Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)BCGA
TitleRecords of the British Cotton Growing Association
Extent49 boxes (0.5586 cubic metres)
Date1862-[late 20th century]
DescriptionThis collection contains a wide variety of material relating to the British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA) and to the cotton growing and ginning industry in general.

Minutes covering the whole period of the BCGA's independent existence are included: minutes of the BCGA Council, Executive Council and various committees, 1902-1972; minutes of meetings at the Colonial Office and other meetings and deputations to London, 1904-1916.

Other records include administrative and engineering records largely relating to the BCGA's ginneries, [20th century]; copies of correspondence with the Colonial Office, 1910-1925; other correspondence, 1902-1966; registers of colonial staff, which record information about the appointment and details of the service records of some of its employees, circa 1904-circa 1985; legal records, 1904-[1981]; and newscuttings, 1916 and 1933-1936. The collection also includes photographs [1920s-1980s] of ginneries and cotton growing mainly in Africa; photographs of ginning machinery; photographs of the Sennar Dam and Gezira Irrigation Works; and other photographs.

Various publications and other printed material is included: annual reports; reports of proceedings at annual meetings; other reports; five maps [1909-1921]; appeal letters, [1902-1905]; banquet menus, 1908-1954; and bound volumes containing a large amount of BCGA and external printed material relating to all aspects of the cotton industry, including reports, journal articles, and papers published in this country and overseas between 1862 and 1940.

Additional external material relating to cotton growing from the UK and overseas is also contained in the collection. This includes a number of reports and other papers from the Empire Cotton Growing Committee; and reports and other papers from various governments. Material from related companies and organizations is also included, such as two boxes of cotton samples from Ralli Brothers and Coney.

The collection also includes thirteen travel diaries of Sir William Himbury, who joined the BCGA in 1904 and subsequently became Chairman and Managing Director. He visited many cotton growing countries in Africa, the Middle East and India in the course of his work. In 1925, for example, he made a five month tour, as General Manager, of the cotton growing areas of India, Uganda, the Sudan and Egypt. These typescript diaries cover the period 1904-1938 and they also contain a considerable number of photographs, maps and other enclosures. Records from other officers of the BCGA include day books of J. Arthur Hutton, 1904-1908; and diary notes of a tour by Mr B. Crapper, 1919-1920.
ArrangementThe records of the BCGA have been arranged in eleven series. The first ten of these series contain items produced by the BCGA and its officers, and also correspondence received, with each series defined according to the type of record. External items and items by related companies have been placed in an eleventh series, except for bound volumes containing a mixture of BCGA and external items; items which were included as part of correspondence received by the BCGA; and items regarding the Empire Cotton Growing Committee, where it was considered necessary to keep the material produced by the BCGA and the external material together.
Access ConditionsAccess to parts of this collection is restricted. In accordance with Data Protection regulations some personnel records (BCGA/4/2-3), which include personal data are closed for the lifetime of the individual where known, or 100 years.
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryThe British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA) was founded in 1902 in order to promote the growth and cultivation of cotton within the British Empire. The background to the formation of the movement was the difficult economic position of the Lancashire cotton industry which was particularly dependent on the United States for its supplies for raw cotton. World demand for cotton exceeded the available supplies (owing to fluctuations in the American crops and other growing markets for the raw material), and many of the mills in Lancashire introduced short time for their employees. Concerns about the economic future of the industry were expressed in January 1901 at the annual dinner of the Oldham Chamber of Commerce and, as a result, a committee was appointed to investigate the possibility of establishing new cotton growing areas in other countries, particularly in the British Empire. The committee corresponded on the subject with the Colonial Office, Governors, and other colonial officials, and its report, published in November 1901, was favourable. In February 1902, a representative meeting of Chambers of Commerce and other interested trade and manufacturing associations was held at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce at which the report was adopted. At a subsequent meeting in June, the BCGA was officially inaugurated with a guarantee fund of £50,000, and consignments of seed and machinery and cotton experts were despatched to different countries to undertake pioneering work and conduct experiments. In 1904, the association applied for and was granted a royal charter and was reconstituted with capital of £500,000 so as to ensure adequate funding for the extension and success of its operations.

In the early years, up to the First World War, the work of the association was still largely experimental; but it soon became apparent that if its chief objective to extend sources of cotton supply was to be achieved, the association's role also needed to be more interventionist. By 1920, in addition to supplying seed, the BCGA was supplying machinery, buildings and equipment, contributing to the finance of ginneries, acting as agents for the sale of the crops, and guaranteeing the prices. Its area of work extended to India, the Gold Coast and Nigeria in West Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, Nyasaland and Rhodesia in Central and East Africa, South Africa, Iraq, Australia and the West Indies. The association sought assistance from the Government and in the early years was given direct financial support. It also encouraged the Government to invest in the colonies by constructing railways, roads and irrigation works, all of which benefited the cotton trade. The Nigerian Railway and the Sennar Dam in Sudan are notable examples of the success of the BCGA's lobbying activities. The association was not established as a profit making concern - the original subscription was raised by voluntary contributions, and the first dividend was paid to shareholders only in 1928 - and its success owes much to the fact that it represented not just the cotton manufacturers but other interested parties including the labour organisations.

In 1973, the BCGA and its ginning facilities, were acquired by Ralli International Ltd, a firm of Liverpool cotton traders, and the association moved premises from Manchester to Liverpool. In 1980 Ralli was taken over by Cargill, a large multinational company with headquarters in the United States involved in various agricultural commodities and other industries, and the BCGA was subsequently incorporated into Cargill Technical Services Ltd (a small overseas consultancy unit).
Custodial HistoryThe initial deposit was catalogued by William A. Wardle in 1977. An incomplete listing was also carried out of 'Additional Documents' with the reference 'CGA Adds' followed by a running number. It is unclear whether these 'Additional Documents' were part of the initial deposit or were a separate deposit. Another set of documents numbered 'Adds II' followed by a running number was not catalogued, and it is also not clear whether this was part of the initial deposit.

The collection was catalogued again in 2008 including items which were previously uncatalogued and items which had already been catalogued. The previous numbering system and arrangement was abandoned and replaced with a new structure and numbering system following the ISAD(G) cataloguing standard. A list of the old reference numbers with the corresponding new reference number is included in the deposit file, with the old catalogue and 'CGA Adds' listing.
AcquisitionThe collection was acquired in at least two deposits. The initial deposit was purchased in collaboration with the Centre for West African Studies at the University of Birmingham. It appears that this initial deposit was acquired from the estate of J. Arthur Hutton, a founder and former Chairman of the BCGA. A further deposit was presented as a gift by Cargill in 1999.
Associated MaterialsBritish Cotton Growing Association records (reference number M257) 1902-1969 held at Manchester Archives and Local Studies; British Cotton Growing Association maps, annual reports and publications (reference number M1335) 1906-1968 held at Stanford Univers
Publication NoteA thesis entitled 'A History of the British Cotton Growing Association, 1902-39, with special reference to its operations in Northern Nigeria' by W.A. Wardle (University of Birmingham, 1980) uses material from this collection.


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