Vocabularies of Bantu and Semi-Bantu Languages by Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston

Scope and Content

The collection comprises manuscripts of the collected vocabularies of Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston. The manuscripts were used in the compilation of A Comparative Study of the Bantu and Semi-Bantu Languages , and were contained in the first of the two-volume set, the second volume being an analysis and comparison of the phonologies, syntax and word roots detailed in volume one.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harry Hamilton Johnston was born on 12 June 1858, in Kennington, London. He was educated at Stockwell Grammar School, Kings College London and from 1876-1880 he was a student of the Royal Academy of Arts. He travelled to North Africa, 1879-1880. He explored Portuguese West Africa and the Congo River, 1882-1883. In 1884 he commanded a Scientific Expedition of the Royal Society to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

He served in the Consular Service in Africa from 1885-1901. He was H.M. Vice-Consul in the Cameroons, 1885; Acting-Consul in the Niger Coast Protectorate, 1887; Consul for the Province of Mozambique, 1888. In 1889, his expedition to Lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika led to the foundation of the British Central Africa Protectorate. He became Commissioner and Consul- General of the British Central Africa Protectorate in 1891; Consul-General for the Regency of Tunis, 1897-1899, and Special Commissioner, Commander-in- Chief and Consul-General for the Uganda Protectorate, 1899-1901.

He was married to the Hon. Winifred Irby, O.B.E. He was awarded the K.C.B. in 1896, and the G.C.M.G in 1901. He died on 31 July 1927.

Harry Hamilton Johnston published numerous works including A Comparative Study of the Bantu and Semi-Bantu Languages, (Oxford University Press, 1919).


For each language a set of 250 vocabulary items was collected, and they are classified according to Johnston's own geographical groups. This original arrangement has been retained. There is an alphabetical index of languages at the back of the handlist

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated in c.1966

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance