Archive of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning

Scope and Content

The papers of the Society include:  

  • General files on the foundation and early years of the Society, reports and minutes of its committees and other meetings.
  • Correspondence with the Society's councillors and officers.
  • Financial records, including ledgers and annual balance sheets form 1933 to 1977.
  • Subject files, arranged alphabetically by file title, including correspondence concerning the Society's main fund-raising appeals in the 1930s, papers relating to the 1940 internment crisis, and extensive lists and indexes of refugee scholars, arranged by subject, nationality and religion.
  • Correspondence with British organisations, which reflects the Society's co-operation with other national and local refugee organisations, national societies, government ministries, universities and colleges; and with Austrian, German, Czech and Polish support groups based in Britain.
  • Correspondence with overseas organisations, which throws light on the Society's links with international institutions such as the League of Nations and with refugee and other organisations in many countries, notably France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
  • Correspondence with individuals who helped the Society.
  • Publications about refugee problems.
  • Personal files on scholars assisted by the Society, which form the core of the archive. They are arranged alphabetically by person within subject discipline, from Archaeology to Theology with a medical sciences sub-series. The case files typically contain curricula vitae and references for the scholars, and correspondence relating to their removal from their country of origin and to their search for new employment. In some cases correspondence continued for many years, and files frequently include later press-cuttings and obituaries. The files thus contain a wealth of biographical information on a number of refugees, including many of the most eminent scholars in their fields.
  • Files containing correspondence with the Home Office on the naturalisation of foreign scholars, and files of articles and pamphlets published by the scholars.
  • Case files of individuals who applied to the Society, but who were not registered with or funded by them. These include academics who found other means of support, university research assistants and technicians, teachers in non-university institutions, and professional writers and lawyers.

The Society's history to 1958 was written by Lord Beveridge, and published as A defence of free learning (London, 1959). Sir Norman Bentwich's book, The rescue and achievement of refugee scholars (Amsterdam, 1953), sets the Society's work in the wider context of refugee assistance movements, although with some factual inaccuracies. Readers will also find useful information in the three volume International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigrs 1933-45, ed. H.A. Strauss and W. Rder (Munich, 1980-3).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Society for the Protection of Science and Leaning was founded in 1933 as the Academic Assistance Council, by a small group of academics. Aware of the potentially large-scale dismissal of university teachers by the Nazi regime in Germany, the council aimed to provide short-term grants for refugee lecturers, and to help them in finding new employment. This operation was funded with money raised by appeals to the academic community and others in Britain. In 1936, faced with growing demands on its services, the Council was more formally re-established as the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, with an advisory council, executive committee, grants allocation committee, and a small secretariat. By the outbreak of war, some 2000 individuals had been registered with the Society, the German refugees now being joined by those from Austria, Italy, Spain and a few from Soviet Russia. During the war years, the Society moved to Cambridge. Its financial support for refugees was largely taken over by the government through the Central Committee for Refugees. The Society could therefore devote its energies to finding war work for its grantees, and to alleviating the effects of the internment regulations on the many foreign scholars resident in Britain. The Society has maintained a continuous existence since 1945 assisting successive groups of emigr scholars from Hungary, Poland, Chile, South Africa and many other countries. In 1959 the Society was again reconstituted, this time as a registered company run by a council of management evolved form the previous executive committee. It is now called CARA (Council for Assisting Refugee Academics).

Conditions Governing Access

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

The Society's prior permission to use any information from the archive in published work, should be sought from the Society's Secretary.

Written permission should also be sought for access to material less than 30 years old, and to files relating to living persons.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the archive was deposited in the Library in 1958, for the use of Lord Beveridge. It was given to the Library in 1969, and has been augmented from time to time with batches of more recent papers, most recently with the case files of refugees from the Hungarian crisis of 1956.


Collection level description created by Emily Tarrant, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue is available in the Library. An online catalogue will shortly be available (