CfA: Colonial Co-operation in Africa, 1900-1960

Call for applications

Supervisory team: Dr John Slight (The Open University) and Lucy McCann (Bodleian Libraries)  

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at The Open University, in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford.

The history of empires has often been presented as one of animosity, rivalry, competition and conflict. Yet this emphasis has obscured a fundamentally important feature of how empires functioned: in co-operation with each other, in pursuit of common goals of control over physical space and the peoples and resources located within them. Crucially, the project will chart how colonised peoples responded to and shaped projects of colonial co-operation, whether aiding them by supplying information and labour, frustrating them through forms of resistance, or treading a precarious middle way as colonial co-operative endeavours played out on the ground.

The Bodleian Library’s African and Commonwealth collections comprise a uniquely rich resource of 4,000 collections, ranging in size from a single volume to over 1,000 boxes, including correspondence, diaries, papers, photographs, lantern slides, posters, artwork, audio-visual and digital material. The collections include official and unofficial papers by individuals closely related to colonialism in Africa (such as the colonial leader Frederick Lugard, and numerous colonial officials occupying a wide range of positions) assembled since the 1930s, encompassing virtually all areas of colonial administration, as well as papers of organisations such as the Overseas Nursing Association and anti-colonial organisations.

The successful applicant would be expected to make use of Bodleian collections, along with those from other archives, on a topic related to colonial co-operation in Africa over a limited timeframe (e.g. 1914-1918, 1918-1939) within the period 1900-1960. Applications focused on any region of Africa (e.g. West, Central, or East Africa) are welcome.

Possible topics of research could include:

  • ‘security’ measures versus anti-colonial figures
  • policing activities against people trafficking, drug trafficking and smuggling
  • the sharing of knowledge regarding the governance of certain subject peoples, such as Muslims or nomadic groups
  • medical, veterinary and educational services
  • environmental practices related to agriculture and forestry, and their impacts on subject peoples

The Bodleian will arrange placements for the student in the Archives and Modern Manuscripts section of Special Collections in the Bodleian Libraries. The placements would involve cataloguing collections relevant to their research under the supervision of the Senior Archivist (appraising, sorting, arranging, describing), learning the principles and practices of archive work, and/or enhancing catalogues which contain little detail. The student would have the opportunity to become involved in public engagement activities in relation to their project, for example by curating an online exhibition or delivering a public lecture online. The student would have the opportunity to write content for the Open University’s open educational platform, OpenLearn based on their project. OpenLearn has approximately 8 million unique visitors annually. The precise nature and shape of the collaborative activities with the Bodleian will depend on the research project selected and in discussion with the successful candidate.

The successful applicant would be co-supervised by two academics from the Open University (OU) and one co-supervisor at the Bodleian Library. The applicant would benefit from the extensive programme of research training events provided by the OU and the highly successful model of co-supervision offered by the university, and would be invited to join the university’s Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies.

The lead supervisor for the project will be Dr John Slight, Lecturer in Imperial and Global History at the Open University, whose research focuses on British imperialism’s interactions with Islam across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Bodleian Libraries supervisor will be Lucy McCann, Senior Archivist (Areas Studies and Humanities). More information on these collections can be found on the Bodleian website.

Applicants should be able to read French and would be expected to have an MA and/or a BA degree in history or another relevant discipline.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact John Slight with questions and for any guidance before submitting their application.

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