Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene/On Governorship and Governors in British Africa

African Proconsuls. European Governors in Africa.
L.H. Gann & Peter Duignan, eds.

New York/London/Stanford. The Free Press/Collier Macmillan Publishers & Hoover Institution. 548 pages

Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene
On Governorship and Governors in British Africa

Among the tributes to his governorship of Tanganyika (1925-1931), one that pleased Sir Donald Cameron the most was the unexpected, rather reluctant comment from an American tourist as the governor boarded the Union Castle headed for Cape Town on his way back to England.

Some of us were ashore at Dar es Salaam when your people there said goodbye to you. If that is the spirit in which a Colonial Governor is regarded on his departure from a British dependency after several years service, well, Governor, we must say that there can’t be much wrong with the British Empire

Tributes of this kind were rare, for there was much to divide the British from the American gubernatorial tradition. No colonial service governor in an African colony in the twentieth century ever ran for or was elected to his office. Save under the postwar Attlee administration, few British governors were appointed on an overtly political ticket. Ex-governors rarely concerned themselves with party politics. A few went to the House of Lords in a somewhat honorary capacity. Sir Harry H. Johnston did stand as a Liberal candidate in the Rochester by-election of 1903; he failed even to reduce the small Conservative majority of 500. Nor was Sir Herbert Young any more successful as a Liberal candidate in 1945. The British governor belonged to a species not overly respected by Americans. He also enjoyed certain honorific distinctions alien to the American tradition.
It was almost unknown for a colonial service governor to be appointed under the age of forty: Sir Geoffrey Archer, a brilliant man, was promoted to commissioner of British Somaliland at thirty-two and Sir John Pope Hennessy, “the stormy petrel of the Colonial Office,” was only thirty-three when he was given the first of his six colonial governorships. just outside the limit, Sir Bede Clifford was forty-one when he went to the Bahamas and Sir Kenneth Blackburne forty-three when named governor of the Leeward Islands (which earned him a special editorial in the London Times) . Sir Hugh Foot was forty-four when he was appointed to Jamaica, Sir Frederick Crawford forty-five when he went to the Seychelles, and Sir Robert Coryndon forty-seven when he was made governor of Uganda, although he had already held almost comparable posts for nearly twenty years. Even outstanding colonial service officers like Sir Hugh Clifford, Sir Donald Cameron, Sir Alan Burns, Sir Arthur Richards, and Sir Philip Mitchell were in their late forties or early fifties on their first appointment. With several governorships apiece, they were considered to be exceptionally brilliant in earning such early recognition.
Sympathy cannot, of course, be equated with support, so that the party in power at Westminster might on occasion need an assurance—as, for instance, was required of Foot in Cyprus—that the governor would not resign over the issue of a delicate Cabinet-agreed policy. There was, too, the periodic ad hoc appointment to a colonial governorship of a former politician from outside the colonial service, such as Lieutenant colonel Sir Edward Grigg, who was Member of Parliament for Oldham until he went to Kenya as governor in 1925. As secretary of state for the colonies, Arthur Creech Jones made several such appointments between 1946 and 1948. In general, however, as Table I shows, the correlation between change in the British government and change in the British governors was nil.
In short, the typical British colonial governor was everything an American state governor was not: career civil servant, apolitical, aged between forty-seven and fifty-two, and therein reaching the climax of rather than achieving just another step in his public and private life. Sir Hugh Foot, lecturing in the United States in the 1960s to explain Britain’s stance on her remnant colonial issues, used to tell his American audiences to take a good look at the battered figure they saw before them. It belonged to a species becoming increasingly rare and heading toward extinction.
But if the British colonial governor in the twentieth century was none of these familiar figures, who was he? A historian of the colonial office has summed him up.

Few people, when they read in the daily press that His Majesty has been pleased to appoint Sir X to be Governor of, say, Kenya, realise the interest underlying that brief statement, or have any conception of the nature of a Governor’s task and what pitfalls there are for the unwary, the unskilled, the irritable and the unfortunate

In this chapter, which is designed to serve as a curtain raiser to the case studies that follow of British colonial governors in action, I shall consider the office of governor, drawing my data principally from the African territories of the colonial empire. His official functions comprised the essence and the reality of being a colonial governor. By way of conclusion, I shall present summary data about the family backgrounds, educational qualifications, and career records of the British governors of African colonies over the past 100 years.
To repeat, who was-or seems to to have been-the British colonial governor? For, in the final analysis, that doyerme of British authorities on African administration, Dame Margery Perham, correctly noted in her diary after her introduction to the rigid colonial service hierarchy from governor to cadet: There is no type British Colonial servant, only a bewildering variety.” The social origins of governors will be discussed in a subsequent section. These officials differed widely among themselves though they shared certain features . They had mostly been to public schools; many of them to a university as well. They had been brought up on certain ethical norms expressedas often as not-in terms like “playing the game,” “gentleman’s agreement,” “bad form,” and “team spirit.” They derived mainly from the professional and middle classes. They regarded themselves as allrounders rather than specialists and, administratively, as jacks-of-all-trades. Underneath their surface uniformity they were a diverse lot.
So varied was the makeup of the colonial administrative service-that branch of the colonial service from which at least half the governors appointed between the two world wars and over three-quarters of those appointed between 1945 and 1960 were drawn-and so dominant were the two traits earnestly sought in the would-be colonial administrator, from his initial interview at the colonial office as a fledgling graduate down to consideration of his final promotion, those of “character” and “personality,” that the student of the system may be forgiven if he ends by recognizing who the British colonial governor was even if he is not fully certain who the governors were as a body. It might be said that there was always a type of British colonial governor without there ever having been a typical British colonial governor. To quote the judgment of one of its numbers, “The Colonial Administrative Service was, like a packet of liquorice, all the better for being made up of all sorts .”

Table 1. British Political Parties and Key Colonial Officials, 1912-1939
Year British party in power Prime minister Secretary of state for colonies Permanent secretary colonial office Governor of Nigeria Governor of Tanganyika Governor of Kenya Governor of Uganda
1912 Liberal H. H.Asquith Lord Harcourt J. Anderson Lord Lugard German rule Henry Belfield Frederick Jackson
1913 Military government
1915 Horace Byatt
1916 National coalition A. Bonar Law
1917 David Lloyd George Walter Long Georges Fiddes Robert Coryndon
1918 Lord Milner
1919 Lloyd George Liberals and Conservative Edward Northey
1920 Winston Churchill Hugh Clifford
1921 James Masterson-Smith
1922 Conservative A. Bonar Law Duke of Devonshire Robert Coryndon Geoffrey Archer
1923 S. Baldwin J. H. Thomas Edward Crigg
1924 Labour R. Macdonald LeopoldAmery Samuel Wilson
1925 Conservative Stanley Baldwin Graeme Thomson Donald Cameron William Gowers
1929 Labour Ramsay Macdonald
1930 Lord Passfield
1932 National coalition J. H. Thomas Stewart Symes Joseph Byrne
1933 Phillip Cunliffe Lister John Maffey Donald Cameron Bernard Bourdillon
1935 Harold Macmichael Charles Dundas
1936 Conservative Stanley Baldwin M. Macdonald Bernard Bourdillon
1937 J. H. Thomas
1938 Neville Chamberlain W. Ormsby-Gore G. Parkinson Robert Booke-Popham
1939 M. Macdonald G. Gater Mark Young
Source: Adapted from Harry A. Gailey, Sir Donald Cameron: Colonial Governor (Stanford, 1974), p. 135, by Robert Baldock.

