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Records of grants made by Oxfam ('project files')


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This record group contains records of Oxfam GB (formerly Oxfam and Oxfam UK/I) only.

Typically, these files contain the initial project proposal by the agency or partner, Oxfam's Grant (later Project) Application Summary Form approving the grant, financial information, correspondence, and reports on the use of the grant, progress with the work, and its impact. A file may contain a number of proposals over a period of years, with corresponding financial and reporting materials. Some files also contain photographs. There are aditional files of correspondence and reports relating to certain grants.


  • Creation: 1953-2007


663 Linear metres (18,574 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish; Castilian
  • Portuguese

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, where available, e.g. MS. Oxfam PRF AGN 001 = Box 162, fol. 1]

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Oxfam PRF

Collection ID (for staff)

MS. Oxfam PRF


Records of grants made by Oxfam for development work and humanitarian emergencies ('project files').

Biographical / Historical

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief was formed on 5 October 1942 at a meeting in the Old Library of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. It was one of several similar groups set up around the U.K. during the Second World War, in support of the National Famine Relief Committee, to lobby for the relief of suffering behind the Allied blockade in Greece and other countries under German occupation. The Oxford Committee initially raised funds to be channelled through the Greek Red Cross. Throughout the remainder of the war it also campaigned, unsuccessfully, for the lifting of the blockade to allow relief supplies through to starving populations. In March 1943 it was registered as a charity under the War Charities Act.

In the post-war years, the Oxford Committee remained in existence to raise funds and dispatch supplies of food and clothing to refugees and others in Europe through agencies such as the Salvation Army and the Save the Children Fund. In 1948 it broadened its aims to include 'the relief of suffering as a result of wars or of other causes in any part of the world' and turned its attention also to aid for refugees in the Middle East and people affected by conflict in Korea in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, it gained national recognition through its humanitarian response to war and famine in the Congo and Biafra. In 1965, the shortened telegraphic address, 'Oxfam', which had been used informally since the 1940s, was adopted as the charity's registered name.

During the 1960s Oxfam began to highlight the need in many countries for long-term development work to address the causes of poverty. It played a leading role in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's 'Freedom from Hunger' campaign, launched in the U.K. in 1962, which aimed to combat food shortages, not by giving food aid but by enabling people to grow enough to feed themselves. Oxfam's grants to local agencies for work in areas such as agriculture and public health increased throughout the decade. By the early 1970s, it was supporting 800 projects involving local communities, overseen by eleven Field Directors based in the countries concerned. Public education, campaigning and advocacy on issues affecting poor people also became a major focus for the organization at this time.

Today, advocacy and campaigning, development work to help poor people work their own way out of poverty, and humanitarian work in emergencies, assisting those immediately affected by conflict and natural disasters, remain the basis of Oxfam's programme. As a major, international non-governmental organization, Oxfam is a world leading expert in public health in emergencies.

In 1962, Oxfam was launched in Canada. Other Oxfams followed, in America, Belgium and elsewhere. Oxfam International, a confederation of non-governmental organizations, was formed in 1995. Oxfam GB, the organization founded in Oxford in 1942, and other national Oxfams are members of Oxfam International.

For further information please see M Black, A Cause for our Times: Oxfam - the first 50 years (Oxfam and Oxford University Press, 1992).

Records of grants made by Oxfam

A Grants Sub-Committee was set up in November 1955 to oversee and report to Oxfam's Executive Committee on the funding and management of its programme. Membership consisted of trustees and external expert advisers, with staff in attendance. From 1963, Field Committees for geographical regions, responsible for considering grant applications, reported to this Committee, renamed the Overseas Aid Committee in January 1964. In 1975 the Overseas Aid Committee was stood down and its responsibilities transferred to the Executive Committee. Field Committees were stood down in 1992 and their functions passed to a new, global Overseas Committee.

From the 1960s, Oxfam's development and humanitarian programme was managed by the Overseas Aid Department, reporting to the Overseas Aid Committee. As the Department expanded it was renamed the Overseas Division in 1975 and, in 1995, the International Division. 'Desks' or departments based on geographical regions including Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean, were responsible for areas of the international development programme and acted as liaison with programme staff in countries where Oxfam and its partners were active. An Emergencies, later Humanitarian, Department was concerned with response to natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies.

From the late 1950s, documentation regarding applications for grants for development and humanitarian work, and the making of grants, was filed according to the agency or partner applying for the grant and then by country. Such files, which came to be referred to as 'project files', were maintained latterly by the Desks (development grants) and the Emergencies, later Humanitarian, Department (grants made in response to humanitarian emergencies). Files for grants made for other purposes, such as Oxfam's Fair Trade programme and development education, were maintained by the appropriate departments.


The arrangement reflects the original filing system, which was usually by the country or, occasionally, the region in which the development or humanitarian work was to be carried out. Before 1968, each grant was allocated a numerical or alpha-numeric reference (e.g. 4322, B.3512) and papers relating to grants were filed together according to country. From 1968, once a grant was approved, papers were filed according to agency or partner and a two or three letter code relating to the country or region and a sequential number were applied (e.g. for Angola, ANG 001, ANG 002 etc.). Files for India were usually subdivided as India South, East and West (IS, IE, IW) and later according to state, e.g. Andhra Pradesh (APD), Tamil Nadu (TNU). These 'project file' references form the basis of the shelfmarks in this catalogue.

Files for programme work relating to functions such as policy, development education and Fair Trade were given a similar alpha-numeric reference (e.g. POL 001, DE 001).

Papers in pre-1968 country files were later refiled according to agency or partner. New references were applied, comprising the modern country code, the element 'G' to distinguish these from the later files, and a sequential number (e.g. BKF-G-001).

Within each country or region, files are arranged alphabetically by the two or three letter code following the shelfmark elements MS. Oxfam PRF and then numerically by the sequential number. Because they relate to earlier grants, pre-1968 country files (e.g. MS. Oxfam PRF BKF-G-001 = Box 362) appear at the beginning of the sequence for the country or region.

Material listed in this catalogue has been selected following appraisal of approximately 26,000 files. All files for grants made in response to humanitarian emergencies have been preserved. Files for grants for development work made up to and including 1970 have also been preserved. After 1970, files relating to development work without evidence of the use of the grant, progress with the work, or its impact, have been disposed of. Any other files relating to development work not judged to be of value for learning and research have also been disposed of. A further 5,000 files have still to be appraised, and those selected for preservation will be added to subsequent editions of the catalogue. Because of the largely random storage of the files before appraisal, the proportions of files in each series (Africa, Asia etc.) or for each country or function in the present edition of the catalogue may not reflect the balance in the final edition.

Descriptions of files contain the name of the agency or partner carrying out the work, the geographical area for which the grant is made, or where the agency or partner is based, the main type of work being funded by the grant, and the date span of the file.

Requests for individual files will be met by the production of a box containing the file. The box may also contain other, unrelated files.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Bodleian Library by Oxfam GB in 2012.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library catalogues of materials relating to Oxfam Governance (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam GOV), Finance (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam FIN), Programme Policy and Management (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRG), Communications (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam COM), Campaigns (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam CPN), Appeals and Fundraising (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam APL), Publishing (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PUB) and Donated Collections (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam DON) are available.

From 1962, Oxfam published grants lists providing details of grants made during the financial year, including basic details of the grant recipient and a short description of the use of the grant. Grants are listed by country, region or function, using the alpha-numeric 'project file' references described in the 'Arrangement note' above. Please see MS. Oxfam COM/1/1/3/1-5. A complete set of these is available also at the Bodleian Library on the Weston Gallery Open Shelves at shelfmark X.12.200/Oxfam.


Catalogue of the Oxfam Archive: Records of grants made by Oxfam ('project files')
Rosanna Blakeley, Hedy Boland, Sarah Britland, Freya Chambers, Emily Chen, Joan Clemens, Harriet Costelloe, Rachael Gardner, Svenja Kunze, Gabriel Lawson, Marion Lowman, Rose Lyddon, Charlotte McKillop-Mash, Elena Müller, Rachael Orchard, Josie Partridge, Hannah Speed, Rebecca Wall, Chrissie Webb, Antonia White and Megan Woodward
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Wellcome Trust
Edition statement
This is the third edition of this catalogue. Further material will be added in a subsequent edition as a result of ongoing cataloguing work.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom