Catalogue description Papers of Edward Thurlow Leeds

This record is held by Oxford University: Ashmolean Museum, Department of Antiquities

Details of ETL
Reference: ETL
Title: Papers of Edward Thurlow Leeds

Most of the papers in this collection are the archaeological and working papers of Edward Thurlow Leeds, although some personal papers are included. The working papers are arranged by archaeological period and include record sheets of artefacts seen or sites visited by Leeds, lecture notes, draft manuscripts and proof copies of some of Leeds' many publications, photographs, drawings and many notes.There is a separate section of correspondence, though a significant number of letters may be found within his working papers, since this was how Leeds himself stored them. There is a comprehensive series of notebooks created by Leeds in the course of his archaeological research which include records of visits to museums and excavation sites, vocabulary lists, an address book and some pages of a journal. The personal papers include family letters, news cuttings collated by Leeds and records of his membership of Oxford University Anthropological Society. A final section contains papers relating to the publication of a Festschrift in honour of Edward Thurlow Leeds.

Date: 1889-1956

The arrangement is partly based on the surviving original order whereby some of Leeds' working papers were still stored as he had left them. Leeds had divided these papers by archaeological period and had created a filing system of labelled envelopes within designated boxes. The rest of the papers had evidently undergone complete disruption making it impossible to recreate their original order, and so the arrangement is also based on an attempt to reflect Leeds' major research subjects and interests. The collection is divided into 3 sections with Archaeological and Working papers being the largest and divided into 8 series, Publications in honour of Leeds has one series and Personal papers is organised by subject files.

Related material:

Other Leeds papers in the Department of Antiquities include a large number of letters to him as a member of the Department and as Keeper of the Museum. These letters are mostly research enquiries and are scattered throughout the 'object files', a current filing system maintained by the Department of Antiquities. There are also Leeds papers within a series of topographic files, where correspondence, index slips and records of artefacts created by Leeds were removed from his papers and used to form the basis of this filing system. The series is arranged alphabetically by place and includes papers of many others in addition to Leeds. (See catalogue list held by the Department). There are also some letters to Leeds within the 'War time History' file and obituary notices and news cuttings in the 'E.T. Leeds personal file' both held by the Department. The Department also holds a number of glass slides which belonged to him. Other Leeds papers in the Ashmolean include a number of coin catalogues, notes and correspondence regarding numismatics which are held by the Heberden Coin Room. Contact the Coin Room staff for further details. Additional Leeds material within Oxford University includes the desk diaries kept by Leeds when he was Keeper of the Ashmolean. These are held by the University Archives and cover the years 1928-1942, reference AM48/1-15 with some entries by Leeds in the desk diary of 1927 which records Hogarth's death, AM47/17. The Department of Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library holds letters from T.E. Lawrence to E.T. Leeds (Dep. c. 760, fols. 1-160) together with transcripts of letters from Lawrence to Leeds, 1910-1917 (MS. Eng. d. 3337), the Bodleian Library also holds bundles of notes relating to various Leeds families.

Held by: Oxford University: Ashmolean Museum, Department of Antiquities, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Leeds, Edward Thurlow, 1877-1955, archaeologist

Physical description: 10 series
Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers came to the Ashmolean Museum as part of the bequest of Edward Thurlow Leeds. In his will Leeds left any archaeological books, pamphlets, manuscripts or papers that remained in his possession at the time of his death to the Ashmolean Museum. The Ashmolean Library took such printed material as was required; this is now incorporated into the collection of the Sackler Library. Papers and manuscripts which remained with the Department of Antiquities form the basis of this catalogue.

  • Archaeology
Administrative / biographical background:

Edward Thurlow Leeds was born in Eyebury, Peterborough on 29 July 1877, the second son of Alfred Nicholson Leeds, a palaeontologist and Fellow of the Geological Society, and his wife Ferrier. He was educated at Uppingham School before becoming a classical scholar at Magdalene College, Cambridge. After his graduation in 1899, Leeds' first post was as a cadet in the Federated Malay States Civil Service, which took him to China for two years to learn the language. Ill health ended this career path in 1903 and in his five years of convalescence, Leeds spent much time on geological work in the gravel pits at Eyebury where his interest in archaeology developed. In 1908, Leeds was appointed an Assistant Keeper in the Ashmolean Museum by the then Keeper, Arthur J Evans. Later the same year Evans resigned the Keepership and the museum was reorganised resulting in Leeds becoming the Assistant Keeper of the Department of Antiquities under D.G. Hogarth. Throughout this period of his Assistant Keepership Leeds' main research was on Anglo-Saxon archaeology. In 1928, Leeds became Keeper of the Ashmolean and of the Department of Antiquities after the death of Hogarth in November 1927; he held both offices until his retirement in 1945. Even after his retirement Leeds continued to work in the Ashmolean, where he catalogued collections of Chinese, Annamese and Korean coins in the Heberden Coin Room. Leeds received several academic honours; he delivered the Rhind lectures to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1935 and was elected to a Fellowship of Brasenose College in 1938 before becoming an Honorary Fellow in 1946. He was also elected as an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1955. Leeds was active in the Society of Antiquaries, where he was elected a Fellow in 1910 and served as Vice President from 1929 to 1932. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Society in 1946. As an archaeologist and scholar, Leeds was best known for his contribution to Anglo-Saxon studies. He was the first to integrate documentary and archaeological evidence to study the historical past with particular reference to Oxfordshire, the first to excavate an Anglo-Saxon settlement site (at Sutton Courtenay) and he invested much time in the study of Anglo-Saxon settlement in Britain. Leeds was also a prolific excavator in Oxfordshire after the First World War and is considered as instrumental in establishing modern archaeological research in the Oxford district. He was responsible for helping to refound the Oxford University Archaeological Society after the First World War. Leeds was also interested in other archaeological periods and wrote many papers on Neolithic and Bronze Age subjects, Iron Age and medieval and later archaeology. His medieval and early modern work included studies on Oxford where Leeds researched taverns in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and established a system for dating early English glass wine bottles. Leeds was also very interested in numismatics and was able to put his proficiency with Chinese and many European languages to good use in cataloguing and arranging coin collections. Leeds was the author of four major works; The Archaeology of the Anglo-Saxon Settlements (1913), Celtic Ornament in the British Isles down to AD 700 (1933), Early Anglo-Saxon Art and Archaeology [Rhind Lectures] (1936) and A Corpus of Early Anglo-Saxon Great Square-headed Brooches (1949). He also published numerous other archaeological and scientific papers, notes and reviews. Edward Thurlow Leeds married Alice Marjory Wright in 1925 and he died at his home in Oxford on 17 August 1955.

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