Papers of General Sir Richard Bourke

Scope and Content

Correspondence and papers mainly relating to his administration of the Cape of Good Hope colony (Cape Colony), with a summary of content. Comprises:

  • Letters to Bourke, 1825-1829 (5 volumes)
  • Drafts and copies of letters from Bourke, 1826-1845 (3 volumes)
  • Indexes to despatches received, 1826-1828 (2 volumes)
  • Instructions to Bourke, 1816-1827 (2 volumes)
  • Instructions to civil commissioners, 1827-1828 (2 volumes)
  • Correspondence and papers relating to frontier wars and relations with the Zulus, 1826 and some undated (3 volumes)
  • Papers relating to finance, the judiciary, etc., 1821-1828 (14 volumes).

Administrative / Biographical History

General Sir Richard Bourke was born in 1777 in Dublin, Ireland. In 1825 the Colonial Office appointed him lieutenan-governor of the Eastern District of Cape Colony. When the governor, Lord Charles Somerset, returned to England on leave (and later resigned), Bourke assumed office as acting governor of the whole colony (1825-1828). In 1831 he transferred to Australia as governor of New South Wales; he resigned his office in December 1837. Bourke died in 1855 at his estate, Thornfield, Castleconnell, county Limerick, Ireland.

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 the Dictionary of National Biography .

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room.

Listed as no. 791 in Manuscript Collections of Africana in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1968).

Conditions Governing Use

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


Listed in Private Papers of British Colonial Governors, 1782-1900, by The Historical Manuscripts Commission (1986).