Diary of the Commission to Laroot

Scope and Content

Diary of the Commission to Laroot, by Sir Frank A. Swettenham. Photocopies of journals covering the following periods:

23 Jan to 27 Feb 1874 Commission to Perak

13 Aug to 2 Sep 1874 Langat River

11 Sep to 19 Dec 1874 Affairs of Selangor

15 Jan to 6 Feb 1875 Expedition into Perak after Pangkor engagement

20 Feb 16 Apr 1875 Selangor and expedition into interior

17 Apr to 22 Jul 1875 Expedition to Perak, Selangor, Pahang, Trengannu and Kelantan and to Thailand

7 Aug to 3 Sep 1875 Affairs of Selangor

Administrative / Biographical History

Frank Athelstane Swettenham was born in Belper, England on 28th March 1850, the fourth son of James Oldham Swettenham, a solicitor, and his wife Charlotte Elizabeth. Frank Swettenham joined the Straits Settlement Civil Service at the age of 20. He soon mastered Malay which led to his appointment as an interpreter and special commisioner and, at the age of twenty-four, as Assistant Resident to Selangor. During the period January 1874 and February 1876 Swettenham kept a semi-official diary of his day-to-day activities, a period which he thought of great importance not only to himself but also to the Malay states. He became Assistant Colonial Secretary for Native Affairs in 1876, was Resident to Selangor 1882-1889 and to Perak, 1889 to 1895. He was largely responsible for the creation of the Federated Malay States in 1896 and was its first Resident-General from 1896 to 1901. In 1901 he became Governor of the Straits Settlement and High Commisioner to the Malay States. He retired in 1904. To mark the occasion a full-length portrait by John Singer Sargent was commissioned by the Straits Association which now hangs in the National Museum in Singapore. A three-quarter length version, painted for Swettenham's own collection, now hangs at the National Portrait Gallery in London

During the 1890s Swettenham published a volume of short stories, entitled, Malay Sketches (London, 1895) and The Real Malay (London, 1899) which draws upon the characters and events noted in the journals. Following his retirement he wrote a history entitled British Malaya (London, 1906) and an autobiography, Footprints in Malaya (London, 1942)

Swettenham died at the age of 96 on 11th June 1946.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Purchased in 1963.

Other Finding Aids

This description constitutes the only finding aid at present.

Alternative Form Available

Parts were published by C. D. Cowan in 'J. Malay Branch R.A.S'. 24, iv (1951).

Related Material

An 1874 journal is held in the Royal Commonwealth Society Library and Swettenham's letters, dated 1903-09, to Gertrude Bell are held in The Robinson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne Library.

Location of Originals

Originals of the diaries and further papers are held in the National Archives of Malaysia.