Catalogue description British South Africa Company

This record is held by Derbyshire Record Office

Details of D3287 BSA
Reference: D3287 BSA
Title: British South Africa Company

The papers that are listed below are the result of this involvement with the company. In part they are the record of Gell's personal correspondence with colleagues on the board, members of staff and other interested parties, and in part they are the result of the regular circulation of important papers to the directors by the secretariat.


Cognate collections of MSS. are not easily found for this period of the Company's history. The archives of the Company itself were largely destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War. Papers of other directors or members of staff have mostly disappeared. To date, the only other large personal collections immediately relevant to the Gell papers are those of Earl Grey, now in the University of Durham, of Sir Lewis Michell, now in South Africa, and some small groups in the National Archives of Rhodesia, including those of H.M. Hole and Sir Drummond Chaplin. Two public archives are obviously related: the National Archives in Salisbury include the papers of the Administration during the period of the Company's rule and amongst these are many items emanating from the London Office. However, the Administration and the London Office were two very separate entities and the Salisbury archives indicate little concerning the internal organisation of the Company in England and little about the conflicts and combinations within the board of directors itself. The second major public collection is that in the Colonial Office papers in the Public Record Office. This covers exhaustively the relations of the Company with the British Government and also includes copies of the Company's Administrative minutes and agenda until the granting of responsible government to Southern Rhodesia in 1924. These minutes are, however, but a partial record of the Company's activities for, owing to the initial stipulation that copies must be deposited with the Colonial Office, the Company divided its business into Administrative, i.e. that which concerned the Colonial Office, and Commercial. Into the latter section were inserted a number of important matters, as well as the normal commercial business of the Company. In addition, there were a number of circulated papers that were never included in the formal minutes and agenda of the board. For these various reasons, the Gell papers are the most significant group remaining to us that describe the internal policy of the British South Africa Company. It is to be regretted that even these are incomplete.


The papers described below form part of a much larger collection covering the whole of Gell's commercial career and personal life. Their identity as a group was first created by Gell himself, who operated a rudimentary filing system, and then by subsequent sorting. However, the whole of the papers has not yet been inspected in detail and it is to be expected that a number of peripheral items relating to Southern Africa remain to be identified. The collection assembled here can even so be claimed to include all the substantive papers relating to the British South Africa Company


D3287 BSA/1 British South Africa Company: Directors' Reports and Accounts; Reports of Annual and Extraordinary Meetings of Shareholders


D3287 BSA/2 British South Africa Company: Board minutes and agenda


D3287 BSA/3 British South Africa Company: general papers


D3287 BSA/4 British South Africa Company: general papers relating to Southern Rhodesia


D3287 BSA/5 Land Settlement


D3287 BSA/6 Mines and Mining


D3287 BSA/7 Native affairs and native labour


D3287 BSA/8 North Eastern Rhodesia


D3287 BSA/9 North Western Rhodesia


D3287 BSA/10 Northern Rhodesia


D3287 BSA/11 Railways


D3287 BSA/12 The Zambesi and de Laessoe


D3287 BSA/13 Charter Trust and Agency


D3287 BSA/14 Royal Charter, Orders-in-Council, ordinances and proclamations


D3287 BSA/15 Fragments


The papers have been sorted into broad subject groupings and, within these, in chronological order, the last date of any cumulative item fixing its position. The subject groups were in part determined by Gell's own filing and, although workable, there are a number of items that straddle all subjects.


Although the purport of most of the subject groups is self-evident, some of them are more nebulous. D3287 BSA/3: British South Africa Company: general papers contains material relating to the British South Africa Company's London affairs, the board of directors, relations with shareholders and Gell's correspondence with colleagues on the board. Of necessity, there is much relating to Rhodesian affairs in this grouping. D3287 BSA/4: British South Africa Company: general papers relating to Southern Rhodesia includes those items that cannot be sorted under specific subjects such as Mining, Railways, etc., in particular those relating to political affairs. These include all Company negotiations as to the future of its administration of the territory, both with the colonists of Rhodesia itself, the Colonial Office, the South African government, and with the various commissions and committees set up to deliberate on the matter, including the Cave Commission and the Buxton Committee. This group also includes most of the correspondence between Gell and D.O. Malcolm, whose concern was primarily political, and Sir Drummond Chaplin, whilst he was Administrator of Southern Rhodesia. D3287 BSA/5: Land Settlement includes those papers relating to land settlement within Southern Rhodesia and to the general commercial development of the territory by the Company. Gell's correspondence with P. Inskipp, an executive director and later Commercial Manager, is to be found in this section.


The great bulk of this collection is of papers circulated by the Company secretariat. It is therefore typed and duplicated material. The only original MSS. are those letters written to or by Gell and memoranda drafted or prepared by him. No attempt has been made in the list to indicate whether an item is duplicated, original typescript or manuscript. Nor has any attempt been made to establish whether duplicates of items described survive in Salisbury or London. This would be an extremely complex process. In general, most circulated items will also figure in the agenda for board meetings and would therefore be found in the complete sets in Salisbury of these documents and, if Administrative, in the set in the P.R.O. However, those documents that were not included in the agenda are not indicated as such in the list although the originals are sometimes marked to be excluded.


The numbering of the documents is on the principle of one number for each discrete item. Circulated papers normally included a number of letters and memoranda, covered by a single descriptive note by the secretariat. Thus in the list a seeming multiplicity of items will be encompassed within a single number.


Certain conventions have been accepted in the list. Unless otherwise stated, directors, members of staff and other frequent correspondents are writing from London; no attempt is made to give addresses in detail. Where a letter or memorandum is issued by or addressed to the Secretary of the Company in his capacity as head of a department, the list does not recognise his authorship, simply noting that the item is to or from the 'British South Africa Company'. If, however, the item concerns the Secretary, or any other official, in a personal capacity, be it an expression of opinion or about his own personal affairs, the list will indicate his name. Similarly, items issued by or addressed to the Administrator or his department in Southern Rhodesia or any of the other territories, are described solely as coming from the 'Administrator', followed by a territorial designation, i.e. Salisbury, Kalomo, Fort Jameson, etc. Where an item emanates from a specific section of a larger department, or a particular department, this fact is recorded in the list. Letters to or from the British South Africa Company and to or from the Administrators of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Western Rhodesia, Northern Eastern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia are not indexed under these headings; their subjects and any other particulars are, of course, fully indexed.


Where it is felt to be of use, individuals figuring in the list are identified in foot-notes. Regular correspondents are normally identified by their surnames only. Their full names can be discovered from the index. Their offices or functions are normally apparent from the list itself.

Held by: Derbyshire Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Administrative / biographical background:

Philip Lyttelton Gell (1852-1926) was a director of the British South Africa Company from 1899 to 1925. He was chairman of the board from Jameson's death in 1917 until 1920, when he was officially elected president; He retired from this post early in 1923, not leaving the board, however, for another two years.

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