Confidential Print: Africa includes the following classes from The National Archives, Kew in their entirety:

CO 879/1-190: Africa general, 1848-1961

CO 886/1-11: Dominions general, 1887-1926

DO 116/1-8: Union of South Africa and High Commission Territories, 1913-1944

FO 341/1-3: German Empire miscellaneous, 1884-1900

FO 401/1-48: Abyssinia, 1846-1956

FO 403/1-482: Africa general, 1834-1959

FO 413/1-99: Morocco and north-west Africa, 1839-1957

FO 458/1-157: Liberia, 1882-1950

FO 468/1-4: British Commonwealth general, 1945-1949

FO 485/1-3: Liberia, 1947-1949

FO 540/1-6: Libya, 1951-1956


Selected files from the following series are also included:

CO 885/1-140: Colonies general (1907-1929)

DO 114/1-140: Dominions general (1924-1947)

DO 201/1-53: Commonwealth Relations Office (1949-1966)

WO 287/1-287: War Office (1905-1944)

For a downloadable list of all documents in the resource, please click here.


Nature and Scope

“Confidential Print: Africa provides scholars with unprecedented electronic access to the United Kingdom's Colonial, Dominion and Foreign Offices' confidential correspondence relating to Africa between 1834 and 1966. This important new resource will provide researchers with a searchable collection of scores of official documents covering almost the entire period of European conquest and colonisation of Africa. The early stages of imperial expansion and indigenous resistance in the interior of western and southern Africa, the European scramble for the continent in the late nineteenth century and the expansion of settler colonialism in southern and eastern Africa are all covered, as are the rising challenges to imperialism in the twentieth century that culminated in the rapid European withdrawal from the continent in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Professor Jeremy Martens, University of Western Australia


Nature of the material

  • Reports
  • Dispatches
  • Correspondence
  • Descriptions of leading personalities
  • Political summaries
  • Economic analyses
  • Maps


Scope of the collection

This collection covers a broad sweep of history from the 1830s to the 1960s, taking in the all countries and territories of Africa, independent and ruled by colonial powers, with the exception of Egypt.

CO 879/1-190 Africa general covers the period from 1848 to 1961, from the early stages of the European powers’ full penetration of Africa to the height of decolonisation. There is a concentration on the area that would become South Africa and the surrounding territories, but also coverage of British activities in the areas of modern Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Topics include:

  • The expansion of British sovereignty north and east from the Cape of Good Hope
  • The establishment of a legislature at the Cape
  • British relations with neighbouring African tribes
  • Early British settlements on the west African coast
  • Sand River Convention (1852) according British recognition to the Transvaal
  • Cession to Britain of Dutch settlements in west Africa
  • The Second and Third Ashanti Wars (1863-64 and 1873-74)
  • Early relations with the Boer republics in South Africa
  • Relations with French possessions in west Africa
  • Annexation of Basutoland
  • Discovery and exploitation of diamonds in South Africa
  • Disputes between the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Zulu nation
  • British jurisdiction in the area of the River Gambia
  • British annexation of the Transvaal (1877)
  • Early thoughts on federation amongst the South African colonies
  • Relations with Portugal in southern Africa
  • German settlements in south-west Africa
  • Convention of London (1884) between the United Kingdom and the Transvaal
  • Formation of the Bechuanaland Protectorate
  • Proposals on separation of the high commissionership for Southern Africa from the governorship of the Cape
  • Trade in arms and liquor in South Africa
  • Anglo-German rivalry over Walvis Bay
  • Extension of British protection to Liberia
  • Engagement of workers from British west African territories in the Congo Free State and their alleged ill-treatment
  • British penetration into Matabeleland (1890s)
  • The Jameson Raid (1895-96) into the Transvaal
  • The position of African, Indian and Cape Coloured residents of the Transvaal (1890s)
  • The Delagoa Bay railway: Portuguese seizure and British opposition
  • The West African Frontier Force (1890s)
  • The establishment of Southern Rhodesia
  • War diaries of the governor of Natal (Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson) and high commissioner for Southern Africa (Sir Alfred Milner) (1899-1900)
  • West Africa: botanical and forestry matters
  • Concentration camps in South Africa, used in the Second Boer War
  • Railway construction in Nigeria (1900s)
  • Labour recruitment in southern Africa, including proposals to import Chinese workers for Transvaal mines
  • Post-war constitutions for the Transvaal and Orange River Colony (1900s)
  • Cotton-growing in west Africa
  • Relations between the British South Africa Company and the white settlers of Southern Rhodesia
  • Yellow fever in west Africa
  • Papers of the Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa (1920s), with reports on education in various territories
  • The palm oil industry in west Africa
  • Railways in the Rhodesias and Nyasaland (1930s)
  • Royal Commission on the future of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland (1939)
  • Constitutional conferences for Nigeria, the Gambia and Sierra Leone (1950s-60s)


