Papers and Correspondence of Arthur Berriedale Keith (1879-1944)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The Papers and Correspondence of Arthur Berriedale Keith contain Colonial Office correspondence between 1901 and 1914; correspondence about constitutional matters from 1908 to 1939; correspondence, literary and general, with political figures such as R. Stafford Cripps and Herbert Samuel; material relating to the Government of India Bill, 1931-35, and to the Peace Treaty, 1919; news cuttings on Crown matters involving the abdication and coronation, 1936-37; material on Malta between 1924 and 1940; material on the Beaverbrook Case; material including correspondence with Muriel Blundell and Sylvia Pankhurst on British policy towards Italy after the invasion of Ethiopia; correspondence on the subject of Keith's revision of  The law and custom of the Constitution; oriental papers, correspondence, and a number of Sanskrit books; and, miscellaneous papers. There is also material relating to Keith's career.

The Burton addition to the papers includes several folders which contain offprints of articles written by Keith and more than 100 letters he wrote to the press. There are also copies of reviews of his books. There is substantial correspondence with his sister, and a collection of letters of recommendation and reference written early in his career. There are also materials related to his death and following. The Burton addition contains several folders which include copies of materials related to the receiving of an honorary degree from Leeds University, and a small group of letters written by Keith to his mother. Lastly, there is a group of material related to his death and to how various bequests were dealt with. There is a copy of his will.

Administrative / Biographical History

Arthur Berriedale Keith was a Barrister-at-law, and Advocate, Regius Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology at Edinburgh University, Lecturer on the Constitution of the British Empire, and was a Crown Member of the Governing Body of the School of Oriental Studies, London. Keith was born in Portobello, Edinburgh, on 5 April 1879. He was educated at the city's Royal High School and then at Edinburgh University and Balliol College, Oxford. From Edinburgh he was awarded a first class honours degree in Classics, M.A., 1879, and from Oxford a first class Classical Honours Moderates, 1899, a first class honours Oriental, Sanskrit and Pali, 1900, as well as taking a B.A., 1900, and first class Literae Humaniores, 1901. In 1901 he entered the Civil Service after establishing a record score in the entrance examinations. He chose the Colonial Office and served there until 1914. In addition to his work at the Colonial Office, Keith pursued and completed legal studies and was called to the bar at Inner Temple, 1904. From Oxford he was awarded Bachelor of Civil Law, 1905, and Doctor of Civil Law, 1911, and from Edinburgh, D.Litt., 1914. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates, 1921. During his Colonial Office career, Keith received thanks for his services in connection with the Alaska Boundary Arbitration, 1903. He was a representative at the Colonial Navigation Conference, 1907, Joint-Secretary to the Imperial Copyright Conference, 1910, Clerk at the Imperial Conference, 1907, and Junior Assistant Secretary to the Imperial Conference, 1911. He was also Private Secretary to Sir John Anderson, the permanent Under-Secretary of State. Having acquired a vast knowledge of the records of British imperial history, Keith decided to return to academic work and in 1914 he left London on his appointment as Regius Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology at Edinburgh University. From 1927 he also contributed to historical studies as a Lecturer on the Constitution of the British Empire. Keith made important contributions to Vedic and classical Sanskrit studies including the four volume  Catalogues of the Sanskrit and Prakrit MSS in the Bodleian and Indian Institute Libraries at Oxford (1904-11), editions of the  Aranyakas of the Rigveda 1908 and 1909,  The Samkhya System (1918, and 2nd ed. 1924), a translation of  Rig-Veda Brahmanas (1921), and a  History of Sanskrit literature (1928). He also published  Responsible government in the Dominions (1909, re-written and enlarged 1912, revised 1927, 1928),  Imperial unity and the Dominions (1916),  War government of the British Dominions (1921),  The sovereignty of the British Dominions (1929),  The governments of the British Empire (1935),  The King and the Imperial Crown (1936), and  A constitutional history of India, 1600-1935 (1936) He also re-wrote W. R. Anson's  Law and custom of the Constitution: The Crown (1935). As a public figure, many of his letters were published in  The Scotsman,  The Times, and the  Manchester Guardian. Arthur Berriedale Keith died in Edinburgh on 6 October 1944.

Conditions Governing Access

Contact the repository for details

Acquisition Information

After the death of Arthur Berriedale Keith in 1944 his sister, Nan Balfour Keith Dewar gave two different collections of his material to Edinburgh University Library. These included circa 2,500 books and pamphlets from his working library, mainly on Indian literature, history and politics, and the constitutional history of the British Empire, as well as the material in Gen. 140-153.

Following the death of Mrs. J. Walcot Burton [Margaret Stobie Drydale Burton] in the early 1990s, her daughter gave papers relating to Arthur Berriedale Keith to the Library. Mrs. Burton had been the daughter of Nan Balfour Keith Dewar, and so was Keith's niece.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist, H34; Another important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Related Material

The Index to Manuscripts shows, at various shelfmarks, references to additional MSS and letters, and 13 folders of the historical syntax of classical Greek at Dk.1.5-17. The books and pamphlets from his working library, mainly on Indian literature, history and politics, and the constitutional history of the British Empire are held at shelfmark Keith Coll.