Swettenham, Frank Athelstane, Sir, 1850-1946

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Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham was born in England in 1850. Swettenham went to Singapore and served as a colonial administrator, eventually assuming the posts of high commissioner for the Malay States and governor of the Straits Settlement. He died in London in 1946.

From the description of Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham papers, 1873-1940 (inclusive), [microform]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122543233

Frank Athelstane Swettenham was born in Belper, England on 28th March 1850, the fourth son of James Oldham Swettenham, a solicitor, and his wife Charlotte Elizabeth. Frank Swettenham joined the Straits Settlement Civil Service at the age of 20. He soon mastered Malay which led to his appointment as an interpreter and special commisioner and, at the age of twenty-four, as Assistant Resident to Selangor. During the period January 1874 and February 1876 Swettenham kept a semi-official diary of his day-to-day activities, a period which he thought of great importance not only to himself but also to the Malay states. He became Assistant Colonial Secretary for Native Affairs in 1876, was Resident to Selangor 1882-1889 and to Perak, 1889 to 1895. He was largely responsible for the creation of the Federated Malay States in 1896 and was its first Resident-General from 1896 to 1901. In 1901 he became Governor of the Straits Settlement and High Commisioner to the Malay States. He retired in 1904. To mark the occasion a full-length portrait by John Singer Sargent was commissioned by the Straits Association which now hangs in the National Museum in Singapore. A three-quarter length version, painted for Swettenham's own collection, now hangs at the National Portrait Gallery in London

During the 1890s Swettenham published a volume of short stories, entitled, Malay Sketches (London, 1895) and The Real Malay (London, 1899) which draws upon the characters and events noted in the journals. Following his retirement he wrote a history entitled British Malaya (London, 1906) and an autobiography, Footprints in Malaya (London, 1942)

Swettenham died at the age of 96 on 11th June 1946.

From the guide to the Swettenham, Frank Athelstane, 1874-1875, (School of Oriental and African Studies)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Berry, Graham Sir, 1822-1904. [Papers] relating to Sir Graham Berry. Libraries Australia
creatorOf Swettenham, Frank Athelstane, Sir, 1850-1946. Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham papers, 1873-1940 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn John Lane Company Records TXRC00-A11., 1856-1933, bulk 1894-1930 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Swettenham, Frank Athelstane, 1874-1875 School of Oriental and African Studies
referencedIn Addresses and testimonials addressed to Sir Ernest Birch, [ca. 1870]-1920 The Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House
creatorOf John Lane Company. Records of the John Lane Company, 1856-1933 (bulk, 1894-1930). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Berry, Graham Sir, 1822-1904. person
associatedWith Ernest Woodford Birch person
associatedWith John Lane Company corporateBody
associatedWith Smith, Cecil Clementi, Sir, 1840-1916. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Great Britain
Great Britain Colonies Officials and employees
Perak (Malaysia)
Labuan (Malaysia)
Public officers


Birth 1850-03-28

Death 1946-06-11



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