Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa, 1951-1964

By Philip N. Murphy | Go to book overview

Introduction
British Decolonization in Context, 1951-1964

There are many problems involved in the writing of 'contemporary' British history. Despite the renowned British governmental fetish for secrecy, these only partly revolve around the search for sufficient documentary evidence. Indeed, historians examining events which took place over thirty years ago can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the volume of material available to them. If there is an irritating tendency on the part of officials to withhold particular files from release to the Public Record Office, the enterprising researcher can often bridge these gaps from other sources. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of writing about a period of the recent past through which one did not live is to find oneself challenging the accounts of those who did. I was born on 10 November 1965, the day before the Southern Rhodesian government made its Unilateral Declaration of Independence. As such, the events examined in this book fall entirely outside my own recollection. Yet for many who had no direct involvement in colonial affairs, phrases like 'Mau Mau', 'Wind of Change', and perhaps even 'Too clever by half' summon up memories of particular times in their lives. For those who actually participated in these episodes, their sense of freehold over the period under discussion must, of course, be particularly acute. How bemusing for them when later generations of historians rearrange the evidence which has been left to them into patterns which appear alien and occasionally perverse. How arrogant, perhaps, for young historians to attempt to contradict the recollections of their elders. After all, what one might describe as the 'popular memory' of a period should not be dismissed lightly; it is, in itself, an important indication of both the texture and the significance of that era.

Yet people are inveterate myth-makers. This is not to say that they intentionally distort what they believe to be the truth, but rather that they reinterpret the past in order to make sense of their lives and to explain the condition in which they find themselves. On a collective level, this

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Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa, 1951-1964
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