CO 885/1-140 Colonies general (selected files) covers the period from 1907 to 1929. These files are largely, but by no means exclusively, concerned with disease and medicine in Britain’s tropical African colonies. Topics covered include:

  • Correspondence of the advisory board to the Tropical Diseases Research Fund
  • Minutes of the Colonial Conference, 1907 (attended by the prime ministers of Britain’s self-governing colonies) and confidential papers arising from it
  • Survey work in the African colonies (1900s)
  • Correspondence and reports relating to the sleeping sickness outbreak in Uganda and Kenya (1900s)
  • Entomological work in the Gold Coast (1900s)
  • Papers relating to leprosy in British Africa (1909)
  • Papers relating to hookworm disease (1900s-10s)
  • Topographical and geological surveys of British colonies (1910s)
  • The necessity for wildlife protection (1910s)
  • Economic and industrial policy for the African colonies after the First World War, in particular for the Gold Coast (1918)
  • The future of the former German colonies in Africa after the First World War (1918)
  • Papers relating to plant pests and diseases (1920)
  • Conference between the Colonial Office and the Rockefeller Foundation on tropical diseases (1921)
  • Minutes of meetings of the Colonial Office Medical and Sanitary Committee (1920s)
  • Information on missionary societies and their educational work (1920s)
  • Motor transport in the African colonies (1927)
  • Land policy in African colonies and protectorates (1927)
  • Women and compulsory labour in the colonies (1927-29)
  • Preservation of forests (1928)
  • Papers of the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies (1928-29)


CO 886 1/11 Dominions general covers the period between 1887 and 1926. The Union of South Africa was a dominion (a self-governing part of the British Empire) from 1910, when the four colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State were brought together. Neighbouring Southern Rhodesia, though never formally a dominion, enjoyed internal self-government from 1923. Topics covered include:

  • Non-white immigration into dominions (1900s)
  • Correspondence relating to Imperial Conferences (1900s)
  • Imperial defence, including proposed formation of an Imperial General Staff (1909)
  • Treatment of Asians (principally from China) in the dominions
  • Position of the dominion governments in relation to international treaties
  • The dominions and the League of Nations
  • Dominion governments and the exercise of power accorded them by League of Nations mandates following the First World War


DO 114/1-140 Dominions general (selected files) covers the period between 1924 and 1947. Many of these files deal with Imperial Conferences and with the relationship of the emergent dominions to various international treaties. Topics covered include:

  • Representation of the self-governing dominions at the Inter-Allied Conference, London (1924)
  • Correspondence on Imperial Conferences (1920s-30s)
  • Correspondence on military matters with the dominions and with Southern Rhodesia (1920s)
  • The treatment of Asian residents of the dominions (late 1920s)
  • Positions of the dominions and Southern Rhodesia in relation to international arrangements and treaty relations (1920s-30s)
  • Imposition of sanctions on Italy following the Italian occupation of Abyssinia (1935-39)
  • Policy of the South African government towards its African population and administration of African areas (1938)
  • Race relations and political trends in South Africa (1935-40)


DO 116/1-8 Union of South Africa and High Commission Territories covers the years 1913 to 1944. During this period, the newly unified South Africa struggled to achieve unity between its dominant British and Afrikaner communities, with the issue of South African involvement in the Second World War a particular cause of friction. The High Commission Territories of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), Basutoland (modern Lesotho) and Swaziland were not incorporated into the South African union, despite protracted discussion of the idea, and remained under British control until independence in the 1960s. This series also includes papers on self-governing Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe). Topics covered include:

  • Discussion of the transfer of the High Commission Territories to South Africa
  • Mineral concessions in Bechuanaland
  • Economic relations between South Africa and the High Commission Territories
  • South African legislation relating to its African population
  • The constitution of Southern Rhodesia
  • Proposals for the amalgamation of Southern and Northern Rhodesia
  • Land apportionment in Southern Rhodesia on racial lines
  • Labour recruitment from Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia
  • Republicanism in South Africa
  • Communism in South Africa


DO 201/1-53 Commonwealth Relations Office (selected files) covers the period between 1949 and 1966. The decades after the Second World War saw a great expansion in the remit of the CRO as British colonies became independent. Topics covered include:

  • Attitudes of the new National Party government in South Africa towards the Commonwealth and the British monarchy
  • Legislative enactments of the National Party in South Africa to entrench white control of the government, including its protracted attempts to remove Cape Coloured voters from the electoral roll
  • The beginnings of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953), instability within the federation and its eventual dissolution (1964)
  • The history of the Royal Navy base at Simonstown, South Africa, 1898-1951 (1952)
  • An economic and financial report on the High Commission Territories (1954)
  • Correspondence and papers relating to the independence of Ghana (1957)
  • Discussion of a new constitution for Basutoland (1958)
  • Visit by Harold Macmillan to South Africa, including reaction to his ‘Wind of change’ speech to the South African parliament (1960)
  • The independence of Nigeria (1961)
  • The establishment of a republic in South Africa and its withdrawal from the Commonwealth (1960-62)
  • The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962


FO 341/1-3 German Empire miscellaneous covers the years 1884 to 1900. These papers focus on the West Africa Conference (also known as the Berlin Conference and Congo Conference), which took place in Berlin in 1884-85 and marked the beginning of the European powers’ ‘Scramble for Africa’. The conference is particularly notable for establishing agreement between European powers that a vast area of central Africa should become the Congo Free State (today’s Democratic Republic of Congo), essentially the private property of King Leopold II of Belgium.

The files contain various documents relating to the conference, including its protocols and the concluding General Act of the conference. There is also a volume of Confidential Print relating to German East Africa (Tanganyika). See also FO 403 below.


FO 401/1-48 Abyssinia covers the period between 1846 and 1956. Abyssinia, later known as Ethiopia, was the only native African state to resist the main wave of European expansion in Africa in the late nineteenth century (Liberia, also independent, was a client state of the USA, founded for freed American slaves). Abyssinian armies defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adowa (or Adwa) in 1896, securing the country’s independence until 1936, when Mussolini’s forces invaded and conquered Abyssinia. Italian rule was short-lived, however, as an invasion by the British in 1941 restored Emperor Haile Selassie. Topics covered include:

  • British captives in Abyssinia and the British military expedition mounted to free them (1868)
  • The frontiers of Abyssinia, particularly with British East Africa (Kenya)
  • Development of railways
  • Development of banking
  • German business activity in Abyssinia
  • Slavery, and European powers’ attempts to prevent slave traffic
  • Trade in arms
  • Extraction of water for irrigation from Lake Tana (Tsana) and discussion on this issue with the government of Egypt
  • The Italian invasion of 1935 and Abyssinian resistance
  • Ethiopian claims to Eritrea after the Second World War
  • The 1955 Ethiopian constitution, expanding the powers of the legislature


FO 403/1-482 Africa general spans the period from 1834 to 1959. Topics covered include:

  • Claims of British subjects against the French government respecting trade at Portendic (Mauritania) (1830s-1840s)
  • Activities of the Church Missionary Society in Lagos (1850s)
  • Delimitation of the boundaries of Liberia (1860s-70s)
  • Establishment of a committee for regulating the finances of Tunis (1860s)
  • Egyptian jurisdiction over the Somali coast (1870s)
  • Anglo-French rivalry on the west African coast (1870s)
  • Claims of Portugal on the River Congo (1880s)
  • Activities of the Blantyre Mission, Nyasaland (1880s)
  • Establishment of a British protectorate over the Oil River Districts (in modern Nigeria) (1880s)
  • Entry of French troops into Morocco (1882)
  • Establishment of a German protectorate in South-West Africa (modern Namibia) (1880s)
  • Claims of British subjects for losses sustained during French incursions into Madagascar (1880s)
  • Correspondence relation to the West African Conference, Berlin (1884-85) (see also FO 341 above)
  • Increasing French involvement in Morocco (1880s-90s)
  • Foundation of the Boer state of the ‘New Republic’, later incorporated into the Transvaal (1884-85)
  • The chartering and early activities of the Royal Niger Company (1886)
  • The British military expedition to relieve Emin Bey (or Emin Pasha), Egyptian governor of Equatoria province (in modern Uganda), besieged by Mahdist forces (1886-89)
  • Growing French activities in west Africa (1880s)
  • Anglo-German rivalry over Zanzibar, leading to the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty of 1890
  • Portuguese activities on the Zambezi River and in Mashonaland and Matabeleland (1880s-90s)
  • The establishment and charter of the British South Africa Company (1890s)
  • Delimitation of Italian territory in Eritrea (1890s)
  • Relations between Italian colonial authorities and the British East Africa Company (1890s)
  • Anglo-Portuguese friction over the Delagoa Bay railway (in modern South Africa and Mozambique) (1890s)
  • Initial French and British relations with King Leopold’s Congo Free State (1890s)
  • The establishment of a French protectorate in Madagascar (1890s)
  • The establishment of the British East Africa Protectorate (modern Kenya) (1890s)
  • The establishment of Northern and Southern Rhodesia (1890s)
  • The neutrality of the Congo Free State (1890s)
  • The construction of the Uganda Railway (1890s-1900s)
  • Treaty relations between the United Kingdom and the South African Republic (Transvaal) (1880s)
  • Preservation of wild animals (1900s)
  • Cases of ill treatment of workers in the Congo Free State (1890s-1900s)
  • Delimitation of frontiers between British and German possessions in East Africa and the Congo Free State (1900s)
  • Relations between the British Government and the Sultan of Zanzibar (1900s)
  • Epidemic sleeping sickness in east-central Africa (1900s)
  • Trading in liquor (1900s-10s)
  • Slavery and forced labour in Liberia (1930s)
  • Allied seizure of French and Italian African territories during the Second World War
  • Moves towards independence in French Africa, including perceptions of Soviet influence there (1950s)


FO 413/1-99 Morocco and north-west Africa spans the period from 1839 to 1957. After occasional skirmishes with the rulers of the Algerian coast over the previous two centuries, the French invaded and conquered the area in the 1830s. Tunisia became a French protectorate in 1881 and Morocco, after several decades of inconclusive fighting, was divided between France and Spain in the 1900s. Though Morocco and Tunisia achieved independence relatively smoothly in the 1950s, the presence in Algeria of several million French settlers and their descendants led to a protracted and bloody war there until France finally withdrew in 1962. Topics covered include:

  • British loans to the Moroccan sultan (1860s)
  • Commercial relations between Britain and Morocco (1870s-80s)
  • Growing French influence in Morocco via Algeria (1880s)
  • British agreement, under the Entente Cordiale, that France enjoyed a sphere of influence in Morocco (1904)
  • The First Moroccan Crisis (or Tangier Crisis): German threats to provoke war with France over its growing power over Morocco are defused at the Algeciras Conference (1906)
  • The Second Moroccan Crisis (or Agadir Crisis): France, Spain and Germany all send military forces to Morocco; Germany backs down again, recognising a French protectorate over most of Morocco in return for territory in modern Cameroon (1911-12)
  • The establishment of a Spanish protectorate over northern Morocco (1912)
  • The establishment of international control over Tangier (1923) and subsequent negotiations over the issue (1928-29)
  • Spanish occupation of the Tangier international zone (1940)
  • Exile by the French of Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco (1953) and his subsequent return (1955)
  • The beginnings of armed resistance against French rule in Algeria, led by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) (1954)
  • Independence of French Morocco, and the reintegration of the Spanish and international zones (1956)
  • The arrest and imprisonment of Ahmed Ben Bella and four other Algerian nationalist leaders (1956)
  • General Jacques Faure's coup attempt in Algiers (1956)


FO 458/1-157 and FO 485/1-3 Liberia cover the years 1882 to 1950. Liberia was established as a home for freed slaves by the American Colonization Society, a philanthropic organisation, in the early 1820s. The country declared independence in 1847, under the dominance of the immigrant Americo-Liberian minority. A one-party state developed which excluded the native majority from participation in government. Topics covered include:

  • Conventions for the preservation of wild animals (1900s)
  • The organisation of the Liberian Frontier Force, Liberia’s first formally established armed forces, under Major R. M. Cadell, a British officer, to forestall British and French territorial ambitions (1908)
  • Investigations by the League of Nations into abuses involved in labour traffic between the interior of Liberia and the Spanish island of Fernando Po (now Bioko, Equatorial Guinea) (1920s)
  • Activities of the Firestone Rubber Company, operators of plantations in Liberia (1920s)
  • Boundary disputes with neighbouring British and French territories (1920s-30s)
  • Liberian involvement in the Second World War
  • Status and grievances of native inhabitants (1940s)


FO 468/1-4 British Commonwealth general covers the period 1945 to 1949. After the controversy about South African involvement in the Second World War laid bare the divisions in white South African society, the Afrikaner National Party grew in strength, leading to its victory in elections in 1948 and its subsequent establishment of apartheid (‘separate development’) as the formal structure of South African society, leading gradually to international isolation. Topics covered include:

  • The status of the mandate of South-West Africa (Namibia) under the United Nations
  • The post-war resurgence of the reunited National Party
  • South Africa’s treatment of its Indian population and relations with India, including Indian complaints about South Africa to the United Nations
  • Royal visits to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia
  • The conditions of Africans in South Africa, as reported by the Fagan Commission (1948)


FO 540/1-6 Libya covers the years 1951-1956. After being under Italian rule since 1912, Libya was taken by Allied forces during the Second World War. British control was established in the provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, whilst France ruled the province of Fezzan. Though France made some attempts to entrench its foothold in Libya, and Italy to regain its position, the country became an independent monarchy under the auspices of the United Nations in 1951. Topics covered include:

  • The fusing of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan into an independent federal state (1951)
  • The future of Libya’s Italian community
  • Agreements to retain a British military presence in Libya
  • Relations between Libya and Egypt and concerns about Egypt’s supplanting Britain as the dominant influence on the Libyan government
  • Withdrawal of French forces from Libya (1956)


WO 287/1-287 War Office (selected files) covers the period 1905 to 1944. These files include:

  • Military reports on various colonies and non-British territories, including British Somaliland, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Libya, and Kenya (1900s-40s)
  • A handbook on the Moorish (Moroccan) army (1909)
  • Intelligence notes on German East Africa (Tanganyika) (1916)
  • Monthly intelligence summaries (1939)
  • Handbooks on African colonial military forces (1939)
  • Notes for intelligence officers attached to East Africa Command (1943)



Highlights from the collection

There follow a few interesting selections from the documents, which help to illustrate the varied and fascinating nature of the material.

Account of a German submarine attack on Monrovia, capital of Liberia, which had declared war on Germany in August 1917, a few months after the United States:

"Sir, I have not the wish to do unnecessary damage to the Liberian people, being sure that you were driven into the War against your will as well as against your true interests, therefore I send you back those prisoners I made boarding your armed ship “President”. In the same time I want to draw your attention to the fact that the capital of Liberia is at present helpless under German guns; like many other Allies of England and France you are not being supported by them at the moment of the most critical danger. If the wireless and cable stations of Monrovia do not at once cease their work I shall regret being obliged to open fire on them. If you wish to avoid this you will have to send out a boat to me under a flag of truce and declare that you consent to stop them yourself. Gercke."

Message to Liberian government from Captain Gercke of the Imperial German Navy, 10th April 1918 (copy sent the Foreign Office by Acting Consul Ross-Bell), demanding the closure of Monrovia’s French wireless and cable stations, in FO 458/46

"At 2 p.m. the Liberian government delegates [...] returned from the submarine with a further demand from the commandant [...].

"I am happy to be able to state that His Excellency the President, and all his Cabinet, resolutely decided to reject – absolutely – these fresh demands of the enemy; but a temoprizing reply was sent offering again to close down the two stations in the presence of the neutral Consul for the Netherlands at Monrovia.

"The enemy replied by opening fire at 4 p.m. on the Wireless Station, which was effectively wrecked by between thirty and forty shells.

"Before attention could be turned to the Cable Station, a steamer appeared on the eastern horizon [...].

"I was able to watch the ensuing engagement throughout until dark, and it would appear that the steamer had answered the wireless S. O. S. signals, and was making for this port. At about 5.30 p.m. the submarine emerged and a heavy action with the steamer commenced. At no time did the submarine appear to have any success; but the shooting and manipulation of the vessel was cool and masterly, and the Captain deserves credit for a very creditable performance. Eventually the enemy got out of range of the vessel’s guns, and gave chase towards Sierra Leone, firing heavily, until lost to my sight in the dusk. [...]

"The enemy has since put in no appearance, and it is with deep regret that I have to report the following casualties:–"

Letter from Mr Ross-Bell, Acting Consul, Monrovia, to Foreign Office, London, 15th April 1918, in FO 458/46


The contrasts of French Algeria in the 1950s:

"On the one side there is the Oeuvre Francaise [sic]. It is impossible to visit Algeria, after living a little in the Middle East, without admiring what the French have done. One can understand the intense local patriotism of the colons [the Algerian French]. “How are we to leave all this”? said one of them to me, pointing at the impressive modern silhouette of Algiers through the window.

"On the other hand what the French have not done is also striking. It is difficult to resist the impression that, apart from some paternalist measures, some schools and hospitals, the Oeuvre Francaise, with all its roads, railways and fine buildings, has been the work of Europeans for Europeans. The Moslem population seems backward even by Middle Eastern standards. Emancipation of women has barely begun. There is little real social intercourse between the two communities. Only a small number of Moslems are employed in the administration or in skilled jobs; in 1954 there were only 557 Moslems, as compared with 4,548 Europeans, in the University of Algiers. As far as I could judge even those Moslems who wished to retain the French connexion felt some bitterness at the extent to which the élite of the country was European."

‘The Algerian Problem’, enclosure in a despatch from Sir Gladwyn Jebb, British ambassador, Paris, to Selwyn Lloyd, London, 10th March 1956, in FO 413/98


The conditions of African town-dwellers in South Africa in the 1940s:

“From the date of the discovery of the Rand gold in the ’eighties until 1939 South Africans of European descent have considered the towns as “white towns”. The black man should work side by side with the white man, but the two should live far apart. […] Since 1939 the position has changed. Secondary industry has grown until the gross value of its output is four times that of the gold mines. Town dwellers have increased in number—the African population living within the municipal boundaries of Johannesburg has risen by 72 per cent. since 1939.

“[…] Life in this African Alsatia on the edge of a city with an almost American display of skyscrapers is strange and perhaps menacing. There are insufficient schools for the children and therefore there Life in this African Alsatia on the edge of a city with an almost American display of skyscrapers is strange and perhaps menacing. There are insufficient schools for the children and therefore there is a recruiting ground for the gangs whose deeds give rise to a series of crime wave scares. There are too few trains to carry African workers into Johannesburg. Sanitary arrangements are rudimentary. Life is exhausting and uncomfortable, and there is a constant threat of epidemics. The local ganster [sic], the quack doctor, the strange African sects which have been said to offer “witchcraft with a clerical collar on” all flourish. Finally, the squatters’ camps to a greater degree, and overcrowded houses and hostels to a lesser degree, are a fine field for any agitator. Up to date the fanatical, and usually austere, African member of the Communist Party has been less successful than the small scale Al Capone with a guard of thugs, a bright uniform, a white horse and an appeal to the love of gaudy display. In the future, however, persons with definite ideas to sell may be more successful. Already a grievance regarding the grant of trading licences in Moroka has led to the death of three European policemen in a fierce and sudden riot.

“The development of these conditions, akin to those of the early days of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, combined with the persistence of a strong desire to develop secondary industries in order to increase the wealth and power of the country and to decrease its dependence on gold, have combined to raise in acute form fundamental questions of policy and attitude towards Africans, and especially towards urban Africans. Liberal feeling towards Africans has grown recently. Yet, among certain classes of South Africans (e.g., farmers and, with some qualifications, European Trade Unionists) and in certain areas (e.g., the Orange Free State) the old and instinctive fear of the Native is still strong. There are two schools of thought. Those of one school believe that the town Africans and their families have come to stay; those of the other school adhere to the view that the urban African is only a temporary resident; and their policy is described as one of total segregation or “apartheid.”

“This last was the special aim of General Hertzog when in 1936 he introduced into Parliament a sheaf of Native bills.”

‘Union of South Africa: Conditions of Africans in the towns of the Union’, despatch from Sir Evelyn Baring, High Commissioner, Pretoria, to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 27th May 1948, in FO 468/3


Legislative efforts in the South African colonies to restrict immigration from Asia:

“The importation of indentured East Indian coolies into Natal was presumably in part responsible for the presence of an East Indian element in the Transvaal, and legislation in restriction of coloured immigration was initiated in that State, while it was the South African Republic, long before any law of the kind was passed in the British Colonies of Natal or the Cape.

“[…] This law was somewhat modified in 1886, but it led to political complications, a history of which is given in Mr. Lyttelton's despatch of 20th July, 1904. In 1890 the Orange Free State passed a law providing that “No Arab, Chinaman, coolie, or other Asiatic coloured person may settle in this state, or remain here for longer than two months without first having obtained permission so to do from the State President.” This law has practically excluded Asiatics from the country.

