Papers of Dame Margery Freda Perham

Scope and Content

  • Family papers, including journals and correspondence, [1881-1977]
  • Papers relatingto academic career, 1908-1977
  • Papers relating to non-academic activitiesand interests, [1916-1980]
  • Papers relating to publishers, finance, charitiesand disposition of archives, [1925-1980]
  • Correspondence, [1931-1979]
  • Diaries, [1910-1980]
  • Notebooks, [1844-1979]
  • Lectures and teaching notes, [1921-1971]
  • Working papers for Oxford Colonial Service courses, 1932-1978
  • Papers relating to involvement with colonial and Commonwealth studies,[?1855-1979]
  • Writings and related papers, [1888-1977]
  • Papers relating to broadcasts, 1933-1978
  • Papers relating to Africa and African states and colonies, [1893-1980]
  • Press cuttings relating to Newfoundland, 1933-1956
  • Papers relating to the West Indies and West Indian states and colonies, [1924-1979]
  • Press cuttings relating to South America, 1941-1965
  • Papers relatingto Asia and Asian states and colonies, 1925-1969
  • Papers relating to Australasiaand the Pacific, [1926-1971]
  • Papers relating to Libya and the Near and MiddleEast, 1933-1977
  • Papers relating to 'smaller territories', 1933-1968
  • Notes, press cuttings and printed material relating to the Commonwealth, 1942-1975
  • Papers relating to non-British empires, [1917-1977]
  • Papers relating tocolonial policy, [1850-1979]
  • Papers relating to various subjects, includingthe Africa Bureau, aid and development, Anti-Slavery Society, economy, education, Fabian Colonial Bureau, League of Nations and United Nations, [1922-1980]
  • Family photographs and portraits, etc., [c1918-1980]
  • Photographs, various African locations, [c1921-1968]
  • Photographs, various locations, mostly in Australasia and the Pacific, 20th century
  • Postcards, various locations, 20th century
  • Maps showing British colonies and the Commonwealth, African regions, also Barbados, Ceylon, Western Samoa, etc., [1900-1962]
  • Royal grant and degree certificates, 1952-1969
  • Tape recordings and cassettes, mostly autobiographical, 1962-1971
  • Microfilms, mostly relating to Lord Lugard papers, 20th century

Administrative / Biographical History

Dame Margery Freda Perham (1895-1982), writer and lecturer on African affairs,was born in Bury, Lancashire, brought up in Harrogate, Yorkshire and achievedan open scholarship to St. Hugh's College, Oxford in 1914. In 1917 she wasappointed Assistant Lecturer at Sheffield University. A lifelong preoccupationwith Africa began in 1922 when she visited her sister in Somaliland. Shereturned to St. Hugh's in 1924 as official fellow and tutor in modern historyand in the school of philosophy, politics and economics. In 1929 she accepteda year's travel grant by the Rhodes trustees to return to Africa, where shespent more than five years, travelling extensively. At the same time, shebecame actively involved in lobbying on the subject of colonial affairs,defending the High Commission territories and championing 'indirect rule'.In 1939 she became the first official, and female, fellow of Nuffield Collegein Oxford, and was also elected Reader in Colonial Administration, a post sheheld until 1948. Her teaching at this time was almost entirely devoted tothe first and second Devonshire courses for colonial servants, though latershe played a part in the development of universities for the new Africanleaders and experts, and helped in the initiation of the Oxford Colonial Records Project.

In Oxford she became the nucleus and memoranda-writer fora group which secured government funds and asserted the university's role in colonial studies. Her books, reports and papers provided the basis for theOxford Institute of Colonial Studies, to which she was appointed Director,1945-1948. Her published works include NativeAdministration in Nigeria (London, Oxford University Press, 1937)and Lugard...The life of Frederick Dealtry Lugard,etc.. (London, Collins, 1956), West African passage. a journey through Nigeria, Chad, and the Cameroons, 1931-1932, ed. A.H.M. Kirk-Greene (London, Peter Owen, 1983), and Pacific prelude. a journey to Samoa and Australasia, 1929, ed. A.H.M. Kirk-Greene (London, Owen, 1988). She also helped plan the projectwhich emerged as An African Survey. A study of problemsarising in Africa south of the Sahara by Lord Hailey, etc. (London,Oxford University Press, 1938). She was also a prolific broadcaster and correspondent on colonial matters. An honorary fellow of universities throughoutGreat Britain, and of Makerere in Kampala, Uganda, she was the first president of the African Studies Associationand was appointed CBE, DCMG and FBA.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


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

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 608 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996). A catalogue of the Papers of Dame Margery Perham 1895-1982 in Rhodes House Library Oxford, by Patricia Pugh (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1989) is also available.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Custodial History

In 1973, when the Oxford Colonial Records Project's archivist first began work on a summary list of the collection, it was housed inseveral chests, bookcases, filing cabinets, etc. in three rooms in Margery Perham's Oxford flat. Although the archivist initially allocated analphabetical system to denote particular storage areas, the constant removalof parts of the collection and the arrival of new material meant that thesystem was not rigidly adhered to. Many of the labels which she initially attachedto files also became detached on their transfer to the library. Moreover, during Margery Perham's work on the biographies of Lord Lugan and Joseph Houldsworth Oldham,many of her own papers became mingled with those of her subjects, only reachingthe library when their papers were donated. Further details on the collection'sarchival history can be found in the handlist, A catalogue of the Papersof Dame Margery Perham 1895-1982 in Rhodes House Library Oxford, by Patricia Pugh (Oxford,Bodleian Library, 1989).

Related Material

Transcript of tape-recording made with Sir James Wilson Robertson on his service inthe Sudan (from 1922 to 1953), 20th century (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 802); correspondencewith George C. Turner concerning the affairs of East Africa, in particular Uganda, [1944-1945] (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 643); typescript of letter, 1968, from DavidBoyle concerning the Queen Mother of Djesu and the 1900 Ashanti rising in Ghana, 20th century (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1204(1)); recorded conversation withJ.J. Tawney mainly concerning Tanganyika, with transcript, 1972 (ref. MSS.Afr. s. 1466); papers given at a conference in honour of Margery Perham at Rhodes House, 3rd-4th July 1989 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 2143).


Women's voices on Africa, a century of travel writings, ed. Patricia Romero (Princeton, U.S.A., M. Wiener Pub., c1992); Written by herself, Vol. II, ed. Jill Ker Conway (London, Vintage, 1998); Always elsewhere. travels of the Black Atlantic, ed. Alasdair Pettinger (London, Cassell, 1998).