The Avon Papers

Scope and Content

Personal and political papers: Films, 1944-1956; gramophone records, 1935-1977; papers for miscellaneous parties, 1933-1967; press cuttings,1923-1967; photographs; printed items, 1926-1976; publications by Lord Avon and related correspondence, 1927-1982; letters concerning Lord Avon's resignation, 1938, and 1957; correspondence with constituents, 1950-1958; election papers and papers relating to Conservative Party business, 1936-1956; speeches, c1930-1976; political papers and documents, 1925-1956; personalia, personal and political correspondence, 1921-1960; resignation papers, 1957-1982; political documents, 1913-1957; personal and family papers, 1776-1977; correspondence with the general public, 155-1982; general correspondence, 1955-1983; University of Birmingham, 1957-1975; royal letters, 1940-1977; Lady Avon: miscellaneous materials, 1957-1983; invitations, 1957-1976; biography and autobiography miscellaneous papers, 1923-1977; financial papers, 1947-1983; other papers.

The collection also includes private office papers of Avon's periods of office as Foreign Secretary, 1935-1945 relating to Afghanistan, Africa, Austria, Baltic States, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burma, Czechoslovakia, Danzig, Egypt, Eire, Ethiopia, Far East, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Iraq, Italy, Latin America, Malta, Middle East, Palestine, Persia, Poland, Portugal, Scandinavia, Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United States of America, Vatican, Yugoslavia. Subjects include conferences, defence, Foreign Office, foreign policy, League of Nations, Locarno Treaty, machinery of Government, operations, post-war plans and reconstruction, press, prisoners of war, propaganda, war, war criminals, Duke of Windsor.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Anthony Eden was born at Windlestone Hall near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, one of five children of Sir William Eden and Sybil Frances (daughter of Sir William Grey). He was educated at Eton and then joined the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1915. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 and in 1918 became the youngest brigadier-major in the British Army. After the war he went up to Christ Church, Oxford, graduating with first class honours in oriental languages in 1922.

Eden stood as Conservative candidate in the general election of November 1922 for the seat of Spennymoor, County Durham where he was unsuccessful. However, in 1923, he was adopted for the safe constituency of Warwick & Leamington which he won at the next election and he served this constituency up until his retirement in 1957. His lifelong political connection with foreign affairs began in 1926 as parliamentary private secretary to Sir Austen Chamberlain and in 1935, he became the youngest Foreign Secretary since the 18th century. His political career seemed at risk when he resigned from the government in February 1938 because of his disagreement with Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy. However, he was recalled to office at the outbreak of war, briefly as Dominions Secretary and then as Foreign Secretary, under Winston Churchill, until the Conservative defeat in 1945. He served for the third time as Foreign Secretary between 1951 and 1955 and cultivated Britain's vital relations with the United States and western Europe. In April 1955, on Churchill's retirement, Eden succeeded as Prime Minister but within less than two years, he had retired due to ill-health and his career was overshadowed by the Suez crisis.

Eden became Lord Avon in 1961. He held a number of honorary degrees and other offices including Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, 1945-73 and President of the Royal Shakespeare Company, 1958-66. He was married twice and had two sons by his first wife, Simon (killed in Burma in 1945) and Nicholas (died in 1985).

Reference: Finding aid for the Letters Additional of Anthony Eden Collection (GB 150 AELAdd)


Personal papers: The collection is arranged chronologically within each section. The sections reflect the main aspects of Avon's life and work.

Private office papers of Avon's periods of office as Foreign Secretary, 1935-1945, and 1951-1955: The papers were arranged and listed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The arrangement is alphabetical by country and subject matter.

Access Information

Written application for access to the collection, accompanied by a letter of introduction, is required in advance in order to obtain permission from the Avon Trustees. Once approval has been granted, the collection is freely accessible to all registered readers. Access to parts of this collection is restricted and some personal and financial material is not available for consultation during Lady Avon's lifetime. Some letters of the Royal family and a few other papers have also been withdrawn from access at the request of the Cabinet Office.

Acquisition Information

The first gift of papers to the University of Birmingham was made in 1971 and was marked by a formal ceremony in the Main Library on 15 November. Subsequent deposits were over the next 15 years, the last being made in 1987, following the publication of Robert Rhodes James's biography of Eden in October 1986.

Other Finding Aids

Please see full catalogue for further details.

Alternative Form Available

Papers relating to Avon's periods of office as Foreign Secretary, 1935-1945 and 1951-1955 are located on microfilm at the Public Record Office.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright in all Eden material belongs to the Avon Trustees. Applications for quotations should be made to the University Archivist. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of other copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also holds two related collections: The Letters Additional of Anthony Eden, 1919-1973 (GB 150 AELAdd) and the Papers of Pierson Dixon 1944-1972 (GB 150 MS20)


The officially commissioned biography by Robert Rhodes James was published in 1986 under the title Anthony Eden .