A Provost’s War: The Great War Correspondence of Lancelot Ridley Phelps

  • A page from 'A Provost's War' - Oriel College
    A page from 'A Provost's War'
  • Provost Lancelot Ridley Phelps
    Oriel's wartime Provost, Lancelot Ridley Phelps
  • A page from 'A Provost's War' - Oriel College
    A page from 'A Provost's War'
16 October, 2018

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War in 1918 Oriel has published a new book, A Provost’s War. The volume, edited by Dr John Stevenson and College Archivist Rob Petre, brings together some of the correspondence received by the College’s wartime Provost, Lancelot Ridley Phelps. The book is now on sale in the Lodge and online.

Phelps, who served as Provost of Oriel from 1914 until 1929, was a man deeply committed to his pupils both past and present, but also immersed in local and national affairs. The letters he received over the course of the war reflect movingly the tragic loss of young lives, the heartache of those left behind and the private struggles of survivors with wounds to mind and body. It also demonstrates the impact of war not only on Oxford but on the country at large.

Few aspects of the Great War are more emotive than the story of the thousands who flocked to the colours from their schools and universities in the patriotic enthusiasm of 1914, only to be faced with a war whose scale and horror could barely be envisaged in its early heady days. For those who went to war from Oxford University, death and life-changing injuries would be the result for about one in five, affecting not only them but also their families and friends, often for years to come. For some of the war’s youngest recruits, those who matriculated between 1910 and 1914, the death toll would reach almost one in three.

Hundreds of Oriel students past and present (and some who never matriculated), as well as members of staff, joined the forces to fight in the war. Of those Oriel men who served, 163 died as a result.

Beyond the toll of death and wounds, the experience of war would change radically many areas of politics and society, particularly the wider role of the state, the promotion of women’s suffrage and often intense questioning of pre-war assumptions. The letters received by Provost Phelps over the course of the war make clear the huge impact of the war, not only locally within Oriel, but on a national scale.

How to Purchase

If you would like to purchase a copy of this book, it is available to buy from the College Lodge for the price of £20.00. This is for in-person purchases only.

If you are not able to come into College to buy a copy, and would prefer to buy online, you may do so via the Oxford University Shop. The book will cost £25.00 including postage and packing.