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Records of the Africa Bureau and related organisations


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  1. General administrative papers, including minutes, reports, directors' papers, secretaries' papers, correspondence of the Executive Committee and honorary presidents, official correspondence and circulars, records relating to Africa councils, records relating to meetings and conferences, press releases, papers relating to other organisations, [1949-1981]
  2. Financial records, including papers relating to financial policy, accounts, correspondence, bank statements, bills and receipts, records relating to investments and fund-raising, 1951-1979
  3. Publications and related papers, research materials, anniversary addresses, annual reports, papers relating to the Information Digest, Africa Digest, Africa Bureau Fact Sheets, etc., publications assisted by the Bureau, papers relating to sales of publications, papers relating to abortive publications, photographs and maps, etc., [1946-1977]
  4. Study projects on external investment in South Africa and South-West Africa (Namibia), mass removals of population in South Africa, the ceasefire of 1974 and its aftermath in Southern Sudan, etc., [1968-1976]
  5. Reports, correspondence, printed material, press statements, memoranda, statements, etc. relating to South West Africa, [1919-1978]
  6. Legislation, correspondence, reports, memoranda, newspaper cuttings relating to various topics, South Africa, 1909-1978
  7. Statements, correspondence, memoranda, petitions, printed material, newspaper cuttings, etc. relating to the High Commission Territories (Basutoland/Lesotho, Bechuanaland/Botswana, Swaziland), 1934-1973
  8. Correspondence, statements, printed material, petitions, reports, minutes, newspaper cuttings, etc. relating to various topics, Central Africa (Central African Federation, Nyasaland/Malawi, Northern Rhodesia/Zambia, Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia/Zimbabwe), 1890-1979
  9. Statements, correspondence, memoranda, papers of political parties and pressure groups, newspaper cuttings, etc. relating to various topics, East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika/Tanzania, Zanzibar, Somaliland), 1944-1975
  10. Correspondence, newspaper cuttings, background material, etc. relating to other African territories and Africa in general, 1941-1970s
  11. Conference papers, correspondence, press releases, information papers and background material, etc. relating to international conferences and organisations, 1949-1974
  12. Correspondence, minutes, financial records, etc. relating to trusts, [1951]-1977


  • Creation: 1952-1978


327 boxes

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 1681].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 1681

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 376

Biographical / Historical

In 1952 Revd. Guthrie Michael Scott and several of his friends decided that there was a need for an organisation to advise and support Africans who wished to oppose by constitutional means political decisions affecting their lives and futures imposed by alien governments. An initial scheme comprised one body to raise and disburse funds and another to educate public opinion and give guidance, etc. to Africans; however, the ultimate outcome was a single institution known as the Africa Bureau, directed by an executive committee and honorary director (Michael Scott), with a financial sub-committee and paid secretary. Two separate trust funds were established, one to handle money for the St. Faith's Mission, Rhodesia (this was later called the African Development Trust), the other mainly to provide educational bursaries for Africans (the Protectorates Trust). Neither was administered by the Bureau, but members of its Executive Committee became trustees.

For a while, the Bureau's activities were dominated by the proposed federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. Gradually, however, problems in other parts of Africa attracted its interest. It assisted Tshekedi Khama in his appeal against exile from Bechuanaland; from this single opening it was led into investigating land-holding, livestock difficulties and mineral concession problems in all three High Commission territories and the threat of the territories' transfer to the Union of South Africa. In South Africa the Bureau gave monetary support to African schools and organised a campaign to boycott sports and cultural events where racial discrimination was practised. It amassed a large volume of official information on the proceedings of the United Nations and International Court of Justice (at the Hague) relating to South West Africa. Regarding problems in East Africa, its chief link was Colin Legun, a member of its Executive Committee, whose observations included the Mau Mau emergency, the constitutional controversy in Buganda and the granting of independence to the four British territories.

The Bureau's mode of operation changed as new demands were made upon it. Originally it had aimed at advising Africans on their problems, obtaining the advice of experts, representing them on international bodies and encouraging them to exert pressure on governments. The changes wrought by the achievemnt of independence by many African states, however, led to the emergence of a section of the Bureau as a research group supported by foreign donations for specific projects or publications. This research included investigations into the efficacy of sanctions against Rhodesia and the effect of external investment in South Africa and Namibia. A change also took place in the means by which the Bureau was financed, as it moved from an initial dependence on individual benefactions to a more professional approach to fund-raising.

During the 1970s the Executive Committee came to the decision that the Bureau had outlived its original purpose and that further aid to developing countries should be the responsibility of other, differently conceived organisations. The Bureau was therefore closed down in 1978.


It has been impossible to reconstruct the archive's order as imposed by its staff at any point in its history due to the fact that new material was received by the Bureau constantly and a complete record of accessions was therefore never kept. The papers were constantly used by a number of different people for equally diverse purposes; the arrangement of files and the order of papers within those files was subsequently in a state of constant change. The main principle adopted in sorting the papers has therefore been to arrange them according to the reasons for which they had originally arrived at the Bureau's office or been produced there, though the application of hard and fast rules in the arrangement has proved pointless in dealing with a body which did not impose such rules in its own methods of work. The broad arrangement of the papers as listed is shown under 'scope and content'.

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 790 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996). A handlist is also available in the library reading room.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

At the time of the Bureau's closure the Executive Committee investigated a number of archives in Europe and America as possible repositories for its records. Having decided on Rhodes House, the initial two-thirds of the Bureau's papers were deposited at the library in 1977, with further accruals in succeeding years.

Related Materials

Papers of the Africa Publications Trust, 1959-1979 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1712); papers of the Africa Protectorates Trust, 1951-1978 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1713); papers of the Africa Educational Trust, 1957-1975 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1714); the papers of the Rt. Hon. Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot (1905-1978), Liberal and Labour MP, at Churchill College Archives, Cambridge contain material relating to the Africa Bureau, 1948-1956.

Records of the Africa Bureau and related organisations
Paul Davidson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom