Title: Francis Leslie Watson Collection
Classmark: BC MS 20c Watson
Creator(s): Watson, Francis (1907-1988)
Main language: English; French; German
Size and medium: 5 boxes; manuscript, typescript papers, diaries, photographs, postcards, press cuttings, and printed material.
Includes personalia relating to the Watson family and genealogical material relating to the Watson and Barber families. There are also diaries belonging to Francis Leslie Watson, some of his correspondence and papers relating to his BBC broadcasts.
Francis Leslie Watson, OBE, the biographer, critic, and radio feature writer, was born on 7 August 1907 to Major Frank Leslie Watson and his wife Charlotte Ethel (née Barber), a Yorkshire-based family, and educated at Giggleswick School and Downing College, Cambridge, where he read Modern Languages, mainly French and German. After work on the Yorkshire Post, he found his bent as an independent writer, mainly of biography. 'Lord Dawson of Penn' (1936) was followed by 'Wallenstein' (1938), before he went to India in 1938 and for the duration of the Second World War was assigned to intelligence with the General Staff at Delhi. He subsequently worked as Director of Counter-Propaganda to the Government of India, for which he was awarded his OBE, and it was in India that he met his wife, Claire, by whom he had a son, Giles Hugh Shirburn, in 1950. His time in India influenced much of his later career, publications, and broadcasting. In 1957 he was awarded the Italia Prize for a programme on Mahatma Gandhi, and he wrote a history of India and other related works, such as, 'Gandhi', 'The Trial of Mr Gandhi', and 'The Frontiers of China'. Whilst living back in London, he scripted for broadcasting many programmes with literary and historical themes, including some on his native county of Yorkshire. In 1974 he published his book 'The Year of the Wombat', which portrayed Victorian life in the England of 1857. He died in the autumn of 1988.
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