Correspondence of Robert A.B. Chamberlain

Scope and Content

Correspondence, chiefly relating to his agreement with Sir Charles Eliot (H.M. Commissioner in Nairobi) and the latter's resignation in 1904.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Arthur Briggs Chamberlain was born in 1865 in Hull, Yorkshire, England. He was educated at Trent College, Nottingham; King's College, Cambridge, and the Universities of Heidelberg and Tbingen in Germany. He became a law student of the Inner Temple then turned to journalism and worked on the Manchester Guardianand various London newspapers. Shortly before the Boer War broke out he went to South Africa as editor of the Johannesburg Star; his opposition to the importation of Chinese labour for the Rand gold mines was so unpopular that he resigned his editorship.

In 1903 Chamberlain, together with his colleague A.S. Flemmer, applied for concessions in the East Africa Protectorate (now Kenya). They reached an agreement with Sir Charles Eliot (H.M. Commissioner in Nairobi) but this agreement was cancelled by Lord Lansdowne (Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) and resulted in Sir Charles Eliot's resignation in June 1904. Chamberlain then appealed to Viscount Milner (High Commissioner for South Africa) and for the next 3 years he continued to press his claim with the Foreign and Colonial Offices until in November 1907 Winston Churchill, as Colonial Under-Secretary, advised the Secretary of State, Lord Elgin, that the concession should be carried out in the terms arranged by Sir Charles Eliot. This advice was accepted and Chamberlain acquired 32,000 acres of land beside the Nderit Stream which he farmed until the late 1920s when he sold the greater part of his holding. He was largely responsible for the first wave of settlement in British East Africa of farmers from South Africa and also for the formation in 1911 of the Convention of Associations, a body which rendered much service to the cause of white settlers in Kenya.

Chamberlain died at Elmenteita, Kenya, in 1948.

Conditions Governing Access

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. 139 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.