Papers of Sir Matthew Nathan

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

  • Notes, printed papers, etc., [1880-1891], concerning Sudan expedition
  • Correspondence, notes, field books, printed papers, etc., 1863-1913, relating to period in Sierra Leone
  • Notebooks, diaries, correspondence, etc., [1898-1932], relating to period in the Gold Coast
  • Notes, correspondence, etc., [1838-1937], relating to period in Hong Kong
  • Notes, correspondence, miscellaneous papers, etc., [1854-1937], relating to period in Natal
  • Agenda, minutes and miscellaneous papers, [1919-1920], relating to the Oversea Settlement Joint Committee
  • Correspondence, notes, cuttings, etc., 1920-1938, relating to period in Queensland
  • Notes, minutes, reports, miscellaneous papers, etc., [1927-1930], relating to the Committee of Civil Research sub-committee on Geophysical Surveying
  • Correspondence, newspaper cuttings, etc., 1903-1930, relating to the Advisory Committee on Rubber
  • Evidence, reports, miscellaneous papers, etc., [1927-1937], relating to the Commission on the Constitution of Ceylon
  • Correspondence, etc., 1897-1938, relating to the Civil Research Committee and Barrier Reef expedition
  • Correspondence, minutes, maps, etc., [1920-1930], relating to the Irrigation Research Committee

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Matthew Nathan (1862-1939) entered the Royal Engineers from the RoyalMilitary Academy in 1880 and saw active service in Sudan, 1884-1885 and inLushai, India, 1889, being promoted captain in the same year. In 1895 he was madeSecretary to the Colonial Defence Committee and in 1898 was promoted major.He was sent in 1899 to Sierra Leone to administer the colony, and was madeGovernor of the Gold Coast a year later. After a further three years he wastransferred to Hong Kong. In 1907 he obtained the rank of brevetlieutenant-colonel and made Governor of Natal, a position he held till 1909.Returning to England, he was made Secretary of the General Post Office and,in 1911, Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue. Shortly before theoutbreak of World War One he was made Under-Secretary for Ireland and sworn amember of the Irish Privy Council. During the Easter Rebellion of 1916 hewas in charge at Dublin Castle, but criticism of the Irish Executive's handling of the crisis led to Nathan's loss of post. In 1919 he was appointed Secretaryto the Ministry of Pensions in England, and in 1920 was made Governor ofQueensland, Australia, a post he held for five years. While in Queensland,he set up a sub-committee of the Civil Research Committee, whose recommendationsled to the Great Barrier Reef expedition of 1928-1929. He was Chancellorof Queensland University, 1922-1926 and received the honorary degree of LL.D.in 1925. From 1927-1928 he served on the Special Commission on the Constitutionof Ceylon and as chairman of the Colonial Secretary's Advisory Committee onRubber, [1926-1928]. After retirement, he was active in the administration ofthe County of Somerset. He was appointed GCMG in 1908.

Conditions Governing Access

Bodleian reader's ticket required

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 68 in Manuscript Collections (excluding Africana) in Rhodes House Library Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1970)

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Manuscripts less than 100 years old require the permission of the copyright holder before copies can be made. Contact the library in the first instance.

Custodial History

Sir Matthew Nathan's library, housed prior to its dispersal in the Manor House, West Coker, Somerset, included correspondence with his mother, letters to the Chief Secretary of Ireland, correspondence concerning his period in Queensland from 1920 to 1926, letters dealing with education in West Africa, and memoranda of conversations concerning the defence of South Africa, 1896-1897. The house and library were left to Edward Nathan, who permitted the division of the library holdings between Oxford University, Bristol University and the Somerset Records Society, though it was his wish that the manuscript collection remained together.

Related Material

The collection was originally divided between the Bodleian Library and the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House. The Bodleian Library holds diaries, 1881-1939, notebooks, 1876-1939, private correspondence, 1868-1939, and papers relating to other aspects of Nathan's life (refs. MSS. Nathan 1-230, 236-247, 407-493, 645-647, 657-671).