Bodleian Library logo

Department of Special Collections
Contact Information
Search All Online Catalogues

Consulting material: To consult archives and manuscripts, a full and unrestricted Bodleian reader's card (Group A) is required. You should apply for your card at the Admissions Office.

Pre-ordering: Before your visit you may order up to ten items by emailing Please be advised that some collection material is held offsite; we advise pre-ordering at least two working days before your visit to ensure material is available on your arrival.

Collection Level Description: Correspondence and papers of the Brooke Family of Sarawak including papers of Charles T.C. Grant, Laird of Kilgraston

Reference: MSS. Pac. s. 90
Title: Correspondence and papers of the Brooke Family of Sarawak including papers of Charles T.C. Grant, Laird of Kilgraston
Dates of Creation: [1830-1977]
Extent: 5 boxes, 18 volumes
Name of Creator: Vice-Admiral Basil Charles Barrington Brooke CB, CBE

Language of Material: English

Administrative/Biographical History

Sir James Brooke, (1803-1868) entered the army of the East India Company in 1819 but was severely wounded in the first Burmese war and invalided home in 1825. On his return voyage to Bengal on the Castle Huntley in 1830 he befriended John Keith Jolly, one of the ship's officer's, starting a correspondence with him which continued to 1857. Resigning his commission, he sailed on in the Castle Huntley, visiting China, Panang, Malacca and Singapore before returning to England. A second voyage to the East in 1834, however, proved a financial failure.

In 1835 his father died, leaving him a legacy of £30,000 and the means to explore the East Indies. In 1838 he sailed for Borneo with the object of promoting trade and British ascendancy. On his arrival at Singapore the following year, he was asked by the colony's governor to convey thanks and gifts to Rajah Muda Hassim, governor of Sarawak. Brooke accomplished his task and friendly relations were established. On a second visit about a year later, he gave assistance in subduing insurrection. In return he was offered the government and trade of Sarawak, to be held under the sovereignty of Brunei, in return for a small annual payment to its Sultan. In 1841, therefore, he was proclaimed Rajah of Sarawak.

During the late 1840s he befriended Charles Grant, midshipman in HMS Agincourt, taking an interest in his career, appointing him his aide-de-camp and then private secretary. In time, he gathered a group of similar men around him, chiefly from the families of Brooke, Johnson and Grant, all strengthening their ties through inter-marriage. However, it was his nephew, [John] Brooke Brooke that Sir James chose as his heir, proposing in 1845 that he should join him as aide-de-camp.

Brooke eventually left the army and joined the Sarawak Service in 1848. However, during the course of the Rajah's negotiations with the British Government, Holland, France and Belgium, a rift appeared between the two men over Sarawak's ability to maintain her independence unsupported. The differences between them increased after 1858, when Sir James suffered a stroke while in England and Brooke took responsibility for governing Sarawak. The death of his wife and two sons, and the constant letters of instruction and criticism from the Rajah led to a confrontation at Singapore in 1863. Although Brooke submitted to his uncle's authority, he continued to fight for his position, though the publication of his pamphlet A Statement regarding Sarawak (s.l., s.d., s.n.) led to his disinheritance by his uncle. Brooke's brother Charles was installed in his place and in 1868, on the death of Sir James, became 2nd Rajah. Brooke died soon afterwards.

The papers offer first-hand accounts of many contemporary events and developments, including the insurrection of the Chinese gold-workers in 1857, the Muka incident of 1860, relations with the Borneo Company, the suppression of piracy, the conduct of the Borneo Mission and the Commission of Enquiry appointed by the British Government to examine accusations brought against the Rajah by Joseph Hume, MP.

Scope and Content

Administrative Information

Access Conditions

Bodleian reader's ticket required:

Reproduction Restrictions

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

Further Information

Finding Aids

Listed as no. 83 in Manuscript Collections (Africana and non-Africana) in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Supplementary accessions to the end of 1977..., compiled by Wendy S. Byrne (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1978). A handlist is also available in the library reading room.

Related Units of Description

The library also holds

The papers of Vice-Admiral Basil C.B. Brooke CB, CBE are held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Access Points

Brooke | James | 1803-1868 | Sir | Knight Rajah of Sarawak

Brooke | John Brooke | d 1868 | nephew of Sir James Brooke

Grant | Charles Thomas Constantine | 1831-1891 | Laird of Kilgraston assistant to Sir James Brooke in Sarawak

Brooke | Charles Anthony Johnson | 1829-1917 | Sir | Knight 2nd Rajah of Sarawak

Grant | family | Sarawak | Great Britain

Johnson | family | Sarawak | Great Britain

Brooke | family | Sarawak | Great Britain

Sarawak | History

Sarawak | Kings and rulers

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
27 June 2011