Papers of John Beddoe, 1826-1911

Scope and Content

The papers cover the period 1830-1907. They include correspondence, committee minutes, anthropological notes and data, lectures, notebooks, reprinted manuscripts, newspaper cuttings, pamphlets and sermons. The material on the Ethnographical and Anthropological Societies traces the growth of anthropological theory during the nineteenth century. The evolution of Beddoe's method and his raw data can be seen in a large amount of notes sent in by his correspondents and compiled by Beddoe himself, detailing his ethnographical and anthropological findings throughout the British Isles, Europe, America, the colonies, and India. He compiled extensive notes on the inhabitants of many British prisons and lunatic asylums during the 1860s. Beddoe's lectures and published papers show his work in the advancement of anthropology, as well as his knowledge of medicine. His notes demonstrate his other interests, such as Christian theology, archaeology and astronomy.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Beddoe was born at Bewdley, Worcestershire, in 1826 and died at Bradford-on-Avon in July 1911. He married Agnes Montgomerie Cameron in 1858, with whom he had one son and one daughter. He was educated at University College, London, where he received a BA in 1851. After this he read Medicine at Edinburgh, where he received his MD in 1853. He then became the House Physician at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. During the Crimean War, he served on the medical staff of a civil hospital before travelling to Vienna to complete his medical training. After an extended tour of Europe he returned to England and took up the practice of medicine in 1857 in Clifton, Bristol. From the period of 1862-73, he was physician to Bristol Royal Infirmary, and was Consulting Physician to the Bristol Children's Hospital from 1866-1911. In 1891 he retired from his practice in Bristol and settled in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire.

Beddoe was a pioneer of anthropological research and, though his work was little valued at the time, it would influence the development of anthropological science in Britain and Europe for over a century. His work began with observations of hair and eye colour in the west of England and Orkney. In 1853 he published "Contributions to Scottish Ethnology", which he addressed from a more advanced perspective in "A Last Contribution to Scottish Ethnology", published in 1908. During his travels through Europe after studying in Vienna, he conducted an enormous amount of anthropological and ethnological research, compiling a large amount of raw data. He was a founding member of the Ethnological Society in 1857, and was president of the Anthropological Society from 1869-70. He was president of the Royal Anthropological Institute from 1889-91, and served on the council of the British Association from 1870-75. Beddoe founded the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society in 1875, and was appointed honorary professor of Anthropology at the University of Bristol in 1908.

Access Information

Accessible to all bona fide readers

Acquisition Information

Given to the University of Bristol Special Collections in 1913


This description was compiled by Martin Hall, University of Bristol Special Collections Assistant Archivist

Other Finding Aids

Typescript catalogue available in the University of Bristol Special Collections

Conditions Governing Use

Permission must be obtained from Special Collections

Related Material

See DM 760 - a photograph believed to be of John Beddoe, taken by Villiers & Quick of Bristol in the 1870s.