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Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 MS 380710
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley
Date(s): c1910-1983
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 2 boxes
Name of creator(s): Turner | Sir | Ralph Lilley | 1888-1983 | Knight | Orientalist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born, 1888; educated at the Perse Grammar School; Christ's College, Cambridge (Senior Scholar); first class, Classical Tripos Part I, 1909; first class, Oriental Languages Tripos, 1910; first class, Classical Tripos Part II, 1911; awarded the Brotherton Memorial Sanskrit Prize; elected Fellow of Christ's College, 1912; Indian Educational Service Lecturer in Sanskrit at Queen's College, Benares, 1913; Wilson Philological Lecturer, Bombay University, 1914; served with the 2nd/3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles in Palestine and India, 1915-1919; awarded the Military Cross; twice mentioned in despatches; Examiner, Oriental Languages Tripos and Classical Tripos Part II, Cambridge; Professor of Indian Linguistics, Benares Hindu University, 1920-1922; Wilson Philological Lecturer, Bombay University, 1922; Professor of Sanskrit, School of Oriental Studies, University of London, 1922-1954; Philological Society Honorary Treasurer, 1931-1962, and President, 1939-1943; Director of the School of Oriental Studies, from 1938 the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), 1937-1957; under his Directorship the first department of the languages and cultures of Africa in a British university was begun, and the School moved from the City of London to Bloomsbury; during the Second World War, following his warnings that the forces lacked sufficient personnel trained in Asian languages, SOAS trained servicemen in Chinese and Japanese for intelligence work; elected Fellow of the British Academy, 1942; instrumental in the appointment of the Scarborough Commission (which was to recommend expanded provision in British universities for the study of Asia and Africa), 1944; subsequently engaged in implementing the Commission's recommendations at SOAS; Knight, 1950; Honorary Fellow, Christ's College, Cambridge, 1950; Royal Asiatic Society President, 1952-1955, Gold Medallist, 1953, and Honorary Vice-President, 1963; retired as Professor, 1954; Emeritus Professor, 1954; Honorary Fellow, SOAS, 1957; Honorary Fellow, Deccan College, Poona; member of the Inter-Services Committee on Language Training, Linguists' Committee of Ministry of Labour and National Service, Colonial Social Science Research Council, Advisory Committee on the Humanities of the British Council, Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies, Treasury sub-committee for studentships in foreign languages and cultures, and University Grants Committee sub-committee on Oriental and African Studies; member of various overseas learned societies in Europe, America and Asia; recipient of numerous medals, honorary degrees, and awards; died, 1983. Publications: various works on linguistic subjects, including Indo-Aryan languages, among them A Comparative and Etymological Dictionary of the Nepali Language (1931), and A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages (1966), with Indexes by his wife Lady Dorothy Rivers Turner (1969) and a Phonetic analysis (1971), and the posthumously-published Addenda, ed J C Wright (1985).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, c1910-1983, of Sir Ralph Turner.

Papers relating to his military experience comprise leave pass, Cambridge University Officer Training Corps, undated, c1910 (Ref: 1); volume containing manuscript 'Diary of Small Events', 1915-1917, compiled from war diary, battalion orders, Turner's letters, and diaries of other soldiers, containing brief entries on subjects including work and personnel changes, with some days blank (Ref: 2), and another volume containing a similar manuscript diary, 1917-1919 (Ref: 3); file containing typescript and manuscript notes, correspondence, maps, and other documents on military action in Egypt and the Middle East, 1915-1919, including personnel, awards and casualties, also including papers, 1919-1922, relating to a proposed history of the battalion 2nd/3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles (Ref: 4); file containing typescript and manuscript notes and texts and cutting on military action in Palestine, 1917-1918, including later copies of other participants' accounts (Ref: 5).

Language papers comprise a bound manuscript, 'Dv‚vimķatyavad‚na', 1911, collected from 9 manuscripts in various locations (Ref: 6); file on the Dv‚vimķatyavad‚nakath‚, containing loose manuscript and typescript notes and texts, undated (Ref: 7); notebook entitled 'Dv‚vŠķatyavad‚nakath‚ Notes', containing numbered manuscript notes (index), with additional notes inserted, undated (Ref: 8); postcard on language to Turner from Jules Bloch, 1913 (Ref: 9); file entitled 'IA Introduction', containing manuscript notes and texts on Indo-Aryan languages, including lectures, largely undated [1920s or after] (Ref: 10); draft letter from Turner to [Sir Edward Denison?] Ross, 1926, on Turner's edition of the Dvavimķatyavad‚nakath‚ manuscripts (Ref: 11); two letters from C E A W Oldham and three letters from Turner to Oldham, 1936, concerning place-names in Indic languages, and Turner's appointment [presumably as Director of the School of Oriental Studies] (Ref: 12); letter to Turner from J C Powell-Price, 1962, concerning various matters relating to India and Asia (Ref: 13); copy of a typescript foreword by J Brough to a collection of articles by Turner, undated [before 1983] (Ref: 14).

Copies of five plans and one drawn view of the School of Oriental Studies, 1938 (Ref: 15).

Papers relating to Turner's death comprise two letters from his daughter Audrey [Turner] to 'Clifford' [Wright?] concerning his death, 1983 (Ref: 16); printed order of thanksgiving service in memory of Turner, 1983 (Ref: 17).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, French, Sanskrit and other Indic languages

System of arrangement:

The papers comprise two boxes: MS 380710/1-5 (Box 1); MS 380710/6-17 (Box 2).

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from the South Asian Department, School of Oriental and African Studies, in two deposits in 1999 (Ref: MS 380710/1-7, 10-17) and 2000 (Ref: MS 380710/8-9).

Allied Materials

Related material:

The British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections, holds further papers of Sir Ralph Turner (Ref: MSS Eur D 1166).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; Who Was Who; National Register of Archives; British Library OPAC.

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:
Aug 2002

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