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The Papers of Sir James Headlam-Morley

Reference Code: GBR/0014/HDLM

Scope and Contents

Sir James Headlam-Morley's papers include: a large amount of personal correspondence with family, friends and colleagues; some personal papers, including Else Headlam's diaries; a voluminous series of literary papers, ranging from Headlam-Morley's early academic work on classical subjects to his later interest in more modern German history, particularly relating to Bismarck, and articles and pamphlets written while working for the various propaganda departments during the war and afterwards as Historical Adviser to the Foreign Office; papers from his work in university education, including the University Extension movement, meant for those unable to attend university, and also as an inspector of secondary schools for the Board of Education, mainly relating to the teaching of history, classics and modern languages; a large number of papers and correspondence from his wartime propaganda work for the Department of Information and the Foreign Office, from the Versailles Conference, and also his post-war work as Historical Adviser to the Foreign Office.


  • Creation: The majority of files date from 1870-1929


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holder and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

James Headlam was born 24 December 1863, the 2nd son of the Reverend Canon Arthur Headlam, of Whorlton Hall, Barnard Castle, and his wife Agnes (Agnes died while James was still a boy, and his father remarried, to Louisa Woodall, in 1876). He was educated at Eton College, then King’s College, Cambridge and the University of Berlin [Germany]. In 1893 he married the pianist and composer Elisabeth (commonly known as Else) Sonntag, youngest daughter of Dr August Sonntag of Lüneburg; they had one son, Kenneth and one daughter, Agnes. In 1918, after the death of a Morley relative who had left him a family estate, Headlam received royal licence to assume the name and arms of Morley, and became James Headlam-Morley.

Headlam-Morley's career began as an academic, as a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge (1890-1896), also lecturing for the Cambridge University Extension and holding the position of Professor of Greek and Ancient History at Queen’s College, London (1894-1900). He was also an honorary assistant commissioner to the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, Staff Inspector of Secondary Schools for the Board of Education (1902-1920) and a Member of the Prime Minister’s Committee on Modern Languages (1917-1918). During the First World War he worked in the War Propaganda Bureau (1914-1917), before becoming Assistant Director of the Political Intelligence Bureau in the Department of Information (1917-1918). At the end of the war Headlam-Morley continued his political work as Assistant Director of the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office (1918-1920) and was a Member of the Political Section of the British Delegation to the Peace Conference at Paris [France] in 1919, before becoming Historical Adviser to the Foreign Office (1920 onwards). He was awarded the CBE in 1920, and was knighted in 1929. He died on 6 September 1929.

His publications include: On Election by Lot at Athens; Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire (1899, reissued 1926); Studies in Diplomatic History, (1930); on Classical Studies in Germany (Special Reports issued by the Board of Education); articles on Austria-Hungary, Germany, etc., in 10th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica; The History of Twelve Days; The German Chancellor and the Outbreak of War; The Issue; and numerous other pamphlets; British Documents on the Origins of the War: Volume xi., The Outbreak of War (editor), etc.


146 archive box(es)

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Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge and the National Register of Archives, London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers have been deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in 7 different accessions between 1986 and 2019 by Agnes Headlam-Morley, Lorna Headlam-Morley (Sir James's daughter-in-law) and Peter Headlam-Morley.

Related Materials

The papers of Headlam-Morley's daughter Agnes, GBR/0014/AGHM, include a considerable amount of material on republishing her father’s History of the Paris Peace Conference. There is also a small amount of material relating to both James and Agnes in the Headlam-Morley Associated Papers, GBR/0014/HDLM AS. The papers of Else Headlam-Morley and of the Headlam family in general are held at Durham University Archives, including James Headlam-Morley's half of the correspondence between himself and his wife.


This collection (fonds) level description of the papers was compiled by Katharine Thomson of Churchill Archives Centre in April 2003, using information obtained from box-lists to the papers and from Who's Who 1897-1996 (A&C Black). The full catalogue was completed between 2019 and 2021.


Headlam-Morley, Sir James Wycliffe

2003-04-11 12:06:15+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087