Scope and Content

Two folders:

  • Folder 1. International Socialist Workers' Conference Zurich, 1893. Minutesof the proceedings of the British Section, notes by Sydney Olivier togetherwith drafts of a report on the conference and a list of the delegates byorganisation and name.
  • Folder 2. "The Emancipators", a play by Olivier, undated.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Sydney Olivier 1859 - 1943

Sir Sydney Olivier was the son of an Anglican clergyman. He was born inColchester, Essex, and educated in Lausanne, Kineton School, TonbridgeSchool, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Germany.

He entered the Colonial Office in 1882. After being inspired by the work ofthe journalist and land reformer Henry George (1839 - 1897), Olivier joinedthe Land Reform League. He also contributed articles to the "ChristianSocialist" journal. At the Colonial Office, Olivier became friends with thesocial reformer Sidney Webb (1859 - 1947) and they joined the HampsteadHistoric Club where they met the writer George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950). In1885 Shaw encouraged them to join the Fabian Society. The following yearOlivier was elected to the Fabian Society Executive Committee. From 1886 to1890 he was Secretary of the organisation. Olivier also contributed to theFabian journal Today, wrote Capital and Land (1888), and provided thearticle 'The Moral Basis of Socialism', to the book Essays in FabianSocialism (1889).

He became Acting Colonial Secretary of British Honduras 1890 - 1891, AuditorGeneral of the Leeward Islands, a special appointment to examine andreorganise the accounts and finances of the island, 1895 - 1896, was privatesecretary to Lord Selborne 1896 - 1897 and secretary of the West India RoyalCommission in 1897. He was sent to Washington in 1898 to assist inreciprocity negotiations on behalf of West Indian colonies. He was madeColonial Secretary of Jamaica 1899 - 1904 and was Acting Governor 1900, 1902and 1904. In 1904 he moved to being the Principal Clerk of the West Africanand West Indian departments of the Colonial Office, became Governor ofJamaica 1907 - 1913, Permanent Secretary of the Board of Agriculture andFisheries, 1913 - 1917, Assistant Comptroller and Auditor of the Exchequer1917.

Olivier retired from the Civil Service in 1918 and once again played animportant role in the Fabian Society. On the formation of the first LabourGovernment in 1924, Ramsay MacDonald granted Olivier a peerage and appointedhim Secretary of State for India. Following the 1929 General ElectionMacDonald appointed him Chairman of the West Indian Sugar Commission 1929 -1930.

His publications include:

  • The Anatomy of African Misery (1927)
  • White Capital and Coloured Labour (1929)
  • The Myth of Governor Eyre and Jamaica (1936)


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