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Papers of Horace Gundry Alexander


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Papers of Horace Gundry Alexander comprising bird diaries and notebooks, correspondence, manuscripts, notes, cuttings, photographs, books, journals and a scrap album, [c.1900s]-1989.

Also included are bird diaries of Christopher James Alexander, [c.1897]-1916, and a notebook of Wilfred Backhouse Alexander, 1905-1906, as well as correspondence from both.


  • Creation: [c.1897]-1989


6.25 Linear metres (38 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 14891/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 14891/1-38

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 14891


Papers, correspondence and fieldwork of Horace Gundry Alexander (1889-1989).

Biographical / Historical

Horace Gundry Alexander was born on 18th April 1889 in Croydon, the youngest of Joseph Gundry Alexander and Josephine Crosfield Alexander's four sons and brother of Wilfred Backhouse Alexander. His Quaker upbringing strongly influenced his two main pursuits in life - promoting peace and ornithology. He is well known for his involvement in the achievement of Indian Independence and his friendship with Ghandi and for pioneering birdwatching as an alternative method of ornithology to studying museum collections.

He was educated at The Downs School, Bootham, York and King's College, Cambridge, where he obtained first class honours in history in 1912, followed by postgraduate study. When war broke out in 1914 he served as secretary to a number of anti-war committees and in 1916 when conscription was introduced he registered as a conscientious objector. As such he was required to work as a school teacher, first in Warwick and then in Cranbrook in Kent, teaching international relations. During this time he met Olive Graham (1892–1942), his future wife, at the meetings of the Quaker Yearly Meeting's Young Friends' Committee. In 1917 his brother, Christopher James Alexander, died on the western front. Horace and Olive were married on 30th July 1918.

In 1919 Horace moved to Birmingham to take up the new post of schoolmaster of international relations at Woodbrooke, a Quaker study centre. He was a founder member of the Birmingham Bird Club in 1929, renamed the Birmingham and District Bird Club in 1945 and then The Birmingham and West Midlands Bird Club in 1947. He edited the club's first annual report in 1934 and became the club's first elected president in 1945. He later became Vice President of the British Ornithologists' Union (1956-1959). He first visited India in 1927 and returned frequently throughout his life. He formed friendships with a number of public figures in India, including a close friendship with Mahatma Ghandi. During his visits to India he conducted ornithological field work and was a founder member of the Delhi Bird-watching Society. In 1943 he visited China to help in discussions about the future of the Friends Ambulance Unit's China Convoy. From 1951 he was based mostly in the UK and he moved to Swanage in 1959. In 1958 he married his second wife, Rebecca Bradbeer, née Biddle (1901-1991). He moved to Pennsylvania, USA, in 1969 where he died in 1989 aged 101.


Alexander, H.G. (1974). Seventy years of birdwatching. Berkhamstead: Poyser.

Carnell, G. and Wood, J.D. (2011). Alexander, Horace Gundry. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Available at [Accessed 11 October 2011] .

West Midland Bird Club (2011). Chronology. Available at [Accessed 11 October 2011].

Wood, J.D. Ghandian inner light. The Guardian. 10 October 1989.

Wood, J.D. (2003). Horace Alexander, 1889 to 1989: birds and binoculars. York: William Sessions.


Material arranged as received from the Alexander Library of Ornithology.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Alexander Library of Ornithology, 2018.

Catalogue of the papers of Horace Gundry Alexander
Finding aid prepared by EAD version by Sarah Thiel, Meg Woodward and Marion Lowman
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom