Correspondence and papers of the Brooke Family of Sarawak including papers of Charles T.C. Grant, Laird of Kilgraston

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

  • Letters from Sir James Brooke, 1833-1866
  • Letters from J. Brooke Brooke, 1848-1867
  • Letters from Charles A. Johnson (Brooke), Sir James's nephew and 2nd Rajah, 1853-1884
  • Letters from other members of the Brooke and Johnson families, 1851-1936
  • Letters from Charles T.C. Grant, 1845-1875
  • Letters from Matilda Grant and from her cousin and brothers, 1856-1866
  • Letters from John Grant, Laird of Kilgraston, 1848-1872
  • Letters from Lady Lucy Grant and members of her family, 1856-1862
  • Letters from members of the Grant family, 1840-1863, 1936
  • Letters from various correspondents, arranged alphabetically, with some additional papers, 1844-1961
  • Brooke papers, c1830-1977, including correspondence, 1852-1977, printed and published material, 1857-1932, pedigree of families connected by service to Sarawak, 1976 and papers relating to Sir James Brooke's mission to Siam, 1851-1853
  • Grant papers, 1844-1888, including correspondence, 1844-1850 and printed material, 1864-1888

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir James Brooke, (1803-1868) entered the army of the East India Company in 1819but was severely wounded in the first Burmese war and invalided homein 1825. On his return voyage to Bengal on the CastleHuntley in 1830 he befriended John Keith Jolly, one of the ship'sofficer's, starting a correspondence with him which continued to 1857.Resigning his commission, he sailed on in the Castle Huntley, visiting China, Panang, Malacca andSingapore before returning to England. A second voyage to the East in 1834,however, proved a financial failure.

In 1835 his father died, leaving him alegacy of 30,000 and the means to explore the East Indies. In 1838 he sailedfor Borneo with the object of promoting trade and British ascendancy. On hisarrival at Singapore the following year, he was asked by the colony'sgovernor to convey thanks and gifts to Rajah Muda Hassim, governor of Sarawak.Brooke accomplished his task and friendly relations were established. On asecond visit about a year later, he gave assistance in subduing insurrection.In return he was offered the government and trade of Sarawak, to be heldunder the sovereignty of Brunei, in return for a small annual payment to itsSultan. In 1841, therefore, he was proclaimed Rajah of Sarawak.

During thelate 1840s he befriended Charles Grant, midshipman in HMS Agincourt, taking an interest in his career, appointing him his aide-de-campand then private secretary. In time, he gathered a group of similar men around him,chiefly from the families of Brooke, Johnson and Grant, all strengthening their tiesthrough inter-marriage. However, it was his nephew, [John] Brooke Brooke that Sir Jameschose as his heir, proposing in 1845 that he should join him as aide-de-camp.

Brooke eventually left the army and joined the Sarawak Service in 1848. However,during the course of the Rajah's negotiations with the British Government, Holland,France and Belgium, a rift appeared between the two men over Sarawak's ability tomaintain her independence unsupported. The differences between them increased after1858, when Sir James suffered a stroke while in England and Brooke took responsibilityfor governing Sarawak. The death of his wife and two sons, and the constant lettersof instruction and criticism from the Rajah led to a confrontation at Singapore in1863. Although Brooke submitted to his uncle's authority, he continued to fightfor his position, though the publication of his pamphlet A Statement regarding Sarawak (s.l., s.d., s.n.) led to his disinheritanceby his uncle. Brooke's brother Charles was installed in his place and in 1868,on the death of Sir James, became 2nd Rajah. Brooke died soon afterwards.

The papers offer first-hand accountsof many contemporary events and developments, including the insurrection of theChinese gold-workers in 1857, the Muka incident of 1860, relations with theBorneo Company, the suppression of piracy, the conduct of the Borneo Mission andthe Commission of Enquiry appointed by the British Government to examine accusationsbrought against the Rajah by Joseph Hume, MP.

Conditions Governing Access

Bodleian reader's ticket required.

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 83 in Manuscript Collections (Africana and non-Africana) in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Supplementary accessions to the end of 1977..., compiled by Wendy S. Byrne (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1978). A handlist is also available in the library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Related Material

  • Papers of the Brooke family, 1841-1971 (ref. MSS. Pac. s. 83)
  • Papers of Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, mainly correspondence, 1841-[1960] (ref. MSS. Pac. s. 66)
  • Letters from Sir Charles Vyner Brooke to George C. Gillan, Treasurer of Sarawak, 1906-1930 (ref. MSS. Ind. Ocn. s. 119)
  • Letters from Sir Charles Vyner Brooke to C.P. Lowe, 1922-1935, mainly concerning the Public Works Department in Sarawak (ref. MSS. Ind. Ocn. s. 118)
  • Letters from Sir Charles Vyner Brooke to Dr. M.P. O'Connor concerning medical and health matters in Sarawak, 1940-1941 (ref. MSS. Pac. s. 58)
  • Papers of Walter Francis de Vere Skrine, including correspondence from Sir Charles Vyner Brooke while in the service of the Sarawak government, [1909-1928] (ref. MSS. Ind. Ocn. s. 143)
  • Personal letters of Sir Charles Vyner Brooke to Frank Kortright, D.O., Sarawak and his wife, Ina Kortright, 1924-1929 (ref. MSS. Pac. s. 74 (1))
  • Diaries of Christopher William Dawson relating the cession of Sarawak by Rajah Brooke to H.M. King George VI, 1946 (ref. MSS. Pac. r. 7, 8)
  • Papers of Arthur Bartlett Ward including a letter from Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, Rajah, 1929 (ref. MSS. Pac. s. 80)
  • Typescript history of Brunei, 1946, including an account of Sir James Brooke's agreement with Pengiran Muda Hashim to govern Sarawak (ref. MSS. Pac. s. 69)

The library also holds

  • A letter of Anthony Brooke concerning the responsibility for Sarawak's administration, 1946
  • Correspondence of Sir Charles Vyner Brooke with C. Pitt Hardacre, Government Agent, Australia regarding Sarawak, 1942
  • A note on the administration of Sarawak under the Brooke regime, 1838-1939
  • A file on Anthony Brooke libel, 1947-1951
  • Correspondence of A.M. Hughes mainly with Anthony Brooke, concerning the cession of Sarawak, 1945-1956
  • A letter to G.F. Gillan critical of the Rajah of Sarawak, 1947

The papers of Vice-Admiral Basil C.B. Brooke CB, CBE are held at theNational Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.