The British Council's Travelling Library

In 1936, the newly-formed British Council Books and Periodicals Committee received a request from Yugoslavia for a circulating ‘English library’ abroad. It responded by generating a blueprint for 5 travelling book boxes, each containing a cross section of History, Fiction, Poetry, Adventure, Belles Lettres, Classics, Biography, and Drama.

Looking at the selections, it is clear that the British Council were less motivated by promoting a canon of great works, than a more general belief that literature could act as a favourable cultural outpost for the state by shaping minds abroad.

Information collated from the minutes of the First Meeting of the Books and Periodicals Committee on 20 January 1936 (National Archives reference BW 70/1).

set 1

TitleAuthorDate publishedBook seriesPublisherCategory
The Expansion of EnglandJohn Robert Seeley1883Caravan LibraryMacmillan & Co.History
Three Detective NovelsDorothy SayersVictor GollanczFiction
The Way of All FleshSamuel Butler1903Florin BooksJonathan CapeFiction
English Songs and BalladsT. W. H. Crosland (ed.)1927World’s ClassicsOxford University PressPoetry
Hindoo Holiday: An Indian JournalJ. R. Ackerley1932Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusAdventure
EarlhamPercy Lubbock1921Travellers’ LibraryJonathan CapeBelles Lettres

Set 2

TitleAuthorDate publishedBook seriesPublisherCategory
The Stricken Deer: Or, the Life of William CowperDavid Cecil1933Crown ConstableConstable & Co.Biography
Three of the “Augustan Poets” series (including Cowper)’Poetry
History of ScotlandRobert Rait1914Home University LibraryThornton ButterworthHistory
The CathedralHugh Walpole1922Not specifiedNot specifiedFiction
Wuthering HeightsEmily Brontë1847Florin BooksJonathan CapeClassics
T. E. Lawrence in Arabia and AfterB. H. Liddell Hart1934Not specifiedNot specifiedBiography

set 3

TitleAuthorDate publishedBook seriesPublisherCategory
Louder and FunnierP. G. Wodehouse1932Not specifiedNot specifiedBelles Lettres
Confessions of an English Opium-EaterThomas De Quincey1821World’s ClassicsOxford University PressBelles Lettres
The National CharacterArthur Bryant1934Not specifiedNot specifiedHistory
Farmer’s GloryA. G. Street1932Not specifiedNot specifiedAdventure/Belles Lettres
The London PerambulatorJames Bone1925Not specifiedJonathan CapeAdventure
A Passage to IndiaE. M. Forster1924Not specifiedEdward ArnoldAdventure

set 4

TitleAuthorDate publishedBook seriesPublisherCategory
Riceyman StepsArnold Bennett1923Cassell’s Pocket LibraryCassell & Co.Fiction
How We are GovernedJohn A. R. Marriott1929World’s ManualsOxford University PressHistory
Queen VictoriaLytton Strachey1921Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusBiography
Sheridan’s PlaysWorld’s ClassicsOxford University PressDrama
Gallions ReachH. M. Tomlinson1927Windmill LibraryWilliam HeinemannFiction
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting ManSiegfried Sassoon1928Not specifiedNot specifiedFiction

set 5

TitleAuthorDate publishedBook seriesPublisherCategory
Those Barren LeavesAldous Huxley1925Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusBelles Lettres
The Essential Shakespeare: A Biographical AdventureJohn Dover Wilson1932Not specifiedCambridge University PressBiography
Royal Flush: The Story of MinetteMargaret Irwin1932Not specifiedChatto & WindusHistory/Biography
Fallodon PapersEdward Grey1926Constable’s MiscellanyConstable & Co.Belles Lettres
The Four Adventures of Richard HannayJohn Buchan1915Yellow Jacket SeriesHodder & StoughtonFiction
The Return of the NativeThomas Hardy1878Not specifiedMacmillan & Co.Classics

Additional Book suggestions

TitleAuthorDate publishedBook seriesPublisherCategory
A Book of Narrative VerseVere Henry Collins (ed.)1930World’s ClassicsOxford University PressPoetry
English Verse, Vol III–VWilliam Peacock (ed.)1930World’s ClassicsOxford University PressPoetry
Twentieth Century Poetry: An AnthologyHarold Monro (ed.)1929Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusPoetry
The Poems of Wilfred OwenWilfred Owen
Edmund Blunden (ed.)
1933Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusPoetry
The LandVita Sackville-West1926Windmill LibraryWilliam HeinemannPoetry
My Best PlaysF. & F.Drama
The Works of CongreveWilliam Congreve1930Not specifiedPeter DaviesDrama
MagicG. K. Chesterton1913New Adelphi LibraryMartin SeckerDrama
Home Chat, Sirocco, “This was a Man”: Three Plays with a PrefaceNoël Coward1928New Adelphi LibraryMartin SeckerDrama
Love on the DoleWalter Greenwood1933Florin BooksJonathan CapeFiction
The Hound of the BaskervillesArthur Conan Doyle1902Not specifiedNot specifiedFiction
The Flying InnG. K. Chesterton1914Gateway LibraryMethuen & Co.Fiction
Sons and LoversD. H. Lawrence1913Not specifiedMartin SeckerFiction
The Prussian Officer and Other StoriesD. H. Lawrence1914Not specifiedMartin SeckerFiction
The Wrong BoxRobert Louis Stevenson1889Not specifiedLongmans, Green & Co.Fiction
The Mercy of AllahHilaire Belloc 1922Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusFiction
Chrome YellowAldous Huxley1921Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusFiction
Lolly WillowesSylvia Townsend Warner1926Not specifiedNot specifiedFiction
The Old Wives’ TaleArnold Bennett1908Travellers’ LibraryJonathan CapeFiction
The Black DogA. E. Coppard1923Travellers’ LibraryJonathan CapeFiction
The Grasshoppers ComeDavid Garnett1931Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusFiction
A Rabbit in the AirDavid Garnett1932Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusFiction
The FountainCharles Langbridge Morgan1932Not specifiedMacmillan and Co.Fiction
The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. JamesM. R. James1931Not specifiedEdward ArnoldAdventure
The Stories of Robert Louis StevensonRobert Louis Stevenson1928Not specifiedVictor GollanczAdventure
YouthJoseph Conrad1898Not specifiedJ. M. Dent & SonsAdventure
Green HellJulian Duguid1934Travellers’ LibraryJonathan CapeAdventure
Dead Towns and Living Men: Being Pages from an Antiquary’s NotebookC. Leonard Woolley1932Life and Letters SeriesJonathan CapeAdventure
Allan QuartermaineRider Haggard1887Not specifiedNot specifiedAdventure
Confessions of a ThugPhilip Meadows Taylor1839World’s ClassicsOxford University PressAdventure
The Adventures of DunsterforceLionel Charles Dunsterville1920Not specifiedEdward ArnoldAdventure
The England of Queen AnneG. M. Trevelyan1930Swan LibraryLongmans, Green & Co.History
The Evolution of EnglandJames A. Williamson1934Not specifiedOxford University PressHistory
A History of England 1815–1918J. R. M. Butler1928Home University LibraryThornton ButterworthHistory
WalesWilliam Watkin Davies1925Home University LibraryThornton ButterworthHistory
The British Anti-Slavery MovementReginald Coupland1933Home University LibraryThornton ButterworthHistory
The Romance of EmpirePhilip Gibbs1906Hutchinson’s Booklover’s LibraryHutchinson & Co.History
Edward VII, Man and KingH. E. Wortham1931Gateway LibraryMethuen & Co. Biography
MiltonJohn Bailey1930Home University LibraryThornton ButterworthBiography
DarwinR. W. G. Hingston1934Gateway LibraryMethuen & Co. Biography
Charles DickensG. K. Chesterton1906Gateway LibraryMethuen & Co.Biography
ByronPeter Quennell1935Gateway LibraryMethuen & Co. Biography
Portraits in MiniatureLytton Strachey1931Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusBiography
MarlboroughJohn Fortescue1932Not specifiedLovat DicksonBiography
Testament of YouthVera Brittain1933Not specifiedVictor GollanczBiography
Father and SonEdmund Gosse1907Not specifiedWilliam HeinemannBiography
Shelley, Godwin and Their CircleHenry Noel Brailsford1913Home University LibraryThornton ButterworthBiography
The Life of NelsonRobert Southey1813Not specifiedJ. M. Dent & SonsBiography
ElgarErnest Newman1906Not specifiedJohn LaneBiography
The Hundred Best English EssaysEarl of Birkenhead1929Not specifiedCassell & Co.Belles Lettres
Selected English EssaysWilliam Peacock (ed.)1926World’s ClassicsOxford University PressBelles Lettres
Characters of Shakespeare’s PlaysWilliam Hazlitt1817World’s ClassicsOxford University PressBelles Lettres
Afoot in EnglandW. H. Hudson1909Not specifiedJ. M. Dent & SonsBelles Lettres
Ten Plays of ShakespeareStopford Brooke1906Constable’s MiscellanyConstable & Co.Belles Lettres
The Greek View of LifeGoldsworthy Lowes Dickinson1907Gateway LibraryMethuen & Co.Belles Lettres
Music at NightAldous Huxley1931Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusBelles Lettres
Essays of a BiologistJulian Huxley1923Phoenix LibraryChatto & WindusBelles Lettres
The English Comic CharactersJ. B. Priestley1925English Heritage SeriesLongmans, Green & Co.Belles Lettres
A Modern SymposiumGoldsworthy Lowes Dickinson1905Not specifiedAllen & UnwinBelles Lettres
Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen1813Not specifiedOxford University PressClassics
Lorna DooneRichard Doddridge Blackmore1869World’s ClassicsOxford University PressClassics
LavengroGeorge Borrow1851World’s Classics Oxford University PressClassics
The RenaissanceWalter Pater1873Travellers’ LibraryJonathan CapeClassics
Far from the Madding CrowdThomas Hardy1874Not specifiedMacmillan & Co.Classics
Eothen: or traces of travel, brought home from the EastAlexander Kinglake(1844)Not specifiedOxford University PressClassics