Stanhope White was born in 1913 in Middlesbrough, England. He was educated at Harrogate Grammar School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he read Natural Sciences and Geography, graduating in 1934. That year he took part in the Egyptian Desert Survey and the Cambridge Iceland Expedition. He also acted as surveyor and geologist to Dr. L.S.B. Leakey's archaeological expedition to British East Africa in 1934-1935.
White joined the Colonial Administrative Service and, after his probationary year, was posted to Northern Nigeria in 1936 where he served in various capacities until 1954. During the latter part of his career he was Director for Commerce and Industry in the Northern Region, and two of the photograph albums in this collection deal almost exclusively with local industries and development projects.
White returned to England in 1954 and worked for Fisons and later ICI. During this time he published three books related to his experiences in Africa: Descent from the Hills (1963); Dan Banu: the Memoirs of a Nigerian Officer (1966); and Lost Empire of the Nile (1969).