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RCS contains:
<-- See earlier
RCMS 98 Buddha's prediction
RCS Photographs of the Royal Commonwealth Society
Y3011A Malta, the Holy Land, etc
Y3011AAA Sir Harry Brittain Collection
Y3011B(LS) Views in Australia, Egypt, Aden, Asia and other places chiefly circa 1908-1915
Y3011C-N Sir Henry Hesketh Bell Collection
Y3011DDD(LS) CCCS Collection. Canada and Australia: CCCS Activities
Y3011EEE Royal Tour of Commonwealth 1953-54
Y3011FFF School Empire Tours Record 1927-1939
Y3011GGG Commonwealth in Focus Slides
Y3011HHH Cruise of H.M.S. 'Lancaster'
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Sir Henry Hesketh Bell Collection

Title Sir Henry Hesketh Bell Collection
Reference GBR/0115/Y3011C-N
Creator Bell, Sir, Henry Hesketh Joudou, 1864-1952, Knight, colonial governor
Covering Dates circa 1866-circa 1940
Extent and Medium 1 box, 8 albums + 4 files
Repository Cambridge University Library: Royal Commonwealth Society Library
Content and context

Sir Henry Hesketh Joudou Bell was born at Chambery in the Savoie district of south-east France on December 17th 1864. Bell was privately educated in the Channel Islands, and in Paris and Brussels. In 1882 a family friend Sir William Robinson offered him the post of third clerk in the office of the Governor of Barbados and the Leeward Islands and he arrived in Barbados in May of that year. In the following year he transferred to the Grenada Inland Revenue Department and worked there until 1889. After an unsuccessful attempt to find employment under the Egyptian Government, Bell was Supervisor of Customs in the Gold Coast from 1890-94, when he became Receiver General and Treasurer of the Bahamas. After applying for the administratorship of the Seychelles in 1899, he was offered St. Kitts-Nevis, but later agreed to serve in Dominica where he was administrator from 1899-1906. It was during this period that Bell started his experimental plantation Sylvania (see Y3011D/93), evolved a system of hurricane insurance, and continued his researches into witchcraft in the West Indies. Bell left the West Indies in 1906 to take up the post of Commissioner of the Uganda Protectorate (a title changed to Governor in the following year) and his period there was memorable for his development of the cotton industry and near-eradication of sleeping sickness in the country around Lake Victoria (see Y3011D/22-25).

He was promoted in 1909 to the Governorship of Northern Nigeria and it was during this term of office that his career received a lasting setback. Since Lugard's time it had been agreed that no missionaries should take up residence in and around Kano, but with the development of the administration and the coming of the railway to the town, the Church Missionary Society again sought permission to extend their activities in the area. Bell discussed the question with the newly-appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies Lewis Harcourt while on leave in London in 1911, and came away with the impression that the question was open. Before leaving England however, a letter was delivered to him explicitly forbidding any change in policy until further investigations had been made. This letter Bell packed unread in his suitcase and forgot about for several months, by which time reports were reaching the Colonial Office of missionary activity in Kano. Harcourt's anger at what he took to be a deliberate disobedience of his instructions resulted in Bell's transfer to the Leeward Islands, a governorship of lesser rank, salary and responsibility than Bell might reasonably have expected after his previous posts. Further arguing of his case led nowhere, even a request to petition the King over his grievances being turned down, although Harcourt did agree 'to lay at the foot of the Throne' any 'proper Memorial' from Bell, 'with my advice to His Majesty in regard to it'. Bell remained in the Leeward Islands from 1912-16, when he was made Governor of Mauritius, a post he held until his retirement in 1924.

After his retirement Bell lived in Cannes but travelled widely and in 1925-26 made an extensive semi-official tour of the Far East to study French and Dutch systems of colonial government. The resulting book, 'Foreign colonial administration in the Far East' (1928), was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Empire Society. During the Second World War, Bell returned to live in the Bahamas, but was a frequent visitor to London and died there on 1st August 1952.

A prolific author, Bell's published work includes memoirs, imaginative fiction and colonial history and administration. The most important of these are: 'Obeah: witchcraft in the West Indies' (1893), 'A witch's legacy' (1893), 'The history, trade, resources and present condition of the Gold Coast settlement' (1893), 'Outlines of the geography of the Gold Coast Colony and Protectorate' (1894), 'Love in black' (1911), 'Glimpses of a Governor's life' (1946), 'Witches and fishes' (1948). He was in addition a tireless contributor to newspapers, journals and magazines.

A collection of prints by various photographers. Bell makes mention several times in his letters and diaries of taking photographs and many of the prints in the collection are evidently snapshots taken by him or by someone using his camera. Some professional work is included in the albums, the two most prominent photographers being Alfred Lobo (Uganda) and Jose Anjo (Dominica). In addition, Y3011F contains work by such well-known London photographers as Elliot and Fry, Maull and Fox, Lafayette and Swaine.

The collection was bequeathed to Mrs A. Llewellin-Taylour, for eventual deposit in the Royal Commonwealth Society. It was handed over by her executors in 1968.

Access and Use

Please cite as Cambridge University Library: Royal Commonwealth Society Library, Sir Henry Hesketh Bell Collection, Y3011C-N

Further information

Many of the photographs in the collection have been identified from references in Bell's letters, diaries and notebooks, which are held at RCMS 36. On Bell's death his diaries were bequeathed to the British Museum and are now at the British Library.


This collection level description was entered by KS using information from the original typescript catalogue.

Index Terms
Leeward Islands
Lesser Antilles
West Indies
Windward Islands
Bell, Sir Henry Hesketh Joudou (1864-1952) Knight, colonial governor
RCS/Y3011C-N contains:
Y3011C Uganda 1906-09.
Creator: Unknown.
94 images in 1 album; Generally in good condition..
Y3011D Uganda and Northern Nigeria 1908-12.
Creator: Various.
165 images in 1 album; Mainly in fair to good condition..
Nov. 1908-Mar. 1912
Y3011E Northern Nigeria and the Leeward Islands 1911-14.
Creator: Various.
64 images in 1 album; Generally in good condition..
Y3011F Photographs of myself 1866 - circa 1940.
Creator: Various.
33 images in 1 file; Generally in good condition..
1866-circa 1940
Y3011G Miscellaneous photographs from Uganda, Northern Nigeria, the Caribbean and Mauritius 1899-1930s.
Creator: Various.
117 images in 1 file; Generally in good condition..
Y3011H Miscellaneous and unidentified prints circa 1900 - circa 1920s.
Creator: Unknown.
70 images in 1 file; Generally in good condition..
circa 1900-circa 1929
Y3011I Dominica 1900-03.
Creator: Various.
15 images in 1 album; Fair condition..
Y3011J Leeward Islands and Mauritius, 1914-1919.
Creator: Various.
94 images in 1 album.
Y3011K Mauritius, 1919-1924.
Creator: Various.
163 images in 1 album; In good condition unless otherwise stated..
Y3011L Watercolour views of the Middle East, Far East and France, 1925-27.
Creator: Bell, Sir, Henry Hesketh Joudou, 1864-1952, Knight, colonial governor.
29 images in 1 album; watercolour.
Y3011M [River scene near Srinagar, Kashmir, circa 1925]. 288 x 114 mm. Mounted on 6 x 4 inch card. A panoramic photograph looking along a river, probably the Jhelum, with houseboats on either bank and mountains in the distance.
Creator: Unknown.
Good condition..
circa 1925
Y3011N Miscellaneous oversize prints, 1890s-1923.
Creator: Various.
5 images in 1 box.

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