Hilary Jenkinson

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(Charles) Hilary Jenkinson
C.B.E., LL.D, F.S.A.
Born (1882-11-01)1 November 1882
Streatham, London, England
Died 5 March 1961(1961-03-05) (aged 78)
London, England
Resting place
Horsham, Sussex
Nationality British
Education Dulwich College
Alma mater Pembroke College, Cambridge
Occupation Archivist

Sir Charles Hilary Jenkinson (1 November 1882 - 5 March 1961)[1] was a British archivist and archival theorist. Writing in 1980, Roger Ellis and Peter Walne commented that "[n]o one man had more influence on the establishment of the profession of archivist in Great Britain than Sir Hilary Jenkinson".[2] Terry Eastwood in 2003 called Jenkinson "one of the most influential archivists in the English-speaking world".[3]


Born in Streatham, London, Jenkinson was the son of a land agent. He was educated at Dulwich College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, graduating with first class honours in Classics in 1904. In 1906 he joined the staff of the Public Record Office and worked on the classification of the records of the medieval Exchequer. In 1912 he was put in charge of the search room, which he reorganised. During the First World War, he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery, and served in France and Belgium from 1916 to 1918. He then worked at the War Office until 1920.[1]

Returning to the Public Record Office, he reorganized the repairing department and later the repository, to which he moved in 1929. He was appointed secretary and principal assistant keeper in 1938, then Deputy Keeper (chief executive officer) from 1947 until 1954, when he retired.[1]

In 1944-5 he paid several extended visits to Italy, Germany and Malta as War Office Adviser on Archives, attached to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Subcommission, playing an important role in helping protect the archives of those countries from the worst of the depredations of war.[4][5][6]

He lectured on palaeography, diplomatic and archives in Cambridge, King's College London and University College London. He wrote a number of books on palaeography and diplomatic, and his Manual of Archive Administration (1922; revised edition 1937) became a highly influential work on archival practice in Britain and Ireland.

Early in his career Jenkinson served as Honorary Secretary of the Surrey Archaeological Society. He took a leading part in establishing its daughter organisation, the Surrey Record Society, in 1912; and thereafter, as secretary and general editor until 1950, in establishing its principles of editing and records publication.[7] He was a founder, Joint Honorary Secretary (1932–47) and Vice-President (1954–61) of the British Records Association; President of the Jewish Historical Society of England (1953–55); and President of the Society of Archivists (1955–61). He also played an important role in the setting up of the National Register of Archives in 1945.

Archival theory[edit]

Jenkinson's Manual of Archive Administration was first published in 1922; and republished in a second edition (revised and expanded, but not significantly altered in its principles) in 1937. It is described by John Ridener as "one of the most widely recognized treatises on the theory of archives and archival work".[8] Some of its ideas were original to Jenkinson; others had been developed by continental archivists, but were introduced by him to Britain (and to the English-speaking world) for the first time. However, Margaret Procter argues that despite Jenkinson's "iconic" status, his work also rested to a considerable degree on an existing British theoretical tradition.[9]

Key elements in Jenkinson's archival theory included the following:[10]

Jenkinson's greatest influence on archival theory and practice emerged from his publications, teaching and other activities undertaken in a personal capacity, and undertaken to a great degree early in his career. By contrast, in his professional career at the Public Record Office, and in particular as Deputy Keeper from 1947 to 1954, he was often seen as an autocratic and inflexible conservative.[11] Elizabeth Shepherd comments that "it was only after his retirement that the PRO could finally develop a professional archival approach to its work."[12]


Jenkinson was appointed CBE in 1943 and knighted in 1949.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Jenkinson married Alice Rickards in 1910. She died in 1960. They had no children.[1]

Principal publications[edit]

  • English Court Hand, A.D. 1066 to 1500, with Charles Johnson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1915)
  • Palaeography and the Practical Study of Court Hand (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915)
  • A Manual of Archive Administration (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922; revised editions 1937 and 1965)
  • Elizabethan Handwritings: a preliminary sketch (1922)
  • The Later Court Hands in England from the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Century, 2 vols (1927)
  • The English Archivist: a new profession (London: H. K. Lewis, 1948)
  • A Guide to Seals in the Public Record Office (London: HMSO, 1954; second edition 1968)
  • Selected Writings of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, ed. Roger H. Ellis & Peter Walne (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1980; reissue (with a new introduction) 2003)

A fuller bibliography of Jenkinson's writings to 1956 appears as:

  • Ellis, Roger; Kellaway, William (1957). "A Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Hilary Jenkinson". In Davies, J. Conway. Studies presented to Sir Hilary Jenkinson, C.B.E., LL.D, F.S.A. London: Oxford University Press. pp. 480–94. 


  • Studies presented to Sir Hilary Jenkinson, C.B.E., LL.D, F.S.A., ed. J. Conway Davies (London: Oxford University Press, 1957)
  • Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, ed. Albert E.J. Hollaender (Chichester: Society of Archivists, 1962)


  1. ^ a b c d e Johnson 2008.
  2. ^ Ellis and Walne 1980, p. 9.
  3. ^ Eastwood 2003, p. vii.
  4. ^ Bell 1962.
  5. ^ Johnson 1957, p. xxvi.
  6. ^ Bradsher, Greg (23 January 2014). "Sir Hilary Jenkinson of the Public Record Office: An Archivist Monuments Man". Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Johnson 1957, pp. xv-xvii.
  8. ^ Ridener 2009, p. 41.
  9. ^ Procter, Margaret (2008). "Life before Jenkinson: the development of British archival theory and thought at the turn of the twentieth century". Archives 33: 140–61. 
  10. ^ Discussed in Ridener 2009, pp. 41–68.
  11. ^ Cantwell 1991, pp. 452–79, 502.
  12. ^ Shepherd, Elizabeth (2009). Archives and Archivists in 20th Century England. Farnham: Ashgate. pp. 81–2. ISBN 9780754647850. 


  • Bell, H.E. (1962). "Archivist itinerant: Jenkinson in wartime Italy". In Hollaender, Albert E.J. Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson. Chichester: Society of Archivists. pp. 167–77. 
  • Bell, H.E.; Jenkinson, Hilary (1947). Italian Archives During the War and at Its Close. British Committee on the Preservation and Restitution of Works of Art, Archives and Other Material in Enemy Hands. London: HMSO. 
  • Cantwell, John D. (1991). The Public Record Office, 1838-1958. London: HMSO. pp. 397–507. ISBN 0114402248. 
  • Eastwood, Terence M. (2003). "Introduction to the 2003 reissue". In Ellis, Roger H.; Walne, Peter. Selected Writings of Sir Hilary Jenkinson. Chicago: The Society of American Archivists. pp. vii–xx. ISBN 1-931666-03-2. 
  • Ellis, Roger H (1971). "Recollections of Sir Hilary Jenkinson". Journal of the Society of Archivists 4: 261–75. doi:10.1080/00379817109513966. 
  • Ellis, Roger H.; Walne, Peter, eds. (1980). Selected Writings of Sir Hilary Jenkinson. Stroud: Alan Sutton. ISBN 0-904387-52-6. 
  • [Johnson, H.C.] (1957). "Memoir of Sir Hilary Jenkinson". In Davies, J. Conway. Studies presented to Sir Hilary Jenkinson, C.B.E., LL.D, F.S.A. London: Oxford University Press. pp. xiii–xxx. 
  • Johnson, H.C. (revised) (2008) [2004]. "Jenkinson, Sir (Charles) Hilary (1882–1961)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34177.  (subscription required)
  • Ridener, John (2009). From Polders to Postmodernism: a concise history of archival theory. Duluth, Minnesota: Litwin Books. pp. 41–68.