“The Natal Act “to place certain restrictions on Immigration,” known as “the Immigration Restriction Act, 1897,” was passed by the Colonial Government in May 1897, just before the Colonial Conference. It was repealed in 1903, and re-enacted in an Act of that year. “To place closer restrictions on Immigration.” Its main feature was that it included under the head of “prohibited immigrants” any person who, when asked to do so by an officer appointed under this Act, shall fail to himself write out and sign in the characters of any language of Europe, an application to the Colonial Secretary in the form set out.” The mention of “any language of Europe” showed that it was directed against Asiatics, but the Act had the merit of not specifying any particular race, and, therefore, as a choice of evils, has become somewhat of a model.”

‘The Self-Governing Dominions and Coloured Immigration’, memorandum by Sir Charles Prestwood Lucas, Dominions Department, Colonial Office, July 1908, in CO 886/1


Disputes as to the correct approach to tackling epidemic sleeping sickness in tropical Africa:

“[T]he Committee discussed the proposals of Sir David Bruce, which have been before the Secretary of State for some time past, for an experiment on a large scale of the enclosure of a tract of country and destruction of the wild game therein in the sleeping sickness or “proclaimed” area of Nyasaland, with the object of ascertaining the value of game destruction as a means of eliminating the flies which have been shown to be the carriers of the infection of trypanosome diseases in Nyasaland.

“The Committee therefore desire to suggest to the Secretary of State that the experiment proposed be inaugurated with as little delay as possible, and carried out so far as practicable on the lines indicated by Sir David Bruce.”

Letter from Sir John Rose Bradford, secretary of the Royal Society, to the Colonial Office, 7th March 1913, in CO 885/22

“Dr Prentice states that tsetse fly disappeared from South Africa contemporaneously with the disappearance of the big game. This I believe to be in part true. In his opinion it is cause and effect, but I submit there is little justification for this belief. It is reasonable to suppose that game and tsetse both went from a common cause, e.g. the pressure of civilisation, occupation, or cultivation, or some cause unknown; this is the more probable because, despite Dr. Prentice’s dictum to the contrary, tsetse are found apart from big game.

“[…] Dr. Prentice objects to the quotations headed tsetse fly and big game that some are antiquated and others contrary to fact. It had never occurred to me that careful natural history observations could become antiquated, by which I take Dr. Prentice to mean obsolete. Moreover, none of the observations are over ten years old and most are much more recent. Dr. Prentice has not read the extract about the Mpika and Chinsali divisions of Northern Rhodesia correctly. The authors do not say that no tsetse are present, but the reverse; they speak of “the concurrent existence of tsetse,” and suggest that this may be due to the flies’ preference for bush country, which is also favoured by game.”

Letter from Arthur Bagshawe, director, Tropical Diseases Research Bureau, London, to the Colonial Office, 7th March 1913, in CO 885/22


South African government support for sanctions against Italy after the Italian conquest of Abyssinia:

“[A] telegram has just been received in which the Prime Minister [of South Africa, Barry Hertzog] has requested that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom be advised that the Union Government share with them the feeling that the Italo-Abyssinian dispute is one which threatens the very existence of the League of Nations, and is of the opinion that unless the League in this instance faces its task courageously and gives its most serious consideration to the dispute involved and threatening war, and impartially decides upon it in conformity with the duties entrusted to it, it cannot but forfeit all confidence in its further existence and will force its Members to consider what good purpose can possibly further be served by association with it.”

Despatch from H. T. Andrews, British High Commission, Pretoria, to the Foreign Office, 22nd August 1935, in DO 114/67

“The Prime Minister [Hertzog] when I saw him yesterday on another matter also spoke about Italy-Abyssinia situation. He requested me to express to you his warm admiration for the course which His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom had pursued. He felt strongly as regards the future that sanctions should not be abandoned so long as peace was not concluded within the League of Nations. If Mussolini proved obdurate he was in favour of his expulsion from the League or alternatively that the British Commonwealth countries should leave the League and form the nucleus of new group of countries including only those, which could be depended upon to carry out the ideals of the League. This, he felt, would appeal to sentiment in the United States of America. I was not able to get him to be more precise but he spoke very fervently.”

Telegram from William Clark, British High Commissioner, Pretoria, 6th May 1936, in DO 114/67


British and South African views on the incorporation into South Africa of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland, 1930s:

“We are pledged to Parliament here that the transfer of the High Commission Territories should not take place :— (a) until the inhabitants, Native as well as European, have been consulted, and (b) until Parliament has been given an opportunity of expressing its views. These pledges were given during the passage through Parliament of the South Africa Bill, and have been several times repeated since. Their nature is set out in some detail in a memorandum handed to General Smuts in July, 1933.

“It has been explained in the previous exchange of letters with General Hertzog that we do not regard the time as ripe for consulting the inhabitants under the first of the above-mentioned pledges. All our information goes to show that at present native opinion in the Territories is very strongly opposed to transfer. In these circumstances it appears to us that the results of such consultation would be embarrassing and undesirable from every point of view. We believe that the Union Government, in the words used by General Hertzog in March, 1925, would not wish to incorporate the Territories in the Union unless the inhabitants of the Territories, Native as well as European, “are prepared and desire to come in”.'

British government aide-mémoire on the High Commission Territories in southern Africa handed to the South African government, 15th May 1935, in DO 201/29

(a) European Population
The Union Government believes that the European inhabitants of the Territories of Basutoland, the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland desire, in the event of the transfer of the Governments of these Territories, or any of them, to enjoy all the rights and privileges and be subject to all the duties and obligations of the European inhabitants of the rest of the Union. These rights should include the right of Parliamentary franchise in accordance with the laws of the Union, and the European owned portions of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland should by transfer be placed on exactly the same footing as the European owned land in any other part of the Union. The Government of the Union is willing to adopt such legislative and other measures as may be practicable for the purpose of giving effect to this desire.

"[...] (c) Native Population
Section 151 of the South Africa Act, 1909, provides that on transfer to the Union of the Government of any Territories belonging to or under the protection of His Majesty and inhabited wholly or in part by Natives, the Governor-General-in-Council may undertake the government of such Territory upon the terms and conditions embodied in the Schedule to the Act.

"[…] It may be desirable to set out here certain advantages which the Natives of the Territories may be expected to gain as a result of transfer to the Union. Before doing so, however, it is perhaps not out of place to draw attention to the fact that in the economic sphere the Union and the Territories have an essential unity of interest. The Union is the natural, if not the only, market for the products of the Territories, and the Territories provide a market for the manufactures of the Union. In the present state of international trade, the Territories would have great difficulty in finding remunerative markets elsewhere if the Union markets should be closed to them. This is particularly the case with cattle, the principal product of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland, which have, in spite of the weight restrictions and the controlled market, obtained a remunerative outlet for large numbers of cattle in the Union.”'

South African government aide-mémoire on the High Commission Territories in southern Africa, 1939, in DO 201/29


Independent Ghana’s slide into authoritarianism:

“In 1956 when I visited Ghana I was told by Mr. Joe Appiah and Mr. Amponsah that Dr. Nkrumah was dedicated to the establishment of a one-party State in Ghana, and that he would arrive at this by strengthening the centralised administrative structure handed over to him by the colonial regime. They had both worked closely with him and they were convinced that he would not develop the parliamentary system of government. Both of them are now in preventive detention.

“In the first years of independence Dr. Nkrumah paid lip-service to democratic ideals and to a parliamentary system, although the power and influence of the Opposition was all the time being steadily whittled away. However, since the inauguration of the republic in July 1960 it has become increasingly clear that as a matter of policy he is moving towards the establishment of a much more centralised form of Government on “People's Party” lines. In this despatch I have the honour to sketch the progress of this movement.

“The first notable development was the proposition, put forward to justify the muzzling of the Opposition, that an Opposition is contrary to African tradition. I understand that in fact it is impossible to distinguish between “Opposition” and “enemy” in any Ghanaian language.

“[…] Dr. Nkrumah wrote in October 1956 in the preface to his autobiography: “But even a system based on social justice and a democratic constitution may need backing up, during the period following independence, by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind.”

“[…] Nothing is to be gained by publicly rebuking Ghanaians or by taunting them at their unwillingness or inability to work our system. All the former French West African territories have become, or are becoming, one-party States. Perhaps we were wrong to think that Western parliamentary systems could be made to work in this part of Africa.

“But there is a great deal to be gained by quietly expanding our influence through the armed forces, the civil service, the trading houses, the mines and, above all, the schools and universities. Fortunately there are many opportunities for the expansion of British influence. I intend to make that the subject of my next despatch.”'

‘One-Party State in Ghana’, despatch from Geoffery de Freitas, British High Commissioner, Accra, to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, 15th June 1962, in DO 201/13