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Sir George Arthur, Superintendent of British Honduras: papers

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/RCMS 270

Scope and Contents

Arthur was an efficient administrator and kept copies of virtually every official letter he wrote during his tenure as Superintendent and Commandant. These include dispatches to Bathurst on colonial affairs and to the Commander-in-Chief, Jamaica, regarding military administration. Letters to neighbouring Spanish colonies reflect his diplomatic responsibilities. Part of the collection relates to Bradley’s dispute with Arthur, which went before Parliament in 1837. A series of Inland Letter Books records Arthur’s work in civil administration, judicial affairs, commerce, land occupancy, education, and to ameliorate the condition of enslaved persons. In addition to this official material, the collection preserves private letters which shed light upon Arthur’s career ambitions, religious convictions and family life.


  • 1803 - 1837

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 (

Biographical / Historical

Sir George Arthur was born in Plymouth on 21 June 1784 and entered the army in August 1804. He served in Sicily, Italy, and in Egypt in 1807, distinguishing himself in the fighting at Rosetta. In 1809 he participated in the Walcheren expedition on Sir Eyre Coote's staff and played a prominent role in the attack on Flushing. After serving as military secretary to the Governor of Jersey, in 1812 Arthur joined the 7th West India regiment and was appointed Assistant Quartermaster-General at Jamaica. In 1814 he took up the post of Superintendent and Commandant of British Honduras, and married Elizabeth Smith, the daughter of Colonel Sir John Smith, who commanded Jamaica’s artillery.

As Superintendent of Honduras, Arthur encouraged the settlement’s economic prosperity by pursuing more advantageous terms for its timber trade and protected commerce from piracy. He sought to maintain amicable relations with neighbouring Spanish colonies and to preserve neutrality in the movement for their independence from Spain. He reformed the administration of justice, undertook a public works programme to improve the capital Belize and acted to restrict illegal land occupation. At times there were conflicts between Arthur and the elected magistrates and the ‘public meeting’ (legislative council) over the extent of their relative powers. As an evangelical Anglican, Arthur supported church building and missionary work. He was a committed abolitionist, and sought to improve the treatment of the enslaved and to stamp out the illegal importation of enslaved persons. During the final years of his tenure, Arthur clashed with owners over the enslavement of the descendants of the indigenous peoples of the Mosquito Shore, which sparked a wider controversy about the exercise of his authority. His command of the settlement garrison was challenged by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Bradley, whom he had arrested, leading to a lengthy dispute. Arthur took leave in Britain due to ill health in 1822 and did not return to Honduras. He later served as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (1823-36), Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (1837-41), and Governor of Bombay (1842-45).


8 archive box(es) (8 boxes) : paper

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

fair condition

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Miss L.F. Lee, grand-daughter of Sir George Arthur, in 1956.

Related Materials

Archives relating to Arthur's service in Canada and India are held by the Toronto Public Library. Archives relating to his career in Tasmania are held by the Mitchell Library.


This description was entered by MJC.


Arthur, Sir George, 1784-1854, lieutenant general and colonial governor

Includes index.
2006-12-22 10:02:33+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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