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Archive of Honor Balfour


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The archive comprises the following series: correspondence, 1927-2000; dispatches, 1948-1969; elections, 1945-1978; family; finance; guide books; Honor Balfour candidate elections, 1937, 1943, 1945; writings; interest, activities and friends; Liberal Party; notebooks and diaries; Oxford University; people; photographs; press cuttings; reports and printed books; Swinbrook Cottage; Time Life International, 1944-1972; topics, 1930s-1980s; travels abroad, 1929-1972; Windrush cottage; and wine.


  • Creation: 1916-2001


21.9 Linear metres (146 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and file or folder number, e.g. MS. Balfour dep. 1, file 1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Balfour dep. 1-146

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 11415


Correspondence and papers of Honor Balfour (1912-2001), politician and journalist.

Biographical / Historical

Honor Balfour left her lifetime collection of papers to her beloved Oxford college, St Anne’s, suspecting that they might be of interest to future researchers of twentieth century events. However, she would joke that she could not imagine why anyone would ever want to consult the evidence from someone of so little importance. These two apparently contradictory views show the kind of person she was - the modesty of the achiever and the significance of her life and work. This note will try to give a personal impression of Honor from the viewpoint of her friend and cataloguer; I and my family were among her many dear friends in Windrush, the Cotswold village where she spent much of the last thirty years of her life. It will look firstly at the person, then briefly at her career and interests and then introduce the collection. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has a full biographical article, so that will not be repeated here.

Honor had a warm, gentle and unassuming manner which belied a strength of character and purpose. She showed a real interest in people and their activities and was always curious about the world around her. This is particularly evident in her journalistic dispatches and radio broadcasts, whose subjects ranged widely and included inspiration from the great and the good down to the man in the street - or in the cottage next door, complete with Gloucestershire accent. Honor enjoyed entertaining guests all her life, and her numerous friends, neighbours and colleagues all over the world made great efforts to spend time with her and enjoy her hospitality. Her interests ranged far and wide, including travel, horticulture, wine, art and music, to name but a few, and in most of which she acquired expert knowledge. She acted as a music critic in the 1930s, became a Liberal politician, cared for her dear mother all her life, and espoused causes such as the Basque children sent to Oxford. Her life spanned the twentieth century, and she observed or was part of the enormous changes from its early decades into the twenty-first century. She experienced the century’s great events and their effects - including the loss of her father in action in France in May 1918, studying at Oxford as a Home Student, standing as a Liberal candidate in Darwen in 1943 and 1945, and seeing at close hand the various vicissitudes of the major political parties and politicians. She was able to spot a potential political leader well in advance, and she had a multitude of tales to tell about many of the movers and shakers of the postwar era.

Honor’s career spanned many aspects of journalism and broadcasting, including her time as parliamentary lobby correspondent for Time magazine. It was her evidence and information which was the key to the presentation of the British viewpoint to America during and after the Second World War. Always displaying her keen sense of humour and great knowledge of economic, social and political issues, leaders of industry welcomed her on her trips to the United States. Other letters attest to the social influence of her radio broadcasts to members of the general public at home. She would expound to us on her trips as a pioneering female journalist behind the Iron Curtain as soon as access was obtained, or her visits to Nan Pandit or Dom Mintoff. Always willing to learn something new, even in old age, she was fascinated by a demonstration of the internet I once gave her at home.

Honor Balfour’s collection has been surveyed, sorted, stored and catalogued, with the aim of retaining as far as possible its original content and organisation. From the information in the collection it is possible to learn much about this most remarkable figure - from the political (elections) to the personal (letters), from the mundane (utility bills) to the special (photograph of Honor formally dressed for the 1953 Coronation in Westminster Abbey). She was a dearly loved lady and very special person - for everyone, whether known personally or through the media. It is hoped that the collection will help to show what an important figure she was in the many fields in which she was active over a long, eventful and influential life.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by St. Anne's College, Oxford, 2001.

Catalogue of the archive of Honor Balfour, 1916-2001
Finding aid prepared by Diana Rau
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom