Papers of the Royal Niger Company

Scope and Content

Photocopies of regulations of the Royal Niger Company relating to the establishment of the Niger Constabulary (no. XVI, 1886) and the prohibition of the import of munitions of war (no. XVII, 1886), with photocopied circular letter to CST Officers from the Governor regarding duties, 1896.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal Niger Company was formed in 1886 after British merchant George T. Goldie organised the already active United Africa Company and in effect took personal control of the Lower Niger River. Goldie and his agents had penetrated into the territory of the Benue and Niger Rivers after it had been allocated to Britain at the Berlin Conference, 1884-1885. This caused conflict with French and German agents - the border with German Kamerun was not fixed until 1893 and a dispute with France over Muri on the middle Benue lasted until 1898.

The headquarters of the Royal Niger Company was situated at Asaba on the Niger River. From there it established a network of stations, mainly along the Niger and Benue and their tributaries, as well as a rudimentary justice system and constabulary. In establishing its stations, the Company encroached upon the established African interior trade and caused the outbreak of hostilities in locations such as Onitsha, 1879, Akassa, 1882 and 1895, and the Niger Delta, 1886. These were dealt with by punitive expeditions involving Royal Navy gunboats.

The Company encouraged the cultivation of plantation products for export such as palm oil. Another policy was to exclude foreign competition in native trade through high import tariffs and the confiscation of goods imported in circumvention of these tariffs. Major imported products included cloths and alcoholic beverages.

The Company surrendered its charter in 1899.

Conditions Governing Access

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, 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.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Related Material

Letters of Maurice de Courcy Dodd to his family, written as a clerk in the Royal Niger Company, serving under Lord Lugard, 1898-1899 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1995); Royal Niger Company papers, reports and correspondence, 1888-1930 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 85-101); photograph of treaty made by Lord Lugard, on behalf of the Royal Niger Company, with the King of Nikki on 10th November 1894, with an account by H.C. Gill, as assistant district officer, Nigeria, of how the original came into his hands (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1182).