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Collection Level Description: Papers of Sir Matthew Nathan

Reference: GB 0162 MSS. Nathan 231-235, 248-406, 494-644, 648-656
Title: Papers of Sir Matthew Nathan
Dates of Creation: 1884-1938
Extent: 328 files/volumes

Language of Material:

Administrative/Biographical History

Sir Matthew Nathan (1862-1939) entered the Royal Engineers from the Royal Military Academy in 1880 and saw active service in Sudan, 1884-1885 and in Lushai, India, 1889, being promoted captain in the same year. In 1895 he was made Secretary to the Colonial Defence Committee and in 1898 was promoted major. He was sent in 1899 to Sierra Leone to administer the colony, and was made Governor of the Gold Coast a year later. After a further three years he was transferred to Hong Kong. In 1907 he obtained the rank of brevet lieutenant-colonel and made Governor of Natal, a position he held till 1909. Returning to England, he was made Secretary of the General Post Office and, in 1911, Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue. Shortly before the outbreak of World War One he was made Under-Secretary for Ireland and sworn a member of the Irish Privy Council. During the Easter Rebellion of 1916 he was in charge at Dublin Castle, but criticism of the Irish Executive's handling of the crisis led to Nathan's loss of post. In 1919 he was appointed Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions in England, and in 1920 was made Governor of Queensland, Australia, a post he held for five years. While in Queensland, he set up a sub-committee of the Civil Research Committee, whose recommendations led to the Great Barrier Reef expedition of 1928-1929. He was Chancellor of Queensland University, 1922-1926 and received the honorary degree of LL.D. in 1925. From 1927-1928 he served on the Special Commission on the Constitution of Ceylon and as chairman of the Colonial Secretary's Advisory Committee on Rubber, [1926-1928]. After retirement, he was active in the administration of the County of Somerset. He was appointed GCMG in 1908.

Scope and Content

Administrative Information

Custodial History

Sir Matthew Nathan's library, housed prior to its dispersal in the Manor House, West Coker, Somerset, included correspondence with his mother, letters to the Chief Secretary of Ireland, correspondence concerning his period in Queensland from 1920 to 1926, letters dealing with education in West Africa, and memoranda of conversations concerning the defence of South Africa, 1896-1897. The house and library were left to Edward Nathan, who permitted the division of the library holdings between Oxford University, Bristol University and the Somerset Records Society, though it was his wish that the manuscript collection remained together.

Access Conditions

Bodleian reader's ticket required

Reproduction Restrictions

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Manuscripts less than 100 years old require the permission of the copyright holder before copies can be made. Contact the library in the first instance.

Further Information

Finding Aids

Listed as no. 68 in Manuscript Collections (excluding Africana) in Rhodes House Library Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1970)

Related Units of Description

The collection was originally divided between the Bodleian Library and the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House. The Bodleian Library holds diaries, 1881-1939, notebooks, 1876-1939, private correspondence, 1868-1939, and papers relating to other aspects of Nathan's life (refs. MSS. Nathan 1-230, 236-247, 407-493, 645-647, 657-671).

Access Points

Nathan | Matthew | 1862-1939 | Sir | Knight Lieutenant Colonel Colonial Governor

Great Britain | Colonies | Sudan | Administration

Great Britain | Colonies | Sierra Leone | Administration

Great Britain | Colonies | Ghana | Administration

Great Britain | Colonies | Hong Kong (China) | Administration

Great Britain | Colonies | Queensland | Administration

Great Britain | Colonies | Natal (South Africa) | Administration

Sudan | History | 1881-1899

Sierra Leone | History | 1896-1961

Ghana | History | 20th century

Hong Kong (China) | History | 20th century

Natal (South Africa) | History | 1893-1910

Queensland | History | 20th century

Sri Lanka | History | 20th century

Irrigation | Research


Emigration and immigration | Great Britain | Government policy

Rubber industry and trade

Great Barrier Reef (Qld.)

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
02 April 2012