Papers of John Sydenham Furnivall

Scope and Content

The collection comprises John Sydenham Furnivall's correspondence (1948-1956), mostly with C.W. Dunn (co-editor of the Burmese-English Dictionary); draft annotated chapters of Reconstruction in Burma ; statistics and other research material gathered for the above work; Furnivall's lecture notes, scripts of his talks, articles and manuscript research notes.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Sydenham Furnivall was born on 14 February 1878 in Great Bentley, Essex. His early education was at the Royal Medical Benevolent College, Epsom. He won a scholarship to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1896, and in 1899 obtained a second class degree in the Natural Science Tripos. In 1901 he joined the India Civil Service. He arrived in Burma on 16 December 1902 and took up the appointment of Assistant Commissioner and Settlement Officer. He was made Deputy Commissioner in 1915 and Commissioner of Land settlement and Records in 1920. He retired in 1925.

In 1910 he worked with Professor Duroiselle and U May Aung in the Burma Research Society. In 1924 he founded the Burma Book Club and in 1928 the Burma Education Extension Association.

Following his retirement to Britain, John Sydenham Furnivall became Lecturer in Burmese Language, History and Law at Cambridge University (1936-1941). In 1940, together with C.W. Dunn, Furnivall published a Burmese English Dictionary. In 1942 he wrote Reconstruction in Burma for the Government of Burma. He was awarded the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1948; Thado Thiri Thudhamma from the Burma Government in 1949 and Degree of D. Litt by Rangoon University in 1957. He died in 1960.

Other published works by J.S. Furnivall include: Political Economy of Burma , (1931); Wealth in Burma , (1937); Netherlands India , (1939); Progress and Welfare in South East Asia , (1941); Educational Progress in South East Asia , (1943); Experiment in Independence , (1947); Colonial Policy and Practice , (1948); The Government of Modern Burma , (1958); The Fashioning of Leviathan , (edited by Gehan Wijewardene), (1991).


The collection is arranged into four sections: correspondence; draft chapters for Reconstruction in Burma , A Study of the Social and Economic History of (British) Burma; lectures, articles (published/unpublished) and various papers of J.S. Furnivall; research material / manuscript notes.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Bequeathed to SOAS in December 1997.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Custodial History

Deposited at SOAS in 1986.