Fonds GB 0210 NASSAUS - Nassau Senior papers

Identity area

Reference code



Nassau Senior papers


  • 1764-1946 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.378 cubic metres (18 boxes, 61 volumes)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Nassau William Senior (1790-1864), lawyer, author and political economist, was born at Compton Beauchamp, Berkshire, on 26 September 1790. He enrolled at Eton College in 1803 and entered Magdalen College, Oxford in 1806, graduating with a first in Classics in 1811. By this time he had already begun his career in Lincoln's Inn and it was around this time that he began writing reviews and articles of a legal or literary nature for the Quarterly Review. In 1823 he joined the recently formed Political Economy Club, remaining an active member for the next forty years. Senior was Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford, 1826-1829 and 1847-1852, was a member of the Royal Commission of Education, 1858-1861, and acted as an advisor to successive Whig administrations. He became involved in several social concerns, including the rights of factory workers and the socio-economic problems of the poor. In 1837 he published his Letters on the Factory Act as it Affects the Cotton Manufacture and, in 1841, the parliamentary Report on the Condition of the Handloom Weavers. He held the then unorthodox view that government intervention in the form of capital investment should be carried out in an attempt to relieve the problems of the poor in Britain and Ireland. Senior's lifelong friendship with the political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville began when the two men met in London in 1833. Senior travelled widely through Europe, mainly France and Italy, but also to the Middle East, North Africa, Ireland, and Wales and Scotland. Senior married Mary Charlotte Mair in 1821; they had a son Nassau John Senior (1822-1891) and a daughter, Mary Charlotte Mair Senior (1825-1907), latterly Mrs M. C. M. Simpson. He died in Kensington on 4 June 1864. After his death Mrs Simpson published many of his journals.

Archival history

Senior's grand-daughter, Mrs Amy St. Loë Strachey, had inherited the papers from her mother, Mrs M. C. M. Simpson, Senior's only daughter. Mrs Strachey's husband, John St. Loë Strachey (editor of the Spectator), had loaned the Senior papers to S. Leon Levy in 1912, on the understanding that Levy would confine his studies to the economic aspects of Senior's career. Having published his much-criticised study of Senior's economic theories in 1929, Levy proceeded to write a book on Senior's controversial theological views. Mrs Strachey disapproved and demanded that the remaining manuscripts in Levy's possession be returned. Despite repeated efforts, not all the missing Senior manuscripts were recovered.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The Nassau Senior papers were first deposited (in 1941) and subsequently donated (in 1944) to the National Library of Wales by Senior's grand-daughter Mrs Amy St. Loë Strachey.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers relating to Nassau Senior, 1764-1945, comprising travel journals, particularly to France and Italy, 1848-1863; lecture notes, 1826-1852; correspondence and papers of the Senior family, 1764-1907; diaries of Nassau Senior and his wife, 1830-1882; correspondence, 1764-1862, including substantial correspondence with Richard Whately, Protestant Archbishop of Dublin; papers relating to the Poor Law in England and Ireland, 1831-1864; papers on economic, social and political matters, 1821-1862; general letters 1764-1910, and papers of the Strachey family, 1911-1946.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

All records have been retained.


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged into the following: Senior journals; Oxford lectures; Senior correspondence; Senior documents; Senior family papers; and Strachey documents.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • English
  • French

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, French.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Many of the papers have been marked in pencil, crayon and ink by S. Leon Levy.

Finding aids

A hard copy of the catalogue is available at the National Library of Wales. The catalogue can be accessed online.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

See also NLW, Nassau William Senior manuscripts (NLW MSS 23310-23316, 23857-23861, 23965C).
In July 1976 a small collection of Senior MSS was sold at Sotheby's to the National Library of Ireland [Sotheby's Sale Catalogue, 19-20 July 1976, Lot 357. Now National Library of Ireland MS 21286. See NLW Microfilm 389. A description of this MS is to be found in Appendix I of the schedule of Senior Papers]. It is apparent that this is in fact part of the hitherto missing Senior MSS.

Related descriptions

Publication note

S. Leon Levy, Nassau W. Senior: The Prophet of Modern Capitalism (Boston, 1943; rev. ed. London, 1970)

Notes area


Title based on contents of fonds.


Some of the papers pre-date the life of Nassau Senior.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Project identifier


Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

March 2003.


  • English



The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: NLW, Schedule of Nassau Senior Papers; Personal Homepages website (, viewed 21 March 2003; Nassau Senior website (, viewed 21 March 2003.

Archivist's note

Compiled by Annette Strauch for the ANW project.

Accession area

Related people and organizations

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Physical storage

  • Text: Nassau Senior Papers; $q - Many of the papers have been marked in pencil, crayon and ink by S. Leon Levy..