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The Secretary of State for the Colonies or Colonial Secretary was the British Cabinet official in charge of managing the various British colonies. The position was first created in 1768 to deal with the increasingly troublesome North America colonies. Previously those responsibilities had fallen to the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, who was responsible for Southern England, Walesmarker, Irelandmarker, the American colonies, and relations with the Catholic and Muslim states of Europe.

In 1782, following the loss of the American colonies, the office was abolished, and its duties given to the Home Secretary, then Lord Sydney. In 1794 a new office was created for Henry Dundas — the Secretary of State for War, which now took responsibility for the Colonies, and was renamed the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1801. In 1854, military reforms led to the Colonial and Military responsibilities of this secretary of state being split into two separate offices, with Sir George Grey becoming the first Secretary of State for the Colonies under the new arrangement.

Until 1925, when the office of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was created, the Colonial Office had responsibility for all British colonies and dominions besides Indiamarker, which had its own Secretary of State. In 1966, with most of the colonies gone, the office was merged with that of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to create the new office of Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs. In 1968 the Commonwealth Office was subsumed into the Foreign Office, which became known as the Foreign and Commonwealth Officemarker.

From 1768 until 1966 the Secretary of State was supported by an Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (at times an Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies), and latterly by a Minister of State.

Secretaries of State for the Colonies, 1768-1782

Name Portrait Entered office Left office Political party
The Earl of Hillsborough 27 February 1768 27 August 1772
The Earl of Dartmouth 27 August, 1772 10 November 1775
Lord George Germain 10 November 1775 February 1782
Welbore Ellis February 1782 8 March 1782


Secretaries of State for the Colonies, 1854-1903

Name Portrait Entered office Left office Political party
Sir George Grey, Bt 12 June 1854 8 February 1855 Whig
Sidney Herbert 8 February 1855 23 February 1855 Whig
Lord John Russell 23 February 1855 21 July 1855 Whig
Sir William Molesworth, Bt 21 July 1855 21 November 1855 Whig
Henry Labouchere 21 November 1855 21 February 1858 Whig
Lord Stanley 26 February 1858 5 June 1858 Conservative
Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Bt 5 June 1858 11 June 1859 Conservative
The Duke of Newcastle 18 June 1859 7 April 1864 Liberal
Edward Cardwell 7 April 1864 26 June 1866 Liberal
The Earl of Carnarvon 6 July 1866 8 March 1867 Conservative
The Duke of Buckingham and Chandos 8 March 1867 1 December 1868 Conservative
The Earl Granville 9 December 1868 6 July 1870 Liberal
The Earl of Kimberley 6 July 1870 17 February 1874 Liberal
The Earl of Carnarvon 21 February 1874 4 February 1878 Conservative
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt 4 February 1878 21 April 1880 Conservative
The Earl of Kimberley 21 April 1880 16 December 1882 Liberal
The Earl of Derby 16 December 1882 9 June 1885 Liberal
Hon. Frederick Stanley 24 June 1885 28 January 1886 Conservative
The Earl Granville 6 February 1886 20 July 1886 Liberal
Hon. Edward Stanhope 3 August 1886 14 January 1887 Conservative
The Lord Knutsford 14 January 1887 11 August 1892 Conservative
The Marquess of Ripon 18 August 1892 21 June 1895 Liberal
Joseph Chamberlain 29 June 1895 16 September 1903 Liberal Unionist


Secretaries of State for the Colonies, 1903-1966

Name Portrait Entered office Left office Political party
Hon. Alfred Lyttelton 11 October 1903 4 December 1905 Liberal Unionist
The Earl of Elgin 10 December 1905 12 April 1908 Liberal
The Earl of Crewe 12 April 1908 3 November 1910 Liberal
Lewis Vernon Harcourt 3 November 1910 25 May 1915 Liberal
Andrew Bonar Law 25 May 1915 10 December 1916 Conservative
Walter Long 10 December 1916 10 January 1919 Conservative
The Viscount Milner 10 January 1919 13 February 1921 Liberal
Winston Churchill 13 February 1921 19 October 1922 Liberal
The Duke of Devonshire 24 October 1922 22 January 1924 Conservative
James Henry Thomas 22 January 1924 3 November 1924 Labour
Leo Amery 6 November 1924 4 June 1929 Conservative
The Lord Passfield 7 June 1929 24 August 1931 Labour
James Henry Thomas 25 August 1931 5 November 1931 National Labour
Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister 5 November 1931 7 June, 1935 Conservative
Malcolm MacDonald 7 June 1935 22 November 1935 National Labour
James Henry Thomas 22 November 1935 22 May 1936 National Labour
William Ormsby-Gore 28 May 1936 16 May 1938 Conservative
Malcolm MacDonald 16 May 1938 12 May 1940 National Labour
The Lord Lloyd 12 May 1940 8 February 1941 Conservative
The Lord Moyne 8 February 1941 22 February 1942 Conservative
Viscount Cranborne 22 February 1942 22 November 1942 Conservative
Hon. Oliver Stanley 22 November 1942 26 July 1945 Conservative
George Hall 3 August 1945 4 October 1946 Labour
Arthur Creech Jones 4 October 1946 28 February 1950 Labour
Jim Griffiths 28 February 1950 26 October 1951 Labour
Oliver Lyttelton 28 October 1951 28 July 1954 Conservative
Alan Lennox-Boyd 28 July 1954 14 October 1959 Conservative
Iain Macleod 14 October 1959 9 October 1961 Conservative
Reginald Maudling 9 October 1961 13 July 1962 Conservative
Duncan Sandys 13 July 1962 16 October 1964 Conservative
Anthony Greenwood 18 October 1964 23 December 1965 Labour
The Earl of Longford 23 December 1965 6 April 1966 Labour
Frederick Lee 6 April 1966 1 August 1966 Labour






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