Noel Annan was born on 25 December 1916 in Gloucester Terrace, London. He attended St Winifred's School, Seaford and Stowe, Buckinghamshire. Whilst at Stowe, he became head of Temple House, edited 'The Stoic', and acted in school plays. He later became a Governor of the school.
In 1935, Noel Annan was admitted to King's College, Cambridge, to read History. After a First in Part 1 and a starred First in Part 2 of the Historical Tripos, he stayed at King's in 1938-9 for a fourth year to read Law.
In October 1940, he went to an officer cadet-training unit. Although expecting to go into the Rifle Brigade, he was sent to the Intelligence Corps in January 1941. His career during the war had three main phases. In January 1941, he was posted to MI 14, a small group in the War Office who advised the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. In June 1942, he was sent to Staff College, and then posted to the Joint Intelligence Staff in the War Cabinet Office, located with Winston Churchill in his bunker. At the end of 1944, he moved to Eisenhower's headquarters in Paris as its liaison officer with military intelligence in London. He later became a senior officer in the Political Division of the British Control Commission in Germany. During his military career, he rose to the rank of Colonel, and was awarded an Order of the British Empire.
At the end of 1946, Noel Annan returned to King's College, Cambridge. During the war, John Maynard Keynes had persuaded the College to elect some Fellows 'in absentia', and Noel Annan was elected under this provision in 1944. He became a Lecturer of Politics within the Faculty of Economics, and was Assistant Tutor in the College from 1947 to 1956. Supported by G.H.W. ('Dadie') Rylands, he was elected Provost in 1956.
In 1966, Noel Annan left King's College, Cambridge to take up the post of Provost of University College, London. He remained there until 1978. From 1978 to 1981, he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of London.
Elected to the House of Lords as a Life Peer in 1965, he sat on many boards and committees. He was a trustee of the British Museum 1963-1980 and of the National Gallery 1978-85. He chaired the Royal Commission on Broadcasting, which completed its report in 1977.
He married Gabrielle Ullstein in June 1950, and their daughters Lucy and Juliet were born in 1952 and 1955.
His publications include: 'Leslie Stephen' (1951 with a revised edition in 1984); 'Roxburgh of Stowe' (1965); 'Our Age' (1990); 'Changing Enemies' (1995); and 'The Dons' (1992).
Throughout this catalogue, the name of Noel Gilroy Annan has been abbreviated to NGA.
The collection includes notes and drafts of published writings, texts of speeches given to the House of Lords and to other institutions, reference notes, subject files, engagement diaries, and personal papers.
Noel Annan gave his papers to the Archive Centre in two large accessions during his lifetime, in 1995 and 1997. In 2001, his family gave the remaining papers.
Noel Annan's system of filing, his division of subjects, and his file titles have been preserved.