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Foxwell’s Papers


The papers of Herbert Somerton Foxwell (1849-1936) are one of the richest private sources of late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century correspondence between economists.  Foxwell’s contacts with his contemporaries in Britain and North America arose from a number of roles that he occupied in a long and active life: as a fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge; as the colleague of Alfred Marshall when the Cambridge Economics Tripos was being formulated; as holder of the chair of political economy at University College, London in succession to William Stanley Jevons; and through his membership of the Royal Economic Society and the British Academy practically from the dates these two organisations were founded.  Through his membership of the Political Economy Club and through his support for bimetallism in the 1880s and 90s, Foxwell formed contacts in business and money and banking circles.  Through his activities as a major collector of rare economic books and pamphlets he was in touch with booksellers, librarians, and fellow bibliophiles.  Although the collection has been used by the editors of scholarly editions of the writings and correspondence of Alfred Marshall, Stanley Jevons, and others writing on the history of economics in Britain, it is still fair to say that the full potential of the collection has not been exploited by historians.

The size of the collection, when it was in the hands of Richard D. Freeman, the person to whom it was given by Foxwell’s descendants, was estimated to be around 24,000 items covering a period from 1863 to 1936.  An article on the rescue of the papers (Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 28 (4), 2006, pp.498-95) was posted on this website before its renovation in 2013.  The original expectation was that when the collection was no longer being used by its owner it would be donated to the library of one of the British institutions closely connected with Foxwell’s career.  On this implicit understanding the British Academy and the Royal Economic Society granted funds to help catalogue the collection not long after it was first acquired so that the owner’s research on the papers as well as that of other future users would be facilitated (see correspondence between Richard Freeman, Donald Winch, Lionel Robbins and Charles Carter, RES Archive, BLPES, 10/20).  In 1974, in partial fulfilment of this plan, a small section of the collection was donated to the Senate House Library at the University of London, where it is available in Special Collections (see MSS 602, 789, 790, 1115, 1166).

In 2008 or thereabouts, however, Richard Freeman changed his mind: he decided to place the remainder of the collection in the hands of Bernard Quaritch, a firm specialising in the sale of antique books and manuscript material, with an asking price of over £400,000.   This was well beyond any figure that libraries and other organisations in Britain connected with Foxwell could raise to keep the collection in the UK.  A purchaser was found in the form of Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) in Nishinomya, Japan and an export license granted. The papers were acquired as part of a commemorative project designed to celebrate the university’s 125th anniversary in 2014 and to establish itself as a world-class educational centre through research befitting the Kwansei Gakuin spirit.

The organisers of this website have been in contact with KGU and have just (05/01/2020) been given the following up-to-date link to the collection:  https://library.kwansei.ac.jp/archives/keizaishokan/foxwell/index.html.  This replaces what is said about papers marked RDFC in our entry under Foxwell.