One of the smaller (but really annoying) hazards of archive cataloguing happens when you have a collection all finished off, beautifully catalogued (of course) – and then some more papers turn up.
This does inevitably happen from time to time. The most extreme example we have is in the McKenna Papers, where two halves of the archive of the Liberal Cabinet minister Reginald McKenna were only reunited after 40 years: we had received McKenna’s papers from his family in 1966, and never knew that his biographer also had a lot more, until they arrived, somewhat unexpectedly, in 2006.
The same thing has just happened with the Amery Papers. This is on a much smaller scale, mercifully, as just 23 letters are involved this time (the second half of the McKenna Papers came in at about 40 boxes). On the other hand this is the third time this particular historian (naming no names, but he knows who he is!) has found some more Amery letters in the historian’s equivalent of down the back of the sofa.
Leo Amery as a young man
Reference: AMEL 10/1/1
Amery is one of our most popular collections: Leo Amery was a small but very determined Conservative minister, best known for being Colonial Secretary in the 1920s and Secretary of State for India during the war. He was almost exactly contemporary with Churchill, and the two men actually overlapped at Harrow, where, as a new boy, Churchill introduced himself by pushing Amery into the school pool, which turned out to an unwise thing to do, as Amery was older, and much stronger than he looked. What makes Amery’s archive so good is that he corresponded indefatigably for years with all sorts of people on various subjects, particularly anything to do with the Empire, which was his particular passion (a passion which he passed on to his son, Julian Amery, whose papers I am cataloguing at the moment).
These 23 new Amery letters are particularly good (naturally enough: historians never hold on to boring material). Among other things, they include two letters from Churchill, written in 1924 when he was trying to get back into the House of Commons, having lost his seat at Dundee in the 1922 Election. Amery, who never really saw eye to eye with Churchill on any political subject, publicly supported another candidate for the same Westminster constituency as Churchill was campaigning for, and Churchill lost the seat (he was elected for Epping instead, later that year). However, in these letters to Amery he is very dignified in defeat, assuring Amery that he knows there was nothing personal in Amery’s action. Other items include six letters from Amery to his party leader, Stanley Baldwin, on the future of the Conservatives (Amery was never one to hold back on giving advice to his colleagues), and also a letter from the famously touchy Austen Chamberlain following what was obviously a mighty row with Amery in the Shadow Cabinet.
The majority of the letters date from 1924 (I might have known it, really, as the correspondence file for 1924 which we already had was suspiciously thin), and have now been catalogued and added back into the archive, with a certain amount of gnashing of teeth from me, ready for our Amery researchers to see.