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Papers of Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon


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


  • Creation: 1905-1948, 1979-1983


3 boxes

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Brit. Emp. t. 5].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Brit. Emp. t. 5

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 851

Biographical / Historical

Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon, 1883-1948, colonial governor, was born in Tasmania and brought up in England and South Africa, graduating from St. John's College, Oxford in 1906. Entering the Indian Civil Service in 1908, he was appointed Under-Secretary to the Government of the United Provinces 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. In 1917 he joined the Army as a temporary Second Lieutenant and was posted to Iraq the following year, rising to the rank of Major in 1919. On leaving the Army Bourdillon was seconded to the civil administration of Iraq, where he served as Political Secretary to the High Commissioner in 1921 and as Counsellor from 1924 to 1929. From 1925 to 1926 he also acted as High Commissioner with Plenipotentiary Powers for the negotiations which led to the 1926 Anglo-Iraq treaty. In 1929, he was transferred to the Colonial Civil Service as Colonial Secretary of Ceylon, where he remained until 1932 and twice acted as the colony's Governor. In 1932, he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Uganda, where he contributed to the development of the 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 the missionary 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 Leprosy Relief Association, and a director of Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas), 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 a book, 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.

Other Finding Aids

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to the library through the Oxford Development Records Project.

Related Materials

Original official papers relating to colonial service, 1905-1948 are held in the The National Archives.

Papers of Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom