The British Empire Library

West African Passage: A Journey Through Nigeria, Chad and the Cameroons, 1931-1932

by Margery Perham

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by D.L.
This is a fascinating account in diary form of Margery Perham's experiences as she makes her way through British and French Colonial West Africa in a quest to study at first hand the so-called 'native administration' in those territories.

The year was 1931 and her reception by Government officials and, sometimes, the traditional rulers, varied from polite tolerance to scarcely veiled resentment against the intrusion of a female upon what was then a strictly male preserve.

Undeterred by this she proceeded to carry out her strenuous programme. She visited Muslim Emirates, courts. Church missions, prisons, schools, secretariats, and interviewed officials, sometimes asking awkward questions with penetrating frankness. all the time observing and recording her impressions.

Her diary is laced with a wealth of invaluable information and anecdote. From the dramatic historical background to the ancient kingdom of Bornu: a detailed account of a discussion she had with the French Governor of Yaounde on the interesting contrast between the French and British attitude to Colonial administration, she brings us down to earth with a delightful entry on the doubtful merits of her newly hired driver."... l am writing up this diary as I sit by the side of the road during a halt. Already I think I have made a bad bargain in the driver who will be my fellow-travelier throughout this long and difficult journey. Before we started I asked him if he had packed a spare tyre and some plugs. He said 'Yes', Now I know the answer should have been 'No'. As a fellow-traveller his habits are not endearing; as a mechanic I fear I do not yet know the worst".

Margery Perham is such a perceptive chronicler. She recounts her experiences and impressions in a fresh, hot-off-the-grid style. She informs. She entertains. She holds your attention. You feel you must stay to find out what happens next.

British Empire Book
Margery Perham
Peter Owen


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