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Papers of James Wheeler Woodford Birch and Sir Ernest Birch


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Diaries (including photographs) of James Birch as British Resident of Perak, 1874-1875 (reference MSS.Ind.Ocn.s.242/1).

Correspondence and articles of Ernest Birch, 1889-1929, and diary of a voyage to the Malay peninsular, 1920-1921 (reference MSS.Ind.Ocn.s.242/2,3).


  • Creation: 1874-1875, 1889-1929


5 boxes and volumes

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS.Ind.Ocn.s.242/1].

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Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 766, 768

Biographical / Historical

James Wheeler Woodford Birch (1826-1875) entered the Ceylon Civil Service at the age of 20, and served in a number of capacities until in May 1870 he was appointed Colonial Secretary for the Straits Settlements. In November 1874 he became the first British Resident of Perak, Malaya. On the 2 November 1875, during an outbreak of violence that followed the introduction of political reforms in the Malayan States, he was assassinated.

Ernest Woodford Birch (1857-1929) was the eldest son of James Wheeler Woodford Birch. In 1876 he entered the Colonial Office as a clerk, and in 1878 became a cadet in the Civil Service of the Straits Settlements. He was then sent to Singapore where he was placed in the Secretariat under Sir Cecil Clementi Smith. During the next fourteen years Birch acted in various capacities in Singapore and Malacca. In 1885 he was sent on a special mission to the Cocos Keeling Islands. In 1892, Birch became Secretary to the Governor of Perak (1892-1897) and he was subsequently appointed British Resident of Selangor, British Resident of the Negri Sembilan, and Governor of Labuan and North Borneo. His final post was as the 7th British Resident of Perak, a post he held from 1904 until his retirement in 1910. After his retirement, he served for many years on the Council of the Overseas League, becoming Chairman in 1921. He was made Mayor of Bexhill in 1927 and was made KCMG in 1911.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room and a handlist is also available for this collection.

Listed as nos. 73 and 74 in Manuscript Collections (Africana and non-Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Supplementary accessions to the end of 1977 and Cumulative Index, compiled by Wendy S. Byrne (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1978).


The papers of Sir Ernest Birch are listed in Private Papers of British Colonial Governors, 1782-1900, by The Historical Manuscripts Commission (1986).
The diaries of James Birch have been published as The journals of J.W.W. Birch, first British resident to Perak, 1874-1875, edited and introduced by P.L. Burns (1976). 14 of the 22 photographs in the diary have been reproduced in this volume.
Papers of James Wheeler Woodford Birch and Sir Ernest Birch
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom