MC:P2 Papers of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker (1909-2006)
Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker published two volumes of memoirs, Setting Europe Ablaze (Springwood, 1983) and Political Eunuch (Springwood, 1986). Users of the papers are recommended to examine both books for a fuller account of his life, and the background to the paper themselves. Users should also consult Sir Douglas’s entry in the on-line version of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Arthur Douglas Dodds-Parker (henceforth Dodds-Parker) was born in 1909, the son of Arthur Percy Dodds-Parker, an eminent surgeon based in Oxford, who had been at Magdalen in 1886–1889. The family’s surname had originally been Parker, but, after a legacy from his godfather, Dodds-Parker’s father changed his name to Dodds-Parker (see Political Eunuch, p.xiii). Dodds-Parker himself went to Winchester, and from 1927–1930 read History at Magdalen, getting a Second. He was a keen rower, being a regular member of the College’s First Eight, and serving as Captain of Boats in 1929–1930 (as his father had done before him in 1888, and Dodds-Parker’s own son would do in 1966).
After graduation, he served in the Sudan Political Service, in various capacities: from 1931–1934 he was Assistant District Commissioner in Kordofan Province, in 1934–1935 he was Assistant Private Secretary to the Governor-General in Khartoum, in 1935–1938 he was Assistant District Commissioner of the Fung District, in the Blue Nile Province, and finally in 1938–1939 he was a Member of the Public Security Department at Khartoum. Growing worried at the rise of Fascism, he left the Sudan Service in the middle of 1939, to work against it, and spent part of the summer of that year in France and Poland.
When the Second World War did break out, Dodds-Parker joined the Grenadier Guards, but in July 1940, he was transferred to the newly-created Special Operations Executive (SOE), which was designed to encourage non-military action in German-occupied territories. Dodds-Parker worked for the SOE all over Europe, including North Africa and Italy. His work here involved him in the reconquest of Ethiopia and the surrender of Italy (the story is told in detail in his book Setting Europe Ablaze). During the war, he rose to the rank of Colonel, was mentioned in dispatches, and received the LÉgion d’Honneur.
At the end of the war, Dodds-Parker entered politics, and in the 1945 election was elected Conservative MP for the constituency of Banbury. He retained his interest in foreign affairs, becoming Secretary of the Conservative Party Commonwealth Affairs Committee in 1945–1951 and its Chairman in 1951–1953. He was also Chairman of the British Empire Producers’ Organisation from 1947. In November 1953, Dodds-Parker joined the Government as a Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In October 1954, he became Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, before returning to the Foreign Office, again as Parliamentary Under-Secretary, in December 1955.
The year after Dodds-Parker’s return to the Foreign Office, he found himself deeply involved in the Suez crisis (his book Political Eunuch gives a detailed account of this period), but for all his loyalty to the Government at this time, he was not retained as a member of it when Harold Macmillan replaced Sir Anthony Eden as Prime Minister in January 1957.
Dodds-Parker’s book Political Eunuch tells how, after this setback, Dodds-Parker resolved to stand down from Parliament for a while, and thus he did not seek re-election in 1959, concentrating instead in his business interests. He retained his close involvement with politics, however, by being elected Chairman of the Conservative Commonwealth Council in 1962. Also in 1962, Dodds-Parker decided to re-enter politics, when he was chosen as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Cheltenham. He was successfully elected MP in the 1964 General Election, and retained his seat there until his retirement in October 1974.
Although Dodds-Parker remained a backbencher throughout his second term as an MP, he was employed in many other ways: he was Chairman of the Conservative Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee in 1970–1974, and was much involved in helping through Parliament the passage of the Europe Act, under which Great Britain joined the EEC. Outside Parliament, he served at various times on the Council of Europe and the North Atlantic Assembly, and, following an official visit there in 1965, took a great interest in the affairs of the Cayman and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Dodds-Parker’s career culminated in his appointment as one of Britain’s first representatives at the European Parliament in 1973, the year in which he received a Knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List. He continued to serve in the European Parliament until March 1975, after his retirement from Westminster.
Alongside his main career, Dodds-Parker continued to retain a strong interest in the Sudan and the SOE. In the latter case, after his retirement from active politics, he became actively involved in the Special Forces Club, where he was successively Chairman and President, and helped revive its fortunes.
In 1946, Dodds-Parker married Aileen Woods (nÉe Coster), whose first husband, Ellison Woods (a second cousin of Dodds-Parker’s) had been killed in 1944. She had one son, Gilbert, by her previous marriage, and she and Dodds-Parker then had a son of their own, Peter.
Dodds-Parker died on 13 September 2006. His funeral was held in Magdalen College Chapel. Lady Dodds-Parker died on 13 June 2011.
Most of the Dodds-Parker papers were given to Magdalen College in November 1996 as Accession Number 96/222. However, other, smaller, deposits were made intermittently from 1991 until 2012, after his death. A list of which documents were deposited when can be found here. Some documents were found in the collection of books which he presented to the Library. In these cases, a note has been made of the book in which the relevant item was found.
The papers include material relating to almost every part of Dodds-Parker’s life, as well as some items concerning his father and his uncle, Alexander Wise. They have therefore been divided into seventeen sections, as follows:
MC:P2/2 Papers relating to Dodds-Parker’s time at Magdalen College. These include many rowing photographs and ephemera, and papers about his relations with the College after 1930. There are also papers relating to his travels in Europe in the summer of 1930.
MC:P2/3 Papers concerning Dodds-Parker’s work for the Sudan Political Service. These include many photographs of the Sudan, as well as correspondence written both during and after his time there. There are also papers relating to some of Dodds-Parker’s travels during the 1930s, most notably to America in the summer of 1937. Finally, there are some papers concerning a visit to Ethiopia under Italian occupation in the spring of 1939.
MC:P2/4 Papers concerning Dodds-Parker’s war service, especially with the Special Operations Executive (SOE). This section includes much material on Dodds-Parker’s later links with the SOE, especially concerning the Special Forces Club, and there are several reminiscences by Dodds-Parker and others of the war. There are also some papers relating to the invasion of Ethiopia in 1941, and the successful re-installation of Haile Selassie as Emperor.
MC:P2/5 Papers concerning Dodds-Parker’s period as MP for Banbury. Aside from papers on constituency business, and general material on Dodds-Parker’s work as an MP, there is also material on Dodds-Parker’s service in Government, including the Suez crisis.
MC:P2/6 Papers on Dodds-Parker’s years spent outside Parliament, in 1959–1964. These include correspondence, and notes. There are also papers on Dodds-Parker’s work with the Conservative Commonwealth Council, and on his visit to Senegal in 1961, when he represented the Crown at their Independence celebrations.
MC:P2/7 Papers on Dodds-Parker’s term as MP for Cheltenham. As with the Banbury papers, there is material both on local constituency matters and on Dodds-Parker’s parliamentary work in this case, with reference to foreign affairs and Britains’s joining the EEC. There are also papers on a visit made by a Parliamentary delegation to China, which was led by Dodds-Parker.
MC:P2/8 Papers on Dodds-Parker’s time in the European Parliament. These include letters, reports and notes, and also material on Dodds-Parker’s work as a rapporteur for a committee investigating the sugar trade.
MC:P2/9 Papers from the time after Dodds-Parker’s retirement from active politics in 1975. These mostly comprise correspondence files, which include many reminiscences of his earlier life, including the Suez crisis.
MC:P2/11 Papers relating to Dodds-Parker’s work for Charities and Campaign Groups. Organisations and causes which Dodds-Parker supported included Radio Free Europe, the Channel Tunnel, mental health and Fort Ticonderoga (an old fort near Dodds-Parker’s summer residence in America in the 1970s and 1980s).
MC:P2/12 Papers on political organisations and groups supported by Dodds-Parker. These include the North Atlantic Assembly, the Western European Union, the Council of Europe, the European Atlantic Group and the series of conferences at Ditchley Park and Wilton House.
MC:P2/14 Papers relating to Dodds-Parker’s two published volumes of memoirs, Setting Europe Ablaze and Political Eunuch, as well as to a third, unpublished one, Last Laugh.
MC:P2/15 Miscellaneous papers. These include Dodds-Parker’s engagement diaries from the 1920s to the 1970s, some letters and photographs, and much printed ephemera.
MC:P2/16 Papers on Dodds-Parker’s father, Dr. A.P. Dodds-Parker, and his family. These include inventories, letters, and some sketches of Magdalen, probably drawn by him, as well as two pedigrees of the Parker family.
MC:P2/17 Papers on Dodds-Parker’s uncle, Alec Wise, and other members of the Wise family. Wise spent most of his life serving in the Middle East, especially in Egypt (more information on him is given in the introduction to this section). These papers, given to Dodds-Parker by Wise near the end of his life, include many photographs, some 18th century papers on his ancestors, some notes, and an example of Arab needlework. Other members of the family represented include Wise’s brother Fredric, and a Victorian ancestor, Thomas Wise.
One basic principle was adhered to throughout the cataloguing of the papers: many documents were found in folders or envelopes, into which Dodds-Parker had put them. Although the folders and envelopes have mostly been replaced with more suitable acid-free equivalents, each folder’s contents have been kept together and listed as individual items. This sometimes means that one “item” may consist of just one letter, whereas another one will comprise several hundred papers, but it does at least protect the original context of the collection. Descriptions of such items in the catalogue frequently include the words “Folder of..”, “Envelope of..” or “Bundle of..” to indicate how they were stored when found.
Most of the Dodds-Parker papers are available to researchers. However, some of the more recent papers, especially those with some personal material on people still alive, are closed either wholly or in part during the lifetimes of these people. Such instances are noted in the catalogue.
From the late 1980s, Dodds-Parker frequently tended to type his replies to letters on the back of the letter itself, so searchers should bear this in mind for the more recent documents.