The Office of Colonial Governor

Number and Title of Governorships. For the greater part of the period under review (about 1874-1964) there were just under forty colonial governorships, with another dozen or so posts of independent administrative command. In 1903 the number of territorial administrations for which the secretary of state for the colonies was responsible was thirtytwo. India, the Sudan, and the “white dominions” (Canada, Australia, and South Africa) comprised the portfolio of other cabinet ministers. At the end of World War II the total number of territories had risen to thirty-eight. Today there are fewer than twenty dependent territories, mostly islands in the Pacific and the West Indies, with one or two others scattered in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. As one secretary of state for the colonies is alleged to have remarked when confronted by the geographical spread of his portfolio, he had no idea where the Virgin Islands were but had to assume they were well removed from the Isle of Man. The colonial office has been closed as a separate entity for over a decade.
A third of some three dozen colonial governorships existing at the height of the empire were in tropical Africa. Four were in West Africa (Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, Gambia); five were in East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, British Somaliland, Zanzibar); and two were in Central Africa (Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland). The three territories in Southern Africa (Bechuanaland, Basutoland, Swaziland) were rated one step below full governorships, their senior administrative officers being comparable in status to the lieutenant governorships of the groups of provinces in Nigeria or the chief commissionerships in the Gold Coast.
Although governor and commander in chief was the most usual rank in the African colonies, there were from time to time governors-general. Lugard was accorded this title personally on the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914. Here the office was not revived until 1954, when it was held briefly by Sir John Macpherson, and finally, from 1955 until independence in 1960, by Sir James Robertson, The title, which had an honorable history in the Sudan enjoyed a momentary flicker of life during the abortive Central African Federation of 1953-1963, being held by two successive politicians- Lord Llewellyn up to 1957 and then the Earl of Dalhousie. Had the British government’s plans for closer union in East Africa in the 1920s materialized, the title would likely have been conferred on Sir Edward Grigg (later Lord Altrincham), governor of Kenya. Certainly this was what they thought in suspicious Nairobi when a king-sized viceregal palace, designed by no less an architect than Sir Herbert Baker, was erected there and another large residence was constructed at Mombasa. In most of tropical Africa the title of governor- general burst into final flame at the time of independence, the last colonial governors often momentarily becoming the first independent governors-general (Paul in Sierra Leone, Coutts in Uganda, Jones in Nyasaland).
Other current titles of gubernatorial equivalence in the modern colonial service have included captain-general (Jamaica), high commissioner (Western Pacific), British resident (Zanzibar), resident commissioner (Basutoland), chief commissioner (Ashanti), commissioner (Uganda), lieutenant governor (Northern Nigeria), resident administrator (Grenada), agent (Aden), administrator (Antigua), British consul (Tonga), and vice-admiral (Sierra Leone). The British empire may have been acquired in a fit of proverbial absentmindedness and even handed back in a mood of hasty embarrassment, but the elaboration of its gubernatorial nomenclature reflects a continuing colonial presence and several centuries of painstaking thought by colonial office clerks.
Governors were entitled within their colony to the honorific “Your excellency” when addressed and “His Excellency” when mentioned. A governor- general’s wife (but not a governor’s) was also granted the courtesy title of “Her Excellency”; both rated a bow or curtsy. Other top administrators such as a lieutenant governor or a chief commissioner were recognized as “His Honour”; there was no consequent title for his spouse.
At first governors were appointed for a six-year term of office. This later was reduced to five years. It was possible but not usual to have one’s term extended by two years. Sir Hilary Blood’s extension of the governorship of Mauritius in 1952 became the subject of a petition to the secretary of state for the colonies and of a legislative council sessional paper. Not too disgruntled, the secretary of state co promised by recommending to the queen an eighteen-month extension . Sir James Robertson agreed to the Nigerian ministers’ request that he see them through to independence, two years beyond his original commission. Sir Gordon Guggisberg served nearly eight years as governor of the Gold Coast (1919-1927). Governors like Sir Philip Mitchell in Kenya (1944-1952) and Sir Edward Twining in Tanganyika (1949-1958) had their tenure of office extended twice, though there is room for doubt as to whether either second extension was in anyone’s best interests . Sir Evelyn Baring declined to have his tour of office in Kenya (1952-1959) prolonged, recalling his predecessor’s latter-day lackadaisicalness and hence arguing that “the moment you feel it is a nuisance to get out and around the country, it is time to go.” 10 In Nigeria, on the other hand, Lugard wanted to go on and on. This request was firmly refused by the colonial office. But the last laugh was Lugard’s: he drew a governor-general’s pension for a near record twenty-six years—on top of nineteen years in Government House.
Really outstanding governors, of course, might hold two or more successive governorships. If a man were successful in the testing ground of chief secretary in a major colony (Sir Hugh Foot and Sir Arthur Benson were both tried out in this key office in Lagos, as were Sir Richard Turnbull and Sir Walter Coutts in Nairobi) or of a minor governorship (Sir Edward Twining and Sir Charles Arde-Clarke initially served as governor of North Borneo and of Sarawak, respectively). the way was open for him to aspire to the plums of the service like Nigeria or Kenya, Ceylon or Malaya, Tanganyika or Hong Kong. “It is quite a good job, of a rather large frog in a small pond variety,” wrote Twining to his mother when he was appointed administrator of Saint Lucia in 1944 11. He added that the colonial office had pointedly made “four references to its being a stepping stone to higher things.”
Despite the fact that Grantham took a one-third cut in salary and would have to pay his own passage as well as that of his wife from Hong Kong and at the other end have no government quarters provided for him, he accepted the post of colonial secretary of Bermuda—but only after he had researched the careers of his predecessors and found that all of them had been promoted within three years. Similarly, although it was with regret that he said goodbye to Nigeria in 1944 on his appointment to the governorship of the Western Pacific, he commented, “Nearly everyone has their ambition to get to the top of his particular tree and my tree was the Colonial Service with a Governorship at the top.” 12 The brightest stars of the colonial service firmament like Sir Hugh Clifford and Sir Arthur Richards held up to five governorships in all, giving them twenty years in colonial governorshipshalf the average colonial administrator’s total career.

Ranking and Emoluments of Governors. Although there were some forty coloni, governorships, all carrying the style of “His Excellency” and entitling the person to the common address of “Government House” and the same salute of seventeen guns, they were by no means equal in importance as defined by status and salary. As with ambassadorships, Whitehall ranked its colonial governors in four grades. In 1946 there were ten first-class governorships, representing the pinnacle of the colonial service. Nigeria, Gold Coast, Kenya, and Tanganyika in Africa joined Ceylon, Palestine, Straits Settlements (Malaya), Hong Kong, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. There was at that time general agreement in the colonial office that Ceylon was “the premier colony,” 13 the choicest post among colonial governorships. Thus, Sir Hugh Clifford was considered to have accepted a lesser post when, after disagreement with the colonial office, he left Ceylon in 1927 to become governor of the Straits Settlements (Malaya) 14. Colonies like the Somaliland protectorate and Nyasaland were originally designated class four governorships, though Nyasaland was advanced to class three in 1932 and to class two in 1955 15 Kenya, Sierra Leone, Northern and Southern Nigeria, and Northern Rhodesia were all second-class governorships, but Kenya moved to class one in 1932 and the three Nigerian regions achieved first-class status in 1954.
After the independence of Ceylon and the partition of Palestine in 1948, it was always a matter of friendly rivalry in the service whether Malaya, Nigeria, or Kenya was the greatest gubernatorial plum, To a large extent the three territories played cox and box in the level of salaries, as Table 2 shows.

Table 2. Salaries Attached to British Colonial Governorships (a)
Colony Size
(square miles)
Population Total
1945 (b) (£) 1950 (£) 1955 (£) 1960 (£)
Somaliland 68,000 600,000 25 (mil.) 2,900 3,000 4,800
Gambia 3,964 278,000 25 3,250 3,250 4,000 4,900
Gold Coast 91,690 4.2m 172 6,000 6,000 7,500
Kenya 225,000 5.9m 350 7,500 (c) 8,500 8,500 10,500
Nigeria 372,674 31.1m 521 7,750 8,250 10,150 (d) 10,150
Northern Rhodesia 284,745 2.1m 160 4,000 5,500 6,500 8,000
Nyasaland 45,747 2.4m 52 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,700
Sierra Leone 27,925 2.Im 60 4,000 4,000 5,000 6,250
Tanganyika 362,688 7.6m 194 6,000 6,500 6,500 8,000
Uganda 93,981 4.9m 130 5,000 5,500 5,500 7,500
Zanzibar 640 275,000 10 3,000 3,650 4,750 5,100
Ceylon 25,332 8.1m 8,000
Palestine 10,429 782,000 8,000
Malaya 50,690 4.9m 7,500 7,500 9,500
Hong Kong 391 2.5m 7,000 7,300 8,500 10,000 (e)
Jamaica 4,411 1.5m 5,500 6,000 6,300 6,300
Bahamas 4,404 86,600 5,000 5,000 6,300 (f) 8,700

Source: Data from The Colonial Office List (London, H. M. Stationery Office, annual) and Sir Charles Jeffries, Whitehall and the Colonial Service (London, 1972):

  • Inclusive of duty allowance. Statistics are as in the mid-1950s.
  • With the exception of Tanganyika (increase of £680) and Uganda (£1,000), the salaries paid to colonial governors in Africa were exactly the same in 1945 as they had been in 1925.
  • Plus £1,000 as high commissioner of the three East African territories.
  • Regional governors were paid £6,600.
  • In 1960 the salary of the governor of Cyprus was £10,000 and that of the high commissioner for the three high commission territories of South Africa £12,000.
  • Plus £4,200 for the upkeep of Government House.

Two ways of emphasizing the superiority of the governor’s salary would be to consider the salary of the next senior colonial civil servant, the chief or colonial secretary 16, and that of comparable overseas officials in other British imperial services or in the home civil service in the United Kingdom. For instance, in the 1920s the chief secretary of Nigeria and of Kenya respectively received, allowances aside, £2,400 and £1,800 against the governor’s salary of £6,500. In Nigeria the chief secretary was paid half the salary of His Excellency. If anything, the gap widened in favor of the governor over the ensuing years so that by 1950, for instance, the ratio on the Gold Coast was five to two.
Turning momentarily to the second index, we find that at least up to the mid-1950s the colonial service was relatively well paid at the top. During the 1930s the governorships of Ceylon, Malaya, and Nigeria carried salaries of some £7,000, free of tax and with rent-free accommodation and numerous domestic perquisites. Above them among the imperial services were only the viceroy of India (£19,000), the governor-generalships of Canada, Australia, and South Africa (£10,000), and the governorships of the senior Indian provinces and presidencies (averaging £8,000 apiece). In Britain in 1947 the secretary of state for the colonies was paid only £5,000, subject to all taxes, at a time when Sir Alan Burns was appointed governor of the Gold Coast at £6,000, tax-free and virtually all his expenses paid. At the same period the permanent undersecretary at the colonial office was earning only £3,500. Even the prime minister’s salary was only £10,000.
The assurance of a pension was a comfort to a colonial governor. Up to the middle of the nineteenth century there had been no such provision. Lacking private means, many governors had sought to set aside all they could during their tenure of office. More often than not the results in the quality of their administration can be left to the imagination 17. The Governors Pension Act of 1865 changed all that, though as late as 1907 the secretary of state, Lord Elgin, found it necessary to issue a dispatch to all colonial governors reminding them that he saw no reason for them to solicit company directorships on their retirement and would not look kindly on such arrangements 18. In principle, the pension was calculated on the governor’s emoluments during the last three years of office. Hence the colonial service myth that officers who had spent their careers in East or West Africa hoped for a final governorship in the Far East, where salary scales were reputedly higher.
To qualify for a governor’s pension it was necessary to have at least ten years in the colonial service. Otherwise the pension drawn was based on the officer’s salary and service before his appointment as governor. This rule caused keen embarrassment on more than one occasion. Sir Robert Coryndon had served with the British South African Company for ten years and as resident commissioner for another ten before being appointed governor of Uganda (1917) and then of Kenya (1922). On his death in 1925 while still governor of Kenya, Coryndon was two years away from the statutory minimum service. The Kenya legislative council generously voted his widow a pension of £500 per annurn as an ex gratia award, and the Rhodes Trust equally nobly came to the rescue by providing for the education of his three children. Sir Gordon Guggisberg, too, had served only eight years. His history, however, was unusual: Guggisberg’s first colonial service post was that of governor; as director of surveys in the Gold Coast he had been a military officer. Alarmed that as a retired governor his pension would be a mere £520 per annum earned from his army career, he desperately sought another governorship and in 1928 was offered what his biographer describes as “the macabre assignment” of the governorship of British Guiana 19. He died with his colonial service still a few months short: £700 a year-the sum at stake-dangled tantalisingly a few months away. He never got it.” All Guggisberg left in his will when he died in 1930 was roughly £1,934 (less than $5,000) 20
A British colonial governor enjoyed substantial remuneration besides his basic salary. In most crown colonies his salary was not subject to income tax. Usually no duty was payable on anything ordered for Government House, This exemption included all liquor supplies, a highly attractive perquisite in Africa, where, as one wit put it,

The nuisance of the tropics is
The sheer necessity of fizz.

The governor was paid his outward passage by the British government and his homeward passage on retirement by his colonial government. The rate was fixed by the colonial office-an improvement from an earlier time when a West African governor who, on asking which party would pay his fare home on the expiry of his term of office, was told that the question had never arisen. For instance, in the 1950s the governor of Nigeria was paid £980 in passage money to be used on however many (or few) fares he liked; the governor of Gambia, £660. Here it was a question of distance and not status. In the same period, the governor of the Seychelles collected £1,300 and the governor of Fiji £1,670 in passage money. Travel by air had several advantages over a sea voyage for a new governor. Not only was there no time for expensive, official entertaining on board ship but also the governor would begin drawing his full salary earlier (from his date of embarkation for his colony he was paid half salary until taking the oath of office in the colony itself).
Another prominent item was the governor’s duty or entertainment allowance. Legion, libelous, and often legendary are the service stories of what His Excellency did (or did not) with his entertainment allowance. As high as this could be-in the Gold Coast and Uganda in 1925 it was as much as an extra thirty percent on the basic salarythere were few governors who did not have to dip into their own pockets to provide the scale of entertaining that was inseparable from their office. “Members of the Colonial Civil Service generally die poor,” one of its most distinguished representatives once declared, “which is proof of their honesty if not of their providence.” 21 The governor, in the words of one highly class-conscious and determinedly socialist critic, was “the leader of the social life” in his colony 22, with social responsibilities toward nonofficials as well as service ones toward his officials. He was also the target for visitors of all sorts of social size, so that many a governor—and even more so, many a governor’s wife-found Government House a bewildering cross between Grand Central Station, Kennedy Airport, and the Waldorf-Astoria. It was a moot point whether air transport made things better or worse for colonial governors. Prominent guests might come more frequently, but at least they could go more quickly; yet, as the harassed staff of more than one Government House knew to their cost, a grounded aircraft or canceled flight out of the colonial capital could spell ruin to the tight roster of guests accommodated at Government House and the splitsecond timing of the washing of the sheets.
An idea of the social obligations of the governor can be had from this entry in Sir Edward Twining’s journal for June 1950, when he was governor of Tanganyika:

We are thankful that the last fortnight is over. Everything went very well but we hardly had a moment to ourselves. We had 17 people in the house off and on, a State dinner party for 40, a frightful Garden Party for 500 at which I wore a top hat, another given by the Aga Khan’s community for 1,500; the King’s Birthday parade, a grand presentation of Orders, decorations and medals, a Tattoo and a fireworks display; 3 receptions, 2 meetings of Legislative Council and 1 of Executive Council besides our ordinary work. On 3rd we go to Bagamoyo. On 6th I fly to Mombasa to open the E. African Navy as Chairman of the High Commission. … Then on 12th July I fly to Johannesburg to see Mining Magnates and others. On 17th I go to Salisbury for 2 nights and then to Zomba for 3. … On lst August some of us set out on safari to Mahenge … the opening of the new railway to the Mpanda mine; to Kigoma for the consecration of an R. C. Cathedral. Then back here for a visit of 16 from the Imperial Defence College; then the week’s visit of the flagship H. M.S. Mauritius. On 5th Sept. to Tanga, on the 9th to Lushoto for the consecration of the new Anglican Church, then to Arusha, Masailand and the Serengeti Plains. … Then we go down to Mbeya and drive thence to Nairobi for a meeting of the E. African High Commission 23

This extract would seem to confirm the observation of another governor made fifty years earlier that “it will be garnered from my narrative that if they do their duty, the luxurious life they are supposed to lead is at least not an idle or easy one.” 24
On tour, too, the governor would make a point of bringing with him food and drink from Government House, both for official entertaining and so as not to inconvenience his officials up-country. Laura Boyle, wife of a district commissioner on the Gold Coast, noted in her diary as she sat outside a bush rest house somewhere in Ashanti:

I was suddenly informed that David [her husband] would be returning with H[isl E[xcellency] and his party for luncheoneight in all-and that I was to prepare the table, seats, and trimmings while Slater’s [the acting governor] own servants were bringing food and drinks and everything else that would be required. Slater always conformed with the accepted rule of the Service that senior officers when on tour always entertained their subordinates and not the other way round 25

Inevitably and acceptably, much of the governor’s official entertaining was a one-way business. For reasons of protocol the governor rarely dined out with any official in the capital other than the chief justice and the colonial secretary. The governor must, to follow the dictum of one of their number, be discriminating but not exclusive in the social entertaining that he offered and accepted. Many governors made it a rule not to accept private invitations of hospitality. “We seldom lunched or dined out at private houses,” noted Grantham 26. But in a capital like Hong Kong-cosmopolitan, more foreign office than colonial service-the governor allowed himself to dine with service chiefs, consuls, and members of council.
Another made it a rule not to attend cocktail parties other than those given by public bodies and the services. Even for this there was a rigid routine. After about fifteen minutes the aide-de-camp would discreetly sidle up to the governor to remind him, in the hearing of his host, that he had another appointment to keep. Their Excellencies might then take their leave and the party would assume a more relaxed tone.
Sir Geoffrey Archer, governor of Uganda (1922-1925), noted in his diary how pleased and surprised he was to have his Government House hospitality repaid by one of his unofficial visitors, Sir Thomas Pilkington, Baronet, who asked Archer to stay with him in Yorkshire to shoot over his grouse moors 27

Government House and Its Staff In addition to the emoluments- adequate rather than generous-earned by a British colonial governor, an official residence was provided, very comfortably furnished and rent-free, along with an extensive household of private staff and servants. Generally this imposing residence was known as Government House, but in Jamaica and Malaya it was King’s House and in Saint Helena, Plantation House. In Accra the governor lived in Christiansborg Castle. “To a colonial governor,” noted a peppery judge at the turn of the century, “two things are of supreme importance. One is Government House and the other the Government yacht.” 28 Often there was a government lodge up-country as well, to allow the governor to get away from it all in the often humid capital and unwind in a cooler and quieter atmosphere. The governor’s lodge in such hill stations as Jos in Nigeria or Lushoto in Tanganyika—a favorite retreat of Sir Edward Twining—or Le Réduit in Mauritius, romantically described as a cross between a shooting lodge and a private house built in the Dutch colonial style, were havens of peace.
The result was without doubt impressive. Government House at Zungeru, capital in 1906 of the protectorate of Northern Nigeria, could scarcely have passed muster as a third-rate hotel in London or Los Angeles but to Constance Larymore, wife of a district officer coming in from a remote outstation, here was a “veritable oasis in the desert, luxuriously furnished with costly English furniture, soft carpets, bright chintzes and silk curtains, and fitted with electric light.” 29 Lugard, later arguing for moving his headquarters from Zungeru to Kaduna, condemned the same building as intolerable 30, a level of abuse reminiscent of Sir Richard Burton’s abrasive description of the equivalent building in Lagos as “a corrugated iron coffin or plank lined morgue, containing a dead consul once a year.” 31 Margery Perham entertained no qualms about the attractions of Government House to a dust-stained traveler as she “slipped happily into Government House luxury-a suite of rooms, a glorious bath, two white and scarlet clad Africans, and an English maid.” 32 A perennial problem at Government House was not so much those who were invited to stay but those who thought they ought to have been.
Comfort in Africa was perhaps a relative term. The secretary of state for the colonies could, even in the age of air conditioning and first-class jet travel, admit to being impressed by the standards of Government House. Arriving at that residence in Hong Kong, then under the chatelaineship of Lady Grantham (a citizen of San Francisco) Oliver Lyttelton relished the fact that “everything was perfectly mounted—the scarlet liveries of the Chinese servants, curtains, carpets, furniture, flowers and food all showed what discernment and discrimination can do.” 33 Flying on to Nairobi, he found “life at Government House congenial under the calm and humorous rule of Molly Baring. She had made the gaunt impersonal uniform house liveable and had done up some of the rooms to her own standards of taste and comfort.” 34

Table 3. Example of Government House Expenditures for a Major African Colony, c. 19591 (a)
Staff (£30 000) (b) Private secretary (seconded from administrative service)
Aide-de-camp (seconded from army)
Personal secretary
Confidential clerk
Government House supervisor
Typists (two)
Messengers (four)
Head chef
Head steward
Head gardener
Head houseboy
Senior cooks/stewards (three)
Cooks (four)
Washermen (four)
Caretakers (two)
Other charges (£12,000) Local transport and traveling
Office and general
Upkeep of Government House
Upkeep of Government House grounds
Upkeep of Government House public rooms
Utility charges
  1. Only expenses chargeable to public funds are recorded herein.
  2. This Government House establishment excludes the staff of the governor’s office, totaling thirtythree persons, at a cost of £70,000. Of this sum, over half was allocated to air transport for the governor and his staff on tour in the colony.

Most of the Government House servants were permanent, seeing a succession of governors come and go. Counting the housekeeper, majordomo, stewards, chefs, chauffeurs, houseboys, gardeners, and laundry workers, Government House staffs could easily number thirty to forty. Alexander Grantham made history and nearly created a strike as acting governor of Nigeria when he sacked two Government House servants who had been there since time immemorial, But Grantham may not have had the knack of dealing with such extraordinary snobs as Government House staff. While he was acting as governor of Jamaica, the butler and footman—both soldier-servants—suddenly gave him notice just minutes before the guests arrived for a large, official luncheon party. Later, taking up his appointment as governor of Hong Kong, he noted that constant supervision was necessary over the staff of Government House and that all three cooks had to be “kept up to the mark…. In the same way,” he went on, “the table boys, if not watched, might appear in grubby uniforms, or during lunch or dinner stand round day-dreaming, failing to notice that the water or wine glasses needed replenishing.” 35 He adds that his wife had periodic post-mortems with the No. 1 Boy, telling him what had been done correctly or incorrectly: “It needed eternal vigilance to maintain a high standard,” he concluded.
Many governors, however, found that one of the chief attractions of the job was the way Government House functioned as a smooth, magnificent machine for entertainment. Old Africa hands like Sir Philip Mitchell and Sir Edward Twining gave jobs in Government House to retainers who had served them many years earlier in World War I. Mitchell appointed his color sergeant Alfani as hall porter in Government House, Entebbe, twenty years later. In the 1950s Twining brought with him to Government House at Dar es Salaam the Comorian manservant Ali, who had been his personal servant when he was a subaltern in the King’s African Rifles in the 1920’s. Grantham, returning to his first colony as governor, found jobs for a houseboy, cook, and chair bearer but could only make his rather useless, onetime Cantonese teacher his personal pensioner to the end of his days.
There was another category of personal staff, namely, the governor’s private secretary and his aide-de-camp. Some colonial governors appointed their private secretaries from among friends and relatives outside the service. Archer started his African life as a sort of supernumerary private secretary to his uncle, Sir Frederick Jackson, then acting commissioner for Uganda. Sir Frederick Lugard’s brother Edward and Sir Harry Johnston’s brother Alex were both private secretaries to their siblings for many years. Rupert Gunnis, savant and collector of fine art, was employed personally as private secretary by both Archer in Uganda and Storrs in Cyprus. By the 1930s, however, it had become more usual for the governor to select from his administrative service a young district officer of from five to seven years seniority and appoint him private secretary for a couple of years.
Generally, such men had already made a certain name for themselves as likely high-flyers, and with experience as private secretary behind them, many went on to be governors themselves. Sir Alan Burns, who held several governorships, counted himself as exceedingly fortunate in having acted as private secretary successively to Lugard, Clifford, and Cameron in Lagos. Sir Stewart Symes, governor of Tanganyika (1931-1934), had been picked out as both aide-de-camp (1906) and private secretary (1913-1916) to the governor-general of the Sudan. Hugh Patterson, whose father had been chief commissioner of the northern provinces of Nigeria, quickly was named private secretary to one of his father’s successors. So, too, was Imbert Bourdillon, the young assistant district officer, son of a former governor of Nigeria. Both brought additional skills to the office. A.C. Hollis was private secretary to Sir Charles Eliot but could not stand his successor, Sir Donald Stewart, and soon moved out of Government House.“ 36 Often the reward for having served as private secretary to the governor was to be allowed to choose the division over which one became district officer. In Nigeria there was a regular flow of former private secretaries to remote areas like Mubi and Tangale Waja, “back of beyond” outstations long favored by the stereotype squirearchy of British district officers.
Life as private secretary was no featherbed. Like the governor, one was scarcely ever off duty. In the middle of a dinner party for the queen, one private secretary had to perform a complicated ballet step among the Spode and silver on the dining room table in order to release the ceiling fan that had become jammed and so allow Her Majesty to breathe more freely in the airless atmosphere of Lagos. Then there is the story, not necessarily apocryphal, of another distinguished dinner party at Government House from which the governor was called away by his private secretary in the middle of the entrée and claret because a top-secret cable had just come in from Whitehall. The secretary had properly decoded no more than “To be read only by Governor.” A few minutes later the governor returned, interrupted his secretary as he was making up for lost time on the soup and sherry, and sent him off to decipher the rest of the cable. It continued: “or by Priv. Sec.” As another governor was to say, speaking from experience as both private secretary and aide-de-camp, such a post called for “protean, maid of all work duties.” 37
The social side of Government House life fell largely on the governor’s aide-decamp. Sometimes he was a junior administrative officer, again picked out by the governor for his savoir faire. In later years he was a military or police officer who would be of help to the governor at the latter’s frequent ceremonial appearances. Guggisberg, depicted by his biographer as every inch a governor, superb and regal, “almost too good to be true,” modestly appointed as his private secretary a brigadier general and as aide-de-camp a rear admiral 38. In the period of decolonization such a posting often came the way of the first African police or army officers, an example splendidly set by Sir James Robertson’s and Sir Richard Turnbull’s choices of aides-de-camp in Nigeria and Tanganyika. For an occasion such as a royal visit to the colony, the governor might appoint as equerry an additional aide-de-camp from among his younger district officers. Now and again the novelist’s dream came true and the aide married the governor’s daughter.
It was a sensitive job, one in which-in the opinion of such an infallible picker of winners as Sir Ralph Furse, ruling deity of the colonial officer selection boardwisdom and tact could do much for a governor’s reputation. The beau ideal aide-de-camp would need to be able to turn his hand to all things at all times of the day-and night. In Kenya the governor’s aide was to be seen unloading coal from a ship in Mombasa harbor during a dock strike. At Dar es Salaam one aide found himself giving a discreet helping hand to the new governor, whose knee “inclined to creak like an old motor lorry,” 39 as the latter limped down the gangplank with his sword dangling dangerously between his legs. In the same capital another aide received a massive dressing down from the postmaster general when by mischance an unexpected guest at Government House took the latter’s nobly lent dinner jacket off to South Africa on the next mailboat.” 40 In Lagos Sir Hugh Clifford called in one of his few fellow Catholics to act as aide-decamp for church on Sunday. After the first unfortunate service, when the priest failed to recognize the king’s representative and escort him to his reserved pew, this weekly expedition involved the additional chore of wearing full-dress uniform. Commenting on the role of the aide-de-camp at Government House in Northern Rhodesia, one guest, caught in the crossfire between Lady Maxwell and His Excellency (“who was-had to beall that she was not”) 41, came to the conclusion that there was nothing left for him to do but to imitate total nonexistence. With long practice, she observed, the aide could even fall asleep with necessary inconspicuousness during those after-dinner chats between the governor and his guests.
An itinerant secretary of state for the colonies has left this vignette of the archetype aide, drawn from the graceful figure who met him on behalf of the governor at a certain colonial airport: “benignant and immaculate, his newly pressed tussore silk suit crowned by an orchid, his curling moustaches trimmed to perfection, his brown and white shoes a masterpiece.” 42
As for a bad aide-de-camp, he was best returned to his normal duties as expeditiously as possible and quickly forgotten by all concerned in the traumatic appointment. Now and again one came across a woeful police officer or administrative cadet plodding through the swamps of some malarial “punishment station,” with the luster of Government House balls and banquets now but a memory of the past and unbelievable glory in his fevered, fitful conversation.

History of the Office of Governor. The office of British colonial governor reaches back for several centuries; the first such official was appointed to Bermuda in 1612. Our own story, however, centers on the modern years between the scramble and decolonization. Emphasis is on developments during the present century, an era of momentous changes.
At first, colonial office governance solidified. For instance, in 1900 Nigeria became a crown colony; three years later Uganda was transferred from the foreign office to the colonial office, to be shortly followed by the East Africa protectorate. Little more than half a century later decolonization began to get under way. In 1957 Ghana became independent, and during the late 1960s the last of Britain’s African territories—Gambia and the three former high commission territories of Bechuanaland, Basutoland, and Swaziland—became independent and history bade farewell to the British colonial governor in Africa.
The nomenclature of the British colonies varied. In 1923 Southern Rhodesia was granted internal autonomy and assumed the hybrid title of “self-governing colony.” British Somaliland between 1941 and 1948 was under military administration. The remaining African possessions were technically known as crown colonies and/or protectorates. Most of those in the Caribbean were officially described as possessing first “representative institutions” and finally “responsible government”—defined in Africa as “full internal self-government.” The difference might be said to be one of history expressed in the constitution. In essence, under the traditional “responsible government” arrangement on the West Indian model, the crown reserved only the power of disallowing legislation; the secretary of state had no control over the filling of any public office other than the governorship; and in all matters affecting the internal affairs of the colony, the governor was obliged to act on the advice of his ministers, who were responsible to the legislature.
The governor of a crown colony could not be said to come under the direct jurisdiction of the British Parliament. Parliamentary questions might arise over the administration of a colony, but these were directed at—and answered by—the secretary of state. It was he, the elected minister, who defended a governor’s actions, who praised his handling of affairs. Unlike the French colonial administrators, the British needed only the agreement of the colonial office for the colony’s estimates and never the approval of Parliament. The House of Commons likewise had no control over the appointment or dismissal of any African colonial governor. His authority derived directly from the crown, and it was to the crown, not Parliament, that he was responsible. On this point the regulations issued by the colonial office were brief, unambiguous, and sustaining in moments of perplexity. “The Governor is the single and supreme authority responsible to, and representative of, Her Majesty.” 43
The triple classification used by the colonial office itself is perhaps the most succint definition of distinctions that do not always seem to the outsider to be differences in the terminology of colonial government:

First, crown colonies, in which the crown has the entire control of legislation, while the administration is carried on by public officers under the control of the home government. Second, colonies possessing representative institutions but not responsible government, in which the crown has no more than a veto on legislation, but the home government retains the control of public officers. Third, colonies possessing representative institutions and responsible government, in which the crown has only a veto on legislation, and the home government has no control over any public officers except the governor 44

In crown colonies or non-self-governing ones, the administration consisted of the direct personal rule of the governor: all power and all responsibility were centered on the governor and he personally dominated the whole administration. To quote the opinion of one of the shrewdest colonial office mandarins, the governor “combined the functions of King, Prime Minister, Speaker and Head of the Civil Service.” 45 As the sovereign’s representative he earned and expected nothing less than the recognition customarily paid to royalty.
All the African territories were either crown colonies or protectorates—or both, such as the “Colony and Protectorate” of Kenya or of Nigeria, to give them their full titles. The difference was a historical one dependent on the mode of acquisition and did not really affect the governor’s administration of the territory 46. A plausible exception to this taxonomy may be made for Tanganyika, which as a “B” mandate was technically known as “Tanganyika Territory.” Whereas the mandated territories of the Cameroons and of Togo were administered as an integral part of Nigeria and the Gold Coast, respectively, Tanganyika was large enough to warrant a separate administration. In the 1920s Sir Donald Cameron was able to invoke its special status under the League of Nations mandate to disrupt plans of the British government to draw Tanganyika into some sort of merger with settler dominated Kenya. Pleading the concept of “sacred trust” and the principle of paramountcy of African interest, he resisted all approaches for an East African federation.

. The duties of a British colonial governor were laid down at a general level as a group of rules and regulations and, informally, through his day-to-day relationships with the colonial office. The appointment of a governor was made by the sovereign on the recommendation of the secretary of state for the colonies. The appointee was always asked whether he would be willing to accept the governorship under consideration 47. The prime minister was consulted-closely in the case of the more sensitive governorships; otherwise, according to the testimony of some secretaries of state, the convention was usually a formality. On leaving Britain to take up his appointment, the governor was received at Buckingham Palace to “kiss hands”—“which is something of a disappointment,” commented one governor, “because you don’t.” Another noted in his diary, “You no longer literally kiss the King’s hand; in fact His Majesty, the general presentation made, was delightfully informal.” 48 Unusually, Sir Alan Burns on the same day kissed hands along with no fewer than two other new governors, both former colleagues of his from the Nigerian secretariat. Governors-general of the quasidominion type that characterized the ultimate crown appointment to most African territories at independence enjoyed the additional privilege of a private luncheon with the queen.
The tangible tokens of a British colonial governor’s appointment comprised three documents, the style of which dates back to the appointment of royal and proprietary British governors for the plantations and colonies of the West Indies and America. Two of these were royal documents—a commission in the form of letters patent, passed under the great seal, and royal instructions in the form of letters close, passed under the royal sign manual and signet. The former traditionally opened with the royal command of “We do hereby empower and command the said Governor XYZ to do all things that belong to his said office in accordance with these Our Letters Patent.” 49 The latter would include such matters as the constitution of the governor’s executive council and rules for the making of legislation. Typically, royal instructions laid down that the governor

is to the utmost of his power to promote religion and education among the native inhabitants. He is especially to take care and protect them in their persons and in the free enjoyment of their possessions, and by all lawful means to prevent and restrain all violence and injustice which may in any manner be practised or attempted against them 50

Together, these letters of appointment have been described as a “sort of organic law of the colony.” 51 The governor’s constitutional responsibilities were specified in a third document, an order in council, by which the legislature-or where there was no legislature the ordinance making authority-was constituted.
Finally, there are the Colonial Regulations, first published in 1837 as “Rules and Regulations for the Information and Guidance of the Principal Officers in His Majesty’s Colonial Possessions.” Major revisions were undertaken in 1908 and again in the 1950’s; by this time the list had increased to over 400 regulations. Today they are issued in two part—“Public Officers” and “Public Business”—the latter applying principally to the conduct of the governor. Technically, Colonial Regulations may be looked at as the directions given by the secretary of state on behalf of the crown for the guidance of governors. As such, their legal force might be held to be doubtful, but instances of their having been questioned by a colonial governor are understandably rare. From time to time it was necessary for the colonial office to issue special instructions to a new governor, as when Sir Gerald Templer was assigned to Malaya, Sir Hugh Foot to Cyprus, and Sir Charles Johnston to Aden-all at moments of international crisis, potential or realized.
Sir Charles Bruce, drawing on the experience of his several colonial gover ships including seven years as governor of Mauritius (1897-1904), advocated briefer counsel. He believed that there could be no better rule of conduct for the colonial governor than to abide by the Jesuit dictum “It is surprising how much good a man may do in the world if he allows others to take credit for it.” 52
On arrival in his colony, the first thing the new governor had to do was to take the oath of office. Without this formality his tenure was not legitimate nor were his acts legal. Among the obligations undertaken by the governor was the promise that he would “do right by all manner of men according to the laws and usages of the Colony, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.” 53 The oath was administered at a small ceremony by the chief justice, with senior officials present in full colonial service uniform. On one occasion, in a small territory, it is reputed that the ceremony, which began with the reading aloud of the royal commission, was punctuated with a quick gin between each oath. Of another, the governor’s own account is distinctly acid: “The swearing-in ceremony was rendered amusing by the judge who administered the three oaths insisting on reading them aloud for me to repeat, although I had meekly attempted to express my objections to that procedure [on the ground that] I could read quite fluently.” 54
One or two points in the governor’s functions and power require elaboration. In most African colonies the governor was described as having “reserve powers.” This meant that he retained the power of veto over legislation, a stalling device to which he could—but rarely did—have recourse so as to guarantee law and order or to insure the continuation of good government in compelling circumstances. Technically, this power permitted the crown to disallow ordinances or to legislate by order in council in cases of emergency. Governors also held emergency powers. Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith invoked these at the time of the Kano riots in 1953, giving wide prerogatives to his provincial administrators. Sir Philip Mitchell regretted that the British government would not grant him the same powers as the home secretary had in Britain during wartime to detain dangerous people. The secretary of state would go only so far as to allow that an inquiry before a judge or magistrate might be held in camera.
Then there was the matter of the governor’s authority over the movement of troops within his colony. Despite the fact that in nearly every case the governor was also Commander in Chief, he could not direct the imperial forces stationed in his territory. This was so even when, as quite frequently happened, the governor held—in his own right as a previous career officer—a military or naval rank superior to that of the officer commanding the colony’s troops (e.g., in Kenya, among successive governors were Major general E. Northey [1919], Lieutenant colonel E. W. M. Grigg [1925], Brigadier general J. A. Byrne [1931], and Air chief marshal R. Brooke-Popham [1937]). Nevertheless, as the sovereign’s representative the governor alone could “give the word,” and he was entitled to ask for information on the strength, condition, and disposition of the troops and the military defenses at all times. Military units such as the Royal West African Frontier Force, the King’s African Rifles, and the Somaliland Camel Corps were colonial and not imperial forces. Here the position of the governor was different. Raised in the territory and controlled by individual colonial governors, albeit under the general supervision of their inspector general at the colonial office, they came under the direct control of the governor acting the consultation with the local force commandant.
Finally, there was the prerogative of mercy. This has been described by one legal authority on the colonial service as “the Governor’s highest endowment.” 55 It was held directly from the sovereign. Consequently, it could in no way be interfered with by the secretary of state or the colonial office. Of all the functions a governor was expected to fulfill perhaps few could be so solemn and grievous a charge as this. The papers, contained in a specially colored file jacket to remove all chance of loss or oversight, would be reviewed by the governor in executive council. But the royal instructions authorized the governor, notwithstanding any advice from his executive council, to use his own judgment in deciding capital cases. The decision to exercise or refuse the prerogative of mercy was the governor’s alone. One of the most publicized of these cases was the so-called juju murder trial in the Gold Coast in 1945-1947, which went right up to Parliament in Westminster and the privy council 56

Pomp and Circumstance. For one who had to combine the position of sovereign, prime minister, and head of the civil service, as well as the office of leader of the social life of the colony, the outward recognition symbols of the governor had to be supreme. Nowhere was this more important, men like Sir Stewart Symes believed, than in the context of native races and their rulers. Arguing that full ceremonial may help to invest the hard skeleton of government with a flesh and blood personality, Symes maintained that “Eastern people who habitually associate decorum with superior authority wish to be assured that their King’s local representative can dress up and look the part.” 57 He saw it as the price a governor must pay on ceremonial occasions for the privilege of being able at other times to waive formality, meet all and sundry, and move around freely. Even if His Excellency was not quite the king—and one recalls the observation of the Kamba chief who, having been told by his district commissioner that the visitor was the Duke of Connaught, said to the latter, “I hear you’re a very important person, I suppose you must be the [district commissioner’s] brother” 58—he certainly could have fooled most observers.

Colonial Regulations laid down the punctilio of salutes for colonial administrators: seventeen for governors and fifteen for lieutenant governors or chief commissioners (twenty-one for the viceroy of India). The general orders of each colony supplemented these regulations with tables of precedence. The governor could be second only to the sovereign should she decide to visit her colony, as Queen Elizabeth II did so unsparingly and so inspiringly. As a guest of the governor of Northern Rhodesia, Margery Perham was careful to curtsy to him each morning at breakfast beside the bacon-and-egg-laden sideboard. Sir James Robertson was embarrassed by the way that the prime minister, Harold Macmillan—“a stickler for correct protocol” 59—when staying at Government House punctiliously gave him each morning the bow reserved for royalty. It took an outside governor like ex-foreign service officer Sir Charles Johnston or an unusual insider like Sir Richard Turnbull to break the Government House staff of the hallowed tradition of serving the governor at table before everybody else.
Like royalty, the governor always had to sit behind the chauffeur so that nobody might be seen to be honored by sitting at the former’s right hand. This was a lesson that many a fledgling aide-de-camp had to learn quickly as he summoned the Government House Rolls Royce to the porte cochere. One senior colonial office official was amazed at the governor’s flexibility when the latter insisted that as his guest he should sit in the right-hand seat of the Government House car as they set out on tour. Later the official found that the left-hand side of the car on that particularly hot journey was the one in the shade.
Dining out, it was the governor and not his wife who was de rigueur placed next to the host and he, rather than she, who entered the dining room first. Conventionally, the loyal toast was not drunk at Government House dinner parties unless there were more than eleven persons at the table. Table 4 shows the approved seating plans for even small dinner parties and indicates the level of Government House protocol, which was strict. Governors coming from outside the service found colonial life starched and stratified. Former diplomats have expressed surprise at the markedly different style of relationship between governor and ambassador with those around him 60. The wife of a colonial official always took her husband’s seniority, and few wives were unaware of the pecking order in the local staff list. “The question of precedence is treated with immense seriousness in colonial circles,” recorded Sir Hesketh Bell. “The unfortunate aide-decamp who at a dinner party places an official-especially an official’s wife-in a seat which they do not consider to be the proper one comes in for a bad time.” 61
On leave and on other ceremonial occasions, there was a guard of honor to greet the governor on his departure and his return. In parts of tropical Africa senior officials and, when they came into being, local cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries were required to turn up at the railway station or airport to bid farewell and welcome whenever a major tour or journey was involved. Outside Government House a regimental guard of one noncommissioned officer and five men presented arms every time the governor drove through the gates. The Union Jack flew above the building whenever the governor was in residence. At sunset the flag was often lowered with full ceremony. The national anthem was played anytime the governor appeared at a public ceremony.
With the disappearance of calling cards after World War II, signing the visitor’s book by the sentry box at the gates to Government House was essential protocol for anyone, especially a colonial official, arriving in the capital. He signed it again when going on leave, adding “ppc.” The book was removed at dusk and perused by the aide-de-camp for it was on the basis of this record that invitations to Government House functions were issued. When the governor went on tour he took his visitor’s book with him and it would be solemnly put out in boma and bush for all officials to sign.
The British colonial officer , s uniform was also a matter of gravity. Sir Geoffrey Archer, governor of Uganda, enjoying the relaxation of traveling up-country by car in a comfortable alpaca jacket and a trilby, found on his arrival in a district receiving its very first gubernatorial visit that the local populace was saluting the Government House chauffeur, being the only person in a distinctive uniform. But the colonial governor in full dress was a gorgeous sight. He was entitled to wear either a white uniform with white and red plumes in his colonial helmet or, in cooler climates, a dark blue uniform with a cocked hat and white plumes. Gold and silver gorgets, epaulettes, buttons, and frogging and an elaborately decorated sword completed the uniform. Outside the tropics and occasionally in Africa, the governor wore a grey top hat and formal morning dress.
The cost of this outfit was enormous. On his first appointment as governor Sir Edward Twining determined to buy a secondhand full-dress uniform. It cost him $350 in 1946; a decade later, according to his successor in Tanganyika, the figure had passed the $1,000 mark. Twining’s biographer described the governor’s fulldress uniform as having the capacity to make the most ordinary of men look like Admiral Nelson or Charles Laughton. Outsize in every way, Twining was so frustrated later on by the colonial office’s refusal to buy him a larger aircraft that could reach the less accessible districts of Tanganyika that he ordered his press attaché to photograph him leaving the plane in full-dress uniform before the assembled chiefs, stern first. Thereafter Twining was able to fly in comfort whenever he wished. Governors in the postcolonial age relate how difficult it was to purchase a full-dress uniform even from theatrical costumers. One, living near the Thames swans at Windsor, confided in the writer that he was almost driven to secretly plucking his own brand of feathers for his governor’s plumes.

Table 4. Seating Arrangements for Dinner Parties at Government House


L3 L4 LHE M1 L4


M3 L4 M1 L2 M5


  • A = table arrangement when the governor’s wife is present
  • B = table arrangement when the governor is not married
  • HE = the governor
  • LHE = the governor’s wife
  • M1 = first (in seniority) gentleman guest, and so on from M2 to M5 +
  • L1 = first (in seniority) lady guest, wives taking their husbands’ seniority
  • PS = private secretary to the governor
  • ADC = aide-de-camp to the governor
    Source: Based on « Notes on Procedure, etc., for Colonial Governors, » unpublished document issued personally to new governors by the colonial office (c. 1948) (by courtesy of Sir Richard Turnbull and Sir Kenneth Blackburne).

Administration of the Colony

So much for the formal side of the office of the British colonial governor. We may now turn to his functions in his daily life as governor and commander in chief. The day-to-day structure and nature of the governorship were conditioned by a network of relationships and responsibilities that though partly formalized were in the final analysis qualified by the governor’s personal characteristics: his traits and quirks and moods, his interests, his strengths and limitations. His functions may be examined at a number of levels: his relationship with the colonial office, with the colony’s legislature, with the colonial administration, with all sorts of resident nonofficials, and with Africans. If his relations with “the natives” seem to have a conspicuously low priority in this list, on occasion this could be at once a reflection of and on the situation. In J. M. Lee’s view, “the kind of men who were recruited from Britain for service in the colonies appeared to believe that the official classes constituted the state.” 62 Finally, we may consider the governor’s occasional relations with other colonial governors.

Relations with the Colonial Office The relationship between colonial governors and the colonial office was complex. The autobiographies of governors and the memoirs written by secretaries of state and by diverse permanent officials at the colonial office indicate that in every case the balance of power depended upon the determination and character of both the secretary of state and the colonial governor. Lugard, in his biased fashion, endorsed Sir Henry Taylor’s remark that “the whole history of the office is a history of conflicts with the ablest and even the most trusted governors.” 63 But Taylor simplified the issue. Given the relative permanence of the colonial office staff and given the power of precedent, the governor was likely to come off second-best in any of those rare conflicts between Government House and Whitehall—unless, of course, a governor happened to be dealing with an absolute weakling in the position of secretary of state or permanent undersecretary in the colonial office. To adopt the analogy of one of the closest observers of the colonial office, the apron strings were there all right; the real question was how tightly they were pulled 64
Of course, the shepherds of Great Smith Street, whither the colonial office moved from its Downing Street home (to the confusion of Oliver Lyttelton, who, remembering his father’s office in 1904, arrived at Downing Street the day after his own appointment as secretary of state for the colonies in 1951 only to find himself about to enter the commonwealth relations office), had their ewe lambs as well as their b6tes noires in their flock of governors. The colonial office view was that Lord Lugard was a difficult man; that Sir Edward Twining and Sir Philip Mitchell could do nothing wrong—at first. With Andrew Cohen as Arthur Creech Jones’s right-hand man—though only third in the colonial office hierarchy—in 1947 governors like Sir Arthur Richards, Sir Alan Burns, and Sir Philip Mitchell probably were seen as the reactionary old guard when set beside up-and-coming radicals like Sir John Macpherson, Sir Charles Arder-Clarke, Sir Hugh Foot, and Sir Maurice Dorman 65
At the colonial office conference of 1927, the secretary of state could hardly mention Sir Hugh Clifford’s name without referring to his “trenchant memoranda” and his “formidable indictments.” 66 In Nairobi, Michael Blundell had no doubt that the British government, having at last selected Sir Evelyn Baring for the Kenyan powder keg, would back him up through thick and thin. Alan Lennox-Boyd as secretary of state felt this commitment strongly enough to offer to resign over the Hola affair when eleven Mau Mau detainees died from ill treatment in a detention camp. Yet Prime minister Harold Macmillan was ready to sacrifice Sir Robert Armitage after Nyasaland fell apart in 1959 67. And private minutes by colonial office staff were often less complimentary on the governors than were the public comments of their political master. The head of the East Africa division set forth his opinions on why the East African governors should not be consulted on the implications of Lord Hailey’s An African Survey in scathing terms:

I deprecate any attempt to elicit opinion from the African Governors, either individually or collectively on the far-reaching suggestions put forward in Lord Hailey’s chapter 9. Some Governors, who have the necessary time, inclination and experience, have no doubt studied Lord Hailey’s remarks with sedulous attention and are already pondering his suggestions without waiting to be prompted from [the colonial office]. Others, lacking the necessary leisure or intelligence, or both, will perhaps have skipped the Chapter. But the chances are remote that their several views … will possess any highest common factor of significance or value.” 68

At the colonial office, Sir Ralph Furse was of the opinion that H. M. Foot, P. M. Renison, and A. T. Benson were the best governors that emerged from his brilliant recruitment policy of the 1930s 69, though Benson failed to gain admission into the colonial administrative service the first time round, Renison—never at ease with politicians 70—came to a sticky end, and Foot was never given a governorship in Africa. Sir Andrew Cohen would likely have followed Sir Samuel Wilson (1925-1933) and Sir John Macpherson (1956-1959) as one of the two colonial governors to become permanent secretary in the colonial office (Sir John Maffey was ex-Indian civil service (ICS) and Sudan, not colonial service) had the Conservative party not kept Labour out of office in 1956. Despite the denouement to his performance as governor of Uganda (a post he may have specially asked the secretary of state for) 71, culminating in the deportation of the Kabaka (King of Buganda) in a curious cloak-and-dagger operation—a crisis that would have spelt nasty nightmares and an early pension for most colonial governors—his reputation was high enough in the colonial office and his competence sufficiently demonstrated for him to return to Britain to become permanent secretary of the new department of technical aid. Ironically, as the renamed ministry of overseas development, this department was to inherit many of the responsibilities of the colonial office after the latter’s decease. Sadly, Cohen, too, was dead by then.
Correspondence with the colonial office was carried out under several categories. Official dispatches, letters, telegrams, and savingrams [sic] could be marked unclassified, restricted, confidential, or secret. There was also the “secret and personal” series frequently used between Government House and the colonial office. This category of correspondence, whether by mail or telegram, was always filed separately and became a common feature of communication in the delicate days of the constitutional proposals that preceded the transfer of power. Within a territorial service its parallel was the “d. o.” (demi-official) letter.
Dispatches from the governor were generally expected to be full, reasoned, and expository, supported by a wealth of confirmatory reports and documents 72. Replies from the secretary of state were aimed at brevity and conciseness, “framed in a style which long experience has perfected, distinguished alike by reserve and lucidity, at once considerate and conclusive 73. The Creech Jones papers show that he went further than most other secretaries of state and invited certain governors he believed sympathetic to his ideology to maintain a private and personal correspondence with him 74. Other than the “secret and personal” letter to a colleague in the colonial office, every item of correspondence had to be addressed to the secretary of state even though he might never see it if it touched on some minor matter. Similarly, every dispatch leaving the colonial office had to issue over the secretary of state’s signature. Since it was a physical impossibility for him to read everything issued in his name or sign each dispatch up to fifty times (in 1953 the colonial office sent out nearly 90,000 communications to its colonial governors). the rubber stamp was introduced in the 1920s. On the very first day of the 1927 colonial office conference this innovation led to a remarkable amount of recrimination by a number of the older governors.
Links between Whitehall or Westminster and the colonial governors became much firmer once air travel had established itself and, whatever governors migh, think of the impact, stronger still in the decade of decolonization, when a secretary of state could at any moment fly out to Lagos or Lusaka or the governor be flown home for a crucial conference. No longer could Winston Churchill say, as he had promised at a colonial service dinner gathering forty years before, that “it would not be possible to govern the British Empire from Downing Street, and we do not try.” 75 The royal visits to Kenya in 1952 and to Nigeria in 1956 enjoyed certain precedent in the Prince of Wales’s African tour of 1925 and the King Emperor’s Durbar visit to India in 1911. But Harold Macmillan’s whirlwind of change tour of Africa in 1960 was quite without precedent. Colonial secretaries. too, like Oliver Lyttelton, Iain Macleod, and the inspiring Alan Lennox-Boyd had improved even on the travel record of their predecessors James Griffiths and Arthur Creech Jones, and very welcome they mostly were at Government House Colonial office officials in the 1950s likewise were seasoned travelers. This was a far cry from the time when Sir Augustus Hemming, head of the West Africa department in the colonial office, asked permission to accept an invitation from the governor of the Gold Coast to come and see for himself what the colonial service was all about and met with the pained reply from his superior, “But what on earth do you want to go and do a thing like that for?” 76
Once or twice the governor had to remind visiting United Kingdom ministers which of the two of them constitutionally took precedence in the colony. On one occasion even a prime minister had not fully appreciated the position. As he was leaving Government House in the company of the governor, the morning after his arrival in the colony, he noticed the guard drawn up ready to salute. The sergeant of the guard barked out the order, “Royal salute—present arms” Turning to the governor, the prime minister asked, “Why Royal salute?” The governor had to explain that it was the custom for the guard to give that salute the first time the governor left Government House each day. “Oh,” remarked the disappointed minister, “so the salute was for you, was it?” 77 Lesser ministers of state could on occasion be more of a nuisance than their superiors. One governor had to protect his aide-de-camp from an angered junior minister who, when for speed of departure the minister was placed in the second car of the cavalcade at the airport, asked whether the governor’s aide were unaware that a minister was more important than a governor. There was the incident, too, of a parliamentary secretary visiting Government House who took it upon himself to order one of the official cars to take him to the brighter lights of the city and then on to the cinema. Since he had failed to check any of his arrangements with the aide he missed the cinema performance and on his chagrined return to Government House found that he had missed dinner as well 78
“Beachcombing” was another device for bringing the quite separately recruited, paid, and promoted staffs of the colonial office and the colonial service closer together. This was an arrangement whereby a few colonial service officers were seconded from their colonies to work in the colonial office for two years 79. Such an assignment could be an entry on the credit side of an ambitious colonial service officer, if only because of those in Whitehall whom he got to know. Not all officers jumped at the opportunity. Like the newspaper editor who offered the winners of a crossword competition a first prize of one week in Edinburgh and a second prize of two weeks in Glasgow, Alexander Grantham—anxious for a spell back in the United Kingdom after long service abroad—preferred a one-year course at the Imperial Defence College to a two-year secondment to the colonial office. When the colonial services were unified in the 1930s there had been talk of merging the colonial office and colonial service into one overseas service. This came to nought, but as a result arrangements were made for beachcombing in reverse, so that a few colonial office officials were seconded to colonial administrations for a short spell. A notable instance was J. M. Martin’s secondment to Malaya in 1931; later he became deputy undersecretary of the colonial office. At one time it was even accepted that it would be valuable all-round to second a serving governor to the colonial office for two years. Three of these experimental postings actually took place. In 1938 Sir Henry Moore, governor of Sierra Leone, took up residence in the colonial office until his promotion to Kenya in 1940; he was followed by Sir Alan Burns from British Honduras and finally, in 1941, by Sir William Battershill, who eventually went as governor to Tanganyika. But there were grave personal disadvantages of salary and status to home service, and the scheme was abandoned in 1945. (The appointment of Sir John Macpherson as permanent undersecretary was not quite in the same mold.)

