The British Empire Library

An Imperial Twilight

by Sir Gawain Bell

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by R.S.F.
On one level this book is an important collection of memoirs by a distinguished servant of the Crown on the latter part of his career. It covers the fourteen years from the author’s appointment in 1957 as the last Governor of Northern Nigeria, followed by special mediating appointments in the final days of colonial trusteeship - The Imperial Twilight of the book’s title - in Aden and South Arabia, the South Pacific and the Trucial States. These were vitally important years both for the United Kingdom and for the territories being brought to independence. The problems were immense and the responsibility for guiding the new countries to independent nationhood as peacefully as possible lay heavily on colonial administrators.

Sir Gawain’s wise and objective account, with its expert analyses, insights and description of attitudes, illustrates with scrupulous fairness, and by no means uncritically, the many positive aspects of the imperial record.

The general reader will find much to enjoy in this highly readable narrative. Life in Government House, the official round and ceremonial occasions, particularly in Nigeria, are vividly and entertainingly described. A practised hand is seen in the many telling thumbnail sketches, not only of the Great and the Good, but also of the less good and the local people, traders, officials and workers whom the author met in or out of the line of duty.

Sir Gawain tells his story with humour, realism and profound knowledge of his theme, yet with an enviable lightness of touch.

British Empire Book
Sir Gawain Bell


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