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Archive of Emily Hobhouse


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The first four series are divided into periods of time: Anglo-Boer War, post-Anglo-Boer War, World War One and post-World War One. These relate to different periods of Hobhouse’s work: her actions campaigning against conditions in the camps in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War; her work for rehabilitation post-war and the home industries scheme; her pacifism during World War One and visit to Germany and Belgium; and work for the Fund to Aid Swiss Relief and Russian Babies Fund post war, including her relief work in Leipzig.

Hobhouse’s primary way of communicating her work was through letters to friends and family, which were often intended to be circulated in social circles to raise awareness. Throughout her active life, Hobhouse corresponded frequently with her brother, Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse, and her aunt, Lady Mary Hobhouse. These letters contain much information regarding her activism, and make up part of the Family Correspondence series. Also in this series are papers of Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse; and letters of other relatives. Papers relating to Emily Hobhouse’s missionary work in Virginia before the Anglo-Boer War, as arranged by her, are also within this series.

In the 1920s Hobhouse began to write her memoirs, and much of this writing was organised by her in paper wrappers. This material includes typewritten copies of letters and drafts of Hobhouse’s accounts. These are organised in the writings series.

In addition to her aunt and brother, Hobhouse’s correspondence with General Jan Smuts, and C.E. Maurice, span across the chronological areas of her work. This correspondence therefore makes up the final series of the archive.

The archive contains letters, writings, reports and other printed material, journals, scrapbooks, newspaper cuttings, some photographs and objects including flax and wool samples. There is a significant amount of photocopies of Emily’s letters which are held in other institutions, and photocopied material collected by Jennifer Hobhouse Balme during the course of her research.


  • Creation: 1860-1926


3.2 Linear metres (31 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

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

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Hobhouse 1-31

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12028, 12056, 12941


Archive of Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926), humanitarian activist.

Biographical / Historical

See the entry by Elaine Harrison in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for further details.

Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926) was a humanitarian activist and pacifist, best known for her work publicising the conditions in the concentration camps in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), and distributing aid through her committee, the South African Women and Children Distress Fund. Following the war she was active in rehabilitation efforts in South Africa and initiated a Home Industries scheme, establishing schools for lace-making, spinning and weaving.

Hobhouse was a committed pacifist, and in 1916 she travelled to Germany and Belgium to investigate and report on conditions there, and work towards peace, meeting the German foreign minister Gottlieb von Jagow. Following the armistice, Hobhouse continued to be active in relief work: she was chairwoman of the Russian Babies Fund, and helped to set up the Fund to Aid Swiss Relief, which was incorporated with the Save the Children Fund in April 1919. In the autumn of 1919 she travelled to Vienna and Leipzig to investigate conditions, and set up a local relief fund in Leipzig. She was honoured by the city of Leipzig, and awarded the German Red Cross decoration of second class.

In 1921, Rachel Isabella Steyn, wife of President Steyn, raised a subscription in South Africa to provide money for Emily Hobhouse to purchase a house in Cornwall, in gratitude for her work among the Boers. Mrs Steyn prompted Hobhouse to begin work on an autobiography and memoir, which she was not able to complete. She drew extensively on her correspondence from the Anglo-Boer War and post-war period, in particular letters to her aunt, Lady Mary Hobhouse, and brother, Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse, and friends including General Jan Smuts, Caroline Murray, Elizabeth Maria (Betty) Molteno, Anna Purcell and Alice Greene.

Emily Hobhouse died on 8 June 1926, and her ashes were buried on 26 October 1926 at the Bloemfontein war memorial, South Africa, where only she, President Steyn, and General de Wet are buried.

Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse (1864-1929) was a social philosopher and journalist who contributed to the Manchester Guardian under the editorship of C.P. Scott, and wrote several sociological works, such as A Theory of Knowledge (1896), Morals in Evolution (1906) and Development and Purpose (1913). He was a strong critic of the government during the Anglo-Boer war and supported his sister Emily Hobhouse in her philanthropic actions. Leonard T. Hobhouse died in 1929. For more information, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by Michael Freeden.


The archive is arranged into seven series: Anglo-Boer War, post-Anglo-Boer War, World War One, post-World War One, Family papers and correspondence, writings, and other correspondence.

Where the original arrangement of the material was evident, this has been preserved. This is the case notably with the ‘writings’ series, Hobhouse’s material relating to America and Mexico, and Leonard T. Hobhouse’s own papers. Material is arranged chronologically, with undated and fragmented material placed at the end of the files.

Custodial History

The papers were in the possession of Jennifer Hobhouse Balme, Emily Hobhouse's great-niece, and used in the course of her research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the archive was donated to the Bodleian by Jennifer Hobhouse Balme on 18 April 2016. MS. Hobhouse 31 was donated by Jennifer Hobhouse Balme in February 2018.


  • Emily Hobhouse, The Brunt of the War and Where It Fell, (1902)
  • Emily Hobhouse (trans.) Tant'Alie of Transvaal, Her Diary 1880-1902 (1923)
  • Emily Hobhouse, War without Glamour, or, Women's War Experiences Written by Themselves 1899-1902 (1924)
  • (Anna) Ruth Fry, Emily Hobhouse: A Memoir, (1929)
  • Jennifer Hobhouse Balme, To love one's enemies: the work and life of Emily Hobhouse (1994)
  • John Hall, That Bloody Woman: The Turbulent Life of Emily Hobhouse (2008)
  • Jennifer Hobhouse Balme, Agent of peace: Emily Hobhouse and her courageous attempt to end the First World War (2015)
  • Jennifer Hobhouse Balme, Living the love: Emily Hobhouse post-war (1918-1926) (2016)
Catalogue of the archive of Emily Hobhouse
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Gardner
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom