Papers of Sir Reginald Coupland

Scope and Content

The majority of the papers relate to the history of the British Empire and Commonwealth, with particular reference to Africa, Canada and India. Also included is material dating from 1907-1914 (whilst Coupland was at Trinity College, Oxford); a collection of cuttings (mainly articles and reviews by Coupland or about his work); a little printed material associated with his visit to Jerusalem in 1936-1937 as a member of the Palestine Royal Commission, and letters of congratulation on being awarded the KCMG.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Reginald Coupland was born on the 2 August 1884 in London, England. He was educated at Winchester, and New College, Oxford. From 1907-1914 he was Fellow and Lecturer in Ancient History at Trinity College, Oxford. His interest turned from ancient history to the study of the British Empire, and in 1913 he succeeded Lionel Curtis as Beit Lecturer in Colonial History at Oxford. In 1920 he was elected Beit Professor of Colonial History, a Chair he held until his resignation in 1948. His Chair carried with it a professorial fellowship at All Souls College which he valued highly.

During the years of World War II Coupland devoted much time to the study of India, visiting the country twice. In 1942 he was appointed a member of Sir Stafford Cripps' Mission to India, and his contribution to the study of Indian politics - his Report on the Constitutional Problem in India- was published in 3 parts during 1942-1943. His other principal excursion into politics was his appointment to membership of the Royal Commission on Palestine of 1936-1937, set up under the chairmanship of Lord Peel.

In the years after 1945 Coupland was drawn to the study of nationalism in the Commonwealth. He planned a series of volumes on this theme but failing health meant that he only completed one volume - Welsh and Scottish Nationalism- the text of which he handed to his publisher on the day before he died. The book, which deals with much little known material, was published posthumously in 1954.

Coupland was one of the original founders of the Honour School of philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford in the years after World War I, and he was also associated with the early years of Nuffield College, of which he was a professorial fellow from 1939 to 1950. For his services on the Lee commission he was appointed CIE in 1928. In 1944 he was appointed KCMG. His distinction as an historian was recognised by an honorary D.Litt. from Durham (1938) and by election to a fellowship of the British Academy in 1948.

Coupland died suddenly on the 6 November 1952 as he embarked at Southampton on a voyage to South Africa.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Marion Lowman, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Administrative/Biographical History compiled with reference to the Dictionary of National Biography.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room and a handlist is also available for this collection.

Listed as no. 8 in Manuscript Collections (Africana and non-Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Supplementary accessions to the end of 1977 and Cumulative Index, compiled by Wendy S. Byrne (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1978).

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Geographical Names