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Scott, Sir James George, 1851-1935 (journalist and administrator in Burma)



Sir James George Scott, administrator in Burma and author, was born in Fife in 1851, the son of a minister. He and his elder brother Robert, who would later become master of St John's College, Cambridge, were sent by their widowed mother to school in Stuttgart before James went to King's College School, London. He then attended Edinburgh University and Lincoln College, Oxford but lack of funds prevented him from obtaining a degree. In 1875 Scott went to Perak, Malaysia as special correspondent for The Standard newspaper to investigate the killing of the British Resident. He then travelled to Lower Burma where he became headmaster of St John's College, an Anglican Mission school. He returned to Britain in 1881 to read for the bar but failed to obtain a Law Scholarship for the Inner Temple. Scott's Burmese experience had piqued his interest and in 1882 he published an account of Burmese life and culture, The Burman: his Life and Notions, which was soon recognised as a classic. In 1884 Scott returned the Far East as war correspondent for The Standard, reporting on the French campaigns of 1884-5 in Annam (Vietnam) before being invalided home. On the British annexation of Upper Burma in 1886 Scott was invited to join the Burma Commission and he was posted to Mandalay, Meiktila and Hlaingdet before becoming assistant commissioner to the Shan States. He soon became an authority on Shan affairs and language and was responsible for spreading British rule to the Shan states, sending out small parties of troops to often unexplored regions. In 1888 he was made assistant superintendent to the Shan States, and he went on to hold various posts in the region thereafter, including British charge d'affaires in Bangkok, British commissioner on the Mekong commission and superintendent for the northern Shan States. Scott also served on the Anglo Siamese and the Burma-Chinese boundary commissions. In 1900 Scott went to Beijing for 15 months to study Chinese before taking up his last post in the Far East as Superintendent of the southern Shan States. He retired in 1910 and returned to England to live in London. Scott married three times and had one daughter. He died in 1935.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


Scott Collection

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Scott (James)
Scope and Contents

The collection includes palm leaf manuscripts in Burmese and Lao Tham scripts, Burmese, Shan and Lao folding books, Shan manuscripts on silk paper, Chinese documents, letters and maps and ephemera collected by Scott during his time in the Far East. Also included are reports and correspondence relating to Scott's administrative duties in Burma.

Dates: 1750-1910 (Circa)
Conditions Governing Access: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (