The British Empire Library


Sir Donald Cameron, Colonial Governor

by Harry A. Gailey

Forgotten Mandate: A British District Officer in Tanganyika

by E. K. Lumley


Courtesy of OSPA


Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
Here are two books that will, despite their focus on Tanganyikan administration, have a far wider interest than for Tanganyikans only. One is a biographical sketch of Sir Donald Cameron, Governor of Tanganyika 1925-31 and of Nigeria 1931-35. The other is a retrospective account of the work of a District Commissioner in Tanganyika between 1923 and 1944, much of it reminiscent of and applicable to an administrator's life anywhere in inter-war Africa. Co-incidentally, both these men went to school in Dublin, an exception (for what it is worth) to the colonial rule of an administrator's educational history.

Cameron was, along with Clifford and Guggisberg, among the greatest of the colonial governors of that inter-war period. Like very few others, he became governor of an East and a West African territory in turn. Yet we have less written about Cameron than about many a lesser gubernatorial light and far less than his reputation as an outstanding administrator merits. His own curious account of his two governorships My Tanganyika Service and Some Nigeria, makes sense only if you already know quite a lot about the man and his work.

Faced with the problem of discovering no personal papers. Professor Harry Gailey (a professor of history in California and author of a number of books on African history, including a study of the Aba riots) has done his best to give us an idea of Cameron's total administrative achievement. Readers will be interested -- and, this reviewer hopes, suitably enthused -- by the way Professor Gailey has found so much of value in the reminiscences of former members of the Tanganyikan administration (notably the late Anthony Sillery) who had worked with Cameron. He has also consulted what documentary records he could find in Britain. The result is certainly worth reading, even if it has to leave a lot unanswered.

If Sir Donald Cameron does not really come alive in these pages, then the fault may be as much that of his taciturn self as of his brave biographer's. Maybe only those who had the privilege of meeting Cameron (few would claim to have known him) could recognise and reproduce the stamp of his brilliant brain and his mordant wit -- and his forthright mind which he seldom hesitated to speak.

E. K. Lumley has all the advantages denied to Professor Gailey. His are the reminiscences of a living man, not an attempt to recall a dead one. All his sources are there: his own life. There can be nothing second-hand here. Based on a diary (and once again, this reviewer hopes the example may remind members who did not respond to the appeals of the 1960s’ that their own diaries will be welcomed in the Colonial Records Project archive at Rhodes House) kept on and off throughout his 21 years in Tanganyika, Forgotten Mandate is a straightforward story of grassroots African administrators, warts and all. Indeed, the warts are so prominent that one wonders what would have been the effect on the recruitment of District Officers by the CO had the book appeared before the demise of that remarkable breed. For instance, commenting on the suicide of two DCs’, Lumley estimates that between 1939 and 1945 Tanganyika lost 20% of its administrative cadre through death and illness. Nor would the sketches of some of his superior officers have endeared the caste to would-be cadets! Early on in his vicissitudinous career Lumley learned an important lesson of survival: never report too much to headquarters.

Refreshingly, Lumley was not, by his own admission, one of the high-flyers of the Service (“ I am sorry to have to send Lumley to you” was Dar-es-Salaam’s apology to the Provincial Commissioner as new postings came into effect). All too frequently he was in hot water with his superiors, sometimes on account of the noblest of intentions. His rationalisation of his writing is a valid one: while books on colonial policy abound, in terms of field administration far less has been written. For often it was the DC, the man “ at the point of contact”, on whom the success or failure of policy depended. His performance could constitute the yardstick by which the colonial presence and policy were judged. Any contribution towards setting that record straight is to be welcomed. Here is one man’s account, unpretentiously told and well worth the telling.

Both these books deserve to be read as closely by those who know Tanganyika “and some Nigeria” as they will undoubtedly be by everyone seriously interested in the history of the British Colonial Service.

British Empire Book
Author
Harry A. Gailey
Published
1974
Pages
181
Publisher
Hoover Institution Press
ISBN
0817913912
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon
British Empire Book
Author
E. K. Lumley
Published
1976
Pages
Publisher
Shoe String Press
ISBN
0208015566
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon


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