898–1904) and then as a teacher-training college lecturer and vice-principal in London (1904–12), all the while making her first forays into historical research, notably (with her sister Joyce) on the late medieval ecclesiastical history and parish records of London for the Victoria County History, at that time unconnected with the University (VCH London, I, 1909).

Miss Jeffries Davis turned decisively to History with an MA in 1913, her thesis on Lollardy in London, joining the staff of University College in 1914, initially as a research assistant. At UCL she was appointed Lecturer on the Sources of English History in 1919, and Reader in the History and Records of London in 1922, retiring in 1940. Throughout her time there she was a tireless and effective assistant to Professor A. F. Pollard in a series of new enterprises in History, at and beyond the college. Besides her work for the IHR, she was involved in the Historical Association, co-founded by Pollard in 1906, (notably as editor of History 1922–34) and in many other historical and related societies and official bodies. All the while she was teaching at University College and supervising graduate students at the IHR, maintaining a steady output of publications on London history, notably for the present context a history of the University of London’s Bloomsbury site (London Topographical Record, 17, 1936).

She came to be associated especially with the IHR, ‘Miss Davis’s Institute’, as a senior figure joked. EJD (but known as such only to her closest colleagues) served as the IHR’s first librarian (1921–3), laying foundations for the collection in its draughty make-do temporary huts. She was on the Institute Committee from the beginning, and ran one of the first tranche of seminars, on the History of London. For a year in 1939–40 she served as Acting Secretary and Librarian when Guy Parsloe was seconded to the Ministry of Information, keeping the place ticking over even while access was restricted by the Ministry’s occupation of most of Senate House.

At her death she gave the Institute first choice of her books after her family. The fact that relatively few came to the library, in 1946, should probably be put down to its London collection being already well stocked because she had been responsible for it. Her gift nonetheless allowed gaps to be filled on a variety of London topics, notably the histories of City churches and other ecclesiastical matters. 

The books and pamphlets in question show all the signs of a historian’s working library: battered covers, rebindings, odd cuttings and letters pasted in, margins annotated and title-pages dedicated. 

They derive from all the phases her career as a historian, from a Christmas present of 1912 from her sisters (The English Church in the Sixteenth Century), to a gift of 1935 to ‘Miss Eliza Jeffries Davis from her fellow-Fellows’ at UCL, Elsie Hitchcock and Professor R. W. Chambers (The Lyfe of Sir Thomas Moore, Knighte, written by William Roper, ed. E. V. Hitchcock, Early English Text Society original series 197). There is even a ‘spare copy (has two already) discarded by Univ. Coll. Library’ . . . characteristically she added the commendation ‘good bibliographies’ (London Botanic Gardens). It is cheering to find still in the IHR Library such reminders of one of the pioneering women historians who gave so much more to the Institute than a few dozen books.

Chris Lewis, IHR Fellow

Douglas, David

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

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

German Government

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 (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). 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” (Times, 17 Mar. 1937).

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” (Library committee minutes, 1952). 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.

Harrison, H Guy

In March 1936 the IHR announced one of the biggest gifts of books that it has ever received, a collection of over 2,500 works chiefly on the histories of London, Kent, and Normandy, and more generally covering English genealogy and local history. The donor was H. Guy Harrison, Esq., FSA (1886–1963), a name and style familiar down the decades to many readers, at least subliminally, since bookplates recording his donation appear in hundreds of volumes scattered widely across the shelves.

Guy Harrison is an elusive figure. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and in the 1920s had been Honorary Treasurer of the British Record Society, but he published little and is hard to find in the obvious sources for antiquarianism and local history in the period.

Both the manner of his generous benefaction and his correspondence with the Secretary and Librarian, Guy Parsloe, were self-effacing. He gave the IHR thousands of books without fanfare, allowing him to exchange a modest joke with Parsloe a year later about the contrast with a different donation to the library made in March 1937. By number of volumes, the German government’s gift was on much the same scale as Harrison’s, but it was effected with a high-profile reception attended by the Vice-Chancellor and the German ambassador von Ribbentrop, while a noisy student demonstration went on outside. Harrison: ‘Not a drum was heard or an anti-Nazi cry when my little lot of vols were received!’ Parsloe: ‘I wish you also had asked for a ceremony: the undergraduates would have been hard put to it to think of any reason for demonstrating.’

Guy Harrison’s original idea was that his books on Kent and one or two other specialist areas, some 640 titles, would be on deposit rather than a gift, and that he would have the right to consult them during his lifetime and leave them to the IHR when he died; but he had a change of mind within a matter of months and made an outright gift of them instead. In recognition the IHR agreed to name that section of the library the Harrison Kent Collection.

Harrison also agreed that copies which duplicated books already in the library could be sold and the proceeds used to buy books to round out the holdings on Kent, Normandy, and the rest. Once the duplicates were sold the IHR had almost £100 extra to spend between 1936 and 1940, a significant sum when the annual purchase budget for all books and periodicals was only about £300.

Harrison’s support for the library did not stop with his initial gift in 1936. Almost immediately he began looking out for titles that the IHR might want to acquire and buying them for the library. In the first place he concentrated on published archive lists and other reference materials for Belgium, Picardy, and Normandy, as well as British parliamentary poll-books and county directories. He was still in Brussels, buying books to give to the IHR, at the end of July 1939, but early in August, as international tensions ratcheted ever tighter, he returned to London and eventually settled permanently in the Stanhope Court Hotel just off Cromwell Road, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He continued giving books to the IHR even during the war and for some years afterwards, eventually adding well over 800 volumes to his original gift. The strengths of the library’s holdings on Normandy, Belgium, London, and Kent owe a great deal to Harrison’s continuing gifts; the superb collection of British parliamentary poll-books in particular is due to his determined pursuit of judicious purchases during and after the war as well as before.

Guy Harrison’s last gift to the library, accessioned on 15 October 1954, was a newly issued sale catalogue of manorial lordships annotated with historical accounts of the manors concerned, G. F. Beaumont, Beaumont Collection of Lordships of Manors in . . . Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk (1954). By 1952 he had been recruited to the IHR Committee. At the end of June 1955, when an operation had kept Harrison from a meeting, Goronwy Edwards wrote to him to express thanks ‘both for your long and valued service as a member of the Committee, and also for your great interest in and many benefactions of the library. The Committee resolved unanimously that you be admitted to the Institute without fee under Regulation iia, which (as you will remember) authorises the granting this privilege to “Persons who have assisted in the development of the Institute.” I very much hope that you will avail yourself of it, and that you will give us the pleasure of seeing you at the Institute whenever you may wish to come.’ Harrison’s reply, dated 5 July 1955, is the last of his letters that has been traced, and signs off ‘With every good wish for the welfare of the Institute.’

Chris Lewis, IHR Fellow

Hatley, Victor

In 1993, the Institute Library was the grateful recipient of the valuable bequest of the library of Mr Victor A. Hatley of Northampton who died in November 1991.

Victor A. Hatley read history at Durham, spent his professional life as a librarian, and was a mainstay of the Northamptonshire Record Society for upwards of thirty years, editing or contributing to a number of their publications. His knowledge of modern social and economic history was reputedly encyclopaedic, and he was generally regarded as better informed than anyone else about the history of Northampton from the eighteenth century. He enjoyed a very high reputation for generosity with his time and knowledge towards serious scholars and inexperienced students alike. From all accounts he appears have been something of an engaging peripatetic reference service, remembered with affection in Northampton and further afield.

Mr Hatley had an excellent working library which reflected his interests as a scholar of modern Northamptonshire and more generally of modern industrial development and social conditions, with further interests in religious and in military history. The collection was bequeathed with no conditions attached. Donald Munro went from the IHR library to Northampton to survey the collection and organise the removal.

The Institute's holdings of Northamptonshire source materials have consequently been greatly strengthened and numerous other sections in British Local History and Modern Britain have benefited from additional source materials, reference works and major monographs. Something over 220 volumes were taken into stock. Duplicates were excluded, and constraints of both shelf space and IHR's established acquisitions policy determined a stringent approach to selection.

Once the books selected for IHR had been removed, representatives of the Northampton Record Society and Northampton Public Libraries were invited to make selections. The remainder was sold to specialist booksellers and the proceeds created a fund which was used to purchase further items for the Institute Library. All the items from the original bequest and purchased through the subsequent fund have an appropriate gift label. It is a testament to Mr Hatley's dedication to the interests of historical research in general that he should have left his splendid library to the benefit of our own.

Note: An obituary of Victor A. Hatley is printed in Northamptonshire Past and Present, viii no. 4 (1992-3), 293-6.

This piece has been adapted from an article written for the IHR's magazine by Donald Munro (former member of IHR library staff and IHR honorary fellow): 'Victor Hatley Bequest', Past and Future, 1994, p.7

Wilkinson, Spenser

In the period before the First World War, Spenser Wilkinson (1853-1937), the first Chichele Professor of Military History at the University of Oxford (1909-1923), along with Sir John Knox Laughton (1830-1915) and Sir Julian Corbett (1854-1922), was the leading military intellectual in Britain. As an advocate, early in his career, Wilkinson agitated for a General Staff and reform of the volunteer system. In his role as a defence analyst, before and after the second Boer War (1899-1902), Wilkinson informed British policy and strategy. As an academic, Wilkinson contributed to the development of modern military history. Wilkinson’s writings and career are of interest to the historian.

In 1927, with his eyesight failing, Wilkinson donated part of his library to the military department of Pollard’s growing Institute of Historical Research. Major General Sir George Aston (1861-1938), then a lecturer on military history at the University of London, collected the first set of books. Several more donations followed through to 1931.

This gift, totalling some 265 volumes on military and naval history, provided an invaluable resource for early researchers and scholars of military subjects. It covers a broad range of nineteenth century military history, including the Napoleonic campaigns, British naval and imperial history, British military campaigns and military thought. It has a large number of histories by continental scholars. Historians researching nineteenth century German military history are likely to have benefited at some point from the collection’s rare German monographs, such as Friedrich Hoepfner’s Krieg von 1806 und 1807 (1855).

It was not until 2012 that the IHR rediscovered that the books represented a collection donated by Wilkinson, as a result of research by Paul Ramsey (doctoral candidate, University of Calgary, Canada). The related correspondence and accession lists of books are held in the Institute archives. The books are located mostly within the Military collection, but also in the German, Italian and United States collections and elsewhere. They can be identified by a book plate in the front of each volume, and those identified can be viewed on the library catalogue with a keyword search for Spenser Wilkinson Military Collection.

Paul Ramsey (University of Calgary, Canada)

Wright, Vincent

Dr Vincent Wright (1937-99) made the IHR residuary legatee of his substantial collection of books on nineteenth and twentieth century French history. Vincent Wright was a historian of nineteenth-century France and a political scientist who ranged widely across western Europe, an ‘incomparable comparatist’, in the happy phrase of an obituarist. He spent most of his career at Nuffield College, Oxford, but must have come to know the IHR first in the earlier 1960s as a research student and later in the 1970s as a lecturer at the LSE. Alongside visiting professorships in Europe and America he was honoured by election as a Fellow of the British Academy in 1995.

Around 1,400 volumes from his library were received in 2000 and had been fully incorporated into the IHR’s collection by 2003–4, mostly housed within the French and Military History subject areas. The books have distinctive bindings, and each has a bookplate to indicate its provenance.

Further information