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Copies of papers from other sources: correspondence., 1858-1897, undated.

Identifier: Acc.9942/55-61

Scope and Contents

From the Fonds:

Papers of Sir John Kirk GCMG KCB (1832-1922), physician, administrator, naturalist, photographer, and Lady Kirk, née Helen Cooke (d.1914).

John Kirk was born at Barry in Forfarshire in 1832. After qualifying as a doctor in 1854, he volunteered for medical service in the Crimea and subsequently became Dr. David Livingstone's chief assistant on his second Zambesi Expedition, 1858-1863. In 1866 Kirk was appointed Medical Officer and Vice-Consul of Zanzibar. He became Assistant Political Agent in 1868, Consul-General in 1873, and Political Agent in 1880. He retired from the consular service in 1887.

Kirk's period in Zanzibar coincided with the dramatic decline of the slave trade in East Africa, in which he played a prominent role, and with the extension of European interests into the interior. Upon his retirement to Sevenoaks he continued an active involvement in East Africa for some years. He was British Plenipotentiary at the Brussels Conference on the African Slave Trade, 1889-1890, a director of the Imperial British East Africa Company, and chairman of the government committee for the construction of the Uganda Railway. Moreover, he was frequently asked informally for advice on East African questions. He died in 1922.

Helen Cooke went to Zanzibar to marry John Kirk in 1867, and remained there until her children's education necessitated her to return to England in 1883. Throughout her time in Zanzibar she assisted her husband with his correspondence, and as a result certain political letters were addressed to her. Some of her personal letters and two of her diaries are also included in the collection. Lady Kirk died in 1914.


  • Creation: 1858-1897, undated.


Conditions Governing Access

Normal access conditions apply. Parts 39, 45 and 50 were never available to the National Library of Scotland either for deposit or purchase, and are therefore not available for consultation.


7 Folders

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

Archives and Manuscript Division
National Library of Scotland
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Edinburgh EH1 1EJ
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