Catalogue description British Museum (Natural History): Unofficial Archives: Correspondence of Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967), ornithologist

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Details of DF 5003
Reference: DF 5003
Title: British Museum (Natural History): Unofficial Archives: Correspondence of Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967), ornithologist

The correspondence consists of a single volume containing official receipts from the Museum for donations (1914-1956), drafts of his critical memoranda on the state of the Museum (1939-1945), letters from Museum staff and trustees on his collections from the Hogga Mountains, Algeria (1931-1932), and correspondence on the disposal of his bird collection (1950-1954). The circumstances of presentation are not known.

Date: 1914-1961
Held by: Natural History Museum Library and Archives, not available at The National Archives
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Richard Meinertzhagen, 1878-1967

Physical description: 1 volume(s)
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Publication note:

Cocker, M, 'Richard Meinertzhagen, soldier, scientist and spy', Secker & Warburg, 1989.

Administrative / biographical background:

Richard Meinertzhagen was born in London and educated at Harrow School and the University of Göttingen. He spent much of his childhood at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire, and became a keen ornithologist. He joined the army in 1899, serving in India and East Africa, and as Intelligence Officer with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and in Allenby's Palestine Campaign. Meinertzhagen was in the intelligence branch of GHQ in France, and attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. He held military posts at the Foreign Office until 1925, when he retired to devote himself to ornithology. For the rest of his long life, Meinertzhagen travelled in north Africa and the Middle East, studying and collecting birds, although he retained an involvement with military intelligence and the secret service. He published a series of autobiographical diaries, as well as papers in The Ibis and books on the birds of Arabia and elsewhere. He was Vice-President and medallist of the British Ornithologists' Union and President of the British Ornithologists' Club. He was made a CBE for his services to ornithology.

Meinertzhagen was associated with the Museum throughout his life, and was a regular visitor to the Bird Room for nearly sixty years. It was not an easy relationship: he was often fiercely critical of the Museum, and his own conduct gave cause for concern on several occasions. In spite of this he was made an Honorary Associate, and presented his library and collections of birds, insects and plants in 1950 and 1954. Since his death evidence has emerged that many of his bird skins were stolen or had been given false localities.

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