Skip to main content

Records produced by Oxfam's communications function


  • How to

This record group contains records of Oxfam GB (formerly Oxfam and Oxfam UK/I) only.

The catalogue describes records generated by Oxfam's communications work, including papers and correspondence relating to that work as well as materials, for example annual reports, posters, periodicals and photographic material issued for internal and external audiences. It includes records of the Communications Division and its successors and component teams, such as the Information Department and Press Office (later Media Unit).


  • Creation: 1947-2012


144.0 Linear metres (1737 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, where available, e.g. MS. Oxfam COM/1/1/1, fol. 1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Oxfam COM/1-6

Collection ID (for staff)

MS. Oxfam COM


Records generated as part of Oxfam's communications function - Final Edition

Biographical / Historical

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief was formed on 5 October 1942 at a meeting in the Old Library of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. It was one of several similar groups set up around the U.K. during the Second World War, in support of the National Famine Relief Committee, to lobby for the relief of suffering behind the Allied blockade in Greece and other countries under German occupation. The Oxford Committee initially raised funds to be channelled through the Greek Red Cross. Throughout the remainder of the war it also campaigned, unsuccessfully, for the lifting of the blockade to allow relief supplies through to starving populations. In March 1943 it was registered as a charity under the War Charities Act.

In the post-war years, the Oxford Committee remained in existence to raise funds and dispatch supplies of food and clothing to refugees and others in Europe through agencies such as the Salvation Army and the Save the Children Fund. In 1948 it broadened its aims to include 'the relief of suffering as a result of wars or of other causes in any part of the world' and turned its attention also to aid for refugees in the Middle East and people affected by conflict in Korea in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, it gained national recognition through its humanitarian response to war and famine in the Congo and Biafra. In 1965, the shortened telegraphic address, 'Oxfam', which had been used informally since the 1940s, was adopted as the charity's registered name.

During the 1960s Oxfam began to highlight the need in many countries for long-term development work to address the causes of poverty. It played a leading role in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's 'Freedom from Hunger' campaign, launched in the U.K. in 1962, which aimed to combat food shortages, not by giving food aid but by enabling people to grow enough to feed themselves. Oxfam's grants to local agencies for work in areas such as agriculture and public health increased throughout the decade. By the early 1970s, it was supporting 800 projects involving local communities, overseen by eleven Field Directors based in the countries concerned. Public education, campaigning and advocacy on issues affecting poor people also became a major focus for the organization at this time.

Today, advocacy and campaigning, development work to help poor people work their own way out of poverty, and humanitarian work in emergencies, assisting those immediately affected by conflict and natural disasters, remain the basis of Oxfam's programme. As a major, international non-governmental organization, Oxfam is a world leading expert in public health in emergencies. In 1962, Oxfam was launched in Canada. Other Oxfams followed, in America, Belgium and elsewhere. Oxfam International, a confederation of non-governmental organizations, was formed in 1995. Oxfam GB, the organization founded in Oxford in 1942, and other national Oxfams are members of Oxfam International.

For further information please see M Black, A Cause for our Times: Oxfam - the first 50 years (Oxfam and Oxford University Press, 1992).

Communications within Oxfam:

Oxfam's Communications Division was formally established during an organisational restructure of 1970, with Philip Jackson as the first Communications Director. Under his remit was all 'opinion-forming' work – press, education and information. He was succeeded in 1975 by Malcolm Harper, who was Communications Director until 1981.

The division underwent many restructurings in subsequent years, including the creation of the Public Affairs and Communications Services (PACS) Division in 1989, under the directorship of Ann Grant. This encompassed the Audio Visual Resources Unit, Campaigns Unit, Design Unit, Education Department, Information Department (by this time known as Oxfam Information), Press Office, Publications and the Public Affairs Unit.


Oxfam's functions have remained fairly constant over many years, but a number of organizational restructurings have resulted in functions being transferred between departments and teams. To preserve continuity, records have been arranged according to function rather than department or team. Consequently, this catalogue deals with communications as a function of Oxfam's work, rather than with the records of the Communications Division and its successors.

The arrangement reflects the original filing system where that is apparent, and is usually chronological. Original file titles, where they exist, are given in inverted commas preceding descriptions. Titles of reports are also given in inverted commas.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Oxfam donated its archive to the Bodleian Library in 2012.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library catalogues of materials relating to other Oxfam functions are available. These are Appeals and Fundraising (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam APL), Campaigns (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam CPN), Development Education and Youth (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam DEV), Donated Collections (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam DON), Finance (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam FIN), Governance (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam GOV), Programme Policy and Management (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRG), Publishing (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PUB), Trading (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam TRD) and Project Files (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRF).

Catalogue of the Oxfam Archive: Communications
Finding aid prepared by Antonia White, Rosanna Blakeley and Rebecca Wall, based on an earlier finding aid by Rosie Dodd and Chrissie Webb
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in: English, Latin script.
Catalogued with the generous support of the Wellcome Trust
Edition statement
Final edition
Finding aid note
Cataloguing support provided by Joan Clemens and Julie Webb.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom