Z is for Zulu Blue Books

This is the Clermont Club which shared space with Annabel’s nightclub at 44 Berkeley Square. I have put it here because the only references I can find to my old friend Michael Hicks Beach on the internet are those concerning his meeting with Lord Lucan on the day before Lucan killed his nanny, Sandra Rivett, on 7th November 1974. According to James Fox in The Sunday Times, Michael claimed to be a literary agent in those days. I don’t believe a word of it – Michael was much too widely read. Anyway, after lunching, they spent the afternoon until about 4pm discussing an article Lucan had written about gambling. Discussing a bottle of wine more like. And there were few better ways to spend an afternoon when Michael was still alive. Then Lucan drove Michael home to his flat in Fulham making Michael the penultimate person to see Lucan before the murder. The last was Billy, the doorman at the Clermont, who told Lucan when he drove by at about 8pm that none of his friends were there. Read all about it all over the net.

The relevance of this is John Aspinall, who had founded the Clermont in 1962 and sold it on to Playboy in 1972. Michael was one of the many people who spent a convivial evening at the Clermont and came out of it owing Aspinall large sums of money. It wasn’t a loss on the scale of William Stirling’s but was still more than he was prepared to divulge to his parents. The delightful Aspers allowed him to pay it back in instalments, letting him play at the Clermont with his losses covered by the club and his winnings repaying the debt. While this arrangement wasn’t illegal, it would definitely have been of interest to other club members had they been aware of it.

Scroll on twenty odd years. Michael had invented a very succesful board game but the royalties were beginning to dry up. He elected to become a book dealer. And in a combined operation he and I ended up with a vast number of parliamentary papers. We hired a store room with trestle tables in it, and walked round and round them dealing out blue books into separate piles in the hope of finding sequences.

The whole process reminded me of constructing catalogues backs in the 1970s. First I typed the separate pages on stencils cutting holes for letters. Then I fed the stencils through a Gestetner duplicating machine to ink as many pages as I needed – two hundred was about the limit for each stencil. Finally I put the separate pages in piles around a large table which I circumnavigated collecting one of each page to form a catalogue that I then stapled together. Today it takes about thirty minutes today to run off a state of the art PDF. Then a short catalogue took three full days of hard work.

One of the things Michael and I found we owned was a complete sequence of the South Africa Papers from 1876 to 1885. Michael was sure he could sell this to Aspinall, now the owner of Howletts Zoo.

He must have sold it. Neither the Zulu papers nor the Zulu Civil War papers appear among the 198 entries on the joint list we issued, though I do have index cards for both in my catalogue boxes. This was in the days before anyone uploaded photographs to the internet so you’ll have to make do with a later picture of one of the component papers:

This is the seventh blue book in the South Africa series that begins with Correspondence Respecting the War between the Transvaal Republic and neighbouring native tribes, and generally with reference to native affairs in South Africa. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty April 1877. C 1748. The formula ‘by command of Her Majesty’ indicates a paper containing information that government has chosen or has been compelled to bring to the attention of the House. The correct term is ‘sessional paper’, ‘blue book’ referring to the colour of the paper covers. Sometimes – The Death of Hintsa for example in X for Xhosa – a paper is not continued by further papers. Though, of course, the death of Hintsa by no means terminated British involvement with the Xhosas so that this one-off paper is frequently referred to in later, technically unrelated. Usually an initial paper recording an event which has attracted the attention of the House or an individual Member of Parliament is continued by other papers, the thread of continuity being supplied by the number of the paper which is displayed bottom left in square brackets and the formulation below the title “in continuation of C….” The paper illustrated above is of no great interest concerning mainly operations against the Xhosa in the Transkei.

The Zulu War series proper starts with the eleventh paper in the sequence, number 2222. Its final serials record the drift to war with the Zulus through Sir Bartle Frere’s despatches. One of these is pithily summarised by the indexer who lists its contents as “stating at much length, his conviction that war with Cetewayo is unavoidable, and that its best sequence would be annexation; points out that it is an utter impossibility for us to live side by side with savages unless we assert our authority in a very marked and decided manner.”

The paper everybody wants is the thirteenth in the series:

Further Correspondence Respecting the Affairs of South Africa in continuation of C 2242 of February 1879. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty March 1879. C 2252.
97pp; 2 folding maps (Langeberg; rough sketch of Isandhlwana by Colonel Bray based on Mr Brickhill’s information). Folio, blue paper wrappers, good condition.
(Serial 1 is Colonel Warren’s final report on operations on the desert frontier of Griqualand West and includes a very large folding map to illustrate the action at Langeberg on 14 October 1878. Also irrelevant to Zululand are lengthy appendices on legal problems arising from the conversion of the frontier police units into mounted regiments. But the majority of entries at this point of crisis do refer to the Zulu War. Serial 19 prints correspondence with Bishop Colenso on the boundary question. Serial 21 is the official report on ‘the disaster at Indula, and the heroic defence of Rorke’s Drift’ and serial 22 is Lord Chelmsford’s 5 page despatch on the disaster.)

We decided to end what we called the Zulu War sequence with the twenty eighth in the series, C 2695, which has a very large folding map shewing the division of Zululand into thirteen independent kingdoms. After that, our attention – like that of the House of Commons – turned to the Transvaal and the events that built up into what is now called the First Anglo-Boer War. Predictably enough the division of Zululand into thirteen statelets did not result in peace and harmony ever after. More on the Zulu Civil War later.

Between 1969 and 1971 the Irish University Press printed nearly all 19th Century blue books in a series of about 1000 Folio volumes of about 400 pages each. Individual parliamentary papers were classified into subject areas with sub-classifications as required. The list below is adapted from the library catalogue of the University of California Los Angeles. Take the trouble to wade through it.


  • General, 1820 – 1897 (32 volumes)
  • Animal Health, 1866 – 1898 (4 volumes)


  • Aboriginees, 1834 – 1836 (3 volumes)


  • General, 1830 – 1899 (37 volumes)
  • Africa, 1801 – 1899 (70 volumes)
  • Australia, 1816 – 1899 (34 volumes)
  • Canada, 1802 – 1899 (33 volumes)
  • Canadian Boundary, 1831 – 1894 (3 volumes)
  • East India, 1805 – 1874 (22 volumes)
  • New Zealand, 1835 – 1896 (17 volumes)
  • West Indies, 1806 – 1899 (10 volumes)

Crime & Punishment

  • Civil Disorder, 1835 – 1887 (8 volumes)
  • Juvenile Offenders, 1847 – 1897 (6 volumes)
  • Penal Servitude, 1878 – 1879 (2 volumes)
  • Police, 1812 – 1892 (10 volumes)
  • Prisons, 1808 – 1899 (21 volumes)
  • Transportation, 1810 – 1869 (16 volumes)


  • General, 1847 – 1896 (46 volumes)
  • British Museum, 1835 – 1899 (4 volumes)
  • Fine Arts, 1841 – 1897 (6 volumes)
  • Poorer Classes, 1816 – 1896 (9 volumes)
  • Public Libraries, 1849 – 1852 (2 volumes)
  • Scientific and Technical, 1867 – 1884 (8 volumes)


  • Emigration, 1826 – 1899 (28 volumes)


  • Ireland, 1846 – 1853 (8 volumes)


  • Fisheries, 1805 – 1894 (7 volumes)

Fuel and Power

  • Coal Trade, 1830 – 1873 (5 volumes)
  • Gas, 1809 – 1899 (6 volumes)
  • Mining Accidents, 1835-1899 (12 volumes)
  • Mining Districts, 1839-1859 (2 volumes)
  • Mining Royalties, 1887 – 1894 (3 volumes)


  • Civil Service, 1837 – 1892 (12 volumes)
  • Diplomatic Service, 1835 – 1872 (4 volumes)
  • Elections, 1834 – 1898 (5 volumes)
  • Municipal Corporations, 1833 – 1839 (9 volumes)


  • General, 1837 – 1899 (17 volumes)
  • Food and Drugs, 1852 – 1896 (5 volumes)
  • Infectious Diseases, 1847 – 1896 (13 volumes)
  • Medical Profession, 1828 – 1882 (5 volumes)
  • Mental, 1807 – 1897 (8 volumes)

Industrial Relations

  • Industrial Relations, 1824 – 1899 (44 volumes)

Industrial Revolution

  • Children’s Employment, 1816 – 1867 (15 volumes)
  • Design, 1835 – 1853 (4 volumes)
  • Factories, 1835 – 1899 (31 volumes)
  • Textiles, 1802 – 1845 (10 volumes)
  • Trade, 1820 – 1833 (5 volumes)


  • Insurance, Friendly Societies, 1825 – 1899 (10 volumes)


  • Inventions, 1829 – 1872 (2 volumes)

Legal Administration

  • General, 1829 – 1887 (16 volumes)
  • Criminal Law, 1819 – 1879 (6 volumes)

Marriage and Divorce

  • Marriage and Divorce, 1830 – 1896 (3 volumes)

Military and Naval

  • Military and Naval, 1809 – 1900 (6 volumes)

Monetary Policy

  • General, 1793 – 1898 (12 volumes)
  • Commercial Distress, 1847 – 1858 (4 volumes)
  • Currency, 1837 – 1899 (8 volumes)
  • Decimal Coinage, 1852 – 1860 (2 volumes)
  • Joint Stock Banks, 1836 – 1838 (1 volume)
  • Savings Bank, 1849 – 1894 (4 volumes)

National Finance

  • General, 1840 – 1898  (8 volumes)
  • Income Tax, 1851 – 1861 (2 volumes)


  • Newspapers, 1814 – 1888 (2 volumes)

Poor Law

  • Poor Law, 1837 – 1900 (30 volumes)


  • Population, 1801 – 1891 (25 volumes)


  • Religion, 1867 – 1870 (3 volumes)

Shipping, Safety

  • Shipping, Safety, 1802 – 1889 (0 volumes)

Slave Trade

  • Slave Trade, 1801 – 1899 (95 volumes)

Social Problems

  • Drunkenness, 1872 – 1879 (4 volumes)
  • Gambling, 1808 – 1898 (2 volumes)
  • Sunday Observance, 1831 – 1890 (3 volumes)

Stage and Theatre

  • Stage and Theatre, 1831 – 1892 (3 volumes)

Trade and Industry

  • Depression, 1886 (3 volumes)
  • Explosives, 1802 – 1894 (2 volumes)
  • Navigation Laws, 1847 – 1848 (2 volumes)
  • Silver and Gold Wares, 1817 – 1894 (2 volumes)
  • Tobacco, 1806 – 1884 (2 volumes)

Transport & Communications

  • Post and Telegraphs, 1837 – 1898  (8 volumes)
  • Transport, 1817 – 1899 (22 volumes)

Urban Areas

  • Housing, 1881 – 1885 (3 volumes)
  • Planning, 1833 – 1894 (10 volumes)
  • Sanitation, 1823 – 1894 (7 volumes)
  • Water Supply, 1821 – 1900 (9 volumes)

This is a brilliant classification of 19th Century blue books. It’s worth studying because it demonstrates the subjects that interested the Houses of Parliament at the time. But the classification is not that of the House of Commons or Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. It is derived from T P O’Neill’s British Parliamentary Papers: a monograph of blue books. Unsurprisingly perhaps since T P O’Neill was editorial director of the IUP Library of Fundamental Source Books.

The disjunction between the IUP classification and the various attempts by HMSO to classify the papers creates problems. At the largest level the word ‘Anthropology’ doesn’t appear anywhere on the titlepage of the original report from the Select Committee on Aborigines. Indeed I’d be surprised if it even occurred to Buxton and his committee that their investigation of the treatment of native people by the British colonial authorities had anything to do with anthropology. Deeper problems still occur when papers from different sequences are contained in the same volume since these are ordered according to the demands of the IUP classification system. The result is that it is almost impossible to use the IUP series in conjunction with the HMSO guides.

Our Blue Books catalogue was filled with blue books that are difficult to classify. Paper 1997 of 1854 and its continuation Paper 2111 of 1855 concern Sierra Leone and two expeditions against the Moriah Chiefs. The second expedition ended in disaster when more than fifty men of the 1st and 3rd West India Regiments were killed in action at Malageah. The old HMSO general index to sessional papers 1801-1859 finesses the problem by bunging it in with everything else on Sierra Leone:

Lord knows what the IUP make of it. Is it under Slavery or British Colonies: Africa or both? And what about Paper 7708 of 1895 concerning Military Operations against Kabarega, King of Unyoro? In theory it stands alone. In practice Paper 7924 of 1896 obviously continues the earlier paper though it doesn’t actually say so on the titlepage. Once again the plodding HMSO index makes light of the problem. IUP miss it altogether.

And so to the Zulu Civil War sequence which Michael must also have sold. While Zululand collapsed into chaos, its erstwhile king Cetshwayo travelled to London to plead for his restoration. A new sequence of South Africa papers starts with Correspondence respecting the Affairs of Zululand and the Proposed Visit of Cetywayo to England. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty June 1882. C 3247. The Zulu king’s visit was a triumph. The Queen received him at Osborne. Even Bright was impressed.

The fifth paper in the sequence, number 3616, includes Sir Theophilus Shepstone’s 20 page report on his expedition to re-establish Cetshwayo in a specially created Zulu Reserve and has reports from Henry Fynn, the newly appointed British Resident, on the king’s immediate attempts to reassert his authority outside the Reserve. The next paper, number 3705, records the increasing chaos and the sad realisation that the king never intended to return “to an inferior state of position, power and wealth to that which he had held before the war of 1879”. Cetshwayo was defeated by Zibhebhu kaMapitha at Ondini on 21st July 1883 and had to retreat to the Reserve where he died early in 1884. Amidst masterly inactivity by the British, the Usibebu and the Usuthu fought it out assisted by Boer mercenaries. There are 21 papers in all ending with 6070 of 1890. If anybody won, it was the Boers.

Thank you to everyone who has read this A to Z which has been a voyage of rediscovery so far as I’m concerned. But a time consuming one which is why I shall desist from blogging for a few weeks.

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