Saturday, July 24, 2010

Margery Perham

While still on a historical tip, Margery Perham's role in criticising British colonial administration should never be underestimated.

Harold Smith dismisses her as a spy playing the role of Oxford don, writing of her in his autobiography, "Margery Perham was a close friend of the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, and of many other prominent personalities at the Colonial Office. It is not improbably, given also that I was always candid and completely open to friends and colleagues about the difficulties I was in, that Sir James Robertson knew my every move. And of course, as Government routinely censored mail, tapped telephones and employed informers, it would have been surprising had they not known every detail of my life".

This maybe true (and the establishment has done its bit over the years to indicate that Harry is 'mad' and ruin his life), but she was much more a prototypical James Bond/Judi Dench 'M' figure. Although she was embedded within the establishment and a friend/biographer of Lord Lugard, she was also fiercely critical of the way in which the British policy sought to weaken African nationalism wherever possible (an explicit policy towards Nigeria by the time of the late 1950s). If only her views had gained more currency, an alternative future for Africa may have unfolded post-Independence.

Scroll down this page to read another (American) academics recollections of her.


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