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Archive of Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede


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The collection consists principally of political correspondence, but there are also some family letters. Special interest attaches to the correspondence with Ponsonby's brother, Frederic Edward Grey Ponsonby, 1st Baron Sysonby, who was Assistant Private Secretary to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V. The collection does not include the diary mentioned in the article on Ponsonby in the Dictionary of National Biography; this remains in the possession of the present Lord Ponsonby and is not accessible for research.


  • Creation: 1890-1941


4.07 Linear metres (37 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. Oxford, Bodleian Libraries MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, fols. 1-2].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Eng. hist. a. 20; c. 651-685; d. 363

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12383


Papers of Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby (1871-1946), 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede, 1890-1941

Biographical / Historical

Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede (1871-1946), was the third son of Sir Henry Ponsonby, Private Secretary to Queen Victoria. He was a page of honour to the Queen for five years and was educated at Eton and Balliol. He joined the diplomatic service in 1894, serving in Constantinople (1894-1897) and Copenhagen (1898-1899) and the Foreign Office (1900-1902), but he resigned in 1902 after pressing unsuccessfully for reforms in the diplomatic service. From 1903 he worked in Liberal Party headquarters and stood unsuccessfully as Liberal candidate for Taunton in the General Election of 1906. He was Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1906-1908) and on Campbell-Bannerman's death in 1908 was elected his successor as MP for Stirling Burghs, a seat he held until 1918. He was an outspoken pacifist during the First World War and took an active part in the Union of Democratic Control, factors which led to his defeat in the General Election of 1918. He was Labour MP for the Brightside division of Sheffield from 1922 to 1930, when he was created a baron in order to alleviate the Labour Government's difficulties in filling ministerial posts in the House of Lords. He was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1924; Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Dominions, Jun-Dec 1929; Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, 1929-1931; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1931; Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, 1931-1935. He resigned from the leadership of the Labour Party in the House of Lords in 1935 in protest at the party's foreign policy, and resigned from the party altogether on the formation of the Coalition Government in 1940. He took part in the Peace Pledge Union and other pacifist activities prior to, and during, the Second World War. He published numerous books and articles and was an occasional broadcaster on the BBC.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Ponsonby's papers were given to the Bodleian Library in 1971 by his son, the 2nd Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede.

Catalogue of the archive of Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Finding aid prepared by P.J. Bull
Language of description
Script of description
Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom