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Records produced by Oxfam's campaign function


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

The catalogue describes records generated by Oxfam's campaigning work, including the minutes and papers of campaigns policy and strategy-making bodies and publicity materials produced for individual campaigns, as well as correspondence and reports relating to campaigning. It includes records of the Campaigns Unit and its successors.


  • Creation: 1959-2011


25.0 Linear metres (149 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 CPN/1/1/1, fol. 1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Oxfam CPN/1-11

Collection ID (for staff)

MS. Oxfam CPN


Records produced by Oxfam's campaign function

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).

Campaigning in Oxfam:

Campaigning was a central part of Oxfam's work from its earliest days of lobbying against the Allied blockade during the Second World War. This was followed by a close involvement in the international 'World Refugee Year' campaign of 1959-60, which aimed to close the remaining camps of European refugees after the war and was in part responsible for giving the charity a nationwide profile. However, it was not until 1979 that a Campaigns Unit was formally established. This underwent restructurings and name changes in subsequent years. The Public Affairs and Communications Services (PACS) Division formed in the early 1990s, incorporating the campaigning role within it. By the early 2000s, this function was located within the Campaigns and Policy Division.

In addition to its Oxford-based campaigns staff, in the late 1970s Oxfam began to develop a network of regional campaigners and supporters based across the UK as part of its Move Against Poverty (MAP) campaign. This built on an existing 'Area' structure of local shops and fundraising groups and was further expanded during the charity's 'Hungry for Change' campaign in the mid-1980s, with nearly 300 new local groups being formed between 1984 and 1985.

The 1980s was also significant for campaigning at Oxfam in that it saw the establishment of an ethos of thorough research before action which strengthened the credibility of new campaigns. High quality research carried out by the Public Affairs Unit (PAU, later to be incorporated in the Public Policy Department), which was at that time part of the PACS division, underpinned the influential 'Rational Health' campaign, which advocated the safe use and equitable distribution of drugs.

In the 1990s, campaigns such as 'Free Front Line Africa' triggered a Charity Commission inquiry into Oxfam's campaigning activities (1990-1991), which eventually led to a clarification and reinterpretation of what was allowed under charity law, enabling campaigning on political issues underlying poverty.


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 (in this case, campaigning) rather than department or team.

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 GB 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), Communications (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam COM), 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: Campaigns
Finding aid prepared by Antonia White, based on an earlier finding aid by Rosie Dodd and Chrissie Webb
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Wellcome Trust
Edition statement
Final edition
Finding aid note
Cataloguing support provided by Rebecca Wall and Freda Cammack.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom