Papers of Vernon Bartlett

Scope and Content

The material received from the University of Sussex consists of six boxes, five of which contain texts of broadcasts made by Vernon Bartlett between 1928 and 1968 (most dating from the wartime and pre-war periods) in manuscript, typescript and printed formats. These include transcripts of The way of the world series for the BBC (with an index); broadcasts from various European cities 1932-1933; wartime news broadcasts to the U.S.A., to the Empire, to South America and to other areas; propaganda broadcasts to Germany, France, Scandinavia, Italy, Czechoslovakia and other areas during the war; despatches from Moscow 1941, and other broadcasts on foreign affairs and politics, many for the Overseas Service. The sixth box contains addresses 1935-1973; typescript and printed copies of articles published in various papers 1932-1961; around 100 items of correspondence 1933-1968, chiefly from politicians and diplomats; ephemera; a few memoranda 1939-1947; an album of news cuttings 1913-1919; a file of loose cuttings 1935-1973, and around 40 items of wartime propganda addressed to the German people, in English and German.

The remainder of the collection, acquired from Laurence Pollinger Ltd, consists chiefly of typescripts of Bartlett's books, articles, broadcasts, poems and short stories. Many are annotated, and some contain unpublished material. There are also news cuttings; diaries from his active service in 1915; reviews; manuscript stories and notebooks, and obituary notices. In addition there is some correspondence with literary and political figures.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Vernon Oldfield Bartlett was born on April 30 1894 at Westbury, Wiltshire and educated at Blundell's School, Tiverton. After being invalided out of the army during the First World War, he began his career as a journalist, joining the Daily Mail as a general reporter. In 1917 he joined the staff of Reuters, which later sent him to cover the Paris peace conference. Subsequently he became a foreign correspondent for The Times, and it was his experiences in reporting from post-war Europe which led him to become the director of the London office of the League of Nations in 1922, a post which he held for a decade. During this period he began to broadcast for the BBC on foreign affairs, including from 1928 the weekly series The Way of the World.

His broadcasting career suffered a setback in 1933, when comments that he made about Germany's withdrawal from the Geneva disarmament conference were misinterpreted as pro-Nazi. Despite many letters in his support, the BBC decided that it would be best if he were not a member of their staff, and Bartlett therefore resigned, joining the News Chronicle, for whom he was to serve as a diplomatic correspondent for twenty years.

In 1938, after Neville Chamberlain's return from Munich, Bartlett stood for Parliament as an anti-appeasement independent candidate and won, becoming MP for Bridgwater, which had previously been considered a safe Tory seat. He held the seat until 1950 and became known for his contributions to parliamentary debates on foreign affairs. Bartlett was a member of the 1941 Committee which published reports calling for nationalisation and post-war welfare.

During the Second World War Bartlett's experience in broadcasting was put to use and he was involved in producing and conveying official propaganda. As well as the Postscript series of evening talks, aimed at boosting domestic morale, he broadcast frequently to America, and also to France, Germany and Scandinavia. He also served as British press attach in Moscow for a time in 1941.

After his retirement from the News Chronicle in 1954 Bartlett moved to Singapore, where he was both political commentator for the Straits Times and South East Asia correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. In 1956 he was appointed CBE. In 1961 he moved to Tuscany, where he ran a vineyard and continued to write. He was the author of twenty-eight books in all, chiefly about foreign affairs and about his travels in South-East Asia, Africa and Europe. He also wrote an autobiography, This is my life, published in 1937. Vernon Bartlett died on January 18 1983.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Material was deposited by the literary agent Laurence Pollinger Limited in 1986 and 1999. Further material, previously held by the University of Sussex, was deposited in 1986.


Description prepared by Bridget Andrews with reference to the Dictionary of National Biography, to Who was Who 1981-1990 and to internal sources.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue of the papers accompanied the University of Sussex deposit. A more general listing accompanied the Laurence Pollinger deposit.

Conditions Governing Use

The literary estate of Vernon Bartlett is controlled by Laurence Pollinger Ltd.

Custodial History

The papers deposited by the University of Sussex were presented to the University of Sussex Library by Vernon Bartlett in June 1975.