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Papers of Edward Harland Duckworth


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The archive comprises Duckworth's diaries of his tours in Nigeria and letters to his family, miscellaneous papers, material relating to Nigeria magazine, records and notebooks, press cuttings, art work by Nigerian artists and school children, and photographs.


  • Creation: 1930-1970


3.0 Linear metres (18 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 1451, box 1, file 1, fol. 1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 1451/1-12

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 1632


Papers of Edward Harland Duckworth relating to his time in Nigeria from 1930 to 1953. His first concern, as Inspector of Education, was the development of science and technical education; he was also founder and editor ot the magazine Nigeria and fought for the recognition of Nigerian arts and crafts, the establishment of museums and the preservation of "antiquities", and perhaps above all for a wider concept of education.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Harland Duckworth was born in 1893, educated at Cheltenham College from 1908 to 1911 and then gained a scholarship to the City and Guilds Engineering College, Finsbury, where he studied electrical engineering. Having qualified in this field, he entered the Royal College of Science of the Imperial College, London University, to specialize in electro-chemical engineering. During the First World War he served with the Royal Engineers and soon after Armistice returned to London University. He took a honours degree in chemistry, became an Associate of the Royal College of Science, and then devoted a further year to the study of botany.

Duckworth's interest in Scout work, in the construction of science apparatus and in the art of science demonstration led him to enter the teaching profession, and in order to gain experience he took temporary posts at Cheltenham, Haileybury and Wellingborough. He became attracted by the science work of Sanderson at Oundle, and when the Senior Physics master at Oundle was appointed headmaster at Dean Close School, Cheltenham, Duckworth accepted an invitation to join the staff and build up the science department on similar lines.

The Board of Education showed an interest in the work being done at Dean Close School and in 1930 suggested Duckworth's name to E.R.J. Hussey, Director of Education in Nigeria, who was looking for someone to take charge of the development of science in Nigeria and to serve as adviser in matters relating to science teaching and technical education. In due course this new post was offered to Duckworth and in October 1930 he sailed for Lagos, with the somewhat misleading title of Inspector of Education. His first year was spent in teaching science at the Government College at Ibadan and Umuahia, and he was then attached to the staff at the headquarters of the Education Department in Lagos where he worked closely with Hussey in the development of science teaching. His first tasks were the planning and equipment of the science department of the Higher College (established in 1934 at Yaba) and giving advice to those Missions which wished to introduce science teaching in their schools. He travelled extensively in the Southern Provinces and in 1932 visited the North to survey the possibilities of introducing science to schools in Northern Nigeria.

In 1933 Duckworth was asked by Hussey to edit a new magazine for teachers, to take the place of the Bulletin of Educational Affairs (Box 2/3, fol. 3). For the first eight issues the title was The Nigerian Teacher but soon the scope of the magazine widened and in 1936 it was re-named Nigeria. It was published quarterly by the Education Department in collaboration with private contributors and all Government Departments. Excellently illustrated with Duckworth's own photographs, it sold at 6d and circulation soon rose to 6,000. No. 14 was a special issue produced in connection with the Nigerian Arts and Crafts exhibits sent to the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow in 1938. These exhibits, all the work of living artists and craftsmen, had been collected by Duckworth at the Government's request. He printed 14,000 copies of the issue, illustrated with over 100 photographs and four coloured plates; it served as a handbook to the exhibits at Glasgow and created world-wide interest. The issue included an article by Duckworth on the recent archaeological finds at Ife and when on leave in England he was invited by Sir William Rothenstein, art adviser to the Colonial Office, to visit him and give more information about the famous bronze heads. Duckworth's photographs appeared subsequently in the Burlington Magazine (Box 7/1, item 1), Sphere and a Penguin Special entitled Primitive Art. All this publicity resulted in a despatch to the Nigerian Government from the Secretary of State urging action in connection with the preservation of antiquities, particularly those of Ife, many of which had already been smuggled out of the country. Some twenty years later an article in the West African Pilot, describing the formal opening in Lagos in March 1957 of the Museum of Nigerian Antiquities, Traditional Art and Ethnography, commented that it "marked an important stage of an idea which was born as long ago as 1933 and began to take tangible shape in 1943. The idea was that of Mr E.H. Duckworth, indefatigable champion of the need to preserve, under ideal conditions, all that is best of traditional and historic interest in Nigeria" (Box 7/1, fol. 30).

During his leave in England in 1934 Duckworth collaborated with a former pupil, Roderic Harries, in the production of a book, The Laboratory Workshop, published by Bell & Sons. It contained the substance of courses in science demonstration and the making of apparatus, which he and Harries had conducted for public school science masters at the request of the Board of Education (Box 6/2, fol. 3).

In 1942 Duckworth established a boys' camp near Igboshere village, four miles from Lagos (Box 6/1). Here on a small hill overlooking a lake known as Kurama Waters were two dilapidated huts which he bought and converted, and here he organised weekend camps for destitute boys from Lagos. Soon he was turning his attention also to improving health and living conditions in Igboshere and starting a new type of school there, "a school with chickens, bees, cows, pigs; a school linked with village life" (Box 6/1, fol. 6). "The House on the Hill" aroused a great deal of interest, especially among educationalists. When Secretary of State for the Colonies, Oliver Stanley, toured Nigeria in 1943 he "paid a visit of inspection to the youth camp and model village founded by Mr Duckworth, of the Education Department. He was particularly interested to learn that the school was built entirely of local material, and all the equipment was also locally made, yet it conforms to the most up to date educational standards" ( The Times, 17 Sep 1943: Box 7/1, fol. 8).

During his first years in Nigeria Duckworth worked in closed accord with the Director of Education but after Hussey's retirement in 1936 Duckworth's outspoken criticisms caused increasing "disharmony" between himself and his colleagues in the Department (Box 4/1, fols. 19-87). In 1944 the post of Inspector of Education was abolished and Duckworth was officially designated "Editor of Nigeria and Organiser of Exhibitions" (Box 4/1, fol. 88). In August 1945 he submitted to the Chief Secretary a survey of the development of science education and of his other special interests in Nigeria - a survey that amounted in fact to an account of his own career and a vindication of his Government service, and set out his views on educational reform (Box 6/2).

Duckworth retired in 1953 and went to live with his sister in Cheltenham. His notebooks (Box 6/4) indicate that he was in West Africa during 1960-1963 and there are copies of a talk he broadcast from Lagos in December 1960 on "making Lagos and other cities...worthy of an independent Nigeria". During the year before his retirement he had given a series of broadcasts on "Civic Pride" and had devoted much energy to a "clean up Lagos" campaign (Box 5/4).

Duckworth was unmarried. He died in Cheltenham on 14 January 1972.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequeathed to the Bodleian Library by E.H. Duckworth in 1972.

Related Materials

E.H. Duckworth's photograph collection (silver gelatin prints, negatives, glass plate negatives and lantern slides) relating to Nigerian culture and history is at the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University, USA.

Further of Duckworth's photographs are at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

Catalogue of the Papers of Edward Harland Duckworth
Finding aid prepared by P.A. Empson
1972; EAD version 2020
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom