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Nevil Shute Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: Feb 1997

Biographical History

Nevil Shute (1899-1960) was a British engineer, aviator, sailor, journalist, and novelist. He is perhaps best known for his novels On the Beach and A Town Like Alice.

Born Nevil Shute Norway in Ealing, Middlesex, England, on January 17, 1899,he attended Shrewsbury School as a youth, and in 1912 his father, a career civil servant, was made head of the postal service in Ireland and posted to Dublin. Young Nevil witnessed the 1916 Easter Rising, although his father happened to be away from the GPO that day.

Shute read engineering at Balliol College, Oxford and after graduation worked as an aeronautical designer and engineer with De Havilland Aircraft Co., 1922-24; chief calculator and later deputy chief engineer with Airship Guarantee Co., 1924-30; and founder and managing director of Airspeed Ltd., 1931-38. During World War II (1940-45) he worked on weapons design and held the rank of lieutenant-commander in the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve. After the war Shute worked briefly for the Ministry of Information, visiting and writing on Burma; in 1950 he and his family relocated to Australia, where he remained until his death in 1960.

Although Shute was a talented engineer whose contributions to aviation include such useful innovations as retractable landing gear, he is more widely known for his literary achievements. Shute's father, mother, and grandmother were all published authors, so it is perhaps not surprising that Shute would try his hand at writing. Although his first novel, Marazan, was published in 1926 he did not turn to writing full-time until the 1940s, and always thought of himself not as an author but as "an engineer who writes books." Many of his novels drew heavily on Shute's own real-life experiences and engineering knowledge: several of his main characters are aviators or engineers, and he predicted the problems of metal fatigue in No Highway (1948), several years before the fledgling commercial airline industry began to encounter it, and the global horrors of nuclear war in On the Beach (1957).

No less than ten movies have been made from eight of Shute's novels (On the Beach and Pied Piper were each made twice). Undoubtedly the most famous is the 1959 version of On the Beach starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astair, and Anthony Perkins, although Shute himself did not care for the film version. The movie is sometimes credited with playing a major part in the international protest against nuclear weapons.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Nevil Shute Papers consists of literary manuscripts and other writings by and about Shute. The collection consists entirely of photocopies; there are no original documents.

Series 1 and 2 consist of photocopies made from microfilmed Literary manuscripts held by the National Library of Australia (NLA) in Canberra as of February 1971. Corrections noted by an asterisk in the list below were obtained from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation. The manuscripts include those of both published and unpublished short stories, articles, books, filmscripts and diaries.

Series 3 contains Other manuscripts, also photocopies from the NLA's microfilm, include dialogue and film treatments for Farewell, Miss Julie Logan, Shute's memorandum for Prime Minister Menzies on artists, composers and authors in Australia, and Shute's flight log for his flight from England to Australia.

Later Additions of items by and about Shute, also consisting entirely of photocopies, include letters, the texts of several speeches, Shute's will, and copies of published chapters, forewords and introductions from various books. There is also a copy of a short book by Shute's mother, Mary Louisa Norway, recounting her experience during the Sinn Fein Rebellion of 1916. These copies did not come from the NLA's microfilm and the provenance is unknown.

Arrangement of the Collection

Series 1, 2 and 3 follow the same arrangements as that of the originals in the National Library of Australia. The later additions are in alphabetical order by title or description.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Shute, Nevil.


Authors, Australian.
Authors, English -- 20th century.
Engineers -- Australia.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts for publication.
Short stories.
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

For items in the first three series, scholars should cite the National Library of Australia as the repository owning the original manuscripts (MS 2199), and all references should be to the numbering identification system prepared by the National Library (that is, using the series and item numbers assigned by NLA). Scholars should also note Special Collections Research Center as the North and South American repository for the microfilm.

Acquisition Information

Microfilm (of which Series 1, 2 and 3 are printouts) was obtained by agreement from the National Library of Australia, 1971.

Provenance of the later additions is unknown.

Table of Contents

Series 1. Literary manuscripts, unpublished

Series 2. Literary manuscripts, published

Series 3. Other manuscripts