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Anthroposophical Society

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2627
Held at: Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain
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Full title: Anthroposophical Society
Date(s): 1911-2003
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: approximately 75 boxes
Name of creator(s): Anthroposophical Society of Great Britain | 1911-
The English Section of the General Anthroposophical Society | 1930-[1971]


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Anthroposophical Society was founded at the Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland in 1913. It had its origins in the spiritual philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). He called his philosophy `anthroposophy', meaning `wisdom of the human being'. Born in 1861, in what is now Croatia, Steiner studied science and philosophy in Vienna, and published his first philosophical treatise The Philosophy of freedom in 1894.

He based his work on direct knowledge and perception of spiritual dimensions. From his spiritual investigations Steiner provided suggestions for the renewal for many activities including education, agriculture, medicine, economics, architecture, science, philosophy, religion and the arts. In 1924, he founded the General Anthroposophical Society to which national Societies are linked. In Britain, H Heywood-Smith came across Steiner's work at the Theosophical Society rooms in London in 1908. He set about finding English translations of Steiner's other writings, and obtained permission to form a Group of the Theosophical Society to study Steiner's work - the Rosicrucian Group, in August 1911. That same year Heywood-Smith visited Berlin to hear Steiner lecture.

When the group outgrew the home of Heywood-Smith, they moved their meetings to the studio of Harry Collison, portrait painter. By May 1912, the group had 64 members. In 1913 Steiner visited England and lectured to the Anthroposophical groups.

In the 1920, Vera Compton-Burnett, her sister Juliet, and Dorothy Osmond (former head librarian at the Theosophical Society headquarters), visited the Goetheanum at Dornach, Switzerland, and met Rudolf Steiner. They began to take steps to form an Anthroposophical Association in Britain from the three existing study groups. Collison, meanwhile, had collected a small library, and a rented a studio in South Kensington was established as a headquarters with a central library of both English and German works. This Association increased in size when Daniel Dunlop and a number of others resigned from the Theosophical Society and joined the Anthroposophical Society. In the early 1920s, the studio was no longer adequate in size to hold their meetings, and they relocated to premises at 46 Gloucester Place.

In 1922, Steiner visited Britain again, and gave lectures at Stratford-on-Avon, Oxford, Ilkley, Torquay, and London. The following year, he visited several countries to be present at founding of their national Anthroposophical Societies, which were to be linked together in the General Anthroposophical Society (GAS). The Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain was re-founded at this time. Rudolf Steiner House, at 35 Park Rd, London was opened in 1926, with additional rooms added in 1932.

In 1930, a group of over a hundred members led by Collison seceded from the AS in Great Britain and formed the English Section of the General Anthroposophical Society. This group eventually reunited with the main organisation.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain (AS in GB) and its predecessors comprising:

biographical material relating to Rudof Steiner, - mostly printed, (undated);

General Anthroposophical Society (GAS) and the AS in GB statutes, membership cards, introductory booklets, 1920s-1930s;

papers relating to the history of the General Anthroposophical Society from the German Section of the Theosophical Society, mainly printed, 1911-1923;

papers relating to the history of the AS in GB from the Theosophical Society - 1920s, including minutes, reports, correspondence, notices balance sheets, etc;

papers relating to the history of the AS in GB - 1930s, including annual reports, correspondence, notices, minutes;

papers relating to the History of the AS in GB - 1940s-1980s including reports of AGMS, balance sheets, correspondence, notices, and related papers;

papers relating to activities in other London venues including The English Section of the GAS including programmes for lectures 1921-1980, world conference, 1928; summer schools, 1920s-1930s; public conferences, 1922-1990s; English Section Events, 1935-1970;

minutes of Trustees of the English Section of the GAS, 1960-1970; account books and membership records of the English Section, 1951-1971; Newsletter of the English Section, 1940-1970 (incomplete); 2 day books of the English Section Library, 1934-1939;

