Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Into Africa: The Imperial Life of Margery Perham

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Into Africa: The Imperial Life of Margery Perham

Article excerpt

Into Africa: the Imperial life of Margery Perham, by C. Brad Faught. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2012. ix + 198 pp. ISBN 9781848854901. £35

Nearly four years ago, Tony Kirk-Greene wrote, in this journal,1 an impassioned plea for a full biography of this great Africanist and scholar of colonial administration. Now at last he has his wish and the book is dedicated to him as 'Scholar, Mentor and Friend'. Brad Faught, a young Canadian scholar, has mined the voluminous Perham papers (over 700 boxes in Rhodes House), Dame Margery's own writings and the memories of those who knew her and distilled these resources into a highly readable and informative biography.

He traces the 'Dame Imperial', to use Kirk-Greene's phrase, from intense, sporty schoolgirl, to Oxford undergraduate to early academic career in the misogynistic History Department at Sheffield to her African awakening in British Somaliland in 1921, an experience that changed her life. He traces her developing academic and media career, her emergence as a public intellectual, her writings and her friendships and paints a compelling portrait of a sometimes formidable but invariably gracious woman. A whole chapter is developed to her friendship, some might say obsession, with Lugard and the production of his biography and edited African diaries, a chapter in which Faught almost loses sight of his subject as he recapitulates the Lugard story. His account of her writing for The Times and other newspapers and periodicals shows how sustained (over half a century) and wide ranging was her writing for a wider public and makes one long for an anthology to set alongside her published travel diaries

Margery Perham was no radical - she held to a somewhat romanticised ideal of colonial rule, with a high moral tone and Lugard as its exemplar. …

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