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Records produced by Oxfam's publishing 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 publishing function, including correspondence relating to individual publications and publishing events, and catalogues of publications produced by Oxfam.


  • Creation: 1965-2009


1.95 Linear metres (13 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 PUB/1/1, fol. 1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Oxfam PUB/1-4

Collection ID (for staff)

MS. Oxfam PUB


Records produced by Oxfam's publishing 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).

Oxfam and publishing:

Oxfam has published a range of books, journals, policy papers, research reports, digital packages and other resources during its existence, many aimed at development and humanitarian professionals. It has also published extensively in the field of development education, including publications for schools, and been involved with mainstream publications such as cookery books, aimed at fundraising for the organisation and raising its profile.

The Special Projects Unit was formed in 1976 and focused on one-off projects intended to raise money and increase public awareness of Oxfam. Although this included organising fundraising events such as concerts, arranging promotions with brand producers, and mounting special television and radio appeals, a large part of its work was in book publishing, mainly for general audiences.

A Publications Unit was formed in 1979 and in the 1980s and 1990s, Oxfam built on its growing reputation for disseminating policy research with a series of publications linked to the work of its Public Affairs Unit, such as Dianna Melrose's Bitter Pills: Medicines and the Third World, 1982, and A Growing Problem: Pesticides and the Third World Poor by David Bull, 1982. It also published a series of highly-regarded manuals and technical books aimed at professionals in fields such as NGO management, gender and humanitarianism.

In 1990, with an existing Publications Department in place, Oxfam appointed an Anniversary Publications Officer, to oversee publications linked with the organisation's 50th anniversary in 1992. Many of the anniversary publications were aimed at children and were produced in partnership with commercial publishers, with the intention of enabling Oxfam to reach a more popular audience. The most successful publication, South and North, East and West, an anthology of children's stories from around the world, sold 200,000 copies.

In 1991, Oxfam published its first journal, Development in Practice, a subscription journal aimed at professionals, which was later outsourced to an external publisher.

By the mid-1990s, publishing in Oxfam was handled by two distinct teams. A Publishing Unit, based in the Marketing Division, was responsible for developing books for popular audiences, including co-publications with commercial publishers; and for the sales and marketing of all Oxfam publications. In December 1996 the unit consisted of Rob Cornford (Publishing Manager), Briony Harrison (Sales and Promotions Executive), Anna Coryndon (Project Development Executive) and Jess Day (Publishing Assistant). The Publishing Unit worked closely with the Publications Team, which was based in the Policy Department, within the International Division. The Publications Team's publishing programme was aimed at a mainly professional audience and intended to reflect and support the work of the International Division's development and humanitarian programme, allowing Oxfam to document and encourage good practice, share experience, raise issues for debate on relief and development, influence policy and contribute to a wider understanding of development and humanitarianism.


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 publishing as a function of Oxfam's work.

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), Communications (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam COM), Programme Policy, Management and Administration (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRG) and Project Files (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRF).


Catalogue of the Oxfam Archive: Publishing
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Britland and 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
This is the first edition of this catalogue. Further material may be added in subsequent editions as a result of ongoing cataloguing work.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom