Scope and Contents
- 1938-08 - 1985-08
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
Three things emerge from Betty Behrens's papers. She read extensively in many areas, not just history, and made notes on what she read. From these it is clear that she read in what C. S. Lewis called the "good" sense - that is she read to feed her mind and her curiosity. She read critically, and had very little patience with poor writing. Some of her comments are typical: (on an book on German politics) "I am unable to see that this is a good book - I think it v. badly done ...". David Lodge's novel 'Small World' she thought "... v. funny & v. clever ..."; but of Jeffrey Archer's 'First Among Equals' she commented that although it was very popular she found it "just boring", and of Genet's 'Madonna of the Flowers' she wrote that having read 133 pages she didn't think she would bother to read any more, the French was too slangy and tiresome.
It is also obvious that she was as critical of herself as she was of others. One note book is endorsed "Books read at the age of 38 when I sh'd have known better." The correspondence relating to her reviews is mostly concerned with her anxiety that the reviews may not be what the journal wants, and Rosalind Gilmour (in an obituary) comments of her final book 'Society, Government and the Enlightenment', that it was fortunate that "her driving determination to distil her thought and clarify her writing had been sufficiently satisfied to enable the publishers to get the book away from her". Her reading notes bear evidence of rereading and much organisation of thoughts in marginal notes, underlinings and other annotations. Of herself in a letter she wrote: "I just don't do my job nearly as well as many did. It would have been nice to be Voltaire."
The final thing which emerges is that she cared passionately about her subject and the way it was taught. A long correspondence with Herbert Butterfield concerns the nature of History. Her later letters to the press are concerned with whether history is being destroyed or debilitated by modern approaches. Betty Behrens was appointed to her lectureship in 1938 and was therefore one of that remarkable group of successful women academics of the early part of this century. In the 1970s she became concerned at the decline in the numbers of women on the Faculty of History and began to gather evidence on the numbers of women employed and appointed to lectureships. At least part of her concern was with the waste or underemployment of human resources - put crudely she believed that many of the women without official lectureships were better teachers than the men who held them. Behrens's major publications were: 'Merchant Shipping and the Demands of War' (Official History, 1955); 'The Ancien Regime' (Thames and Hudson, 1967); 'Society, Government and the Enlightenment: The experience of Eighteenth Century France and Prussia' (Thames and Hudson, 1985). She also published numerous articles and review articles, particularly for the New York Review of Books and the Historical Journal and also a piece on the French Revolution for 'English Speaking Peoples' and an entry for an Encyclopedia (probably Britannica) on Austria.
19 archive box(es)
Betty Behrens had at some stage clearly numbered her folders but the numbers were both incomplete and inconsistent. They were therefore not found to be especially useful for cataloguing. Files were in many cases annotated with a list of the contents, this was copied and placed in the file. Titles in quotation marks are her own. Where no title was given the files have been numbered according to contents. Files as created by Betty Behrens were retained and not combined (except in one case). She also "bundled" her papers, usually with metal split clips; these were removed and plastic paper clips substituted, so that papers she considered to be a unit were kept together. In many cases it is not possible to date the papers.
The papers were found to consist chiefly of academic papers, with a few personal papers - many of these incidental in the sense that they were used as stationery. The papers have been listed in the following groups:- Reading notes; Writings and Publications; Correspondence; Lectures and other academic responsibilities; Personal. Some items were placed in more than one section due to overlap. The numbers are processing numbers only and refer to the order in which papers were box listed. Those with "ADD" as part of the number are from the second deposit.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Other Finding Aids
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- 2004-07-21 08:36:56.670000+00:00
- Language of description
- Script of description