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Archive of James, Viscount Bryce


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Bryce was a man of many talents and enthusiasms, jurist, historian and statesman. He contributed much in all these spheres, and played an important part in the development of legal studies at Oxford while Regius Professor. His literary works were prolific and his links with the United States and his hopes for the future of humanity were well known.

This catalogue incorporates a brief description of the manuscripts included in the two calendars of the 1946 acquisition of Bryce papers prepared by D.S.Porter in 1959 and 1960. The correspondents in the 'Calendar of letters to and from English correspondents' (MSS. Bryce 1-20) and 'Calendar of papers relating to the United States of America' (MSS. Bryce U.S.A. 1-33) are included in the index to this catalogue.


  • Creation: 1826-1958


56.1 Linear metres (561 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Use

For conservation reasons, microfilm surrogates should be used consulated in place of the originals.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Bryce 1]

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

Full range of shelfmarks

MSS. Bryce 1-528, Bryce U.S.A. 1-33

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 8853, 12385, 12386


Papers of James, Viscount Bryce, and Bryce family papers, 1826-1958. The bulk of the papers cover Bryce's political and literary career, 1857-1922.

Biographical / Historical

James Bryce, Viscount Bryce of Dechmont (1838-1922) was educated in Glasgow and at Trinity College, Oxford, where he obtained first class honours. He was elected to a fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, in 1862 and in 1863 won the Arnold Historical Essay Prize with The Holy Roman Empire, which was published in 1864, securing his European reputation. He became assistant commissioner of the Schools Enquiry in 1866 and in 1867 was called to the Bar (Lincoln's Inn) where he practised until 1882, also lecturing on law at Owens College, Manchester. In 1870 he became Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford and held the post until 1893. Meanwhile he stood unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate for Wick in 1874, and successfully for Tower Hamlets, 1880-5, and South Aberdeen, 1885-1906. He established himself as an authority on Eastern matters, especially Armenia, and was the founder and first president of the Anglo-Armenian Society.

He married Marion Ashton in 1889 and in 1898 moved to Hindleap, Forest Row, Sussex. Running parallel with his parliamentary career was his growing reputation as an author and traveller. His work The American Commonwealth (1888) is still relevant in many ways today. After holding posts as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1892-4, President of the Board of Trade, 1894, chairman of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, 1894-5, Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1905-6, he was made British Ambassador to Washington in 1907 and remained there until 1913.

On his return, he was created Viscount in 1914, and in the same year presided over the committee on alleged German outrages. In 1917 he was chairman of the Second Chamber conference. His death, while on holiday in Sidmouth, Devon, in January 1922, is described by Lady Bryce in a letter to Sir Courtenay Ilbert (MS. Bryce 470, fols. 73-4).


The main part of the papers is arranged partly alphabetically (Special and General Corespondence), partly chronologically in 'subject' sections (Armenia, Ireland, etc.). Many of the 'subjects' also appear in the letters in the alphabetical sequences of correspondence. These sections are followed by Literary papers (including manuscripts of some of Bryce's works, with related papers), Printed papers and news-cuttings, and Personal papers (including some diaries). Items from the Personal papers, two ivory carriage passes for Constitution Hill Gate and The Horse Guards, with a wooden pen holder made of wood from Abraham Lincoln's house in Springfield Illinois, are now Library Objects 721-2. There is a large section of Family papers, including much family correspondence and many family photographs, and a final section of miscellaneous papers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to the Library, 1946-90. In 1974 and 1985 the Bodleian purchased a quantity of papers from Peter Eaton, and Bertrand Rota, booksellers, deriving from the same source as the gift.

Catalogue of the archive of James, Viscount Bryce
Elizabeth Turner
1993, EAD version 2018
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom