The British Empire Library

Burden assumed: The making of a Colonial Candide

by Neil Skinner

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
This is a short (25-30,000 words) account of A. N. Skinner’s momentous first tour - from cadet in remote Sokoto to Private Secretary to His Honour the Chief Commissioner in cosmopolitan Kaduna - in Northern Nigeria from 1942 to 1944. A contents page to help the reader find his way to the separate chapters (they do exist) would be appreciated, and my own copy now awaits authentication of several larger-than-life characters whom I cannot immediately identify.

Amusingly but seriously and perceptively written. Burden Assumed furnishes a valuable contribution to an important genre of Colonial Service memoirs: the view from the bottom rung, to balance that commoner view from the verandah of Government House. Skinner, whose brilliance at languages landed him with a posting to Aden in 1945, returned to Nigeria and in the 1950s distinguished himself in the Northern Literacy Agency (NORLA). He became professor in the African Languages and Literature programme at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. (where enquiries might best be addressed about purchasing a copy, since all proceeds go to the University’s African Studies Fund). Myself, I felt a sense of too-soon sadness when I came to the end of Neil Skinner’s first tour, and greatly hope he will emulate the ‘master’ of his title and continue to cultivate the rest of his Colonial Service garden for us to enjoy.

British Empire Book
Neil Skinner
The Author


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