Papers of Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Eng. hist. a. 20; c. 651-85; d. 363
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      37 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

The collection consists principally of political correspondence, but there are also some family letters. Special interest attaches to the correspondence with Ponsonby's brother, Frederic Edward Grey Ponsonby, 1st Baron Sysonby, who was assistant private secretary to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.

Administrative / Biographical History

Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede (1871-1946) joined the diplomatic service in 1894, but resigned in 1902 after pressing unsuccessfully for reforms to the service. From 1903 he worked in Liberal Party headquarters and stood unsuccessfully as Liberal candidate for Taunton in the General Election of 1906. He was principal private secretary to the prime minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1906-8) and on Campbell-Bannerman's death in 1908 was elected his successor as member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs, a seat he held until 1918. He was an outspoken pacifist during the First World War and took an active part in the Union of Democratic Control, factors which led to his defeat in the General Election of 1918. He was Labour MP for the Brightside division of Sheffield from 1922 to 1930, when he was created a baron. He was under-secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1924; Parliamentary under-secretary for the Dominions, June-December 1929; Parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Transport, 1929-31; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1931; Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, 1931-35. He resigned from the leadership of the Labour Party in the House of Lords, in 1935 in protest at the party's foreign policy, and resigned from the party altogether on the formation of the Coalition Government in 1940. He took part in the Peace Pledge Union and other pacifist activities prior to, and during, the Second World War. He published numbers of books and articles and was an occasinal broadcaster on the BBC. Further details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

Ponsonby's papers were given to the Bodleian Library in 1971 by his son, the 2nd Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede.


Collection level description created by Emily Tarrant, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue is available in the Library.