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British Library of Political and Economic Science

OAKESHOTT, Michael Joseph (1901-1990): political scientist


Reference code(s): GB 0097 OAKESHOTT

Held at: British Library of Political and Economic Science

Title: OAKESHOTT, Michael Joseph (1901-1990): political scientist

Date(s): c1880-c1995

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 51 boxes

Name of creator(s): Oakeshott | Michael Joseph | 1901-1990 | Professor | philosopher and political theorist
Letwin | Shirley Robin | d 1993 | political philosopher


Administrative/Biographical history:

Michael Oakeshott was born in Chelsfield, Kent, on 11 December 1901, the second of three sons of Joseph Francis Oakeshott, a civil servant and member of the Fabian Society, and his wife, Frances Maude Oakeshott (nee Hellicar). He was educated at St George's School Harpenden, a progressive co-educational school, and then read history at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, graduating in 1923. He went on to study in Germany, including the universities of Marburg and Tubingen. He also worked briefly as an English teacher at Lytham St Anne's Grammar School. In 1925 he was elected/appointed Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He enlisted as a gunner in the British Army in 1940 and by [1944] was in command of a squadron of GHQ Liaison ('Phantom') Regiment attached to the Canadian Second Army in Holland. He returned to Cambridge when the war ended in 1945. In 1949 he went to Oxford as a fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and in 1951 he was appointed to the chair of political science at the London School of Economics. In the early 1960s he established a one-year Master's degree seminar at the London School of Economics (LSE) on the history of political thought. He retired from the LSE in 1969, although he continued to preside over the history of political thought seminars until his late seventies.

In 1927, he married Joyce Margaret Fricker. They had one son, Simon, born in 1931. The marriage was dissolved in 1938 and in the same year he married Katherine Alice Burton. They divorced in 1951. In 1965, Oakeshott married Christel Schneider. He died at his home in Acton, near Langton Matravers, Dorset, on 18 December 1990.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers created by or collected by Michael Oakeshott, c1880-c1995, notably include manuscripts of both published and unpublished works; notebooks and notes; personal correspondence with colleagues and family; press cuttings; administrative papers relating to his education and career. Also include papers relating to Oakeshott collected or created by Shirley Letwin and others, including research papers for Shirley Letwin's proposed biography of Oakeshott.


Language/scripts of material: Mainly English, some French and German

System of arrangement:

The collection has been arranged in sections as follows: 1. Manuscripts; 2. Notebooks; 3. Other Notes: 4. Press Cuttings: 5. St George's School: 6. Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; 7. Army Service; 8. London School of Economics; 9. Personal Correspondence: Family; 10. Personal Correspondence: Other; 11. Other Correspondence; 12. Photographs; 13. Miscellaneous; 14. Obituaries and Appreciations; 15. Shirley Letwin's Papers; 16. Kenneth Minogue's Papers.

The papers were not ordered in any particular way when they were deposited at the Library, so the arrangement of material within files and the arrangement of files into sections is largely one that has been imposed during cataloguing.

A small amount of material was found stored in files; the arrangement of papers within these files has been preserved as far as possible. Publication details of material are given where known, but are not comprehensive.

Some additional papers were deposited after the main collection was catalogued and have been added into additional sections as follows: 17. Miscellaneous Additional; 18. Additional papers found by Josiah Lee Auspitz at Victoria Cottage; 19. Papers donated by Elaine Sternberg

Conditions governing access:

Mainly open; some items closed.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Most items can be photocopied, subject to handling and copyright restrictions. No material may be published without the prior permission of both the copyright holder and the Library. All applications for publication must be made to the Archivist in the first instance, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


No further accruals are expected.

Archival history:

After Oakeshott's death, the papers were moved from his cottage in Dorset to the London home of Shirley Letwin, Oakeshott's literary executor. The papers were used there by Letwin and Timothy Fuller, who both edited volumes of previously unpublished works by Oakeshott. Letwin also began work on a biography of Oakeshott, but died in 1993, before having completed the research for it.

Oakeshott's papers, along with Shirley Letwin's research papers on Oakeshott, remained in the care of Shirley Letwin's husband, William Letwin, until 1997, when they were deposited at the British Library of Political and Economic Science via Kenneth Minogue.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by Professor Kenneth Minogue.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Sources: Copied from LSE Archives CALM database.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Feb 2008

Biographies | Prose | Literary forms and genres | Literature
Letter writing | Writing | Communication skills | Communication process
Manuscripts | Documents | Information sources
Politics | Political science
Press cuttings | Newspaper press | Press
Research work

Personal names
Letwin | Shirley Robin | d 1993 | political philosopher
Oakeshott | Michael Joseph | 1901-1990 | Professor | philosopher and political theorist

Corporate names