papers relating to regional Groups and activities of the AS in GB including correspondence relating to groups, 1920s-1930s; lectures given in various cities, 1930s; Northern Regional Group meetings, 1930; Programmes and correspondence relating to individual groups, 1920s-1930s including Aberdeen, Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Forest Row, Harrogate, Ilkeston, Leeds, Letchworth, Liverpool (Apollonious Group), Llandudno, Manchester, Teddington (The Michael Group), Oxford, Streatham (Shakespeare Group), Preston (William Blake Group), Sheffield, Worcester, York, Zarathustra Group; leaflets, 1958-1978; Group newsletters, 1990s-present;

files relating to publishing including correspondence with Rudolf Steiner Press, 1962-1990; translations of works by Michael Wilson , Anna Meuss; Steiner House Library report 1921 and catalogue, 1948; catalogues of Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co;

papers relating to Rudolf Steiner House including public programme, 1927-present; programmes for conferences and workshops; 1941; leaflets on classes and study groups [1930-1950]; opening of Steiner Hall and House, 1926, 1932; proposals for use of Steiner House, 1920s-1990s; open day programmes, 1993-present; financial appeal, 1924-1986; festivals, 1939-present; drama and speech events, 1928-1993; programmes for Eurythmy performances, from 1930; Steiner House research project;

papers relating to the First and Second Goetheanums including handbooks, foundation ceremony, descriptions of the burning, reports on building the Second Goetheanum, reopening in 1928, completion of the Goetheanum, 1950s;

papers relating to Anthroposophical Societies in other countries, including leaflets and brochures from Italy, Germany, Switzerland (other then Dornach), Netherlands, Austria, France, Ireland, USA, Australia, South Africa, India, 1911-1989;

papers relating to the visual arts, including newsletters, information about course and classes; Art and architecture of Steiner House; Arild Rosenkrantz, Mercury Arts Group, furniture, 1940-1990;

papers relating to Performing Arts - drama, Steiner's mystery dramas, Faust: including programmes and leaflets, 1930s-present;

papers relating to performing arts - Eurythmy, eurythmy theatre, speech and music, including booklets, leaflets, programmes, 1922-present;

papers relating to Medical and Curative education, brochures, newsletters, obituaries, 1930s-1990s;

papers relating to Camphill - including reports of Camphill Rudlof Steiner Schools, 1952-1962; newsletters concerning the Garvald Centre, 1989-1993; annual report of the Camphill Village Trust, 1988-1989;

papers relating to the history of Steiner Education in Great Britain, including booklets, press cuttings, correspondence, 1920s-1990s;

papers relating to the First Waldorf School, Stuttgart, and Steiner Education in other countries, 1920s-1980;

papers relating to Social and Economic initiatives, 1920s-1990s;

papers relating to bio-dynamic farming, sciences and ecology, 1970s-1990s;

papers relating to the Christian Community, 1930s-1990s;

papers relating to meditations and soul calendar translations (unpublished, undated) ;

member's personal notebooks, correspondence and obituary notices, 1950s-1990s;

papers relating to controversies in the GAS, 1920s-1960s;

papers relating to attacks on anthroposophy, and replies, 1912-1921;

photographs including images of Rudolf Steiner, Rudolf Steiner House, various institutions in UK and Switzerland; of Anthroposophists and groups; events including centenary exhibition; conferences, and congresses; 1879-present;

slides of the painting by Gerard Wagner from the first Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland, as well as images of the First and Second Goetheanum; and Anthroposophical institutions;

publications including the Society's newsletter Anthroposophical Movement 1924-1974; and Anthroposophical News sheet 1975-2003;

copies of unpublished articles, on various topics, relating to Anthroposophy, (28 boxes);

press cuttings, 1920s-present.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, German

System of arrangement:

The material is arranged as outlined above

Conditions governing access:

By appointment only. Contact the Librarian, Rudolf Steiner House, 35 Park Rd, London NW1 6XT.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies available at the discretion of the Librarian.

Finding aids:

Handlist available for consultation in the Library of the Anthroposophical Society

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Collected and held in situ.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; `The Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain The Early Years', V Compton-Burnett, Members Newsletter, Jul/Aug 1982; `Early stages of the Anthroposophical Movement in England, H Heywood-Smith, Anthroposophical Quarterly, Vol 15, Winter 1970;
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project.

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:
November 2003

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