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Arthur Willert papers

Call Number: MS 720

Scope and Contents

The Arthur Willert Papers are an important source for documenting the history of Anglo-American relations during the two decades immediately prior to and following World War I. Willert's dispatches to the editors of the London Times and letters to friends provide an informed assessment of a variety of subjects and personalities relating to Anglo-American relations and America's entry into World War I. The papers merit attention not only for the insight they provide for a vital period in Anglo-American relations, but also because Willert himself emerges as a figure of interest whose activities as a reporter and propagandist played a part in determining the course of Anglo-American relations.

The papers are arranged in three series: I. Correspondence; II. Writings; III. Personal and Memorabilia.

CORRESPONDENCE is divided into three sections: General Correspondence, Mrs. Arthur Willert's Correspondence, and Northcliffe Mission Correspondence. General Correspondence contains the major portion of Willert's correspondence. Correspondents of note in General Correspondence include: D.D. Brahm, Times Foreign Editor, 1912-1914 (23 to AW/ 29 from); Geoffrey Dawson, Times Editor, 1911-1919 (121 to AW/ 158 from); Cecil A. Spring-Rice, British Ambassador to the U.S., 1912-1918 (10 to AW); Wickham Steed, Times Foreign Editor, 1914-1919 (28 to AW/ 42 from); William Wiseman, British Foreign Office Chief Intelligence Officer in U.S., 1917 (7 to AW/ 12 from).

The matters discussed in Willert's correspondence with the London Times staff (Brahm, Dawson, Steed) related primarily to Anglo-American relations and U.S. domestic politics. Subjects include: President Wilson's personality and political ability; U.S. policy towards Mexico; U.S. intervention in World War I; the Northcliffe Mission; U.S. labor, coal, and transport problems; the Balfour Mission; German propaganda in the U.S.; the Lusitania's sinking; German war intrigues; and British propaganda.

Subjects discussed in Willert's correspondence with Spring-Rice and Wiseman include: Wilson's Mexico policy; Willert's role as a propagandist; Anglo-American relations; the London Naval Conference. An interesting letter from Willert to Lady Astor (1914) discusses President Wilson's physical condition.

Mrs. Arthur Willert's Correspondence contains letters which are primarily social in nature. These include forty-five letters from Eleanor Roosevelt (1932-1955) and sixty letters from Arthur Willert (1918-1950).

The Northcliffe Mission (British war mission to the U.S., 1917) Correspondence consists of approximately seventy dispatches sent between the Mission and the British Foreign Office between July and December, 1917. The subjects of the dispatches relate primarily to the acquisition of war material and Anglo-American relations. Appendix I is a detailed list of the correspondents and people mentioned in the Northcliffe Mission Correspondence.

Series II, WRITINGS, includes clippings of articles Willert wrote while serving as Washington correspondent of the London Times (1910-1920); reprints of his magazine articles, book reviews, and lectures; notebooks and appointment books. The most interesting materials in this series are his memoranda and notes written in his capacity as a Times correspondent and Foreign Office press officer. Important subjects include: British propaganda in the U.S., 1914; an account of a conversation between Spring-Rice and Robert Lansing on Anglo-American relations, 1915; President Wilson, 1917; the Democratic Convention, 1920; the Washington Conference, 1921; the Lausanne Conference, 1932; the Geneva Disarmament Conference, 1932; and conversations with Franklin Roosevelt, 1936, 1939.

Series III, PERSONAL AND MEMORABILIA, consists primarily of souvenir materials: credentials, menus, invitations, and a set of The Intimate Papers of Colonel House with notes in Willert's handwriting.

The Arthur Willert Papers were received by Yale University in 1974, the result of a bequest by Sir Arthur Willert.


  • 1907-1973


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the estate of Arthur Willert, 1974.


Arranged in three series: I. Correspondence. II. Writings. III. Personal and Memorabilia.

Arranged in three series: I. Correspondence. II. Writings. III. Personal and Memorabilia.


