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Records of Oxfam finance


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This record group contains records of Oxfam GB (formerly Oxfam and Oxfam UK/I[reland]) only. These comprise minutes and related papers of trustee committees, accounts, reports, financial procedures and guidelines, and correspondence and related papers of the Secretary, the Finance Director, and other Finance staff.


  • Creation: 1943-2007


10.0 Linear metres (57 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 FIN/1/1/1/1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Oxfam FIN/1-5

Collection ID (for staff)

MS. Oxfam FIN


Records of Oxfam finance

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

Oxfam finance:

The Finance and Administration Sub-Committee, reporting to the Executive Committee, was established in March 1959. In November 1960 it was renamed the Finance and Establishment Sub-Committee, and from January 1965 it was known simply as the Finance Committee. Its primary responsibilities consisted of finalising the end-of-year accounts, planning the public presentation of accounts at Annual General Meetings, and dealing with property matters. In October 1978 the Budgets Committee was established, tasked with preparing the ground for the ratification of financial plans. The Budgets Committee coexisted with the Finance Committee until October 1982, when they merged to form the Budgets and Finance Committee. In September 1993, as part of governance reforms, the Budgets and Finance Committee was stood down.

The Audit Committee reported to the Council of Management through the Executive Committee, and was tasked with scrutinising the effectiveness of Oxfam’s financial systems and accounting functions. It was also stood down during governance reforms in 1993. At a meeting on 23 Apr 1994, the Council of Management approved the setting up of a Trustee Auditing and Monitoring 'Filter' Group from among its members, reporting to Council. Among other tasks, the Audit Group, later the Trustee Audit Group, was concerned with the review of all Oxfam audit and monitoring reports and of its compliance with financial, administrative and charity legislation. In 1998 the brief of the group was extended to include finance, and it was renamed the Trustee Audit and Finance Group.

Oxfam Activities Ltd. was incorporated in 1964 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Oxfam, providing a framework for the selling of manufactured goods and items imported from producers in poor countries. All profits were covenanted to Oxfam. The company also had responsibility for the Wastesaver recycling scheme, which was set up in 1975.

H. Leslie Kirkley was appointed Secretary of Oxfam in 1951. In 1961 he became Oxfam's first Director. He was followed as Secretary by M. Bruce Ronaldson. In 1959, Gordon Rudlin was appointed Finance Officer. Hugh Belshaw joined in 1970 as Finance Director, taking on the role of Secretary after the retirement of Bruce Ronaldson. David Nussbaum succeeded Hugh Belshaw as Finance Director in 1997.


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, Oxfam finance) 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

Donated to the Bodleian Library by Oxfam GB in 2012.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library catalogues of materials relating to other Oxfam functions are available. These are Programme Policy, Management and Administration (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRG), Appeals and Fundraising (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam APL), Communications (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam COM), Campaigns (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam CPN), Publishing (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PUB), Donated Collections (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam DON) and Project Files (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRF).


Catalogue of the Oxfam Archive: Finance
Finding aid prepared by Megan Woodward, Josie Partridge and Chrissie Webb
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Wellcome Trust

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom