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Tales From the Dark Continent

af Charles Allen

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1033203,265 (3.4)1
Based on recorded interviews with 50 British men and women covering three generations of colonial rule in Africa, the stories and recollections in this book evoke the world of traders, missionaries, soldiers, policemen and district officers.

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» See also 1 mention

Viser 3 af 3
East Africa Biography
  oirm42 | May 24, 2018 |
Surprisingly enjoyable read from the perspective of the colonial service workers from pre-WWI to the 1960s. ( )
  brakketh | Jul 17, 2017 |
This is the second book of a trilogy based on the personal and recorded accounts of residents of the British Empire between the world wars and the closing stages of British rule. The first book is on India Tales from the Raj, the next, this work, and the third on the magical lands of the ”Far East”;Tales from the South China Seas. These books are edited extracts from the British Broadcasting Company Radio archives. Charles Allen, the ‘oral historian’ for the series was himself born (1940) in India to a family of six generations who served in the British Raj.

Each of the chapters (of all the books in the series) are edited narrations from BBC radio 4 interviews with the actual raconteurs. Many of them, if not most, are now gone of course, so these works form their last true oral history.

Service in “British Africa” was in the infrastructure provision (engineering and public works), missionary, education and public health areas, and in administration. It is mainly the voices of the latter we hear in these accounts, the junior officers of district administrators rising through their respective careers to the senior roles in government. The service was undertaken even in relatively early days – the whole of the role of the British in Africa covers just a century – with the objective of developing the ability for an indigenous rule. In a short time, mostly within these narrators own careers, that march to self-determination was achieved. The rate of progress of the so-called ‘Africanization’ accelerated, alarming some as they realized their own self-replacing roles were to lead to an early termination of their own careers and overseas life.

The head of service, Lord Lugard's ideas concerning indirect rule and dual government set the attitudes of those in the FSO:”Our policy was always to leave as much as possible to the African people themselves and not to interfere with their lives' ...”. Indeed, rule and the Pax Britannia was only ever possible (throughout the Empire) by a deep cooperation and mutual education. The British in Africa it seems from the words of those who were there, supported rather than displaced the traditional roles and structures of the African culture and rulers.

Despite our rather jaundiced modern view of imperialism these fascinating accounts show a very positive benefit of realistically benevolent government. ”…when one considers colonial rule one has got to remember what was there before it started…Cannibalism, slavery, human sacrifice and various other abominations all existed…it taught them they could have a democratic rule… and fair laws.” By the end of the British involvement in Africa these narrators and their British government had provided a complete and self-governed infrastructure, a health, legal and education system, and a democratic structure of laws. Our current perspectives and media accounts sometimes encourage the view that imperialism, that empires, were only ever exploitation and suppression, but this book (and series) offers us an alternative view.

“Yeah, I know, education, plumbing, law …but other than all that what did the Roman Empire ever do for us?”(Monty Python, Life of Brian)
1 stem John_Vaughan | Aug 15, 2011 |
Viser 3 af 3
This is part of a trilogy of oral history books taken from the statements of people who really did live and work in part of the imperial framework of this continent. It is a great collection of interesting and amusing anecdotes that really go to the core of the imperial experience, or at least those who did the administering. If you understand the limits of the sources and the reliability of oral history, you can get a lot from this book. It is fluid, well written and quite witty in places.
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Based on recorded interviews with 50 British men and women covering three generations of colonial rule in Africa, the stories and recollections in this book evoke the world of traders, missionaries, soldiers, policemen and district officers.

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