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Archive of Alfred Milner, Viscount Milner, 1824-1955


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The archive covers practically the entire political and diplomatic career of Alfred Milner and includes correspondence, diaries, notebooks as well as other official and personal papers. The correspondence is arranged partly alphabetically (by name of the correspondent) and partly in chronological order. Some correspondence can be found in sections concerned with special subjects that represent Milner's respective positions he held within British politics. These include printed material (some in German) and cover individual colonial territories, especially South Africa, World War I and domestic issues with particular coverage of the National Service Leage, British agriculture and Ireland. Diaries form a separate group that follows the pattern of chronological and topical order. Smaller proportion of material includes notebooks that extent to his lectures, speeches and personal observations. Personal papers also include those of Lady Milner. A selection of photographs is also present.


  • Creation: 1824-1955


69.90 Linear metres (699 shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Milner dep. 1, fols. 1-2].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Milner dep. 1-684, 694-698, MS. Milner dep. adds. 1

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12099


Archive of Alfred Milner, Viscount Milner related to his political career, and including mainly correspondence with Earl of Selborne as well as papers of other members of the Palmer family.

Biographical / Historical

Alfred, Viscount Milner (1854-1925) was educated in Germany and at King's College, London and Balliol College, Oxford. He was elected to a fellowship at New College, Oxford in 1876, moved to London in 1879 and was called to the Bar in 1881. He turned to journalism to earn his living and worked with W.T. Stead on the staff of the Pall Mall Gazette. In 1884 he became private secretary to G.J. (later Viscount) Goschen and entered the world of politics and public service which was to dominate the rest of his life.

Milner's first independent work came with his appointment as director general of accounts in Egypt in 1889. He returned to England to take over the chairmanship of the Board of Inland Revenue in 1892. His services in that post were rewarded with the C.B. in 1894 and the K.C.B. in 1895. The turning point of his career came in 1897 with his acceptance of the post of High Commissioner for South Africa. The papers illustrating the momentous events of the next eight years form the greater part of this collection, and were extensively used by Cecil Headlam in his edition of The Milner Papers, South Africa (2 vols., London, 1931, 1933). After his return in 1905, Lord Milner worked in the City and served as a member of various committees and as a Rhodes Trustee. He became a member of the War Cabinet late in 1916. The papers which survive from the First World War reflect the extent and variety of his activities. In April 1918 he became Secretary of State for War and in December of the same year Secretary of State for the Colonies, a post which he held until his resignation in 1921.

After his resignation, Lord Milner resumed his work in the City and presided over the Tariff Advisory Committee. In 1921 he married Violet, widow of Lord Edward Cecil, with whom he visited South Africa in 1924. He died at Sturry Court, their home near Canterbury, in May 1925. Further biographical details can be found in the Dictionary of National Biography.


Several sections of Lord Milner's papers were sorted by his widow and some were bound before she gave the whole collection to New College, Oxford in 1933.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

New College deposited the papers in the Bodleian Library on a temporary basis in 1964, and on a permanent basis in 1975.

Cataloge of the archive of Alfred Milner, Viscount Milner, 1824-1955
Elizabeth Turner
1979, EAD version 2011
Language of description
Script of description
The Bodleian Library and New College are most grateful to the Rhodes Trustees for a generous grant which has made the production of this catalogue possible.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom