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Additional papers of Edward Max Nicholson


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Comprises handlist of items in MSS. 15041/1/1 onwards, notebooks, maps and illustrations.


  • Creation: Creation: Majority of material found within Bulk, 1918-2002
  • Creation: Creation: 1918-2002, 2009


1.76 Linear metres (10 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 15663/1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 15663/1-10

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15663


Additional papers of Edward Max Nicholson (1904-2003), ornithologist

Biographical / Historical

Edward Max Nicholson was born in 1904 in Kilternan, near Dublin while his father was working in Ireland. The family soon moved back to England, eventually settling in Worthing. He was educated at Fairholme Preparatory School, Worthing and then Sedbergh School, Cumbria, although he was forced to cut short his time there owing to his father's financial difficulties. Nicholson's interest in birds began with a visit to the Natural History Museum in London in 1911, and after leaving school he wrote and published articles on birds. Some of these were submitted to The Times, and Nicholson was able to make the acquaintance of the newspaper's editor, Geoffrey Dawson, who encouraged him to sit for an Oxford scholarship. In 1926, Nicholson was awarded a history scholarship to Hertford College, the same year that his first book Birds of England was published. While at Oxford Nicholson started the Oxford Bird Census in 1927 and founded the Oxford University Exploration Club.

After graduating from Oxford, Nicholson worked as assistant editor on the Weekend Review, and in 1933 he became Secretary of the think-tank Political and Economic Planning (PEP). Following the outbreak of the Second World War he was given the post of Controller of Literature at the Ministry of Information, although he resigned after two months, and in 1940 he was drafted into the Ministry of Shipping. In 1945, following the election of the Attlee government he was appointed Head of the Office of Herbert Morrison, Lord President of the Council, and was involved in legislation such as the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. He also served on the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy and chaired the committee which organised the Festival of Britain. In 1952 he became Chairman of the Nature Conservancy, and helped expand its activities and influence. He retired from the Conservancy in 1966, though in the next four years he published two books on government and the environment The System: The Misgovernment of Modern Britain (1967) and The Environmental Revolution A Guide for the New Masters of the Earth (1970).

From the 1960s Nicholson was heavily involved in a great many organisations concerned with the protection of wildlife and the environment. He was one of the founders of the World Wildlife Fund and served as its UK Vice President. He was a founder member of the Council for Nature, Convenor of the Terrestrial Communities Section fo the International Biological Programme (1963-1974), Joint Secretary of the "Countryside in 1970" conferences, founder of Land Use Consultants, founder of the Trust for Urban Ecology, President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (1980-1985), Chairman of the committee responsible for the UK's response to the World Conservation Strategy (1981-1983), founder of Earthwatch Europe, Vice President of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and founder of the New Renaissance Group.

Nicholson was awarded a CB in 1948 and a CVO in 1971. His other awards included Premio Europeo Cortina-Ulisse (1971), Europa Preis für Landespflege (1972), the World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal (1982) and the Royal Geographical Society's Busk Medal (1991). He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Aberdeen and Birmingham, and from the Royal College of Art. He died in 2003.


Arranged by type of material.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Alexander Library of Ornithology, 2018.

Related Materials

See also Papers of Edward Max Nicholson (MSS. 15041/1/1 onwards)

Catalogue of Additional Papers of Edward Max Nicholson
Finding aid prepared by Francesca Alves
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom