Papers of Sir Charles Fernand Rey

Scope and Content

The collection includes personal/biographical papers; business papers relating to Abyssinia; papers as Resident Commissioner of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and papers relating to Rey's retirement in South Africa.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Fernand Rey, CMG (1932) Kt (1938), was born in 1877 in London, England. He was educated privately, at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and then studied Mining Engineering at the Royal School of Mines.

In 1899 Rey was a member of an exploring and prospecting expedition through West Africa. He returned to London in 1900 and joined the Board of Trade where he held the posts of Secretary to the China Tariff Commission (1902), Secretary to the Imperial Institute Advisory Committee and Imperial Institute Trustees (1903), and Secretary to the All Red Route Committee (1904). During 1905 he travelled to Roumania, for Commercial Treaty Negotiations with that country, and from Roumania continued on to Constantinople and Sofia as a member of a Special Mission.

In 1906 Rey was appointed Secretary to the Swiss Commercial Treaty Negotiations in London. He was later despatched to Germany to study Labour Exchanges and in October 1909 was appointed General Manager of Labour Exchanges. In 1912 he became General Manager of Unemployment Insurance.

During World War I, Rey was Director of Labour Supply (July 1915) and Assistant General Secretary (November 1915) at the Ministry of Munitions. At the end of 1916 he was appointed Director of Employment Exchanges. In August 1918 he became Director-General of the National Labour Supply at the Ministry of National Service; in the same year he was also Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Labour.

In 1919 Rey became Chairman of the British Commission in Rotterdam, and Chief British Representative on the Inter-Allied Commission in Rotterdam dealing with food supply to Germany. In June 1919 he was granted leave, enabling him, as General Manager of the Abyssinian Corporation, and his wife to visit Abyssinia; it was during this visit that the Reys' two sons died. In November 1920 Rey and his wife returned to England; they made later journeys to Abyssinia during 1922-1923, 1925-1926 and 1926-1927.

After returning from his fourth trip to Abyssinia in 1927, Rey joined the Unemployment Grants Committee (1927-1929). His last official post began in 1930 when he was appointed Resident Commissioner of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Commandant of the Protectorate Police, positions he held until September 1937 when he retired to Cape Town. Rey died on the 30 March 1968.

Rey was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (1923) and, amongst other honours, was appointed Commander of the Star of Ethiopia (1924) and a Member of the Portuguese Academy of History (1945). He published a number of books, chiefly concerning Abyssinia, and was in constant demand as a lecturer and commentator on topical issues, particularly those concerning southern or eastern Africa.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Marion Lowman, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Administrative/Biographical History compiled with reference to Who Was Who .

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room and a handlist is also available for this collection.

Listed as no. 228, 400 and 413 in Manuscript Collections (Africana and non-Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Supplementary accessions to the end of 1977 and Cumulative Index, compiled by Wendy S. Byrne (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1978).

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Custodial History

Deposited with the Oxford Colonial Records Project in 1968.

Geographical Names