Sunday, 29 June 2014

At the R H Tawney Archive

 A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify itself for making their life a hell in this.    R H Tawney.

It is not often I get the chance or the time to examine primary sources. It was therefore too good an opportunity to pass up when a passing remark from academic researcher Chris Thompson led me to investigate the large collection of the R H Tawney archives held at the London School of Economics.

I last visited the archive when it was in some little room in the basement of the prestigious university. It has been given a long-overdue makeover and is now part of The Women's Library which was saved from homelessness by the intervention of the LSE.

I will not go into details of the collection as a simple search of the Library website will give you a detailed list of what is in the archive.

The archivists have been thorough and the documents are presented in easy to access boxes. Some of Tawney’s notes including lecture notes are in delicate condition. His notes are both handwritten and typescript. It would appear that Tawney typed some of his notes on rice paper. The archive contains some 188 boxes.

I plan to spend some time at the archive as I would like to examine Tawney’s papers concerning the Gentry controversy. 

I must admit that I still get a thrill at examining archives that have not been widely accessed. God forbid that everything becomes digitized and archives become surplus to research requirements.