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Records produced by Oxfam's development education and youth work


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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 Development Education work and work with young people, including internal records, such as the minutes of the Development Education Grants Committee and correspondence of Development Education staff on matters including Oxfam's educational and youth work policies and planning for projects and events that were educational and/or involved young people.

It also describes records generated for an external audience, such as teaching materials and resources on development topics produced by Oxfam for use with schools and youth groups, and periodicals produced with a young audience in mind.


  • Creation: 1959-2010


18.0 Linear metres (110 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 DEV/1/1, fol. 1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Oxfam DEV/1-9

Collection ID (for staff)

MS. Oxfam DEV


Records produced by Oxfam's Development Education and Youth 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).

Development Education and work with young people in Oxfam:

Oxfam appointed its first member of educational staff, Stella Dyer, as Regional and Schools Organiser in 1959, as a result of the increasing number of requests that it was receiving from schools for information and resources on development and humanitarian topics, following the organization's involvement in the UN appeal for World Refugee Year.

In 1963, Oxfam became involved with another UN appeal, the FAO's Freedom from Hunger Campaign (FFHC), which emphasised the importance of educating the public about the causes of hunger and poverty in developing countries. By 1965, Oxfam had established an Education Department under Dyer's successor, Education Officer Bill Jackson, which was producing classroom materials intended to convey Oxfam's development and humanitarian work to a young audience, boosted by FFHC. It was felt that educating young people in development needs was an investment for the future. Jackson estimated that by the mid 1960s, Oxfam was working with a quarter of the schools in Britain.

A separate Youth Section was founded in 1964 to involve young people directly in supporting Oxfam activities, such as sponsored walks and other fundraising events, often through local Young Oxfam groups. In the same year, Oxfam held its first discussion week for young people at Stowe School. By 1966, there were 100 Young Oxfam Groups, and sponsored walks brought in £50,000.

Although Oxfam did not ask schools directly for money, schools often sent donations and by the mid-1960s, Oxfam was raising £100,000 a year through schools and young people. However, there was often a tension between the educational and the fundraising function in Oxfam's work with young people. There were often anxieties within the organisation about the cost of education work, despite the sums raised, and while fundraising was seen as part of the desire for action which was invoked in young people by education, Dyer, and later Jackson, emphasised the importance of the education function as an end in itself.

In 1966 the department's reach was extended by the appointment of an Educational Organiser in London. Also that year, the department ran 'Operation Oasis', a pioneering educational trip to Algeria for 796 secondary school children to enable them to see humanitarian and development work first-hand.

Oxfam was also seen as pioneering in its development of sophisticated educational resources on development topics on a scale and of a quality that was not being emulated by other charities, or initially, at least, by commercial publishers. In 1967, it further met the growing demand from schools for these sorts of resources by producing a series of textbooks with the publisher Longmans.

In 1974, Oxfam's Council of Management made the decision that development education was a key function of Oxfam's work, rather than just a cost to be borne, and committed to spending up to 5% of its income on education at home. The development education and youth functions were brought together into a Youth and Education Department, led by Owen G. ('Og') Thomas.

The 1970s also saw Oxfam begin to support local Development Education Centres, which produced and provided resources for teachers on development education topics. Centres in Birmingham, Leeds and two London centres were developed and managed by Oxfam staff, while Oxfam supported many other centres throughout the UK financially, and in other practical ways.

The Development Education Grants Committee was formed in 1980 to oversee educational grants made to partner organisations in the UK, following the model of Oxfam's field committees, which oversaw grants made to partner organisations for development and humanitarian work overseas.

Oxfam partnered with Channel 4 and other organisations for the On the Line project in 1999-2001, which focussed on people living in countries along the zero Meridian Line, as part of celebrations for the Millennium. The wide-ranging project included grants to schools for educational projects around the Meridian Line and On the Line Millennium Awards, funded by the Millennium Commission, which funded individuals for projects making connections with other countries on the Meridian Line.


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, Development Education) 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 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), Campaigns (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam CPN), Donated Collections (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam DON), Governance (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam GOV), Programme Policy, Management and Administration (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRG), Project Files (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRF) and Publishing (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PUB).


Catalogue of the Oxfam Archive: Development Education and Youth
Finding aid prepared by Antonia White, based on an earlier finding aid by Rosie Dodd
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Wellcome Trust
Finding aid note
Cataloguing support provided by Rachael Orchard and Freda Cammack.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom