Catalogue description Avon Papers (Personal and political papers of Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon)

This record is held by University of Birmingham: Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections

Details of AP
Reference: AP
Title: Avon Papers (Personal and political papers of Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon)

Personal and political papers of Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, MP, and papers of the Eden family, 1760-1980 (predominantly 1904-1977).

The political and official papers include material relating to the offices he held: Secretary of State for the Dominions, 1939; Secretary of State for War, 1940; Foreign Secretary, 1941-1945 and 1951-1955; and Prime Minister, 1955-1957. The collection also includes private political and general correspondence, political diaries and notebooks, constituency correspondence, papers relating to elections; and texts and recordings of his speeches. These papers are of outstanding importance for the understanding of relationships in British conservative politics between 1925 and 1960 and include material ranging from his involvement with the Midlands, as an MP for Warwick & Leamington to world diplomatic manoeuvres from Locarno to Suez. Most Conservative politicians of significance for 40 years are represented in the collection as well as many minor figures. The collection also includes papers relating to his chancellorship of the University of Birmingham and other offices.

Personal papers include correspondence, papers relating to his education, press cuttings, photographs, personal diaries, materials relating to his publications, letters of congratulation, best wishes etc on significant events in his career.

Family papers include some 18th century family documents; letters and other papers of his mother, Lady Sybil Eden; and correspondence with his brothers, Timothy and Nicholas, his wives, Beatrice Eden and Clarissa Eden, his sons, Simon and Nicholas and other relatives.

Date: 1760 - 1984

Arranged into 41 series

Held by: University of Birmingham: Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Eden, Robert Anthony, 1897-1977, UK politician and Prime Minister

Physical description: 570 boxes
Access conditions:

Written application for access to the collection, accompanied by a letter of introduction, is required in advance in order to obtain permission of the Avon Trustees. Once approval has been granted, the collection is freely accessible to all registered readers. Current University of Birmingham staff or current University of Birmingham students do not need to submit this statement or letter of introduction. Further details:

Access to parts of this collection is restricted and some personal and financial material is not available for consultation during Lady Avon's lifetime. This material includes some papers in AP20 and AP22 and all material in AP31, AP35, AP36, AP37, AP39 and AP40. Some letters of the Royal family (AP30) and a few other papers (AP/32/42/9-15b) have also been withdrawn from access at the request of the Cabinet Office.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The first gift of papers to the University of Birmingham was made in 1971 and was marked by a formal ceremony in the Main Library on 15 November. Subsequent deposits were received over the next 15 years, the last being made in 1987, following the publication of Robert Rhodes James's biography of Eden in October 1986.

  • politics
Unpublished finding aids:

A full catalogue of this collection is available at

Administrative / biographical background:

(Robert) Anthony Eden was born 12 June 1897 at Windlestone Hall near Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham, one of five children of Sir William Eden and Sybil Frances (daughter of Sir William Grey). He was educated at Eton and then joined the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1915. He was awarded the MC in 1917 and in 1918 became the youngest brigadier-major in the British Army. After the war he went up to Christ Church, Oxford, graduating with first class honours in oriental languages in 1922.

He stood as Conservative candidate in the general election of November 1922 for the seat of Spennymoor, Co. Durham where he was unsuccessful. However, in 1923, he was adopted for the safe constituency of Warwick & Leamington which he won at the next election and he served this constituency up until his retirement in1957. His lifelong political connection with foreign affairs began in 1926 as parliamentary private secretary to Sir Austen Chamberlain and in 1935, he became the youngest Foreign Secretary since the 18th century. His political career seemed at risk when he resigned from the government in February 1938 because of his disagreement with Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy. However, he was recalled to office on the outbreak of war, briefly as Dominions Secretary and then as Foreign Secretary, under Winston Churchill, until the Conservative defeat in 1945. He served for the third time as Foreign Secretary between 1951 and 1955 and cultivated Britain's vital relations with the United States and western Europe. In April 1955, on Churchill's retirement, Eden succeeded as Prime Minister but within less than two years, he had retired due to ill-health and his career was overshadowed by the Suez crisis. He died 14 January 1977.

Eden became Lord Avon in 1961. He held a number of honorary degrees and other offices including Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, 1945-73, and President of the Royal Shakespeare Company, 1958-66.

He was married twice and had two sons by his first wife, Simon (killed in Burma in 1945) and Nicholas (died in 1985).

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