Birmingham-Southern College will become a destination for scholars of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, thanks to a new archival collection that includes access to more than 800,000 pages of digitized original source material from Churchill’s own papers.
The new Churchill Archives at BSC, which will be dedicated at 3 p.m. on January 24, was made possible through a generous gift from 1950 graduate Robert B. Callahan Sr. and his wife, Virginia C. Callahan. The Fairhope, Ala.-based couple funded access to the digitized collection and a dedicated space to house it and to host seminars and scholarly activity.
Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Churchill College there, will be a special guest at the dedication. He will also speak to students in the history course “The ‘Great War:’ Britain and the First World War, 1914-19,” discussing Churchill’s role in World War I.
The Churchill Papers include letters and documents ranging including personal correspondence with friends and family; his official exchanges with kings, presidents, politicians, and military leaders; and drafts and speaking notes for his famous wartime speeches. BSC is one of just 20 colleges and universities in the nation with on-site access to the collection.
The project will provide BSC students with a new way to approach historical and leadership studies, along with the ability to work first-hand with primary sources – reading the same intelligence and government documents that came across Churchill’s desk.
“This will set BSC apart from other small liberal arts colleges by giving our students a chance to work with source materials hands-on and develop their skills in historical and political analysis and critical thinking,” said BSC Provost Bradley J. Caskey. “It’s such a wonderful honor to be one of so few institutions with access to these documents.”
In addition, he said, some students will be able to travel to work with the original materials in England, fulfilling BSC’s mission of supporting undergraduates in independent and collaborative research. As part of the project, the Churchill Archives Centre has also agreed to allow one BSC history student each year to conduct research on-site at the University of Cambridge. Connor Hansen, junior History major from Colorado, is the first student selected; he will be researching his senior honors history paper, likely with a focus on British policy in the Middle East. In addition to the Churchill material, the Centre also houses the papers of more than 600 important political, military, and scientific figures from Churchill’s time and later, including those of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was a personal friend of Mr. and Mrs. Callahan.
BSC is currently working to establish a fund to support travel for the students selected to participate. For more information about contributing to the fund, please contact Virginia Gilbert Loftin, Vice President for Advancement and Communications, at (205) 226-4938 or firstname.lastname@example.org.