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Letter-book of Sir Godfrey Yeatman Lagden


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Letter-book as Resident Commissioner in Basutoland.


  • Creation: 1884-1910


2 volumes, 2 folders

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS.Afr.s.2034].

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Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 2828

Biographical / Historical

Sir Godfrey Yeatman Lagden, KCMG (1897), KBE (1927), was born in 1851 and educated at Sherborne School. He married Frances Rebekah Bousfield, eldest daughter of the first Bishop of Pretoria, in 1887.

Lagden entered the Civil Service in 1869 and was a clerk in the General Post Office for 8 years. In June 1877, with letters of introduction to the High Commissioner, Sir Bartle Frere, he sailed for South Africa. He became Chief Clerk to the State Secretary in the Transvaal, and acted as Secretary to the Administrator, Sir Owen Lanyon (1878-1881), and subsequently to Sir Evelyn Wood and Sir William Bellairs.

During the Egyptian Campaign of 1882-1883 Lagden was war correspondent for the Daily Telegraph . An appointment as Assistant Colonial Secretary in Sierra Leone followed, and work on a financial mission in the Gold Coast. In 1883 he took 6 months leave and, before sailing for England, made a journey on foot from Cape Coast Castle to Kumasi. No white man had visited the area for 20 years and Lagden was arrested and narrowly escaped with his life. For this escapade he was struck off the Colonial Office List. He planned to start life anew in British Columbia with Colonel Marshal Clarke, a friend in South Africa, and a mutual friend, Sir Rider Haggard. However, when Clarke was offered the appointment of Resident Commissioner in Basutoland he persuaded the Colonial Office to allow Lagden to accompany him as Secretary and Accountant; Lagden later became Assistant Commissioner (1885).

In 1892, Lagden acted as British Commissioner in Swaziland. The following year, Clarke was transferred to Zululand and Lagden succeeded him as Resident Commissioner in Basutoland, a post he held for 8 years. It was largely due to Lagden's resolve that Basutoland was kept out of the South African War of 1899.

In 1901, Lagden joined Lord Milner's administration in the Transvaal, as Commissioner for Native Affairs, and as a member of the Executive and Legislative Councils. Between 1903-1905, Lagden was chairman of the South African Native Affairs Commission on which all States of South Africa, Dutch and English, were represented. When self-government was granted to the Transvaal, in 1907, Lagden retired to England. He published a book on the history of Basutoland, The Basutos (1909), and occupied himself in Imperial service until his death in June 1934.

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 no. 1190 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquisition information unknown.

Letter-book of Sir Godfrey Yeatman Lagden
Marion Lowman
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom