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Archive of John Satterfield Sandars, including papers of Arthur James Balfour and Henry Matthews


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This collection of papers is a particularly valuable source for the political history of the period from the mid. 1880s to the early 1920s. It is important not only by reason of Sandars's own involvement in the politics of the time, but also because the papers include those, which are not strictly Sandars's own. Many of Balfour's papers remained with Sandars and are in this collection, including his copies of his Cabinet letters to the King while Prime Minister. The collection also contains some of the papers of Henry Matthews from the period when Sandars was his Private Secretary.


  • Creation: 1809-1929


6.82 Linear metres (62 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. hist. a. 21, fols. 1-2].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. hist. a. 21, c. 713-773

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15189


Papers of John Satterfield Sandars (1853-1934), Private Secretary to Arthur James Balfour, including papers of A.J. Balfour and Henry Matthews, 1809-1929.

Biographical / Historical

John Satterfield Sandars (1853-1934) was educated at Repton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1877. In 1886 he was appointed Private Secretary to the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, later 1st Viscount Llandaff. In the general election of 1892 Sandars unsuccessfully contested Mid.-Derbyshire, the only occasion on which he fought a parliamentary election. From 1892 to 1905 he was Private Secretary to A.J. Balfour, a position from which he was able to play a crucial role within the leadership of the Conservative Party. During Balfour's prime ministership Sanders very largely assumed the duties and responsibilities that were subsequently to be exercised by the Cabinet Secretariat. Sandars's importance as a link between Balfour and other Conservative leaders and with the Court continued after the Conservatives went into opposition in 1905. In 1915 he quarrelled with Balfour when the latter entered the coalition government, an estrangement that was to last until Balfour's death. Sandars was a Privy Councillor and the author of a book published anonymously under the title Studies of Yesterday Privy Councillor. For further details see the Dictionary of National Biography.


The archive is arranged in in three series: Royal Correspondence, General political correspondence and papers, and Miscellaneous papers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to the Bodleian Library by Mrs. Harriet Sandars in 1934. Mrs. Sandars explained that she had destroyed "a good many merely formal letters of no interest", but that the rest of her husband's papers were as he had left them prior to his death earlier that year. She stipulated that for the time being the papers were not to be made available, and the three tin trunks in which they were delivered to the Library were opened for the first time in 1972.

Separated Materials

Ten maps were removed from the collection to the Bodleian Map collection, where they have been catalogued as: Map of Transvaal, 1899, signed by Lord Roberts: E59 (126); Maps of Europe, 1914-17: C1 (538) [1]-[9].

Catalogue of the archive of John Satterfield Sandars, including papers of Arthur James Balfour and Henry Matthews, 1809-1929
Philip Bull, Hugh Jacques
1975; EAD version 2007
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