11 Linear Feet (30 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, writings, notes, memoranda, and printed matter of Arthur Willert, British journalist and diplomat. His correspondence is largely political, particularly during his tenure as chief correspondent of the London Times in the United States (1910-1920) and as representative of the Ministry of Information (1917-1918). As a member of United Kingdom delegations to various international conferences (1921-1934) his memoranda and other writings offer a view of European political affairs. From 1939-1945 he was Head of the Ministry of Information Office for the Southern Region. In addition to his newspaper articles, he wrote for magazines, lectured in the United States (1936-1939) and wrote four books on international politics. In the papers are printed copies and drafts of articles, drafts of two books and a draft for an unidentified book. The correspondence of Florence S. Willert, his wife, includes forty-five letters from Eleanor Roosevelt. His correspondents include D. D. Braham, Herbert Croly, Geoffrey Dawson, Lord Northcliffe, H. W. Steed, Sir Campbell Stuart, Robert Wilberforce, Evelyn Wrench.

Biographical / Historical

Sir Arthur Willert was born on May 19, 1882 in Oxford, England. He received his education at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, and in 1906 began a career in journalism as a member of the London Times staff. After brief periods in Paris, Berlin, Washington, and London Willert was appointed chief correspondent of the London Times in the United States, a position he held from 1910 to 1920. His work for the Times was interrupted during 1917-1918 when he served as Secretary of the British War Mission in Washington and representative of the Ministry of Information.

While in the United States Willert's amiable personality and talent as a journalist won him a large number of contacts in influential government and private circles. Among those with whom he established friendships were: William Howard Taft, Elihu Root, Edward M. House, Robert Lansing, Frank Polk, and the young Franklin Roosevelt. During World War I Willert's contacts, combined with his firsthand knowledge of American public opinion, enabled him to supply the British government with valuable information on American politics, foreign policy, and public opinion. Of equal importance to Britain was Willert's skill in acting as an unofficial interpreter of the British view-point to American officials.

In 1921 Willert left the Times to become Head of the News Department and Press Officer of the British Foreign Office. As part of his duties Willert was a member of the United Kingdom's delegation to the Washington Naval Conference (1921-1922), the London Economic Conference (1924), the London Naval Conference (1930), the Geneva Disarmament Conference (1932-1934), and to meetings of the League of Nations between 1929 and 1934.

Resigning from the Foreign Office in 1935 Willert devoted his time to writing and lecturing on British foreign policy and the need for collective security in the face of the increasing militarization of Germany. At the outbreak of World War II he became Head of the Ministry of Information office for the Southern Region, a post he held until 1945.

Sir Arthur died on March 11, 1973.

His published works include: Aspects of British Foreign Policy (1928), The Frontiers of England (1935), The Empire in the World (joint, 1937), The Road to Safety (1952), Washington and other Memoirs (1972).


  1. Balfour, A.J. --- Asquith, Captain
  2. Buchan, John --- Baillie, ____
  3. Churchill, Winston --- Barclay, Colville
  4. Cook, Kemball --- Black, Sir Frederick
  5. Hall, Henry Noble --- Brand, Robert
  6. Hudson, Sir Robert --- Brooks, Sidney
  7. Lausanne, --- Caird, Andrew
  8. Lever, Sir Hardman --- Dawson, Geoffrey
  9. Lloyd George, David --- Garrod, Heathcote
  10. Long, Walter --- Gordon, Sir Charles
  11. Northcliffe, Lady --- Harmsworth, Cecil
  12. Phillips, C.J. --- House, Edward M.
  13. Reading, Earl of --- Japp, Henry
  14. Smuts, General Jan --- Kent, Sir Stephenson
  15. Stone, Melville --- Law, Bonar
  16. Wiseman, Sir William --- McAdoo, William
  17. --- McCormick, Medill
  18. --- MacLachlan, Brigadier General James
  19. --- Royden, Sir Thomas
  20. --- Spring Rice, Sir Cecil
  21. --- Stettinius, Edward R.
  22. --- Stone, Melville
  23. --- Tardieu, André
  24. --- Willert, Sir Arthur
Guide to the Arthur Willert Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Ann Clifford Newhall
May 1975
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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