Sophia and Frida Knight

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Letters from Sophia Knight in Shanghai and Beijing, China to her mother and other members of the Knight family, 1965-1972 together with envelopes containing very colourful stamps; papers and correspondence concerning the publication of her book: Window On Shanghai: letters from China 1965-67; postcards sent from China during the same period; earlier letters sent by Sophia to her family and her school reports; copies of letters from Frida Knight in England to Sophia in China; printed ephemera chiefly relating to China during the Cultural Revolution and letters of condolence to Frida Knight on the death of Sophia in 1982.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sophia Katherine Knight, the daughter of Frida and Jonathan Knight, was born on the 6th November 1943. She was educated at schools in Reading and at Bristol University. In 1965 at the age of 21 she went out to China to teach at the School of Foreign Languages which was attached to the Foreign Language Institute in Shanghai. When all schools were shut down following Mao Zedong’s launch of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 she worked in a factory for several months. When the schools reopened she began teaching again. Sophia Knight was an enthusiastic supporter of the revolutionary struggle in China. She wrote frequently and fully to her mother and other family members in England of her experiences and encounters during the early years of the Cultural Revolution. Many of her letters appear in Window on Shanghai: letters from China, 1965-67, published by Andr Deutsch in 1967. She continued teaching in China until 1973 before finally returning home. In the late 1970s Sophia married Peter Green. Sophia Knight died in 1982.

Frida Knight neé Stewart was born on 11th November 1910. She was educated in Cambridge and at the Royal College of Music. During the 1930s she was drawn into the struggle against fascism. In particular, she supported the Republican cause in Spain and drove an ambulance there in 1937. In Spain she worked with refugee children and visited the fighting zone. After the war was over she helped Republican refugees who had escaped to camps in France. In France, at the start of the Second World War, she was interned for a year before escaping to England via Spain, Portugal and Ireland. In England she continued to work for the Free French as well as marrying Jonathan Knight, an academic scientist, and beginning a family. After the War she continued her active support for left-wing organisations such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and interested herself in developments in Russia, China, Cuba and South Africa. She devotedly supported her daughter’s work in China, wrote to her regularly and visited her on a number of occasions. She also found time to publish biographies of Beethoven and William Frend (1757-1841), and an account of the French Resistance. She died in October 1996.

Conditions Governing Access

Unrestricted

Acquisition Information

Donated by Ms Frances Knight in 2001

Other Finding Aids

This description constitutes the only fining aid at present.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Rosemary Seton, Archivist, SOAS

Conditions Governing Use

No publication without prior written permission.