Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, (CARA)

Background and History

The Academic Assistance Council (AAC) was initially established in April 1933 by  William Beveridge, in response to the dismissal and subsequent persecution leading academics and professors  from German universities on racial and/or political grounds.  Beveridge’s concern for their welfare resulted in his desire to  launch a ‘rescue operation’ for these academics and this laid the groundwork for the establishment of the organisation.

The Academic Assistance Council became the ‘Society for Protection of Science and Learning’ (SPSL) during the course of the year 1936 reflecting the expanded role of the organisation in help to protect not only displaced academics but also the protection of academic freedom itself.  During this period significant numbers of academics were given assistance, including Ludwig Guttmann who, after the Second World War, went on to found the Paralympics. Further details on this can be found within the British Olympic Association Archive and Library, currently located within the UEL Archives.  A detailed list of the various academics helped by the Society leading up and during the Second World War can be found here.

In 2006 the focus shifted to the Middle East, particularly Iraq, and to troubled regions of Africa.  More recently, CARA has been particularly engaged in helping academics from Syria.  In 1999 the SPSL changed its name to CARA – the ‘Council for Assisting Refugee Academics’.  This was modified again in 2014 to become the ‘Council for At-Risk Academics’, reflecting the fact that CARA helps many who are not ‘refugees’.

Further details on the history of CARA as an organisation can be found on the History page of the CARA website.  In addition, the following published histories of CARA and the important work the organisation has undertaken since its inception in 1933 are described in the following publications currently available in the Archive reading room:

1)    In Defence of Learning: The Plight, Persecution and Placement of Academic Refugees 1933-1980s.  Edited by Shula Marks, Paul Weindling and Laura Wintour.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).  Archive Reference: QU59 MAR.

2)    The Refuge and the Fortress: Britain and the Flight from Tyranny.  1st edition. By Jeremy Seabrook, with a forward by Jon Snow. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.  Archives Reference: QU60.575 SEA.

3)    The Refuge and the Fortress: Britain and the Flight from Tyranny.  2nd edition. By Jeremy Seabrook, with a forward by Jon Snow. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.  Archives Reference: QU60.575 SEA.

The CARA Archives 

The history of CARA has been well preserved and is currently preserved in two distinct and separate archives.

The earlier records covering the period from 1933 to the 1970s when the organisation was known first as the Academic Assistance Council and then the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, is held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. A project to undertake digitalisation of the Bodleian archives, funded by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), has now been completed and will soon be available to visitors of the USHMM.

The Routledge Guide to British Political Archives published in 2006 describes this first ealier Archive as follows:

“Society for the Protection of Science and Learning. The Society was founded as the Academic Assistance Council in 1933 and adopted its present titles in January 1937. It was responsible for facilitating the settlement of academic refugees from Nazi Germany in the UK; in the post-war period it has continued to assist persecuted scholars from around the world.  Records from 1933-58 have been deposited in the Bodleian Library.  There are over 5,000 files in the archive, the bulk of which are case files of individuals assisted by the Society,  Administrative records and files of correspondence have also been retained, as have certain papers of a later date, including records of the Commitee / AGM which extended up to 1986. A list is available for the whole archive (NRA 31126) and further details may also be found in Adrian Allan. University Bodies: A Survey of Inter-Supra-University Bodies and the Records (University of Liverpool Archives Unit, 1990).  Records over thirty years old are available to researchers.  Anyone wishing to consult more recent papers or the case file of any living person must seek the permission of the Secretary of the Society.  The Society also retains in its own care its original minute books and the majority of case files of refugees whom it has assisted since 1960. Enquiries should be directed to the Hon. Secretary.”(Reference: Chris Cook, The Routledge Guide to British Political Archives: Sources since 1945.  Abingdon: Routledge, 2006: page 390. Available in the Refugee Council Archive reading room at QU9.2 COO).

The Archives from the period 1933 to 1956 has been fully catalogued and a detailed catalogue listing is available from the Oxford website and is entitled, “Catalogue of the Archive of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, 1933-87.”  Further details are also available directly from the CARA office and please contact info.cara@lsbu.ac.uk for further details.  Information is also available on the CARA Archives page, which includes further details on the digitisation project funded by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).

Please Note: Access to CARA archives is conditional on holding a full and unrestricted Bodleian Library reader’s card. In addition researchers will need permission from CARA in order to make copies of documents and to quote. CARA owns the copyright to all of the AAC/SPSL official writings. Please contact info.cara@lsbu.ac.uk for permission.

More recent archival material dating from the 1970s onwards documenting the change from the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning to the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA), is located with us at the University of East London in conjunction with our existing refugee collections.  This series represents the accumulated papers of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (1999-), and its immediate forebear, the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (1987-1999).These include Esther Simpson papers, grant applications and beneficiary details, financial records and governance documents, which are in the process of being catalogued. A list of box files is available from CARA on request. A selection from the early part of the Archive, currently held at the Bodleian Library, is also available on CD, which is available on request for reference purposes within the Archive reading room.  The CD was produced courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).

Due to the sensitive nature of many of the record series held within the collection, the Archive is only partly accessible.  Researchers, who are interested in utilising this collection, in the first instance, should apply to CARA directly at info.cara@lsbu.ac.uk providing an outline their research interests. Parts of the archive are closed due to the requirements of the Data Protection Act.