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Papers of Dame Margery Freda Perham


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  1. Family papers, including journals and correspondence, [1881-1977]
  2. Papers relating to academic career, 1908-77
  3. Papers relating to non-academic activities and interests, [1916-1980]
  4. Papers relating to publishers, finance, charities and disposition of archives, [1925-80]
  5. Correspondence, [1931-1979]
  6. Diaries, [1910-1980]
  7. Notebooks, [1844-1979]
  8. Lectures and teaching notes, [1921-1971]
  9. Working papers for Oxford Colonial Service courses, 1932-78
  10. Papers relating to involvement with colonial and Commonwealth studies, [?1855-1979]
  11. Writings and related papers, [1888-1977]
  12. Papers relating to broadcasts, 1933-78
  13. Papers relating to Africa and African states and colonies, [1893-1980]
  14. Press cuttings relating to Newfoundland, 1933-56
  15. Papers relating to the West Indies and West Indian states and colonies, [1924-1979]
  16. Press cuttings relating to South America, 1941-65
  17. Papers relating to Asia and Asian states and colonies, 1925-69
  18. Papers relating to Australasia and the Pacific, [1926-1971]
  19. Papers relating to Libya and the Near and Middle East, 1933-77
  20. Papers relating to 'smaller territories', 1933-68
  21. Notes, press cuttings and printed material relating to the Commonwealth, 1942-75
  22. Papers relating to non-British empires, [1917-1977]
  23. Papers relating to colonial policy, [1850-1979]
  24. Papers relating to various subjects, including the Africa Bureau, aid and development, Anti-Slavery Society, economy, education, Fabian Colonial Bureau, League of Nations and United Nations, [1922-1980]
  25. Family photographs and portraits, etc., [c1918-1980]
  26. Photographs, various African locations, [c1921-1968]
  27. Photographs, various locations, mostly in Australasia and the Pacific, 20th century
  28. Postcards, various locations, 20th century
  29. Maps showing British colonies and the Commonwealth, African regions, also Barbados, Ceylon, Western Samoa, etc., [1900-1962]
  30. Royal grant and degree certificates, 1952-69
  31. Tape recordings and cassettes, mostly autobiographical, 1962-71
  32. Microfilms, mostly relating to Lord Lugard papers, 20th century


  • Creation: [1844]-1980


771 boxes

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

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

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Perham

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 3677

Biographical / Historical

Dame Margery Freda Perham (1895-1982), writer and lecturer on African affairs, was born in Bury, Lancashire, brought up in Harrogate, Yorkshire and achieved an open scholarship to St. Hugh's College, Oxford in 1914. In 1917 she was appointed Assistant Lecturer at Sheffield University. A lifelong preoccupation with Africa began in 1922 when she visited her sister in Somaliland. She returned to St. Hugh's in 1924 as official fellow and tutor in modern history and in the school of philosophy, politics and economics. In 1929 she accepted a year's travel grant by the Rhodes trustees to return to Africa, where she spent more than five years, travelling extensively. At the same time, she became actively involved in lobbying on the subject of colonial affairs, defending the High Commission territories and championing 'indirect rule'. In 1939 she became the first official, and female, fellow of Nuffield College in Oxford, and was also elected Reader in Colonial Administration, a post she held until 1948. Her teaching at this time was almost entirely devoted to the first and second Devonshire courses for colonial servants, though later she played a part in the development of universities for the new African leaders and experts, and helped in the initiation of the Oxford Colonial Records Project.

In Oxford she became the nucleus and memoranda-writer for a group which secured government funds and asserted the university's role in colonial studies. Her books, reports and papers provided the basis for the Oxford Institute of Colonial Studies, to which she was appointed Director, 1945-1948. Her published works include Native Administration in Nigeria (London, Oxford University Press, 1937) and Lugard...The life of Frederick Dealtry Lugard, etc.. (London, Collins, 1956), West African passage. a journey through Nigeria, Chad, and the Cameroons, 1931-1932, ed. A.H.M. Kirk-Greene (London, Peter Owen, 1983), and Pacific prelude. a journey to Samoa and Australasia, 1929, ed. A.H.M. Kirk-Greene (London, Owen, 1988). She also helped plan the project which emerged as An African Survey. A study of problems arising in Africa south of the Sahara by Lord Hailey, etc. (London, Oxford University Press, 1938). She was also a prolific broadcaster and correspondent on colonial matters. An honorary fellow of universities throughout Great Britain, and of Makerere in Kampala, Uganda, she was the first president of the African Studies Association and was appointed CBE, DCMG and FBA.

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 608 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996). A catalogue of the Papers of Dame Margery Perham 1895-1982 in Rhodes House Library Oxford, by Patricia Pugh (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1989) is also available.

Custodial History

In 1973, when the Oxford Colonial Records Project's archivist first began work on a summary list of the collection, it was housed in several chests, bookcases, filing cabinets, etc. in three rooms in Margery Perham's Oxford flat. Although the archivist initially allocated an alphabetical system to denote particular storage areas, the constant removal of parts of the collection and the arrival of new material meant that the system was not rigidly adhered to. Many of the labels which she initially attached to files also became detached on their transfer to the library. Moreover, during Margery Perham's work on the biographies of Lord Lugan and Joseph Houldsworth Oldham, many of her own papers became mingled with those of her subjects, only reaching the library when their papers were donated. Further details on the collection's archival history can be found in the handlist, A catalogue of the Papers of Dame Margery Perham 1895-1982 in Rhodes House Library Oxford, by Patricia Pugh (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1989).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Although the papers were formally bequeathed to the library by Margery Perham in 1972, through the Oxford Colonial Records Project, the bulk of the collection was transferred to the library in stages between 1956 and 1980, some of it as part of the papers of Lord Lugard and Joseph Houldsworth Oldham.

Related Materials

Transcript of tape-recording made with Sir James Wilson Robertson on his service in the Sudan (from 1922 to 1953), 20th century (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 802); correspondence with George C. Turner concerning the affairs of East Africa, in particular Uganda, [1944-1945] (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 643); typescript of letter, 1968, from David Boyle concerning the Queen Mother of Djesu and the 1900 Ashanti rising in Ghana, 20th century (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1204(1)); recorded conversation with J.J. Tawney mainly concerning Tanganyika, with transcript, 1972 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1466); papers given at a conference in honour of Margery Perham at Rhodes House, 3rd-4th July 1989 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 2143).


  • Women's voices on Africa, a century of travel writings, ed. Patricia Romero (Princeton, U.S.A., M. Wiener Pub., c1992); Written by herself, Vol. II, ed. Jill Ker Conway (London, Vintage, 1998); Always elsewhere. travels of the Black Atlantic, ed. Alasdair Pettinger (London, Cassell, 1998).
Papers of Dame Margery Freda Perham
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