Surprise addition to Blacker papers

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By | From the Collections

C P Blacker c. 1940

Archives and Manuscripts was recently contacted by a charity bookshop which had received a donation of books formerly belonging to Carlos Paton Blacker, FRCP (1895-1975), General Secretary of the Eugenics Society, 1930-1952 and Honorary Secretary, 1952-1961, who also practised as a psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in South London. Among these were a number of letters and other papers.

We already hold a significant collection of Blacker’s papers which are perennially popular with our readers and which is scheduled for inclusion in the Digitisation Pilot Project. We were therefore delighted to receive this additional material.

Although there were no huge major discoveries, a number of letters filled in gaps in existing sequences of which we had not been aware: there were several letters from his friend and colleague, the Oxford biologist J. R. ‘Bill’ Baker, from 1937-38, and an additional small group, with related items, concerning the publication of Baker’s controversial book Race in 1974. There were also several letters, and other documents, from Major Leonard Darwin, President of the Eugenics Society. While consideration was given to filing these among the tranches of letters from these correspondents already in the collection, it was decided to reflect the rather different route these letters had taken into our holdings by creating separate files at the end of the relevant sequences, thus flagging up new material to researchers who may already have consulted existing files.

Among other strayed letters we found three from Roger Money-Kyrle in 1930: there was already some correspondence between them in the file PP/CPB/D.2 relating to Blacker’s talk on ‘Life and Death Instincts’ in 1929.

There was also a certain amount of general personalia, including several heavily annotated books reflecting the breadth of Blacker’s interests: for example, his copies of works by the eminent historian, Arnold Toynbee, the abridged version of A Study of History, and An Historian’s Approach to Religion, with cuttings and a reprint, Blacker’s typed notes on the latter volume, and a letter to him from Toynbee.

It is not entirely clear why these documents had become separated from the bulk of Blacker’s papers. In some instances they had been put into the various books to which they related but in others there was no obvious association between the book and the inserted material. Sometimes it seems possible that a letter or other item was simply being used as a bookmark!

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall, FRHistS, PhD, DipAA, has been an archivist at the Wellcome since 1979. She has published extensively on the history of sexuality and gender in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, given many talks and conference presentations, and featured on radio and television. Further details can be found at her website.

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