The British Empire Library


Sir Charles Arden-Clarke

by David Rooney

Clifford: Imperial Proconsul

by Harry A. Gailey


Courtesy of OSPA


Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
Barely five years ago I was bemoaning in print the poverty of biographical studies of British Colonial governors, instancing a dozen proconsular giants whose lives I hoped would be written and read about. Even if nobody read my lament, the Colonial Service fairy-godmother has somehow or other waved her magic wand (or smartly rapped authors and academics over the knuckles with her rod), for within the past couple of years biographies of no less than half my named 'missing governors have appeared in thesis or print. Two names on the wanted list, if the term is not misunderstood, feature in this review.

Sir Charles Arden-Clarke was one of the new-look governors whom the Colonial Office deliberately advanced and appointed in place of the Old Guard soon after the promulgation of the Creech Jones despatch on local government and the Cohen C.O. blueprint for accelerated decolonization in 1947. Others included Macpherson in Nigeria, Twining in Tanganyika, and Dorman in Sierra Leone, all of them a Service generation' younger in their outlook than their able but significantly older predecessors, like Richards, Burns, Battershill and Mitchell. Arden-Clarke, who had served a wide colonial apprenticeship in Nigeria, Basutoland and Sarawak, arrived in Accra in August 1949, with the crisis of the aftermath of the 1948 riots before his eyes and Creech Jones' no less crisis briefing in his ears: "I want you to go to the Gold Coast... We are in danger of losing it" . It is to Arden-Clarke's credit that he did not 'lose' the old Gold Coast, but instead won the new Ghana to the Commonwealth by dint of his talent, toughness and integrity in helping a democratically elected government towards an orderly transfer of power. The Ghana experience became the British pattern, in West, East and Central Africa. Mr. Rooney deserves congratulations on the excellent use he has made of the extensive family letters in writing this important biography.

If Arden-Clarke was the very model of a modern governor-general. Sir Hugh Clifford was a classic example of the older ruling caste of imperial proconsul. Few other Colonial Service officers have been governor of four first-class territories (Gold Coast, Nigeria, Ceylon, Malaya) and at the same time made an equally high reputation as an author - a score of books and at least another dozen short stories. As Gailey remarks, why nobody has written a life of Clifford before is something of a mystery; for him, his own animus against Lugard was clearly a factor in turning to Clifford. Like Rooney, Gailey has been fortunate in having been given access to the Clifford family papers, and a good job he has done on them, too. While this cannot yet be said to be the definitive life (another biography, even stronger on Clifford's Malayan days, is already nearing completion), as a study of one of Britain's greatest colonial governors of the 20th century it is to be warmly welcomed. Not often is it given to a scholar to publish two studies in one year, but Professor Gailey has achieved this, first with Lugard and now Clifford. His hard work is our good fortune.

British Empire Book
Author
David Rooney
Published
1982
Pages
222
Publisher
Africa Book Centre Ltd
ISBN
0860361578
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon
British Empire Book
Author
Harry A. Gailey
Published
1982
Pages
209
Publisher
Africa Book Centre Ltd
ISBN
0860361896
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon


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