Archive of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning
The Society for the Protection of Science and Learning was founded in 1933 as the Academic Assistance Council, by a small group of academics (notably William Beveridge, Leo Szilard and Lord Rutherford). Aware of the potentially large-scale dismissal of university teachers by the Nazi régime in Germany, the council aimed to provide short-term grants for refugee lecturers, and to help them in finding new employment. This operation was funded with money raised by appeals to the academic community and others in Britain. In 1936, faced with growing demands on its services, the Council was more formally reestablished as the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, with an advisory council, executive committee, grants allocation committee, and a small secretariat. By the outbreak of war, some 2000 individuals had been registered with the Society, the German refugees now being joined by those from Austria, Italy, Spain and a few from Soviet Russia. During the war years, the Society moved to Cambridge. Its financial support for refugees was largely taken over by the government through the Central Committee for Refugees. The Society could therefore devote its energies to finding war work for its grantees, and to alleviating the effects of the internment regulations on the many foreign scholars resident in Britain. The Society has maintained a continuous existence since 1945 assisting successive groups of émigré scholars from Hungary, Poland, Chile, South Africa and many other countries. In 1959 the Society was again reconstituted, this time as a registered company run by a council of management evolved from the previous executive committee. In recent years, following the retirement of its long-serving Secretary, Esther Simpson, it has shared London offices with the World University Service.
The archival consequence of this activity comprises some 5000 files of records, contained in 578 boxes. Boxes 1-15 contain general files on the foundation and early years of the Society, followed by reports and minutes of its committees' and other meetings. Boxes 16-29 comprise correspondence with the Society's councillors and officers. Financial records (boxes 30-47) include ledgers and annual balance sheets from 1933-1977. Subject files (boxes 48-89), arranged alphabetically by file title, include correspondence concerning the Society's main fund-raising appeals in the 1930s (51-57); papers relating to the 1940 internment crisis (65-66); and extensive lists and indexes of refugee scholars, arranged by subject, nationality and religion. Correspondence with British organisations (boxes 90-132) reflects the Society's co-operation with other national and local refugee organisations, national societies, government ministries, universities and colleges; and with Austrian, German, Czech and Polish support groups based in Britain. Similar correspondence with overseas organisations in boxes 133-160 throws light on the Society's links with international institutions such as the League of Nations and with refugee and other organisations in many countries, notably France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. Correspondence also survives, in boxes 161-177, with individuals who helped the Society. This first section of the archive concludes with two boxes of publications about refugee problems (178-179).
Personal files on scholars assisted by the Society form the core of the archive (boxes 180-425). They are arranged alphabetically by person within subject discipline, from Archaeology to Theology with a medical sciences sub-series in boxes 358-425. The case files typically contain curricula vitae and references for the scholars, and correspondence relating to their removal from their country of origin and to their search for new employment. In some cases correspondence continued for many years, and files frequently include later press-cuttings and obituaries. The files thus contain a wealth of biographical information on a great number of refugees, including many of the most eminent scholars in their fields. The Society also retained a series of files (arranged alphabetically in boxes 426-444) containing correspondence with the Home Office on the naturalisation of foreign scholars, and files of articles and pamphlets published by the scholars in boxes 445-464. The main archive concludes with a lengthy series of case files (boxes 465-570) of individuals who applied to the Society, but who were not registered with or funded by them. These include academics who found other means of support, university research assistants and technicians, teachers in non-university institutions, and professional writers and lawyers.
The Society's history to 1958 was written by Lord Beveridge, and published as A defence of free learning (London, 1959). A copy is available in the Special Collections Reading Room, ref. X.12.200/SPSL 1. Sir Norman Bentwich's book, The rescue and achievement of refugee scholars (Amsterdam, 1953), sets the Society's work in the wider context of refugee assistance movements, although with some factual inaccuracies. Readers will also find useful information in the three volume International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigrés 1933-45, ed. H A Strauss and W Röder (Munich, 1980-83), ref. X.12.200/SPSL 2.
- Creation: 1933-87
63.58 Linear metres (578 physical shelfmarks)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Written permission should also be sought for access to material less than 30 years old, and to files relating to living persons.
Conditions Governing Use
Cara’s prior permission to use any information from the archive in published work should be sought from the Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by post at Cara, LSBU Technopark, 90 London Road, London SE1 6LN (as at 2016)).
Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. S.P.S.L. 1/1-5].
Full range of shelfmarks:
MSS. S. P. S. L. 1-578
Collection ID (for staff)
CMD ID 12544
The archive of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, founded in 1933 as the Academic Assistance Council, contains papers relating to the support of academics fleeing the Fascist and Communist regimes in Europe between 1933 and 1987.
Biographical / Historical
The Society for the Protection of Science and Learning was founded in 1933 as the Academic Assistance Councily by a small group of academics. In 1936, faced with growing demands on its services, the Council was more formally reestablished as the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning. The Society has maintained a continuous existence since 1945 assisting successive groups of émigré scholars from Hungary, Poland, Chile, South Africa and many other countries. In 1959 the Society was again reconstituted, this time as a registered company run by a council of management evolved from the previous executive committee. The SPSL formally changed its name in 1999, and is now known as the Council for At-Risk Academics, or Cara
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The bulk of the archive was deposited in the Bodleian in 1958, for the use of Lord Beveridge. It was given to the Library in 1969, and has been augmented from time to time with batches of more recent papers, most recently with the case files of refugees from the Hungarian crisis of 1956 (boxes 571-578). Records more than 30 years old are available for research. The SPSL formally changed its name in 1999, and is now known as the Council for At-Risk Academics, or Cara.
- Academic Assistance Council (Organisation)
- Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (Organisation)
- Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (Organisation)
- Catalogue of the Archive of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, 1933-87
- Nicholas Baldwin
- 1988, EAD version 2008
- Language of description
- Script of description
- The library is grateful to the Leverhulme Foundation for providing a 2 year grant for work on the archive of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, including the production of this catalogue and index. Conversion to EAD was supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.