Chancellor of Oxford

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Progress

The final catalogue structure is beginning to come together as the majority of the collection has been closely surveyed and the most important series in the archive have now been drawn into an outline arrangement. It is apparent that the bulk of the archive comprises correspondence and papers relating to Lord Jenkins’ parliamentary career and time as President of the European Commission but there are also considerable tranches of papers relating to his writings and his public career as a speaker, trustee, and Chancellor of Oxford.

Chancellor of Oxford and public speaker

Lord Jenkins kept (possibly all of?) the notes and texts of his many speeches – some 55 boxes worth – which will form a fascinating series in their own right. The papers from his time as Chancellor of Oxford (1987-2003) mainly relate to his ceremonial role at degree ceremonies (Encaenia), with additional material concerning his role as Visitor at various colleges and, of course, the Chancellor’s peripatetic efforts on the fundraising front. Although those papers are mainly administrative, his speeches from this period are more revealing about his views on the role and duties of the Chancellor and of Oxford's place in the world - not least its traditional rivalry with Cambridge University [images 5a, 6, 7].

 

Lord Jenkins liked to quote Harold Macmillan, his predecessor in the Chancellorship: "The reason you have to have a Chancellor is that if you did not have a Chancellor you could not have a Vice-Chancellor, and if you did not have a Vice-Chancellor you would have no-one to run the University". The first two speeches excerpted above [images 1-2] highlight his view of the Chancellor of Oxford as a type of constitutional monarch, which he used regularly to turn down speaking invitations from Oxford student political societies [4].

As the first three images reveal, he re-used material: both the Macmillan quotation and, it appears, the entire speech in the case of St Paul's Girls School (a speech he gave as a favour to the headmistress, who assisted in his election to the Chancellorship). This is understandable: not only did the Chancellorship carry with it "quite a lot of duties" [3], involving him in a "number of aspects of Oxford activity of which I previously had little knowledge" [5a-b] these speeches give an insight into how much international travel was involved. Lord Jenkins was, in addition, a prolific speaker in many other fields; an author and journalist; active in multiple charitable bodies and, not least, leader of the Lib-Dem peers in the House of Lords.

All images © Jenkins estate, reproduced with permission of Charles Jenkins
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