William Foster (historiographer)

Sir William Foster CIE (19 November 1863 – 11 May 1951) was a British historiographer and civil servant who was Registrar and Superintendent of Records in the India Office.[1] He was a member of the Hakluyt Society and was "the foremost authority on the detailed history of early British relations with India and other countries in Asia."[2]

William Foster

Born(1863-11-19)19 November 1863
Died11 May 1951(1951-05-11) (aged 87)


Foster was born on 19 November 1863, the son of a civil servant. He was educated in Coopers' Grammar School and London University.[3] In 1882 he entered India Office and continued working there until 1927.[3] He became Registrar and Superintendent of Records from 1907 to 1923 and Historiographer to the India Office from 1923 to 1927.[4] He served the Hakluyt Society as Secretary (1893–1902) and President (1928–1945).[3]

Foster was knighted in the 1925 New Year Honours.[5]


A bibliography of Foster is provided by Anthony Farrington.[6]

  • The Register of Letters and of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies 1600-1619 with Sir George Birdwood (1893)
  • Letters Received By The East India Company (1897)
  • The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to India 1615-19: As Narrated in his Journal and Correspondence 2 vols. (ed. 1899)
  • The English Factories in India, 1618-1669 : a Calendar of Documents in the India Office, British Museum and Public Record Office (1911) first of thirteen volumes, eleven of which are available at: Internet Archive
  • A Guide to the India Office Records, 1600-1858 (1919)
  • Early Travels in India, 1583-1619 (1921)
  • The East India House: its History and Associations (1924)
  • John Company (1926)
  • A Supplementary Calendar of Documents in the India Office Relating to India or to Home Affairs of the East India Company 1600-1640 (1928)
  • Thomas Herbert: Travels in Persia 1627-1629 (ed. 1928)
  • A New Account of the East Indies 2 vols. with Alexander Hamilton (1930)

Also - * Winter, Edward, (signed as "W. F.") in Dictionary of National Biography, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., (1885-1900) in 63 vols.


  • Beckingham, C. F. (1951). "Sir William Foster, C.I.E." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 83 (3–4): 224. doi:10.1017/S0035869X0010499X.


  1. ^ "The British Library - India Office Select Materials - Collection details". British Library. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Sir William Foster". The Times. 12 May 1951. p. 8.
  3. ^ a b c Beckingham, C. F. (1951). "Sir William Foster, C.I.E." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 83 (3–4): 224. doi:10.1017/S0035869X0010499X. ISSN 1356-1863.
  4. ^ Makepeace, Margaret (4 June 2020). "An unexpected letter from Sir William Foster of the India Office". British Library. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  5. ^ "No. 33007". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1924. p. 2.
  6. ^ Farrington, Anthony (1972). Sir William Foster, 1863-1951: A bibliography. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.