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Papers of Elspeth Josceline Huxley (3)


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The collection contains: copies of articles written by Elspeth Huxley, 1929-1989; correspondence, including from Harold Raymond and Michael Blundell, 1934-1992; cassette recording of Elspeth Huxley's memories of serving on the Monckton Commission in 1960, 1996; information on Kenya and Africa, 1936-1971; three book covers; and a brochure on the Thames Television series based on The Flame Trees of Thika [1980].


  • Creation: 1929-1996


0.45 Linear metres (3 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 2332 box 1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 2332 boxes 1 to 3.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 2551


Papers of the writer Elspeth Josceline Huxley, 1929-1996.

Biographical / Historical

Elspeth Josceline Huxley (née Grant), author and journalist, was born 23 July 1907 in London, the only child of Major Josceline Charles Henry (Jos) Grant (1873-1947), soldier and farmer, and his wife, the Hon. Eleanor Lilian (Nellie) Grosvenor (1885-1977), daughter of Richard de Aquila Grosvenor, first Baron Stalbridge.

In 1912, the Grants invested in coffee farming in the then British East Africa Protectorate (later Kenya). Elspeth joined them on Kitimuru Farm in Thika (then Chania Bridge), near Nairobi, the following year. During the First World War, her father returned to Britain to re-join the 3rd Battalion Royal Scots. Elspeth and her mother followed him back to England in 1915 and Elspeth was sent to boarding school, which she hated. After the war was over, she was expelled and returned to live with her parents in Kenya. The coffee farm had proved unprofitable and the family moved to a farm called Gikammeh near Njoro in the Rift Valley.

In 1925, Elspeth returned to England to study for a diploma in agriculture at Reading University and then went on to study for a year at Cornell University in the United States. In 1929, Elspeth became Assistant Press Officer with the Empire Marketing Board where she met Gervas Huxley (1894-1971). They married in December 1931. From 1935 to 1967, Gervas worked as the Director of the International Tea Market Expansion Board, travelling across the world; Elspeth accompanied him whenever possible and, with the exception of the war years, made almost yearly visits back to East Africa.

In 1935, Elspeth published a two volume work, White Man's Country: Lord Delamere and the Making of Kenya, commissioned by Hugh Cholmondeley, third Baron Delamere. Keen to learn more about the other perspective, Elspeth then researched and wrote the novel Red Strangers published in 1937, describing the changes to the life of a fictional Kikuyu family as a result of the invasion by Europeans. Between 1937 and 1940, she also wrote three detective novels (two more followed in the 1960s).

During the Second World War, Elspeth worked at the BBC in the war propaganda department and also as a liaison officer with the Colonial Office. After the war, she was invited to East Africa to study the provision of reading matter and produced a report in 1946 that led to the establishment of the East Africa Literature Bureau. In 1948, Elspeth wrote a book about travelling through East Africa entitled The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Elspeth contributed a great deal on African affairs to both press and radio, and was a member of the BBC General Advisory Council from 1952 until she was appointed as U.K. Independent Member of the Advisory Commission for the Review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia (Monckton Commission) in 1959.

Elspeth Huxley also wrote about environmental issues in Britain ( Brave New Victuals was published in 1965) and also many biographies for figures including David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, Scott of the Antarctic, and his son, Peter Scott.

The Huxleys bought a farm in Oaksey, Wiltshire in 1938 and their only child, Charles Huxley, was born in February 1944. Elspeth continued to live in Oaksey for the rest of her life and was Justice of the Peace for Wiltshire from 1947 to 1977. She was awarded a CBE in 1962. In 1971, the year of Gervas's death, Elspeth moved to a cottage called Green End. She died on 10 January 1997, in a nursing home in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

MSS. Afr. s. 2332 box 2, item 4 was donated to the Bodleian Libraries on 23 August 1994.

Various material from MSS. Afr. s. 2332 boxes 2 and 3 was donated 22 August 1995.

The cassette recording of Huxley's memories of serving with the Advisory Commission for the Review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia was donated by Matthew Westlake on 24 March 1997.

Related Materials

Bodleian Libraries:

  1. MSS. Afr. s. 782 - Papers of Elspeth Joceline Huxley (1), 1901-1960.
  2. MSS. Afr. s. 2154 - Papers of Elspeth Joceline Huxley (2), 1900-1989.
  3. MSS. Afr. s. 717 - Papers of Colonel Charles William G. Walker, letters, 1933-1934.
  4. MSS. Afr. s. 1257 - Papers of Henry Izard, letters relating to Kenya.
  5. MSS. Perham - Papers of Dame Margery Freda Perham, correspondence and related papers.

Bristol Archives:

  1. British Empire & Commonwealth Collection, ref. 1995/076 - Huxley collection, 12 boxes of photographs and transcript for oral history interview, 1896-1981.
Catalogue of papers of Elspeth Josceline Huxley, 1929-1996
Finding aid prepared by Tina Schumacher (Sep 2000). EAD version 2024 by Rachael Marsay.
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First EAD edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom