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Archive of John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley


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The papers form an invaluable record of Kimberley's career in public life and of the machinery of government in the second half of the nineteenth century. They remained in private hands, virtually undisturbed, until their sale in 1991. Many came to the Library in their original bundles with contemporary labels, and wherever possible this order has been preserved.


  • Creation: 1826-1902


69.85 Linear metres (587 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Eng. a. 2013, fols. 1-2].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. a. 2013-14; b. 2047-2049; c. 3993-4514; d. 2439-2492; e. 2790-2797

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 7137


Archive of John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley (1826-1902), politician.

Biographical / Historical

John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley (1826-1902) was born at Wymondham, Norfolk, the eldest son of the Hon. Henry Wodehouse. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated with a first in classics in 1847. He succeeded his grandfather as 3rd Baron Wodehouse in 1846.

He entered the world of politics as a very young man and followed in his family's Whig traditions. He had a long and distinguished career, being a member of every Liberal cabinet from 1868 until the end of the century. He first held office as under-secretary of state for foreign affairs from 1852 to 1856; then served for two years as British minister at St. Petersburg, returning to the Foreign Office from 1858 to 1861. In 1863 he was sent on a special mission to try to settle the Schleswig-Holstein dispute. In 1864, while Palmerston was still prime minister, he became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, remaining until the fall of the Liberal government in 1866. In that year he was created Earl of Kimberley. In 1868 he became Lord Privy Seal in Gladstone's government, entering the cabinet for the first time. In the words of his journal (MS. Eng. c. 3993, fol.1) `He [Gladstone] accompanied the offer with some complimentary expressions, saying that he considered me fit for a more important office but that he could not give any more such offices to Peers. For example the Home Office was still unfilled, for which I should have been quite fit, if it were not that it must be held by a member of the House of Commons. What an obstacle it is to success in public life to be in the House of Lords?'. However, Kimberley's peerage did not prove a handicap to his political career. He served as Colonial Secretary from 1870 to 1874 and from 1880 to 1882, as Secretary of State for India from 1882 to 1886 and again from 1892 to 1894, and finally as Foreign Secretary from 1894 to 1895. In the final years of his life he became Liberal leader in the House of Lords and Chancellor of London University.


The outline arrangement of the papers is as follows: first, five volumes of political diaries covering the period 1862-1902 (MSS. Eng. e. 2790-4), and a single journal of events during the Gladstone ministry, 1868-74 (MS. Eng. c. 3993), which was edited by Ethel Drus and published in the Camden Miscellany vol. xxi (1958).

Second, in series 2-10, the principal series of political correspondence and papers, arranged according to the office held by Lord Kimberley. The correspondence as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (series 5) is arranged in one sequence following the contemporary numbering. Within most other Offices letters from major correspondents with, in many cases, copies of Kimberley's replies are followed by general correspondence. There is much correspondence relating to patronage, which is arranged alphabetically by the name in the original endorsements (sometimes the name of the person requesting patronage, sometimes the name of the sponsor). Within each series correspondence is followed by papers relating to the Office and then by printed material.

Third, miscellaneous political correspondence (series 12) which consists mainly of letters received while out of office.

Fourth, personal correspondence and papers (series 13) which include letters from two of Kimberley's sons, and newspaper obituaries. (Some personal papers are among Kimberley estate and family papers in the Norfolk Record Office, NRA Report 1298).

Fifth (series 14) printed papers, government printed papers divided into home and foreign affairs, and pamphlets and newscuttings. (Loose maps have been transferred to the map room).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were purchased at Sotheby's 12 December 1991, with help from the Radcliffe Trust, the Friends of the Bodleian, the MGC/V & A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries. (MSS. Eng. a. 2013-14; b. 2047-9; c. 3993-4514; d. 2439-92; e. 2790-7)

Related Materials

The collection represents virtually all Kimberley's surviving political papers, with the exception of some diplomatic correspondence as minister plenipotentiary to Russia (1856-8) in the British Library (Add. MSS. 46692-4) and eight volumes of later correspondence acquired by the National Library of Scotland in 1973 (MSS. 10242-9).

Catalogue of the archive, 1843-1902, of John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley (1826-1902)
Elizabeth Turner
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom