The Papers of John Maynard Keynes

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains both the economic and personal papers of J.M. Keynes, spanning his childhood and student days, his work for the India Office and Treasury, drafts and other materials associated with the great economic treatises that bear his name, and assorted papers pertaining to his involvement in various academic and financial enterprises. The series within this collection have been arranged under the following categories: General subjects (IA-HP), Visits (RV-AV), Articles, speeches and broadcasts (SS-L), Editorial responsibilities and society memberships (EJ-BAA), Business interests (NM-BE), Business personal (BP-SY), Educational interests (OC-UA), Personal papers (PP) and Miscellaneous papers (MM).

Administrative / Biographical History

John Maynard Keynes was born in Cambridge on 5 June 1883, the son of Florence and Dr. John Neville Keynes, fellow of Pembroke College and later University Registrar. He was educated at Eton, and came up to King's College, Cambridge as a scholar in 1902. After he was awarded his undergraduate degree, he entered the Home Civil Service and served for two years at the India Office. He left the civil service in 1908, however, when he became a fellow of King's College and remained so until his death. He was lecturer in Economics from 1911 to 1937 and in 1919 he also took on the post of Second Bursar of the college. In 1924 he began his memorable tenure as first bursar, changing completely the philosophy by which the college managed its assets, and in 1925, he married Lydia Lopokova.

Despite his retirement from the India Office, Keynes was to be found in London almost as often as in Cambridge, placing his services at the disposal of his government, particularly when called upon by the Treasury. He served on a number of government committees in the 1920s and 30s, but - as with everyone else - it was during the two world wars that most was demanded of Keynes. During World War I he became a civil servant in the Treasury and by 1917 had gained a position of some responsibility. He was the Treaury's representative at the peace conference that ended the war. At the invitation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Keynes placed his services at the disposal of his country again in 1940, after war had broken out a second time. As an advisor to the treasury, he was much involved in both the problems of war finance and plans for the later transistion from war to peace. Among other things, Keynes acted as one of the negotiatiors of Lend-Lease, and played a leading part at the Bretton Woods conference. He was rewarded for his serviced during the first war with a C.B., and during the second by elevation to the peerage, becoming Baron Keynes of Tilton.

It was not as a servant of college or country, however, that Keynes has made his name, but as a brilliant and original economist. Keynes was a prolific writer who preferred short, immediately relevant works to exhaustive theoretical tomes. He did not write his works with the intention that they should last forever, but wished only to ensure that the fiscal problems of the day were addressed as quickly and competently as possible. In the process he did, nevertheless, create something lasting - what we know call Keynesian economics - the cornerstone of which were his theories on saving and investment, and their relation to rising and falling prices. These were elaborated in his 'Treatise on money' (1930) and his later 'General theory of employment, interest and money' (1936). Through his leadership in a number of societies and his editorship of the 'Economic Journal' he had great influence on the next generation of economists, and through his editorship of the 'Nation and Athenaeum' and 'New Statesman and Nation' he influenced his contemporaries more widely.

He died on Easter Sunday, 21 April 1946, after several years of ill-health.

Conditions Governing Access

These papers are available for consultation at King's College, Cambridge, four days a week most of the year, by appointment only. For further details or to make an appointment please email

Acquisition Information

In his will, J.M. Keynes instructed his executors, Geoffey Keynes and Richard F. Kahn, to divide his papers in two on his death, into the 'personal' and 'economic', Keynes to take responsibility for the former and Kahn the latter. The will further directd that Geoffrey Keynes deposit his share in King's College Library and that on the executor's death ownership pass to the College. Subsequently smaller additions to the juvenilia, family papers and correspondence making up this part of the collection were made by members of the Keynes family. Richard F. Kahn was also instructed to hand over the much larger accumulation of writing and correspondence on economic theory, the economy and business affairs in his care, this time to the Marshall Library in the University's Faculty of Economics and Politics. In succeeding decades, further transfers of papers were made to the Marshall Library, the most significant in 1976 from Keynes' country house at Tilton, Sussex. It was during their time at the Marshall Library that selected economics papers became the core of the Royal Economic Society's edition of Keynes' works 'The collected writings of John Maynard Keynes' (30 vols., London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Cambridge University Press, 1971-89). In 1986, the Faculty Board of Economics and Politics presented its share to King's College Library, reuniting the entire collection in the Modern Archive Centre.

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue is available on the University of Cambridge's Janus web site (, and in hard copy in the College's Archive Centre. These copies have been indexed.

In addition, the papers transferred from the Marshall Library were accompanied by a useful index which is now held in the Modern Archive Centre. Since the reunion of the Keynes papers at King's, this index has been updated to take account of: 1) the reorganization and renumbering of certain sections of the collection; 2) the amalgamation of material from the later Tilton transfers with existing files on the same subject; and 3) the full listing of Keynes; personal correspondence, catalogued as JMK/PP/45. Index cards are arranged in alphabetical order by correspondent. Each card itemises the letters exchanged between the correspondent and Keynes, giving their dates and file references. Letters from persons writing on behalf of institutions, societies, businesses, etc., are often further indexed under the name of the organisation. Insitutional entries of this kind are cross-referenced back to the personal names of their representatives on the card's reverse.

Archivist's Note

The first summary lists of the Keynes Papers were undertaken at King's College and the Marshall Libraries in the mid 1950s by, respectively, A.N.L. Munby and Mrs. MacDonald. Both parts of the collection were extensively consulted on the basis of these lists. On their amalgamation at King's College, however, the opportunity was taken to produce an integrated, more detailed catalgue; one which would take account of the accumulation of material since the initial transfer and recognise that the division between the economic and personal had resulted in anomalies. Completed in 1993, the new catalogue, for the material formerly housed in the Marshall Library (broadly JMK/IA-UA), retained the arrangement of the earlier list where material was filed by subject. Within subject headings, however, certain files were reorganised, their contents amalgamated with files on the same subjects from later transfers, especially those items previously catalogued as JMK/MM, and their descriptions enlarged. The original box list of the personal papers (JMK/PP) was completely reworked. In certain cases to improve coherence, material was moved from one economics section to another or from the personal to the economics parts of the collection. The former document references in this catalogue can aid in tracing these alterations in position. Earlier versions of the catalogues of the Keynes Papers are also available for consultation in hard copy in the Modern Archive Centre.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to quote in print from the unpublished papers, apply to the First Bursar, King's College, Cambridge CB2 1ST. For permission to quote in print from those writing of Keynes which were part of the 'Collected writings' series, contact the archivist for further details.

Related Material

The King's College Archive Centre also holds the papers of Lydia Lopokova Keynes, wife of J.M. Keynes, famous in her own right as a ballet dancer. These were formerly considered part of the papers of J.M. Keynes and had the reference JMK/LLK. With this version of the Keynes catalogue, however, the decision was made to begin listing the papers of Lydia Keynes separately. They are now catalogued as King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge, LLK. For more information, see the separate catalogue.


The biographical information above has been taken from the 'Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-50', ed. L.G. Wickham Legg and E.T. Williams, pp. 452-7 and 'John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946: Fellow and Bursar' (Cambridge: printed for King's College, 1949).