CROWDER, Michael (1934-1988)

Scope and Content

The Michael Crowder Papers relate to his academic career. The collection falls into three general series. First, Botswana material, which consists mostly of photocopies and notes made towards his biography of Tshekedi Khama, regent of Bamangwato in Botswana 1929-1950, in whom Crowder became interested while Professor of History at the University of Botswana in 1982-1985. This constitutes the bulk of the material. Secondly, west African material which mostly predates the Botswana material. Thirdly, material from the last two years of his life when Crowder was in London most of the time. Apart from primary and secondary research material there are drafts of chapters, papers, books, and course outlines, as well as related academic and university administrative correspondence from the International Africa Institute and the Journal of African History . There is also a box of photo-slides taken by Crowder during trips to the Caribbean, Morocco and west Africa.

Administrative / Biographical History

Michael Crowder was born in London on 9 June 1934 and educated at Mill Hill School. During his national service he was seconded to the Nigeria Regiment (1953-1954). He gained a 1st class honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Hertford College, Oxford University in 1957. He returned to Lagos to become first Editor of Nigeria Magazine , 1959-1962, and then Secretary at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan. In 1964-1965 he was Visiting Lecturer in African History at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1965-1967 was Director of the Institute of African Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.
From 1968 to 1978 he was based in Nigeria again, first as Research Professor and Director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ife, then from 1971 as Professor of History at the Ahmadu Bello University (also becoming Director of its Centre for Nigerian Cultural Studies, 1972-1975) and finally as Research Professor in History at the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos, 1975-1978. He returned to London in 1979 to become editor of the British magazine History Today and is credited with making a significant contribution to the survival and then success of the magazine as it now is. He remained a Consultant Editor up to his death.
He returned to the academic world as Visiting Fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the LSE, 1981-82, and then as Professor of History at the University of Botswana, 1982-85. From 1985 until his death he was Joint Editor of the Journal of African History . In 1986 he became Visiting Professor in Black Studies at Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA and Honorary Professorial Fellow and General Editor of the British Documents on the End of Empire Project at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS). His death on 14 August 1988 was marked by obituaries in the four major daily London newspapers and in many academic journals.
For a bibliography [incomplete] of Crowder's works, see J.F. Ade Ajayi & John D.Y. Peel (eds.), People and Empires in African History: Essays in Memory of Michael Crowder (London, Longman 1992) pp.x-xiv. His major publications include: The Story of Nigeria (1962, 4ed. 1977); West Africa under Colonial Rule (London, Hutchinson 1968); jt.ed., The History of West Africa (London, Longman 2 vols 1971-74, 2 ed. 1985-87); West African Resistance (London, Hutchinson 1971); Nigeria: an Introduction to its History (London, Longman 1979); ed. Cambridge History of Africa , vol. VIII (CUP 1984); 'I want to be taught how to govern, not to be taught how to be governed': Tshekedi Khama and the opposition to the British administration in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, 1926-30 (University of Malawi 1984); The Flogging of Phinehas McIntosh: a tale of colonial folly and injustice - Bechuanaland, 1933 (New Haven, Yale University Press 1988); with N. Parsons, eds., Monarch of All I Survey: Bechuanaland Diaries, 1929-37 by Sir Charles Rey (Gaborone and New York 1988).


The papers on Botswana have been sorted into boxes 1-37, following, where possible, the organisational pattern set by Crowder. This subgroup (1) is either collated by archival source or by subject. The archival material originates mostly from Botswana National Archives (BNA) in Gaborone or the Tshekedi Khama Papers (TKP) held at the Khama III Memorial Museum in Serowe. The material organised according to source is listed sequentially using the original reference numbers of the archive in question. The material collated under subject derives from various sources and was pooled by Crowder in preparation for writing specific chapters or papers. The next series (2) relates to Crowder's time in west Africa from 1958-1978, and is in boxes 38-42. These papers have been arranged in the following way: administrative papers; drafts and notes for journal and conference papers; articles by others collected by Crowder, and pamphlets and other historical material from the time.
The third series (3) relates to Crowder's time in Botswana and his last years in London and the United States (1982-1988). The material has been arranged in the following way: administrative papers; academic papers, including correspondence notes and drafts for conference papers; correspondence and notes related to published work by Crowder. New file titles were provided where necessary. Where BNA and other archival material had been collected but was not allocated a title by Crowder, a suggested subject-title, based on the content of the material, is provided in square brackets. All comments by Dr Milton are in square brackets, including speculation on unconfirmed sources or dates. The principle followed with unsorted archival material was, where possible, to return it to the original archive source. If the source of the material was not known then it was placed under one of Crowder's subject collations. Some un-allocated material has been placed in folders and listed separately.

Access Information

Open except Box 45 (General Correspondence, 1983-1988) and Boxes 48-49 (papers on Crowder's tenure as editor of the Journal of African History ) - permission of Prof Neil Parsons required for access. Advanced notice should be given. Access to individual items may also be restricted under the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information legislation.

Acquisition Information

Papers donated to ICS 1988.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued to file level (see link to repository catalogue).

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the ICS Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for research or private study. Requests to publish, or quote from original material should be submitted to the Information Resources Manager.

Custodial History

The papers were donated to the ICS in 1988. The collection was partially and provisionally listed by Professor Neil Parsons between 1989-1992. Professor Parsons went to southern Africa in 1993, but he returned briefly in May 1996 and was able to update the provisional listing. In 1997 History Today donated a grant to employ Dr Shaun Milton to complete the catalogue and so enable the papers to be fully accessible to scholars.

Related Material

Relevant publications are available in ICS Library.

Location of Originals

Botswana - National Archives, Gaborone; Khama III Memorial Museum, Serowe; University of Botswana, Gaborone; South Africa - Rhodes University: University of Cape Town; Witswatersrand University, South African Institute of Race Relations; South African National Archives; Zimbabwe National Archives; United Kingdom - Public Record Office, Kew [see list of documents in the PRO relevant to Tshekedi Khama, prepared by Prof Neil Parsons, Box 36]; Rhodes House Library, Oxford; India Office Library, London; School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Geographical Names