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Cecil A. F. Meekings ( 1914-1977 )

During his lifetime, Cecil Anthony Francis Meekings was widely regarded as the foremost historian of the medieval English courts of Common Law. Born in 1914, Meekings gained a first in History from Jesus College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he was awarded the Lightfoot Scholarship in Ecclesiastical History and the George Williams Prize for his research on the Book of Common Prayer.

Such a promising archival career was soon interrupted by the start of World War II. Meekings entered Army service in 1939 and served in East Africa before being transferred to the British Control Commission for Germany as an Archives Officer. During his work with the British MFAA, he was instrumental in the postwar reconstruction of German archives and remained a tireless activist for their safe and responsible return. He undertook a fourteen-day survey of the many archival depots within the British Zone of occupation during 1946 and was later involved in the publication of Der Archivar: Mitteilungsblatt fur deutsches Archivwesen, an archival-based magazine circulated within the British Zone.

In his mission to build international cooperation between postwar archivists, Meekings helped organize multiple large-scale meetings involving the professional archivists in the Western Occupation Zones. Attendance at these meetings steadily increased: while nineteen archivists attended the December 11, 1946 meeting in Bünde, sixty were present to hear Meekings’ opening speech in Detwold on September 7, 1947. These cooperative gatherings ultimately led to the creation of a Bi-Zonal Committee of Archivists, the Union of German Archivists, and the opening of a Bi-Zonal Archival School at Marburg in the spring of 1949.

Meekings joined the staff of the Public Record Office (PRO) in 1947, where he remained for twenty-seven years including his long tenure as Librarian from 1953 until his retirement in 1974. While at the PRO, Meekings completely reorganized its cataloguing system to include the many new forms of media he acquired as Librarian. Meanwhile, he conducted exhaustive research on the judicial records of the Court of King’s Bench, which he personally reconstructed. For his outstanding contribution to the conservation of England’s cultural heritage, Meekings was recognized with the Order of the British Empire in 1973.

The Cecil Anthony Francis Meekings Papers are conserved at The National Archives, Kew in the United Kingdom.