The Pledge Papers

Scope and Content

The groups into which the collection has been arranged are:

I, items 1 to 5, Biographical

II, items 6 and 7, Bibliographies

III, items 8 to 13, Articles, addresses, essays: drafts, proofs and correspondence

IV, items 14 to 20, Manuscript drafts and synopses

V, items 21 to 26, Drafts and notes for an unpublished collection of 'Maxims'

VI, items 27 to 199, Working papers and notes. Some of these notes were probably assembled for Science since 1500; but most are related to Pledge's projected synthesis of knowledge. His wide range of reading and thinking produced copious notes, which he re-arranged and reallocated according to an increasingly elaborate system. The many plans he devised show the scale of his intention and the problems he encountered.

VII. Correspondence: 32 letters

Administrative / Biographical History

Humphrey Thomas Pledge (1903-1960) was educated at Tonbridge School and Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining a first class degree in the Natural Sciences Tripos, in 1925. After a year as an assistant master at the Wrekin School, he joined the Science Museum Library in 1926 as an assistant keeper. He rose to be Keeper in 1945, dying in office in 1960, the year in which he was awarded the CBE. Pledge is best known for his book Science since 1500, London: HMSO, 1939, 2nd ed. 1966. From about 1940 he was absorbed in an ambitious writing project which would be both an encyclopaedia of world history and an interpretation and synthesis of knowledge. An obituary notice by A. C. Townsend appeared in Library Association Record, 63 (4) (April 1961), 145.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in 1974.


Prepared by John Farrant, September 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Custodial History

Mrs Ruth Pledge donated this collection of her late husband's papers to the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in Oxford, in 1970. The CSAC sorted and listed the collection, and deposited the papers in the University of Sussex in 1974.