Williams, (Arthur Frederick) Basil

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

A printed copy of Williams' Walpole's Foreign Policy , 1900-1901 with manuscript notations by the author.

Administrative / Biographical History

Basil Williams was born in 1867, and educated at Marlborough and New College, Oxford University, where he studied classics. He became a clerk in the House of Commons, but then signed up for service in the Second Boer War, 1899-1901. He remained in South Africa for a year, then resigned from the Army and returned as a civilian, where he worked as an administrator in the Education Department. Following his return to England, Williams began to write articles and books as a scholar of eighteenth century history. With no need to work, due to a private income, he concentrated on building a reputation as a historian, and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Liberal in 1910. He acted as editor for Home Rule Problems (P. S. King & Son, London, 1911) and Makers of the Nineteenth Century (Constable & Co, London, 1915-28).

On the outbreak of World War One, 1914-1918, Williams served as an education officer in the Royal Field Artillery. He was awarded the OBE in 1919. Williams was appointed Kingsford Professor of History at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, from 1921 to 1925, and Professor of History at Edinburgh University from 1925 to 1937, the year of his retirement. He died in 1950.

Among his publications were Botha, Smuts and South Africa (Hodder & Stoughton for the English Universities Press, London, 1946), Carteret & Newcastle: a contrast in contemporaries (University Press, Cambridge, 1943), Cecil Rhodes (London, 1921), Erskine Childers, 1870-1922. A sketch (Privately printed, London, 1926), Stanhope. A study in eighteenth-century war and diplomacy (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1932), The British Empire (Thornton Butterworth, London, 1928), and The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (Longmans & Co.: London, 1913).

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room Uncatalogued material may not be seen. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Archivist's Note

Separated Material

Rhodes House Library, Oxford University, holds correspondence, diaries and papers relating to South Africa and Williams' life of Cecil Rhodes, 1900-1945; Trinity College, Dublin, has correspondence with Erskine and Mary Childers, 1904-1942 (Ref: MSS 7781-7931); the Robinson Library, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, contains correspondence with Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, 3rd Bt, 1905-1931 (Ref: CPT).

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.