Roger Stevens was born 8 June 1906. In 1928 he entered the Consular Service and served in Buenos Aires, New York, Antwerp, Denver, and the Foreign Office. In 1931 he married Constance Hallam Hipwell (died 1976) and they had a son. Stevens held the following positions: Secretary of British Civil Secretariat, Washington, 1944-1946, at the Foreign Office, 1946-1948, Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office, 1948-1951, British Ambassador Sweden, 1951-1954, British Ambassador to Persia, 1954-1958, Deputy Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office, 1958-1963, and Advisor to First Secretary of State on Central Africa, 1963-1970. In 1962 Stevens published 'The Land of the Great Sophy' (reprinted 1971). He was also Vice-Chancellor, Leeds University, 1963-1970, Chairman of Yorks and Humberside Economic Planning Council, 1965-1970, a member of the Panel of Inquiry into Greater London Development Plan, 1970-1972, Chairman of the Committee on Mineral Planning Control, 1972-1974, and a member of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, UNAT, 1972-1977. In 1977 he married Jane Chandler (nee Irving). Sir Roger Stevens died 20 February 1980.
The principal interest of this collection lies in the day-to-day picture it presents of diplomatic life. Throughout his life Stevens sent lively and detailed letters home to his parents from his foreign postings as he did to his first wife, Constance, in the intervals when they were apart. These are full of vivid accounts of places visited and events witnessed, reflections on issues of the moment at the time and discerning descriptions of the people he was meeting in Argentina, the United States, Sweden, Paris, Antwerp, Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Persia (now Iran). The letters are supplemented by diaries that Sir Roger kept throughout his life. From 1952 onwards, these are just small, pocket diaries with engagements and appointments, but most of the earlier ones are journals in which Sir Roger noted his impressions of people and events, copied passages from books he was reading and often inserted appropriate clippings from newspapers or magazines. From his time as Ambassador to Persia, Sir Roger gained a passionate interest in the people, art and history of that country and the collection contains the notes he used in writing two books on Persia, 'The Land of the Great Sophy ' and a work on seventeenth century European travellers in Persia originally entitled 'Persian Bandwagon' but renamed by Sir Roger after the revolution which overthrew the Shah as 'First View of Persia'. There are in the collection some letters and press cuttings relating to Sir Roger's vice-chancellorship of Leeds University and also copies of reports by a number of committees to which he belonged after his retirement from the Foreign Office but the bulk of the material of this later period relates to his membership of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal (UNAT), including several judgements delivered by this body. Two interesting items in the collection are Sir Roger's account of the attacks on British ships at Alicante and of the events in Valencia when he spent a brief period there during the Spanish Civil War and the notes he was compiling on Sir William Strang with a view to writing his biography shortly before his own death in 1980.
The papers of Sir Roger Stevens were deposited in Churchill Archives Centre by his widow, Lady Stevens in 1984.
Although a few UNAT papers are still closed, the bulk of the collection is available for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.
Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.
Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of Sir Roger Stevens, STVS