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Christopher Sykes Papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 612

Scope and Contents

The Christopher Sykes Papers document his personal and professional life and span the dates 1909 to 1976. The Papers contain correspondence, writings, personal papers, and photographs documenting Sykes's career as a writer and to a lesser extent his work with the Foreign Office, the military, and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Sykes's correspondence provides evidence of his professional and, to a lesser degree, personal relationships. In addition to Sykes's literary agent (A.D. Peters) and publishers (Collins Publishers and Hollis and Carter), other correspondents include Isaiah Berlin, T.S. Eliot, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Philip Montefiore Magnus-Allcroft, Harold Nicolson, Cecil Roth, Rebecca Sieff, Robert Speaight, Richard Usborne, and Evelyn Waugh. Also included is correspondence with Sykes's siblings Angela Sykes Antrim, Freya Sykes Elwes, and Daniel Sykes.

Drafts, background materials, research notes, publicity materials, correspondence, and reviews document Sykes's writing career and creative process. The Papers also contain Sykes's writings while working at the BBC as well as a range of his creative output from fiction (including his children's book Albert and Emerald) to nonfiction.

Personal papers, such as financial records, notebooks, clippings, and photographs, provide evidence of the Sykes family's personal life (including Camilla Russell Sykes's family).


  • 1909-1976


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile is in cold storage and may be consulted only with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Christopher Sykes Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of William S. Reese (Yale 1977), 1997.

July 2021 Acquisition: Gift of Dorothy M. Hurt, 2021.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1935-1976. II. Writings, 1936-1976. III. Personal Papers, 1909-1971. IV. July 2021 Acquisition, 1930-1969.


17.43 Linear Feet ((37 boxes) + 3 broadsides)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Christopher Sykes Papers document the personal and professional life of British author Christopher Sykes (1907-1986). The Papers span the dates 1909 to 1976 and contain correspondence, writings, personal papers, and photographs documenting Sykes's career as a writer as well as his work for the Foreign Office, the military, and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Christopher Sykes (1907-1986)

Christopher Sykes was born on November 17, 1907 in Yorkshire, England to Mark Sykes and Edith Violet Gorst Sykes. He was educated at Downside School, Sorbonne, University of Paris (1926), and Christ Church, Oxford University (1926-1928), but left his post-secondary studies without obtaining a degree. Sykes's literary circle included Robert Byron, Evelyn Waugh, and John Betjeman, all of whom attended Oxford University during roughly the same period.

Upon leaving his studies Sykes worked for the Foreign Office as an honorary attaché at the British embassy in Berlin, Germany (1928-1929) and as a private secretary to Sir Robert Clive in Tehran, Persia (1930-1931). After a year of studies at the School of Oriental Studies in London (1933) and two years of travels through Persia and Afghanistan, Sykes returned to Tehran as secretary for the British Embassy from 1941 to 1943 and to cover the Persian-Azerbaijan Campaign for The Daily Mail in 1946.

Sykes wrote about his travels in Stranger Wonders: Tales of Travel (1937) and Innocence and Design (1935) (which he co-authored with his travel companion Robert Byron under the pseudonym Richard Waughburton). At this time, Sykes also focused on his own writing completing Wassmuss: The German Lawrence (1936) and corresponding for The Spectator and The Observer (1936-1939).

During World War II, Sykes served in the military, first with the Green Howards (1939-1941), for which he was stationed in Cairo at the Middle East Headquarters, and then for the Special Operations Executive (1943) and the Special Air Service (1943-1945). Sykes continued to write during the War and in 1944 published High Minded Murder.

Following World War II, Sykes wrote a collection of essays, Four Studies in Loyalty (1946), and served as the literary editor for the New English Review before joining the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1948. Sykes worked for the Third Programme (1948) and then for the features department (1949-1968).

While at the BBC Sykes continued to write and his publications range from fiction, such as Answer to Question 33 (1948), Character and Situation (1949), A Song of a Shirt (1953), and Dates and Parties (1955), to non-fiction, such as Two Studies in Virtue (1953), Crossroads to Israel (1965) and Troubled Loyalty (1968). Sykes also wrote a number of biographies which include Orde Wingate (1959), Nancy: The Life of Lady Astor (1972), and Evelyn Waugh: A Biography (1975).

In 1936 Sykes married Camilla Russell (daughter of Thomas Wentworth Russell and Evelyn Dorothea Temple) with whom he had one son, Mark Sykes, in 1937. Sykes died on December 8, 1986.

Guide to the Christopher Sykes Papers
by H. Dean
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

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