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Archive of George Ivan Smith


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Correspondence and papers of George Ivan Smith (1915-95), broadcaster and international civil servant. The papers are mainly arranged in chronological sections which maintain their original order and reflect the different phases of Smith's career. The first series contains papers from his employment with the BBC and J. Arthur Rank Organisation and the second papers from his United Nations career, which is subdivided into sections on Africa, the Middle East, Dag Hammarskjold, and secondments from the United Nations. Subsequent series are correspondence, literary papers, family and personal correspondence and papers, newscuttings and photographs, printed material and memorabilia, and objects.


  • Creation: 1888-1995


10.56 Linear metres (96 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, e.g. Eng. c. 6454, fols. 1-2].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 6454-6534, d. 3190-3193, e. 3253-3255, e. 3295; Photogr. c. 104-110; Janitor's List of Library Portraits and Objects, 736/1-3

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 10640


Papers of George Ivan Smith (1915-95), relating to his career as a broadcaster and international civil servant, with some family and personal papers.

Biographical / Historical

George Ivan Smith (1915-95) was born in Sydney, Australia, the son of George Franklin Smith, a prison governor, and May Sullivan. After education at Bathurst and Goulburn High Schools and at Sydney University, Smith began work as a newspaper journalist. In 1937 he joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission as talks editor and in 1939 became director of the newly-founded overseas broadcasting service, Radio Australia. In 1941 Smith was seconded to the BBC's Overseas Service in London where he became head of the Pacific Service and organised overseas coverage of the Second Front. In 1945 he joined the J. Arthur Rank Organisation where he worked on the documentary series 'This Modern Age'.

Smith joined the United Nations in 1947 and went to New York as Director of External Affairs to establish the organisation's first international radio programmes. In 1949 he moved to a more political role when he came to Britain as first director of the London United Nations Information Centre, remaining there until 1958. He began to act frequently as spokesman for Dag Hammarskjold, who had become Secretary-General in 1953, and accompanied him on many missions, including his visit to the Middle East following the Suez crisis. He was in charge of press liaison at the Four Powers' summit conference and foreign ministers' meeting in Geneva in 1955. In 1958 Smith returned to New York, firstly as Director of the External Relations Division of the UN Office of Public Information and later as Director of Press and Publications.

Smith's close association with Africa began in 1960-1 when he undertook several missions to the Congo and served as chief of civilian operations in Katanga in the wake of Hammarskjold's death in an air crash in September 1961. The following year he was appointed regional representative of the UN Technical Assistance Board (UNTAB) in East Africa and personal representative of the new Secretary-General, U Thant, in East, Central and Southern Africa. Based initially in Dar es Salaam and, from January 1964, in Lusaka, Smith negotiated with the colonial governments and the emerging African leaders.

In 1965 Smith took a sabbatical from the United Nations and became visiting lecturer in international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the following year a visiting professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston. In 1967 he undertook four months work for the World Security Trust on the problems of nuclear proliferation and acted as consultant to various international corporations. In 1965 he was nominated for the new post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth but the appointment went to his namesake Arnold Smith of Canada.

In 1968 Smith was again appointed director of the London Information Centre where he remained until his retirement from the United Nations in 1975. From his home in Gloucestershire he continued to be an active commentator on international affairs and supporter of the United Nations, travelling, lecturing, and writing articles, letters to the press and a book, Ghosts of Kampala (London, 1980), about the rise and fall of Idi Amin. He began work on other books, notably an autobiography and an account of his pioneering ancestors in early Australia, but did not complete them, mainly because he was caring for his wife, who was in poor health.

In 1938 Smith married Madeleine Oakes (1909-66) in Sydney and they had three children. The marriage broke up during the war. In 1944 he married Mary Douglass (b.1909) who had two daughters from her first marriage to Cyril Conner (1900-81), the writer Penelope Gilliatt (1932-93) and the sculptor Angela Conner (b.1935?). In 1964 the Smiths adopted Edda Mutzawelo (b.1960).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were bequeathed to the Bodleian Library by George Ivan Smith in 1993.

Related Materials

George Ivan Smith also contributed material to the United Nations Career Records Project (MSS. Eng. c. 4702, fols. 132-225; c. 4733, items 5-6; c. 4797, fols. 187-230). A small file of material, generated during Smith's time in the BBC's Overseas Service and mainly concerning the reporting of the D Day landings in June 1944, was given to the BBC Written Archives Centre in 1994 (BBC Archives reference: S260). A cigarette box (containing small bottle and bullet) engraved by an inmate of Goulburn Jail, c.1920, broken 'love arrow', n.d., and Katanga 1961 badge (fabric) are now Janitor's List of Library Portraits and Objects, nos. 736/1-3.

Catalogue of the archive of George Ivan Smith, 1888-1995
Finding aid prepared by Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom