Ooh, I’m a bad blogger. I really meant to give some updates on things I came across in the records of the Colonial Department, but realised the other day that I’ve almost finished with them now, but forgot to write anything. Sometimes the end can spring up on you suddenly. My first post is here , and the follow up here
So, where were we? The Department of Education in Tropical Areas (or ETA), became the Department of Education in Developing Countries (EDC) in 1973.
It is during the late ETA, and EDC period that connections with universities in other countries, particularly in Africa, can be tracked through the papers. And it is here I feel the collection comes into its own, not just as an example of the work of the Institute, but also in prividing snapshots of life in countries in the process of gaining independence, or in the aftermath of it. Two particular examples stand out for me, though I am sure there are countless more;
file IE/COL/23/63 (1979-1981) contains a letter from a member of staff at the University of Zimbabwe discussing the state of schools post segregation. She discusses more and more children turning up at schools, both at ones that were previously reserved for white, and for black children
file IE/COL/19/8 (1964-1966) contains papers regarding a planned conference that never took place. The papers refer to a conference that was intended to take place in Nigeria in 1966. However, the country was in the throes of the Nigerian Civil War, also called the Nigerian-Biafran War, so it could not go ahead. Often an archivist would discard papers regarding a conference that never actually happened, when the transaction so to speak, was not completed. I couldn’t have done this. While it’s not quite whitewashing history, it would be isolating the department from external occurences, and therefore ignoring the context it developed and grew within.
When working with archives, it’s often quite exciting to find find material that relates a collection to things occuring in the wider world. Archivists do love to bang on about context, but it can make quite an isolated, collection, and indeed experience, feel part of something bigger. It can also help you learn a lot about historical events that you probably didn’t learn about in history lessons at school. Do leave a comment if you have any interesting examples of similar!