Papers of Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), 1st Earl of Balfour, and Viscount Traprain of Whittingehame

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-292
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      15 letters, 1 photograph.
  • Location
      Gen. 756, nos.19-30; Dk.2.14, p.17; Dc.4.101-103 (Wyndham); Gen. 1425/9

Scope and Content

The papers consist of correspondence, namely: letter to J. P. B. Robertson, 12 February 1889 at Gen. 756, no.19; letters to Sir Charles John Pearson (1843-1910), 1891-1895, at Gen. 756, nos.20-29; letters to Sir W. Muir, 1891, at Dk.2.14, p.17; letter to G. Wyndham, February 1915, at Dc.4.101-103 (Wyndham); letter to Sir A. Geikie, July 1915, at Gen. 1425/9; notes, 1892, at Gen. 756, no.30.

Administrative / Biographical History

Arthur James Balfour was born at Whittinghame, East Lothian, on 25 July 1848. He was the nephew of Robert Cecil (1830-1903), 3rd Marquis of Salisbury. Balfour was educated at Eton and then studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained the degree of M.A. In 1874, he became the MP (Conservative) for Hertford starting a fifty-five year long political career which took him to the highest political office in the country. He served in Lord Salisbury's first ministry as President of the Local Government Board, 1885-1886, and then in the second Salisbury ministry, 1886-1892, he was Secretary for Scotland and Chief Secretary for Ireland. A formidable debater, Balfour became Leader of the House of Commons and First Lord of the Treasury, 1891-1892, becoming his uncle's second in command. Between 1892 and 1895 he was Leader of the Opposition during Gladstone's last Liberal ministry, then he served again in Salisbury's third ministry. In July 1902, on Salisbury's retirement, Balfour became Prime Minister and served until his resignation in December 1905. During his career, Balfour was a fierce opponent of Irish Home Rule, and in the contemporary Victorian 'struggle' between science and religion, he stood for religion. He was however responsible for encouraging the sale of land to tenant farmers in Ireland, and the completion of negotiations for the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale. He remained as Leader of the Conservative Party until November 1911 and also served in the wartime coalitions of Asquith and David Lloyd George. His most significant action during the First World War years was to declare in a letter to Lionel Walter Rothschild (1868-1937), 2nd Baron Rothschild, that Britain pledged itself to aiding Zionist efforts to establish a Jewish national home in Palestine. In the port-war years, Balfour served twice in the Commons as Lord President of the Council, 1919-1922, and 1925-1929. In 1922 he was created an earl. His publications include Defence of philosophic doubt (1879), The foundations of belief, being the notes introductory to the study of theology (1895), Economic notes on insular free trade (1903), Theism and thought (1923), and, edited by his niece, Blanche E. C. Dugdale Chapters of autobiography (1930). Balfour served as Chancellor of Edinburgh University. Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, and Viscount Traprain of Whittingehame, died in Woking, Surrey, on 19 March 1930.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Letters to Sir Charles John Pearson received from Mrs. Margaret Pearson, Newbridge, Midlothian, 1964, Accession no. E64.39. Letter to Geikie received from Professor Craig, August 1968, Accession No. E68.24.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) The new encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1991. (2) Who was who 1929-1940. A companion to Who's who.... London: Adam and Charles Black, 1941. (3) Rice, D. Talbot (compiler). The university portraits. pp. 5-6. Edinburgh: University Press, 1957.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various other references to Balfour related material (check the Indexes for more details): material in the Sarolea Collection, Sar.coll.2 and Sar.coll.82/2 and Sar.coll.136; letter of his in the Papers and Correspondence of Arthur Berriedale Keith (1879-1944), GB 0237 Gen. 140-153; letters to, at Gen. 756, no.31 and no.220; letter written on his behalf, January 1907, at Gen. 1995/69. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes over 100 other collections of Balfour material. Those in Scotland include: correspondence and papers, 1869-1930, at the National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD433/2 NRA 10026 Balfour, and correspondence with Lord Lothian, 1917-1928, Ref. GD40 NRA 10737 Kerr; letters to Sir Henry Craik, 1890-1920, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division Ref. MSS 7174 Passim, and letters to Sir Charles Dalrymple, 1885-1905, Ref. Acc 7228 8987 NRA 17690 Dalrymple, and correspondence with Arthur Elliott, 1891-1916, Ref. MS 19488, and letters (17) to A. C. Fraser, 1880-1909, Ref. Dep 208 NRA 27273 Fraser, and correspondence with Lord Haldane, 1892-1928, Ref. MSS 5903-17, and letters (11) to Sir George Henschel, 1895-1911, Ref. Acc 6211 NRA 29200 Henschel, and letters to Alexander Murray, 1910-1918, Ref. MSS 8802 8806, and correspondence with Lord Rosebery and some papers relating to Donald Macleod, 1895-1926, Ref. MSS 10101-10131, 9657, 9812-27 Passim; letters (12) to Sir James Donaldson, 1886-1904, St Andrews University Library, and correspondence with Wilfrid Ward, 1894-1916, Ref. NRA 26993 Ward; letters (16) to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, 1895-1927, Edinburgh City Archives Ref. qYAS 122P; letters to James Parker Smith, 1900-1910, Glasgow City Archives, Ref. TD1 NRA 20864 Smith.