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Archive of the Oxford Group

 Collection

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The archive contains correspondence, publications, printed ephemera, speeches, articles, photographs, film and audio materials including musical recordings. These were arranged by the Oxford Group into the following series: Publications, Photographs, Buchman, People, Press, Productions and Countries.

Dates

  • 1893-2014

Extent

131.0 Linear metres (785 shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

The papers are mainly in English, other languages are noted in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Access

Material of a sensitive personal nature is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. Oxford, Bodleian Libraries MS. Oxford Group 1/1, pp. 1-2].
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full Range of Shelfmarks:

MSS. Oxford Group 1/1-90; MSS. Oxford Group 3/1-209; MSS. Oxford Group 6/1-485.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 9735

Overview

Archive of the Oxford Group, 1893-2014, a religious movement initiated by Frank N.D. Buchman.

Biographical / Historical

The following is a shortened version of Philip Boobbyer's description of the Oxford Group written for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Oxford Group was a religious movement initiated by the American pastor Frank Buchman. In the UK it grew out of Buchman's work with students at Oxford University and was initially known as the First Century Christian Fellowship. Moral Re-Armament (MRA) was launched in 1938 as the Oxford Group's programme.

Buchman's religious work with students in Britain, in combination with similar outreach at Princeton and other American colleges, led to the emergence of the First Century Christian Fellowship in the early 1920s. The name changed to the Oxford Group in 1928 when a party of students visiting South Africa was labelled the "Oxford Group" by the press. The Oxford Group was non-denominational, and it spread through fellowship groups and house parties, some of them involving thousands of people. Buchman's emerging spirituality stressed the importance of absolute moral standards, guidance, surrender, restitution, and sharing, as well as the idea that God had a plan for each person's life and for the world.

Although the Oxford Group grew out of Buchman's work with students the movement soon became focused on wider social and political issues. From the late 1920s Buchman increasingly sought to influence national situations through the agency of "changed" individuals. "When man listens God speaks; when man obeys, God acts; when men change, nations change", was how Buchman expressed it in 1938. Oxford Group campaigns in South Africa (1929), Norway (1934–1935), Switzerland (1935), and Denmark (1935 and 1936) had the wider aim of reaching the countries' leadership.

Moral Re-Armament (MRA) was conceived in the context of the threat of war when Buchman came to the conclusion that the alternative to militarism was "moral and spiritual re-armament". Despite the Oxford Group being formally registered as a public company in 1939, Moral Re-Armament replaced it as the name of the movement over the following years.

Although Moral Re-Armament had British and American roots it established itself after the Second World War as an international organization, with 'teams' operating in many countries, and registered independently according to local law and culture. Reconciliation, in the context of post-war reconstruction, decolonization, and industrial conflict, was one of its main aims. Theatre and film were central in transmitting its ideas. In the UK, the many MRA plays that were put on at the Westminster Theatre were part of a national strategy to influence the country.

Peter Howard became world leader of Moral Re-Armament after Buchman's death in 1961. When he died suddenly in 1965 the leadership of the international work of MRA was exercised more collectively. Although Moral Re-Armament's British work became less publicly visible after Howard's death its efforts to inject moral and spiritual values into national life continued. In 2001 it changed its name to Initiatives of Change, although in the UK it continued to be registered as a charity under the name of the Oxford Group.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The archive was donated by the Oxford Group in 2014.
Title
Catalogue of the Archive of the Oxford Group
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Marion Lowman
Date
2017
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Catalogued with the generous support from the Oxford Group.
Edition statement
This is the first edition of this catalogue. Further material will be added in subsequent editions as a result of ongoing cataloguing work.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Contact:
Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom