Papers of Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Brit. Emp. t. 5
  • Dates of Creation
      1905-1948, 1979-1983
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3 boxes

Scope and Content

  • Xerox copies of official papers relating to service in India, Iraq, Ceylon,Uganda and Nigeria, 1905-1948
  • Personal correspondence, 1905-1948
  • Letters to Dr. R.D. Pearce containing personal recollections, 1979-1983

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon, 1883-1948, colonial governor, was born inTasmania and brought up in England and South Africa, graduating fromSt. John's College, Oxford in 1906. Entering the Indian Civil Service in1908, he was appointed Under-Secretary to the Government of the UnitedProvinces in 1913, and became Registrar of the High Court of Allahabad in 1915. During this period he made a name for himself as a linguist. In1917 he joined the Army as a temporary Second Lieutenant and was posted to Iraqthe following year, rising to the rank of Major in 1919. On leaving the ArmyBourdillon was seconded to the civil administration of Iraq, where he servedas Political Secretary to the High Commissioner in 1921 and as Counsellor from1924 to 1929. From 1925 to 1926 he also acted as High Commissioner withPlenipotentiary Powers for the negotiations which led to the 1926 Anglo-Iraqtreaty. In 1929, he was transferred to the Colonial Civil Service asColonial Secretary of Ceylon, where he remained until 1932 and twice actedas the colony's Governor. In 1932, he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Uganda, where he contributed to the development ofthe colony's trade and economy. In 1935, he was made Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria, where he worked to encourage education, instituted a government service to take over anti-leprosy work from themissionary societies, and remained until his retirement in 1943. He was also a principal architect of the West African Governors' Conference, which helped co-ordinate the war effort of the four West African territories after 1939.

After he retired, he served as a member of the Colonial Economic and Development Council. He was also treasurer, and later chairman, of the British Empire LeprosyRelief Association, and a director of Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial andOverseas), and of Barclays Overseas Development Corporation. Appointed CMG,KBE, KCMG, GCMG, a knight of grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem,and an honorary fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, he also published abook, The Future of the Colonial Empire (London, S.C.M. Press, 1945). In 1909 he married Violet Grace Billinghurst, with whom he had three sons.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Listed as no. 564 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford,Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996).

Conditions Governing Use

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

Additional Information

Original official papers relating to colonial service, 1905-1948 are heldin the Public Record Office.