Vansittart was born in 1881 and was educated at Eton. In 1903 he entered the Diplomatic Service, and was posted in turn to the Paris embassy in 1903, the Teheran legation in 1907, the Cairo residency in 1909 and joined the Eastern Department of Foreign Office in 1911. In 1914 he moved to the Swedish section of Contraband Department as assistant clerk. In 1919 he was appointed 1st Secretary at the Paris Conference; and subsequently was Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon (1920-1924); Head of American Department of Foreign Office (1924-8); Under Secretary of State and Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister (1928-30); Permanent Under-Secretary of State (1930-38); and Chief Diplomatic Adviser to Foreign Secretary (1938-41).
He was awarded CMG (1920), CB (1927), KCB (1929), GCMG (1931), GCB (1938) and made a Privy Counsellor in 1940. He retired in 1941, was raised to the peerage. He published "Black Record" (1941), "Lessons of my Life" (1943), and "The Mist Procession, The Autobiography of Lord Vansittart" (1958). He died in 1957.
VNST I is divided into two main groups: official papers or copies of official papers (sections 1-3); and personal papers (section 4). The first three groups include not only Cabinet and Foreign Office papers, which were officially registered, but also some secret official correspondence which did not go through the registry and some semi-official correspondence
VNST II includes personal letters, several from prominent persons, which give a vivid picture of Vansittart's passionate concern about the twin menaces of fascism and communism. There are copies of most of Vansittart's books, plays and poems and many of his articles as well as copies of his broadcasts and some other speeches and correspondence about these.
There is also a small collection of early nineteenth century letters relating to Vansittart's ancestors mainly centered around Nicholas Vansittart who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1812 to 1823 and created Baron Bexley in 1823. Somewhat unexpectedly, the collection also contains papers and copies of papers about Lord Kitchener, apparently collected by Sir George Arthur for his book Life of Lord Kitchener.
In August 1966 Lord Vansittart's widow deposited the surviving portion of her husband's personal papers at Churchill College (VNST I). Additional papers of Lord Vansittart (VNST II) were uncovered by his step-son, Sir Colville Barclay on the death of his mother, Lord Vansittart's second wife, Sarita, in 1985, and given by him to Churchill College in two batches in September 1985 and May 1986.
VNST I is divided into two main groups: official papers or copies of official papers (sections 1-3); and personal papers (section 4). The first three groups include not only Cabinet and Foreign Office papers, which were officially registered, but also some secret official correspondence which did not go through the registry and some semi-official correspondence.
The papers are owned by Churchill College. Cambridge.