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Archive of Alan Bennett


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The papers include engagement books, diaries, scripts and associated papers, short stories, articles, compilations, theatre programmes, audio-visual material and original file labels and annotated folders.


  • Creation: 1936-2009


15 Linear metres (196 physical shelfmarks, 193 digital shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

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

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Bennett 1-195, MSS. Bennett digital 1-193, MS. Photogr. c. 471

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6276


Diaries, scripts, short stories, articles, theatre programmes, audio-visual material and original box labels and folders.

Biographical / Historical

Alan Bennett was born on 9 May 1934 in Armley, Leeds. He attended Leeds Modern School. During his National Service he studied Russian at the Joint Services School for Linguists at Cambridge and Bodmin. Although he had already secured a place at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge for after his National Service, he then applied for a scholarship to Oxford and was accepted to Exeter College. He received a First class degree in history in 1957 and began an academic career in Medieval History as a junior lecturer at Magdalen College.

He had appeared in various revues while at Oxford and in Aug. 1960, along with Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore, he wrote and appeared in the satirical revue Beyond the Fringe, first performed at the Edinburgh Festival. He carried on with his research career while appearing in the revue, even when the show transferred to London and then New York. Later he also wrote and appeared in My Father Knew Lloyd George and the sketch show On the Margin for the BBC.

His first stage play, Forty Years On, was produced in 1968 with Sir John Gielgud and his first television play, A Day Out, was directed by Stephen Frears in 1972. He has continued to write plays and work for television and radio, while also adapting his own and others work for the stage and film. He has worked with directors such as Patrick Garland, John Schlesinger, Lindsay Anderson and more recently Nick Hytner. He is perhaps best known for his series of monologues Talking Heads, which was placed on the A-level English syllabus. He also continues to act and his voice is well known to many young children from his recordings of classic children's stories.

Extracts from his diaries are published every year in the London Review of Books and have also been published in book form, collecting together other articles and pieces he has written over the years. Many of his stories also come from his own experience, such as The Lady in the Van, based on the story of a woman who lived in his driveway for more than 15 years. His work also often features real-life figures such as Guy Burgess, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust and George III. He has also written and presented documentaries on literature, art and architecture.

In 1994 his film adaptation of his play, The Madness of George III was nominated for four Academy Awards. In 2005 his play The History Boys won three Laurence Olivier Awards, the Critic's Circle Theatre Award, an Evening Standard Award, six Tony Awards and he received the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre.

In 1987 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Exeter College and in 1990 he was awarded a D.Litt by the University of Leeds. He was also a trustee of the National Gallery from 1993 to 1998.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Alan Bennett, 2008.

Catalogue of the archive of Alan Bennett
Finding aid prepared by Vaila Holbourn and Matthew Neely
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom