Rowse Papers

Scope and Content

This small collection consists of various editions of Shakespeare plays and sonnets (Arden, Warwick, Chambers, New Penguin, Pelican, Cambridge etc.) c1922-1982, which belonged to Rowse himself. The volumes contain many annotations by Rowse, mainly giving a commentary on his opinion of various different editions.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alfred Leslie Rowse (1903-1997), historian, poet, diarist, biographer and critic, was born in Tregonissey near St. Austell, Cornwall, to Dick Rowse (china-clay worker) and Annie Vaston. He attended St. Austell grammar school and won a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, gaining a first class honours degree in history in 1925 when he was also elected Fellow of All Souls (the first man from a working-class background to do so). It was during this period that he established so many of the social contacts with academic, political and literary circles within which he was to move for the remainder of his life. He stood unsuccessfully for parliament at Penryn and Falmouth in 1931 and 1935. He became Sub-Warden of the All Souls but was defeated in his election as Warden in 1952, shortly after which he retired to Trenarren, his Cornish home, for the remainder of his life.

He began to publish relatively late in life, with his first commercial full-length historical monograph Sir Richard Grenville of the Revenge being published in 1937. Tudor Cornwall (1941) further strengthened his reputation and readership. He produced a tremendous output of works on both history and Shakespeare between the 1950s and 1980s, and published 65 of his 105 books after the age of 65.

He was awarded an Honorary doctorate by the University of Exeter in 1960, was elected to Athenaeum under Rule II in 1972, received the Benson Medal of the Royal Society of Literature in 1982 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1996, a year before his death in 1997.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.


Description compiled by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 20 April 2004, and encoded into EAD 2 June 2004.

Other Finding Aids

Currently unlisted.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Purchased by the University Library in 2001.

Related Material

The Rowse Collection is also held at Exeter University Library (EUL MS 113), and is the main collection of personal and research papers relating to Rowse which was bequeathed to the University on his death.

Other Rowse papers are held at the following repositories: Sussex University Library Special Collections; King's College London (Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives); British Library (Modern English and Reader Services); Wightwick Manor and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office.


Not known.

Geographical Names