Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Sudan -- on Trek in Kordofan: The Diaries of a British District Officer in the Sudan, 1931-1933 by C. A. E. Lea and Edited by Martin W. Daly

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Sudan -- on Trek in Kordofan: The Diaries of a British District Officer in the Sudan, 1931-1933 by C. A. E. Lea and Edited by Martin W. Daly

Article excerpt

On Trek in Kordofan: The Diaries of a British District Officer in the Sudan, 1931-1933, by C. A. E. Lea, ed. by Martin W. Daly. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1994. ix f 291 pages. Maps to p. 295. Append. to p. 296. Index to p. 304. $45.

Reviewed by Ismail H. Abdalla

The author of several well-known works on the Sudan, including two seminal titles--Empire on the Nile and Imperial Sudan(1)--Professor Martin Daly has now given us an edition of a colonial diary--On Trek in Kordofan--in his continuous scholarly effort to document and intelligently interpret the history of British rule in the Sudan. But On Trek in Kordofan is a far cry from Daly's other works, and the fault lies squarely with the diaries' author, Cyril A. E. Lea. This work is the day-to-day recounting of events Lea encountered in his extensive travels among the camel-herding Kababish of northern Kordofan during 1931-33. The diaries tell more about Lea's idiosyncracies than about these nomadic peoples. As the editor has rightly observed, the trekking was motivated principally by Lea's love of the desert and not by a sense of duty to administer this extensive region. Thus, the reader is provided with lengthy, often monotonous descriptions of sand dunes, desert terrain, wadis, shrubs, blue skies, and the inevitable dust storms, but with disproportionately little information about the history, traditions, or livelihood of the very people whose administration and well-being were Lea's responsibility.

It is clear from these diaries that Lea disdained and mistrusted almost all individual Kababish, Kawahla, Nuba, Meidoub, and Kaja with whom he reluctantly had to deal. At the same time, his colonial paternalism committed him to try to protect their pristine nomadic way of life against what he call the persistent and undesirable influences of urban modernization. Shaykh 'Ali al-Tom, the tribal chief of the Kababish, was, however, the exception. …

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