Papers of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains general and political correspondence; files relating to Astor residences, including Cliveden; visitors' books 1906-1951 (MS 2421); constituency papers; election files; papers relating to Christian Science and other religious subjects; military reports 1914-1916; notes and speeches on political and social subjects; committee reports; agricultural notes, reports and correspondence; and papers relating to the temperance movement.

Administrative / Biographical History

Waldorf Astor was born in New York on May 19 1879. His father settled in England in 1889 and was created Viscount Astor in 1917. Waldorf Astor was educated at Eton and Oxford. In 1906 he married Mrs Nancy Witcher Shaw and received the house called Cliveden, near Taplow, Bucks., as a wedding present from his father

In 1910 Waldorf Astor became Conservative MP for Plymouth. He was also involved in public affairs through The Observer (owned by his father), and through membership of the Round Table Group. Prevented by poor health from serving in the armed forces during the First World War, he became an inspector of ordinance factories and held office as Parliamentary Secretary to Lloyd George (1917), at the Ministry of Food (1918) and at the Ministry of Health (1919-1921). On the death of his father in 1919 he succeeded to the title and resigned his seat in the House of Commons. His wife stood for the seat in his place and on winning the election became the first woman to sit in Parliament. The new Viscount Astor became a founder member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and an active supporter of the League of Nations. He also developed a keen interest in agriculture. The Astors hosted frequent gatherings of politicians, journalists and academics, and in the later thirties the 'Cliveden set' were known mainly for their advocacy of a policy of appeasement towards Hitler's Germany.

Lord Astor continued his association with Plymouth, holding the office of Lord Mayor from 1939 to 1944. He was the author or part author of several books, including Land and Life (1932), The Planning of Agriculture (1933), British Agriculture (1938), and Mixed Farming and Muddled Thinking (1946). Both he and his wife were Christian Scientists. He died at Cliveden on September 30 1952.

Arrangement

MS 1066 is broadly divided into general correspondence and personal papers, Plymouth affairs, political papers, files on Christian Science and religion, agricultural papers and files on the temperance movement. General correspondence is arranged first chronologically and then alphabetically by correspondent. Plymouth affairs include separate sequences on general constitutency matters and on bodies such as the Plymouth Astor Institute. Political files consist of election papers, speeches, and then a sequence of notes and reports arranged alphabetically by subject. Agricultural and temperance papers are similarly divided. A separate section at MS 2421 contains the visitors' books.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check http://www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/using/sc-using.asp for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Presented by the Trustees of the 2nd Viscount Astor, July 5 1971.

Note

Description prepared by Bridget Andrews.

Other Finding Aids

List available in the reading room.

Related Material

Reading University Library also holds the papers of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor (MS 1416).

Family Names