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Archive of the Butler Family


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Most of the collection relates to Rohan Butler. This includes personal papers, his literary work, his time at All Souls College, Oxford, and his work as a civil servant. The subseries relating to Choiseul, Vol. 1: Father and Son, 1719-1754, includes extensive notes by Butler used to complete the work. There are also several volumes of unpublished poetry, a draft play and papers relating to an unpublished book titled 'Redeemers of Democracy'.

The papers and correspondence of Harold Butler relate mainly to his civil servant work, including his time in Washington as head of the British Information Service at the British Embassy. There are three diaries, covering 1917-1919 and 1940-1941, in which he talks about the war progress and the home situation.

The papers of Alfred J. Butler relate to his work on ancient Coptic Churches. They also include a draft manuscript for an unpublished work titled 'Greater or Lesser Britain'.

The family papers comprise official documents, certificates and correspondence. Olive Butler was a frequent correspondent to her son, Rohan Butler, and her correspondence gives an insight into a diplomat's life in Washington during World War II.


  • Creation: 1818-2009, n.d.


15.85 Linear metres (229 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Dutch; Flemish
  • Polish
  • Romanian; Moldavian; Moldovan
  • Spanish; Castilian
  • Latin
  • Czech
  • Estonian

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 12150/1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 12150/1-229

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12150


Correspondence and papers of three generations of the Butler Family; Alfred J. Butler (1850-1936), Harold Butler (1883-1951) and Rohan Butler (1917-1996).

Biographical / Historical

Alfred J. Butler:

Alfred Joshua Butler, 1850-1936, was the son of Rev. A.S. Butler and father of Harold Butler.

He was a historian specialising in Coptology. He authored several works on Coptic Churches and Egyptian history. These works include:

  1. The ancient Coptic churches of Egypt, Vol 1 and 2 (1884)
  2. The Arab Conquest of Egypt and the Last Thirty Years of the Roman Dominion (1902)
  3. Sport in Classic Times (1930)

Harold Butler:

Sir Harold Beresford Butler, 1883-1951, was the son of Alfred J. Butler and Constance Mary Heywood. He married Olive Augusta Newenham in 1910. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, and obtained a first-class degree in literae Humaniores. In 1905 he was elected a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

He was a civil servant, working first at the Local Government Board and later transferring to the Home Office. He worked at the Ministry of Labour and during his time there drafted a section of the Versailles peace conference. He was director of the International Labour Organization from 1932 to 1938 and the first warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, from 1942 to 1943.

At the outbreak of World War II, he was appointed southern regional commissioner for civil defence. In 1942 he was appointed head of the British Information Service at the British Embassy in Washington, DC. He remained in Washington until his retirement in 1946.

He authored three books:

  1. The Lost Peace (1941)
  2. Peace or Power (1947)
  3. Confident Morning (1950)

Rohan Butler:

Rohan D'Olier Butler, 1917-1996, was the son of Harold Butler and Olive Newenham. He married Lucy Butler, 1912-2009, in 1956 in Copenhagen.

He read modern history at Balliol College, Oxford, under Benedict Humphrey Sumner. He graduated with a first-class degree in 1938. He was elected a prize fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, in 1938 and continued to be involved with the college throughout his life, being sub warden from 1961 to 1963 and fellow emeritus from 1984.

He worked in both the Ministry of Information and the Foreign Office during World War II. He was editor, and later senior editor, of Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, from 1945 to 1965. He edited the first volume of its successor Document on British Policy overseas, published in 1984. From 1963 to 1982 he was Historical Advisor to the secretary of state for foreign affairs.

He authored two books:

  1. The Roots of National Socialism (1941)
  2. Choiseul: Father and Son, 1719-1754 (1980)

See Dictionary of National Biography for more details.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Bodleian Library, 2010.

Catalogue of the archive of the Butler Family
Francesca Miller
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation.
Edition statement
First edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom