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Archive of Edward John Thompson


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The collection consists mainly of correspondence, with some literary papers. The outline arrangement is as follows: general correspondence, 1905-46, arranged alphabetically; literary papers, 1902-48, including drafts of early poetry, manuscripts of unpublished works, working papers for Rabindranath Tagore; his life and work, and papers relating to the report for the Rhodes Trustees; printed papers, 1894-1950, consisting mainly of newspaper reviews of Thompson's works arranged alphabetically by title; personal and financial papers, 1886-1945, including Thompson's war diaries, 1914-19, publishers' contracts, and photographs; family correspondence and papers, 1848-1962. This last series contains correspondence and papers of Elizabeth Thompson, including letters to her son; many of Edward's letters were destroyed (MS. Eng. c. 5364, fol. 71). Also in this series are the correspondence and papers of Theodosia Thompson, including further correspondence with the publishers of E.J. Thompson's works.


  • Creation: 1886-1946


18.0 Linear metres (182 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Eng. c. 5273, fols. 1-2].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 5273-368, c. 5783, d. 2642-704, e. 2915-31; Photogr. c. 57-9

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12587


Catalogue of the papers of Edward John Thompson.

Biographical / Historical

Edward John Thompson (1886-1946) writer, was born at Hazel Grove, Stockport, the eldest son of the Reverend John Moses Thompson and his wife Elizabeth Penney. Both his parents were Wesleyan missionaries in India until 1892. His father died in 1894 leaving his mother to bring up their six children on a widow's pension. Edward was educated at Kingswood School, Bath, where he first began to write poetry. At the age of sixteen he went to work for the Midland Bank. In 1907 he attended Richmond College, graduating in 1909, and in 1910 was ordained and went to teach English literature at the Wesleyan College at Bankura, Bengal. Introducing the Arnisons (1935), and John Arnison (1939) are semi-autobiographical novels about this period of his life

Meanwhile, Edward John Thompson continued his friendship with George Lowther, a school friend, and met, and was much influenced by, William Canton, both of whom wrote almost weekly letters to Thompson, keeping him in touch with the literary world while he was in India. Two volumes of his poetry had been privately printed and he now began to learn Bengali. In 1913 he met Sir Rabindranath Tagore and wrote two books on him, studying his poems in depth and becoming the English authority on Bengali poetry

Thompson became chaplain to the 7th division in 1916, went through the Mesopotamia and Palestine campaigns and was awarded the MC. These Men Thy Friends (1927) and In Araby Orion (1930) were based on these experiences. He married Theodosia Jessup in 1919, and became the acting principal of Bankura College in 1920

Thompson resigned from the Wesleyan ministry in 1923 on his return from India, to devote himself to his writing. He was lecturer in Bengali at the University of Oxford, 1923-33, Leverhulme research fellow, 1934-6, and research fellow in Indian history at Oriel College, 1936-46. He maintained his very strong interest in India, writing, broadcasting and lecturing, returning in 1939 to write a report on the current political climate for the Rhodes Trustees. He corresponded with many Indians, most notably Nehru and Tagore (MSS. Eng. c. 5305, c. 5318)

He continued writing throughout his life, poetry, plays, novels and biographical works. Thompson died in 1946, having suffered ill health for some time. He left a widow and one son Edward Palmer Thompson; his eldest son Frank had died in 1944

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to the Bodleian Library by E.P. Thompson, July 1992, 1995. (MSS. Eng. c. 5273-368, c. 5783; d. 2642-704; e. 2915-31; Photogr. c. 57-9).

Related Materials

Papers of Thompson's wife, Theodosia Thompson, are MSS. Eng. e. 3030-45.

Catalogue of the archive of Edward John Thompson (1886-1946)
Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Turner, Ruth Burchnall, Sarah Shuttleworth
1995, EAD version 2017
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom