The British Empire Library

So We Used to Do

by A. F. B. Bridges

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by M.F.
There can be little doubt that these 195 pages of memoirs, covering the years 1921 to 1949, by a distinguished member of the Nigerian Provincial Administration constitute a valuable addition to the archive of British colonial administration. But what readers of this journal are more likely to want to know is whether they will find the work 'a good read'. Before providing the answer I must declare an interest. The author has generously donated profits from the book to the Benevolent Society, a body with whose prosperity I am closely concerned. But this has not, I believe, affected my enjoyment in reading about the many-faceted problems that had to be grappled with in Southern Nigeria in the 1920s and 30s. First and foremost was the need to lay the foundations for modern local government which among the Ibos who had no major chiefs meant adapting the Lugardian doctrine of indirect rule. 1990 was an appropriate year in which to tell readers in Britain of what happened when the head tax was introduced in eastern Nigeria. Courts had to be set up and a balance kept between customary justice and British ideas of crime and punishment. Surveying, road construction, and the building of living quarters were essential parts of the job, to which the author added gardening and the setting up of the Nigerian Field Society. Mrs. Bridges was one of the earliest wives to join a district administrator in southern Nigeria and her activities should interest women readers. The author's career ended with the fascinating post of Resident, Cameroons Province. The work is illuminated by his description, usually affectionate, of Nigerians at all levels with whom his work brought him into contact. If another edition is to be produced it would benefit from fuller explanation of just what 'Ozo' titles involved.
British Empire Book
A. F. B. Bridges
The Pentland Press


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