Records of the Africa Bureau and related organisations

Scope and Content

  • General administrative papers, including minutes, reports, directors'papers, secretaries' papers, correspondence of the Executive Committee andhonorary presidents, official correspondence and circulars, records relating toAfrica councils, records relating to meetings and conferences, press releases,papers relating to other organisations, [1949-1981]
  • Financial records, including papers relating to financial policy,accounts, correspondence, bank statements, bills and receipts, recordsrelating to investments and fund-raising, 1951-1979
  • Publications and related papers, research materials, anniversary addresses,annual reports, papers relating to the InformationDigest, Africa Digest, Africa Bureau Fact Sheets, etc., publications assistedby the Bureau, papers relating to sales of publications, papers relating toabortive publications, photographs and maps, etc., [1946-1977]
  • Study projects on external investment in South Africa and South-WestAfrica (Namibia), mass removals of population in South Africa, the ceasefireof 1974 and its aftermath in Southern Sudan, etc., [1968-1976]
  • Reports, correspondence, printed material, press statements, memoranda,statements, etc. relating to South West Africa, [1919-1978]
  • Legislation, correspondence, reports, memoranda, newspaper cuttingsrelating to various topics, South Africa, 1909-1978
  • Statements, correspondence, memoranda, petitions, printed material,newspaper cuttings, etc. relating to the High Commission Territories(Basutoland/Lesotho, Bechuanaland/Botswana, Swaziland), 1934-1973
  • Correspondence, statements, printed material, petitions, reports, minutes,newspaper cuttings, etc. relating to various topics, Central Africa(Central African Federation, Nyasaland/Malawi, Northern Rhodesia/Zambia,Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia/Zimbabwe), 1890-1979
  • Statements, correspondence, memoranda, papers of political parties andpressure groups, newspaper cuttings, etc. relating to various topics, EastAfrica (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika/Tanzania, Zanzibar, Somaliland),1944-1975
  • Correspondence, newspaper cuttings, background material, etc. relating toother African territories and Africa in general, 1941-1970s
  • Conference papers, correspondence, press releases, information papers andbackground material, etc. relating to international conferences andorganisations, 1949-1974
  • Correspondence, minutes, financial records, etc. relating to trusts,[1951]-1977

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1952 Revd. Guthrie Michael Scott and several of his friendsdecided that there was a need for an organisation to advise and support Africans whowished to oppose by constitutional means political decisions affecting their livesand futures imposed by alien governments. An initial scheme comprised onebody to raise and disburse funds and another to educate public opinion andgive guidance, etc. to Africans; however, the ultimate outcome was a singleinstitution known as the Africa Bureau, directed by an executive committeeand honorary director (Michael Scott), with a financial sub-committee and paid secretary.Two separate trust funds were established, one to handle money for theSt. Faith's Mission, Rhodesia (this was later called the African DevelopmentTrust), the other mainly to provide educational bursaries for Africans(the Protectorates Trust). Neither was administered by the Bureau, but membersof its Executive Committee became trustees.

For a while, the Bureau's activities were dominated by the proposedfederation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. Gradually, however, problems inother parts of Africa attracted its interest. It assisted Tshekedi Khamain his appeal against exile from Bechuanaland; from this single openingit was led into investigating land-holding, livestock difficulties andmineral concession problems in all three High Commission territories and thethreat of the territories' transfer to the Union of South Africa. In SouthAfrica the Bureau gave monetary support to African schools and organised acampaign to boycott sports and cultural events where racial discrimination waspractised. It amassed a large volume of official information on theproceedings of the United Nations and International Court of Justice (at theHague) relating to South West Africa. Regarding problems in East Africa, itschief link was Colin Legun, a member of its Executive Committee, whoseobservations included the Mau Mau emergency, the constitutional controversyin Buganda and the granting of independence to the four British territories.

The Bureau's mode of operation changed as new demands were made upon it.Originally it had aimed at advising Africans on their problems, obtainingthe advice of experts, representing them on international bodies andencouraging them to exert pressure on governments. The changes wrought bythe achievemnt of independence by many African states, however, led to theemergence of a section of the Bureau as a research group supported byforeign donations for specific projects or publications. This researchincluded investigations into the efficacy of sanctions against Rhodesia andthe effect of external investment in South Africa and Namibia. A change alsotook place in the means by which the Bureau was financed, as it moved from aninitial dependence on individual benefactions to a more professional approachto fund-raising.

During the 1970s the Executive Committee came to thedecision that the Bureau had outlived its original purpose and that further aidto developing countries should be the responsibility of other, differentlyconceived organisations. The Bureau was therefore closed down in 1978.


It has been impossible to reconstruct the archive's order as imposed by itsstaff at any point in its history due to the fact that new material was receivedby the Bureau constantly and a complete record of accessions was thereforenever kept. The papers were constantly used by a number of different peoplefor equally diverse purposes; the arrangement of files and the order of paperswithin those files was subsequently in a state of constant change. The mainprinciple adopted in sorting the papers has therefore been to arrange them accordingto the reasons for which they had originally arrived at the Bureau's officeor been produced there, though the application of hard and fast rules in thearrangement has proved pointless in dealing with a body which did not imposesuch rules in its own methods of work. The broad arrangement of the papersas listed is shown under 'scope and content'.

Access Information

Bodleian readers's ticket required. For a variety of reasons access to some of the material in the collection is restricted. The periods of closure vary according to the date and content of the material. The handlist available in the library reading room lists all closed papers with periods of closure.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 790 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996). A handlist is also available in the library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Related Material

Papers of the Africa Publications Trust, 1959-1979 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1712);papers of the Africa Protectorates Trust, 1951-1978 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1713);papers of the Africa Educational Trust, 1957-1975 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1714); the papers of the Rt. Hon. Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot (1905-1978), Liberal and Labour MP, at Churchill College Archives, Cambridge contain material relating to the Africa Bureau, 1948-1956.