MC:PR35 Papers of Thomas Boase (President 1947-68)
For a fuller account of Boase’s life, users are recommended to examine ‘Thomas Sherrer Ross Boase’ by J. J. G. Alexander, in the Proceedings of the British Academy (Vol. 101, pp 353-362, British Academy, 1999).
I – BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THOMAS BOASE
Thomas Sherrer Ross Boase was born on August 31st, 1898, the son of C. M. Boase. Boase was educated at Rugby, and then served as a Lieutenant with the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry between 1917-1919, receiving the Military Cross for action in the trenches. After the war, he was an Exhibitioner at Magdalen 1919-1921, studying history: receiving a second class BA in 1921 and an MA in 1925.
Boase became a Fellow at Hertford College in 1922 and remained so until 1937 (he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 1948). He then moved to London where he was the Professor of History of Art at London University and Director of the Courtauld Institute between 1937-1947.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Boase became a temporary Civil Servant for the Air Ministry, based both in the UK and Egypt. In 1943 he was appointed the Chief Representative of the British Council Middle East, and served in that capacity until the end of the war.
In 1947 Boase was elected President of Magdalen College and was to remain so until 1968. Views on his presidency vary: some emphasise his personal interest and kindness to students, while others question the decisions he made regarding building work (notably the Waynflete Building). He also served a term as Vice-Chancellor of the University between 1958-1960 and was Slade Professor 1963-1964. For an account of Magdalen during his Presidency, now see Chapter 6 “The Tutorial Takeover”, by Andrew Hegarty, from L. W. B. Brockliss (ed.), Magdalen College Oxford; A History (Oxford, 2008).
Boase showed boundless energy and commitment in his professional life. As well as his posts at the University of Oxford he served on several committees: Trustee of the National Gallery 1946-1953, Chairman of the same 1951-1953; Trustee of the British Museum from 1950; Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 1952 and Commissioner for the Exhibition of 1851 from 1956. His contributions were recognised by Honorary Degrees from St. Andrews; Durham; Reading; Oxford; Melbourne; St Mark’s College, Adelaide and the Rockefeller Institute, USA. Boase was also a prolific writer who wrote and edited several works on History and Art History: these are listed in Section II of the Introduction.
Boase retired from the presidency of Magdalen College on his 70th birthday (August 31st, 1968), after serving for twenty-one years. Having never married, he retired to Wimbledon, living with his sister until his death on April 14th, 1974.
II – PUBLISHED WORKS
From the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes:
- ‘The Arts in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem’ (vol. 2, 1938-1939)
- ‘An Oxford College and the Gothic revival’ (1955)
- ‘Shipwrecks in English romantic painting’ (1959)
- ‘The Medici in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama’ (1974).
- Boniface VIII (1933)
- St. Francis of Assisi (1936, reissued 1968)
- Castles and Churches of the crusading kingdom (1967)
- Kingdoms and Strongholds of the Crusaders (1971)
- Death in the Middle Ages: mortality, judgment and remembrance (1972) Pennsylvania History of the Crusades Vol. IV (1977)
- The Cilician Kingdom of Armenia (edited and contributed to by Boase, 1978).
- English Art, 1100-1216 (1953)
- Christ bearing the Cross: attributed to ValdÉs Leal at Magdalen College, Oxford: a study in taste (1955)
- The frescoes of Cremona Cathedral (between 1956 & 1978)
- English Art, 1800-1870 (1959)
- The York Psalter in the Library of the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow (1962)
- ‘Raphael: The Fred Cook memorial lecture’, printed in the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts (Nov 1962, no.5076, vol.CX)
- Scrapbook of Italian paintings (compiled by Boase)
- Nebuchadnezzar (drawings by Arthur Boyd, text by Boase, 1972)
- Book illustrators in eighteenth-century England (written by Hammelmann, edited and completed by Boase, pub. 1975)
- Giorgio Vasari: the man and the book (from lectures given in 1971, pub. 1979).
III – THE PAPERS
The Boase papers have been given to Magdalen over a period of time (from 1994 to date). They papers include material relating to Boase’s academic, professional and personal life, and have been divided into the following sections:
One basic principle was adhered to throughout the cataloguing of the papers: many documents were found in folders or envelopes. The contents of these have been kept together and listed as individual items. This means that one ‘item’ may consist of just one letter, whereas another one will comprise several tens of papers, but this does at least protect the original context of the collection. Descriptions of such items in the catalogue frequently include the words ‘folder of..’ to indicate how they are stored.
Catalogued in October 2002 by Clare Baker.