Charles Hose


Charles Hose was born in 1863, the second son of a family of six, to his parents Thomas Charles Hose, a clergyman and Fanny (circa 1840–circa 1927). He grew up in Norfolk and attended Felsted School in Essex. In 1882 he continued his education at Jesus College, Cambridge University but never completed his degree. Instead he joined the civil service in Sarawak, where became Resident of the Baram District. He lived in Sarawak for 24 years and spent most of his lesisure time pursuing his interest in natural history and ethnography. He made large collections of flora, fauna and material culture which he donated or sold to several museums. He was a close friend of Alfred Cort Haddon; this connection was instrumental in the Horniman's acquisition of material from Hose.

Hose joined the Sarawak civil service without finishing his degree. George Frederick Hose (1838–1922), bishop of Singapore, Sarawak, and Labuan and Charles’ uncle, brokered the appointment. Hose was sent to the Baram River district which he governed as its most senior official from 1888. He progressed quickly through the ranks; in 1894 he became a member of the state council. He was instrumental in eradicating headhunting and brokered a peace agreement between various enemy tribes in Marudi in 1899. He was promoted once more and served on the supreme council of Sibu where he continued peace negotiations between Iban rebels in 1904, and Rejang Ibans and the Batang Lupar Ibans in 1907.

In his pastime Hose liked to venture into the rainforest and he became an avid collector of plants and animals. In this he was supported by Raja Charles Brooke, founder of the Sarawak Museum. Hose discovered numerous new species and chartered the first map of the area. His exploitations led him to become intrigued by the natives of the Baram River who he studied and from whom he collected anthropological objects, some of which can be found at The British Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. Hose also discovered polished rice was the source of beriberi disease, from which he himself had suffered.

Charles wedded Emilie (Poppy) Ellen in 1905 and they had two children. When he retired he returned to Norfolk where he spent his days imparting his knowledge of Sarawak and its peoples. His most significant publications are ‘The Pagan Tribes of Borneo’ (1912) ‘Natural Man’ (1926), and his memoirs: ‘Fifty Years of Romance and Research, or, A Jungle-Wallah at Large’ (1927). His terminology to distinguish between different groups in Sarawak became the standard in the academic world.

Hose also contributed to the economic prosperity of Sarawak by playing a pivotal role in establishing a contract between Shell and the Raja for oil rights in the area of Miri. Sarawak became the second most productive oil field in British territory.

During WWI Hose managed a munitions plant in Kings Lynn and afterwards was made a member Sarawak state advisory council in Westminster, which safeguarded British interests in the region. Hose also contributed to the Sarawak display of the British Empire Exhibition (1924). He ended up with a degree from Cambridge after all, when he was awarded a ScD in 1900, and an honorary fellowship in 1926.

Charles Hose died at the Hutton Nursing Home in 1929, and was interred at Bandon Hill cemetery in Surrey.

Brief biography

colonial official and ethnologist (1863 - 1929)

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Collection Information

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