Arthur Balfour polar correspondence collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Balfour regarding the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton).

Administrative / Biographical History

Arthur James Balfour was born on 25 July 1848 at Whittingehame, East Lothian. He was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He began his political career in 1874 when he was elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Hertford, and between 1878 and 1880, acted as private secretary to his uncle, the Marquis of Salisbury, who was then secretary of state for foreign affairs. In 1885, Balfour was elected Member of Parliament for the eastern division of Manchester, a seat he held until 1906. He was appointed secretary for Scotland and served as chief secretary of Ireland from 1887 to 1891 and first Lord of the Treasury and leader of the House of Commons from 1891 to 1892.

In 1902, Balfour succeeded his uncle as Prime Minister, an office he held until his resignation in 1905. After losing his Manchester seat in 1906, he was elected Member of Parliament for the City of London, and remained leader of the Conservative Party until 1911. In 1915, he returned to government when he accepted the post of first lord of the Admiralty in a coalition government. The following year he was appointed foreign secretary, issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917 in favour of a Jewish national home in Palestine. He resigned in 1919, retaining a place in the cabinet as lord president of the council serving until 1922 and again from 1925 until 1929. In 1922, he was knighted and created first Earl of Balfour and Viscount Traprain of Whittingehame. He died on 19 March 1930 at Fisher's Hill near Woking.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034 and Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-1930 Oxford University Press, London (1937) and Who was who, 1929-1940 Adam & Charles Black, London (1947)

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.