Papers of Sir Gordon James Lethem

Scope and Content

The collection covers all periods of Lethem's career except the time he spent in the Seychelles. The bulk of the material relates to his time spent in Nigeria. Included is correspondence; reports, and papers connected with them; some diaries; a number of papers in Arabic; printed books, pamphlets and newspapers; and minutes and opinions on subjects of particular interest to the Governments of Nigeria or British Guiana.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Gordon James Lethem, CMG (1934), KCMG (1936), was born in Scotland on the 16 September 1886. He was educated at Daniel Stewart's in Edinburgh; Mill Hill School; Edinburgh University; Grenoble University; and in Spain.

Lethem entered the Colonial Service and in 1911 was appointed Assistant District Officer in Northern Nigeria; he later became District Officer. During World War I he served in the Cameroons (1914-1915). In 1924 he became Resident of Bornu province in Nigeria and during 1925 travelled on official missions in Sudan, Egypt and Hejaz. He was appointed Secretary for Native Affairs, and Secretary of the Northern Provinces, and in 1931 became Acting Lieutenant-Governor of the Northern Provinces (1931-1933).

In 1933 Lethem left Nigeria when he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Seychelles (1933-1935). In 1936 he was appointed Governor of the Leeward Islands (1936-1941). On leaving the Leeward Islands Lethem had expected to take up the post of Governor of Sierra Leone, however, this appointment was changed to that of Governor and Commander-in-Chief of British Guiana, a post he held until his retirement in 1946.

Lethem was Honorary Colonel of the British Guiana Regiment (1944), Vice-President of the Scottish Liberal Party (1950), and President of the Scottish National Council of the United Nations Association. He died on the 14 August 1962.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


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

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. 587 in Manuscript Collections (excluding Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1970) and as no. 489 in Manuscript Collections (excluding Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Supplement, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1971).

Conditions Governing Use

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