Dundas Family Papers

Scope and Content

The collection comprises 10 letters to Henry Dundas (1792-1799) and 132 to and from Robert Saunders Dundas (1807-1812), the majority of which are concerned with the appointment and behaviour of officers serving in India alongside the East India Company.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Dundas was born 28 April 1742. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University and was admitted as a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1763. His family connections and skills as a public orator ensured him a thriving business as a barrister and at the age of twenty-four he was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland. From October 1774-1790 Henry Dundas served as a member of the House of Commons and in 1775 he was appointed Lord Advocate, a post he held until 1783.

Henry Dundas' links with India began in April 1781 when he was appointed chairman of a secret committee on the war in the Carnatic and British possessions in India. The following year Dundas was appointed Minister Treasurer of the Navy, entered the Privy Council and took the office of the Keeper of the Scotch Signet. Although Dundas lost his job as Minister Treasurer of the Navy in 1783 he was made a member of the Board of Control for India in 1784 and became its President from 1793-1802. During this period he held a number of other political appointments most notably from 1791-1794 as Home Secretary, during which he defended the East India Company as Secretary of War in 1794 and as Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland in 1800. He was created Viscount Melville in 1802 and was First Lord of the Admiralty from May 1804- 1805. It was following this appointment that he was accused of using monies for purposes other than the Navy. In June 1805 he was called upon to defend himself in the House of Commons and there was some debate over whether he should stand trial or face impeachment. The impeachment before the House of Lords took place in April 1806 and eventually Dundas was acquitted of all charges. He never again held public office and died on 28 May 1811.

Robert Saunders Dundas (1771-1851) was the only son of Henry Dundas. He too was educated at Edinburgh High School and entered Parliament in 1797 as MP for Hastings. He then acted as private secretary to his father until 1801. In 1807 he was appointed to the Privy Council and in April of that year, following in his father's footsteps, he became the President of the Board of Control. From 1812-1827 he was first Lord of the Admiralty, and again from 1828-1830. Like his father Robert Dundas also held a number of important appointments in Scotland, including Governor of the Bank of Scotland. From 1814 he was Chancellor of the University of St. Andrews and in 1821 became a Knight of the Thistle. He died on 10 June 1851.


The material is arranged in chronological order.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

The private papers of Henry Dundas were broken up and sold at Sotheby's in 1924. The School purchased this collection of papers in 1926.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Related Material

Material relating to the Dundas family are now available in a wide number of repositories as follows: Material relating to Robert Dundas: BLPES 1782-1841 correspondence and papers relating to Highland roads and bridges Bodleian Library 1807-8 correspondence with Charles Grant and Edward Parry British Library correspondence and papers correspondence 1807-30 correspondence with Sir Harford Jones 1808-26 correspondence with Lord Liverpool 1811-20 correspondence with C. P. Yorke 1811-49 letters to J. W. Croker 1812-14 letters to Sir Samuel Hood 1812-26 correspondence with Lord Bathurst 1812-27 letters to Lord Spencer 1812-49 correspondence with Sir Robert Peel Brotherton Library, Leeds University 1807-12 correspondence with Lord and Lady Minto Brynmor Jones Library, Hull University 1831-33 letters from Sir Henry Hotham and John Irving Durham University Library 1813-33 correspondence with the 2nd Earl Grey Huntingdon Library, San Marino, California 1812-14 correspondence and papers John Rylands Library, University of Manchester correspondence and papers relating to India Library of Congress correspondence and papers National Library of Ireland correspondence and papers relating to Ireland National Library of Scotland correspondence and papers 1798-1823 letters from the Duke of York 1806-29 correspondence with Sir Walter Scott 1807-12 correspondence with Lord Minto 1811-46 correpsondence with John Lee 1812-15 correspondence with Lord Keith 1812-25 correspondence with Sir Alexander Cochrane 1818-20 correspondence with Sir David Richie and the Earl of Seafield National Maritime Museum 1807-26 naval correspondence and papers 1812-14 correspondence with Sir John Warren 1812-30 letters to Sir Thomas Foley North Yorkshire County Record Office 1782-1804 correspondence with Lord Bolton Northumberland Record Office letters to Lord Wallace Orkney Archives 1820-37 correspondence with the Balfour family Private Collections: 1808-10 correspondence with Spencer Perceval 1811-12 correspondence with L. Harrowby (Harrowby Manuscripts Trust) 1844-46 letters to J. J. Hope-Johnstone (Enq to NRA (Scotland)) Public Record Office (Northern Ireland) 1809-15 correspondence with John Foster 1814-18 correspondence with Lord Castlereagh Rhodes House Library correspondence relating to West Indies St. Andrew's University Library correspondence and papers relating to Scotland Scottish Record Office correspondence and papers 1783-1849 family and personal correspondence 1810-25 letters to Sir Alexander Hope 1821-28 correspondence with J. A. Stewart-Mackenzie 1831-48 correspondence with Sir George Clerk 1835-47 letters to Lord Dalhousie correspondence with the Duke of Wellington Southampton University Library 1833-49 letters to the Duke of Wellington Surrey Record Office 1833 letters to Henry Goulburn Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine 1804-14 correspondence mainly relating to Edinburgh William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan correspondence and papers William R. Parkins Library, Duke University 1811-49 correspondence relating to naval matters 1814-29 correspondence with George Canning

Corporate Names