Re-cataloguing and rediscovering the RHS Prothero Papers

26 January 2022

In January 2022 the Society publishes a new catalogue of its papers of George W. Prothero (1848-1922), historian, literary editor and President of the RHS between 1901 and 1905. The Prothero collection runs to more than 1000 items and is the largest named collection in the RHS archive.

To accompany the launch, a new blog post features highlights and selected images from the collection.

About the Prothero catalogue

The new 252-page catalogue, which is available on the Archive pages of the Society’s website, provides item-level listings of Prothero’s correspondence, professional papers and manuscripts, dating from the late 1860s to the early 1920s.

In addition to the writing of a new catalogue, the Prothero project has included a conservation review of the collection, new storage, and the rediscovery and incorporation of 10 bundles of letters previously thought lost.

The Society is very grateful to the Marc Fitch Fund for co-funding this project, and to those who catalogued the collection: Dr Eilish Gregory, Imogen Evans and Zoë Karens, who also wrote the catalogue.

The collection runs to 20 storage boxes, and is accompanied online by a new ISAD(G) compliant catalogue to replace an earlier paper version written in the late 1960s. The new catalogue also directs researchers to other holdings of Prothero papers elsewhere in the UK.

About the Prothero collection

The principal series in the Society’s collection comprise personal and professional correspondence sent to Prothero. These cover his time as editor of the Quarterly Review and President of the Royal Historical Society, and include letters from the publisher John Murray, historian Oscar Browning, and Conservative politician and prime minister, Arthur Balfour.

These letters demonstrate Prothero’s commitment to promoting History as a serious, professional discipline of wide-ranging civic value. Between 1914 and 1922, exchanges with European and North American correspondents also reveal Prothero’s interest in British foreign policy and his contribution to the Versailles Peace Conference and post-war settlement.

Highlights from the collection include:

  • letters from the 1860s and 1870s detailing Prothero’s undergraduate career at Cambridge and his bid to become one of the University’s first lecturers in History;
  • a book of testimonials from leading historians in support of Prothero’s application to become Professor of History at Edinburgh University in 1894;
  • personal and professional letters on the course of the First World War and the Versailles Peace Conference, including correspondence from friends on the death of family members in conflict;
  • information on Prothero’s engagement in organisations such as the Village Children’s Historical Play Society, of which he was a council member; and his involvement with The New East journal, to promote understanding of Japan and Japanese culture.

About the RHS Archive

Following completion of the Prothero catalogue, the Society is currently reviewing other parts of its archive, including papers relating to the Camden Society (1838-97), the Royal Historical Society (from 1868), and the publications and literary estate of the Tudor historian, Sir Geoffrey Elton (1922-94).

Our aim is to publish new online catalogues and selected scans for each of these, and other, collections in the archive during 2022.

More broadly, we hope this availability — starting with the new G.W. Prothero Catalogue — will bring the RHS archive to wider public attention, as an important statement on the development and membership of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century historical profession in Britain and overseas.

For more information on this, please see the Library & Archive pages of the RHS website.