Hermann Georg Fiedler, Papers relating to

Scope and Content

Material relating to the establishment of the University of Birmingham and the subsequent development of the School of Modern Languages within the Faculty of Arts. Includes a sizeable collection of letters to and from Hermann Georg Fiedler and his father-in-law, Charles Harding. Correspondents include Joseph Chamberlain as well as academics from both within the University of Birmingham and elsewhere. The letters contain important material relating to the foundation of the university and, in particular, the establishment of a School of Modern Languages which Fiedler and Harding both promoted passionately.

The papers, especially the Fiedler Harding letters, also make occasional references to wider issues relevant to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These issues include the political situation in Britain in the 1890s; pressure being applied to Fiedler to speak out against the pro-Boer press in Germany in January 1902; details of the first person to be awarded a Harding scholarship, a woman, to the partial dismay of Fiedler; and references to a performance of Edward Elgar's choral work, 'The Apostles' in 1903. These letters also include a sketch tracing of the proposed site for the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hermann Georg Fiedler (1862-1945) was born in Zittau, Germany and was awarded his doctorate from Leipzig. He was renowned for his efforts to promote a strong intercultural relationship between Germany and Britain.

Fiedler was elected to the German professorship at Mason College, a predecessor college of the University of Birmingham, in October 1890. He was instrumental in establishing the University of Birmingham as a member of the initial committee of nine set up in 1894 by Robert Heath, the Principal of Mason College, for the promotion of a Midland University. He was also a member of subsequent committees devoted to expanding the activity of Mason College and played a fundamental part in the creation of the school of modern languages.

In July 1907 he was appointed to the new chair of German at Oxford. In 1926 he became secretary to the curators of the Taylor Institution in Oxford. In this position he dedicated himself to the improvement of the library and supervised the erection of extensions which were opened by the Prince of Wales in 1932.

In 1899 Fiedler married his former pupil Ethel Mary (1871-1933), daughter of Charles Harding. The couple had two daughters, Herma Ethelfried (1902-1920) and Beryl (b 1913). The death of Herma on 2 May 1920 caused a period of severe depression for Ethel which continued until her death.

Charles Harding (1839-1905) was a significant contributor to the Mason College fund designed to establish the University at Birmingham. He provided scholarships for four students to study German Language and Literature once his son-in-law, Fiedler, had established the school of modern languages. After his death £10,000 was bequeathed to the university by his family to be used in establishing a library.

Sources: records of the University of Birmingham; Eric Ives, The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 (2000)


This collection forms part of the official archive of the University of Birmingham

Access Information

Access to all registered researchers

Acquisition Information

This collection was deposited by 1969

Other Finding Aids

Please see full catalogue for further details

Archivist's Note

Description prepared by Mark Eccleston, October 2012, in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; and National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Director of Special Collections (email: special-collections@contacts.bham.ac.uk). Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material


Further deposits are not expected

Related Material

Taylor Institution Library, Oxford, Archon Code: 486 (Diary of Ethel Mary Fiedler 1899-1922)

Location of Originals

London University Senate House Library, Archon Code: 96 (1930-33, 12 letters from Edward Elgar to Charles Long, MS 841)