Papers of Sir Cecil Clementi (1875-1947)

Scope and Content

Correspondence, reports, speeches, etc. relating to Hong Kong, 1913-1937;speeches, correspondence, reports, memoranda, printed papers, etc. relatingto Malaya, Singapore and Borneo, 1882-1947; notes, printed papers, etc.relating to his published books, including work on British Guiana, China and the opium trade in the Far East [1898-1936]; photographs and miscellaneousitems, 1873-1961.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Cecil Clementi (1875-1947), colonial administrator and traveller, began hiscareer as a cadet in the Hong Kong Civil Service in 1899, passing examinationsin both Cantonese and Pekingese. He translated and edited CantoneseLove-songs (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1904), partly to assist studentswith the Chinese language. In 1902 he was posted for special service under theGovernment of India, and for famine relief work in China's Kwang-si province in1903. He also served as a land officer and police magistrate in the thennewly leased territories in mainland China, 1903-1906. Later he travelledfrom Andijan in Central Asia to Kowloon, publishing Observationstaken during a Journey from Kashgar to Kowloon, 1907-1908 (Hong Kong,Naronha and Co., 1911). His maps were subsequently incorporated in theSurvey of India's map of Tibet and adjacent countries,and he received the Cuthbert Peek award of the Royal Geographical Society in 1912.

In 1913 he was appointed Colonial Secretary of British Guiana, where headministered the government in 1916-1917, 1919 and 1921. He and his wife alsodiscovered a route from the Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro river to the summitof Mount Roraima on the borders of Brazil and Venezuela. While in BritishGuiana, he concerned himself with the colony's health, drainage, immigrationand development, publishing a report on conditions in 1919, as well asThe Chinese in British Guiana (Georgetown,British Guiana, "The Argosy" Co., 1915) and A ConstitutionalHistory of British Guiana (London, Macmillan and Co., 1937).

In 1922he became Colonial Secretary in Ceylon, administering the government in1922-1923 and 1925. In 1925 he became Governor of Hong Kong, where his primarytasks were to restore confidence inside the colony, check piracy and restorefriendly relations with Canton. He was made Chancellor of the University ofHong Kong, where he established a school of Chinese classical literature andphilosophy. In 1930 he was made Governor of the Straits Settlements and HighCommissioner for the Malay States, his policy being to achieve federation forall nine Malay states. He also inspired the raising of the first battalion ofthe Malay Regiment and through his knowledge of Chinese affairs was able tocheck the influence of the Kuomintang and Moscow's plan for 'colonial revolution'in Malaya. He finally retired in 1934 on the grounds of ill health. He wasawarded the GCMG in 1931, was a knight of grace of the Order of St. John ofJerusalem, and was Master of the Mercers' Company, 1940-1941, having served on itscourt from 1935. In 1912 he married Marie Penelope Rose Eyres, with whom hehad one son and three daughters.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available in the library reading room.

Alternative Form Available

Microfilm copies of papers, reports, diary letters, etc. relating to service in Hong Kong,1899-1912 are held by the library (ref. Micr. Ind. Ocn. 5).

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.


Mrs Ovenell deposited the followingpapers, which were subsequently added to the collection (accrual dates are in brackets)

  • Box ofpapers under the heading Anglo-JapaneseRelations, 1926-1933 (22nd July 1992)
  • Volumes and pamphlets relating toHong Kong and the New Territories, 19th-20th century. (4th August 1992)
  • Material relatingmostly to Hong Kong, 1931-1961 (10th July 1997)
  • Malayan papers, 1929-1934 (31st July1997)
  • Correspondence, etc. relating to period in Malaya, 1882-1963(30th October 1997)
  • Papers relating to British Guiana, 1916-1936(20th November 1997)

Related Material

Papers of C.H.F. Blake concerning his service as Secretary of the Perak StateWar Executive Committee during the Malayan emergency, [1948-1960] (ref. MSS.Ind. Ocn. s. 276).