Relations with the Legislature. In contrast to colonies with responsible representative institutions or responsible government, where the governor was very much the governor in council constrained by the will of his legislature, the governor of a crown colony, though obligated to have a council, was in no way obliged to heed the advice he was bound to seek from it. At first the governor’s council in the African territories was the executive council, consisting of a handful of senior officials. Soon a legislative council was added. Initially made up of members nominated by the governor, this body subsequently added an elective African element—in 1922 in Nigeria and three years later in Gold Coast, but not for another quarter of a century in Kenya 80. A simultaneous development was the appointment of nonofficials to the governor’s executive council, predominantly European merchants and missionaries until the 1940s, when the first African members were appointed. Not until after World War II, following such reforms as the Burns constitution in the Gold Coast and the Richards one in Nigeria, were the legislative councils developed to become fully representative. Throughout this period the governor presided over both the executive and the legislative council and his senior officials acted as a sort of “front bench.”
The final steps of constitutional development saw the elective principle extended to full suffrage; the provision of a speaker to preside over the legislative council, now restyled the house of assembly; the introduction of elected ministers to replace officials in both councils; and, as a last stage, the governor’s handing over the presidency of the executive council to an elected prime minister and that body reconstituted as a council of ministers. With the reformulation of the house of assembly as parliament and the council of ministers as a cabinet, the constitutional transfer of power was complete.
Although few governors ever balked at presiding over the executive council, many of them protested against their role as president of the legislative council. Indeed, a whole session of one of the colonial office conferences, attended by over a score of governors and chief secretaries, was devoted to a discussion of this item of genuine concern 81. Governors had no parliamentary training for this important function. Furthermore, as Burns observed, sitting as president of the legislative council the governor could not help now and again joining in the hurly-burly of debate. At once he laid himself open to attack, something that was clearly harmful to the prestige of the king’s representative. Another colonial governor pointed out that there was an innate and insoluble contradiction in the governor’s being above politics like the monarch he represented and being as impartial in his judgments as speaker in the House of Commons and yet, as head of the government, being in his role as prime minister positively biased toward upholding governmental measures. Few governors presiding over their legislative council found it easy to keep compartmentalized the three functions of the aloofness of the king’s representative, the impartiality of the speaker, and the partiality of the prime minister 82. The remedy did not come about for another twenty years or so, when Sir Philip Mitchell decided in 1948 to appoint a speaker for the Kenyan legislature. In the final stages of the transfer of power the governor exercised the role of more of a constitutional monarch, opening the annual legislative session with a full ceremonial guard of honor and a speech from the throne written for him by his prime minister and then leaving the chamber to its own devices.

Relations with the Colonial Administration
Despite Lugard’s struggle with the colonial office to create the post of deputy governor while he was away on a working leave for six months each year in Britain, the standard procedure was for the senior official in the colony to act as governor. In these cases, as during the interregnurn between one governor’s departure and his successor’s arrival in the colony, the officer was properly known as the officer administering the government. Only in one or two penultimate constitutions was the office of deputy governor created. It was a temporary measure quickly lapsing when it was found that, in limbo between the governor and the prime minister, the incumbent had virtually nothing to do. “I am so glad you sent me an offprint of your article,” wrote one deputy governor to this writer, “as I have all the time in the world to read it in the office just as soon as I have finished The Times crossword.” A similar complaint was sometimes heard among the last proconsuls. “You are lucky at being rung up at lunchtime. Nobody rings me up now at all,” a terminal African governor, now translated to an honorary governor-generalship, remarked nostalgically to a latter-day colleague 83
In nearly every case the administering officer was the chief secretary (in some territories he was called the colonial secretary). The chief secretary’s position in a colony could be likened to that of an adjutant to a colonel or, depending on the size of the territory, of a chief staff officer to a general. Very often a spell as chief or colonial secretary was indispensable to an officer in whom the colonial office described a potential governor. As the senior official in the colony next to the governor (the chief justice might enjoy a higher salary but he was apart from the colonial service hierarchy in the colony), every item of policy and many—too many—routine matters ended up on his desk. All dispatches from the colonial office or directives from the governor were channeled through the chief secretary for implementation. His was the last signature on all minute papers passed to the governor for decision; from there they might return duly covered in red ink (a privilege exclusive to governors) 84, bearing such cryptic and occasionally indecipherable minutes as “Accordingly,” “As advised,” or “I disagree. Pl. spk.”
Within their own provinces the lieutenant governors of Nigeria took precedence over the chief secretary, but it was the latter who became the senior official in Lagos once Cameron had reduced the Lugardian hierarchy. As senior officer in the colony’s administrative secretariat, the chief secretary naturally channeled all information from and instructions to the provincial and district commissioners. On tour or in the capital, the governor would no more think of issuing a directive to one of his field administrators than a colonel would of giving orders to a sergeant rather than to his company or platoon commanders. But the chief secretary’s authority went further than this. Heads of the colonial service’s technical and professional departments, missionaries and merchants, settlers and planters, supplicants and sinners—all had to go through the chief secretary if they wished to approach the governor or—galling enough for departmental officers—merely keep him informed of a matter within their competence.
Such a vast bureaucratic pyramid underneath a solitary figure at the top led many governors to reflect on whether the system was the best one. Lugard, authoritarian and quite incapable of devolving the power of decisionmaking, tried to run the Lagos secretariat himself. His successor, Sir Hugh Clifford, took one look at the morass, wrote it off as “the memory of one man,” and appointed Donald Cameron to the new post of chief secretary 85. Within a few years he had built up one of the two finest secretariats any African colony has known. At one time no fewer than six of its officers were to hold governorships simultaneously 86. The other model secretariat was set up in Dar es Salaam—by none other than Sir Donald Cameron when he went to Tanganyika in 1925. There, too, many of the top officials were to go on to colonial governorships 87
Colonial government became more and more complex as it turned into ministerial government. Hence, the postwar African colonies ended up with twelve to twenty ministers and permanent secretaries running a central bureaucracy that before World War I had been handled by the governor and his triumvirate of chief secretary, financial secretary, and attorney general. It was then that echoes of the old Lugard versus Clifford and Cameron and Burns debate were heard again. Would it not be more efficient to have two services, a secretariat one producing highly trained staff officers and a field one consisting of experienced district administrators? With the exception of the finance side, where officers did inevitably tend to specialize, the colonial service in Africa remained adamant in its rejection of dual services and preferred a system of continuing interchange between provincial and secretariat postings. The majority of governors continued to be appointed from among the experienced district officers 88. The chief secretary’s office was abolished as new constitutions created ministries. Some of his responsibilities and much of his status were transferred to the new post of secretary to the prime minister. With it often went the novel designation of head of the civil service.
The governor’s relations with his professional officers sometimes ran into troubled waters. Probably they were colored by the seemingly continual “civil war” between the administrative and departmental officers that plagued many colonies 89. Clifford never entertained any doubts about the correct relationship. He circulated to all officers in the colony a minute in which he affirmed that the resident in his province and the district officer in his division were the senior officials, regardless of how much younger or junior he might be to technical and professional officers serving in the same area, and as such was the governor’s—and hence the sovereign’s—representative 90. Once again a conference of governors held at the colonial office spent a whole session on the subject of relations between the administrative officer and his technical colleagues 91. Quiescent for the next twenty-five years, this issue came to the fore again when the departments were merged into ministries and the poor professional officer found himself not only deprived of his erstwhile director but actually subservient to the administrative officer, now restyled as permanent secretary or undersecretary. Creech Jones’s appointment of a professional officer to the governorship of Seychelles in 1947 was seen by some as an attempt to discomfit the administrative service.
One more index of a governor’s relations with his colonial administfation might be how soon—and afterward, how often—an assistant district officer met his governor. At one end of the scale it was seven years before Charles Dundas, in early Kenya, ever set eyes on the governor. Arthur Ramage, an administrative cadet in the 1920s, saw the lieutenant governor of Southern Nigeria only twice in eight years 92. At the other end, Sir John Macpherson insisted that all cadets should have a two-day conducted tour of the Lagos secretariat and meet the governor informally at a cocktail party before taking the boat train to the interior. One administrator still remembers that nervous moment on his second day in the colony:

[His Excellency], as we had already learned to call the Governor, although a sick man, had us up one by one for a chat. He asked me how long a career I thought lay before me. “A certain five years, a probable ten, and a lucky fifteen,” I replied. “My boy,” he said, patting me on the knee, “you have thirty years or more ahead of you, my own son is coming into the service next year 93

Nigeria became independent nine years later.
More typical, perhaps, was the experience of the cadet who first met His Honor on a tour of the provinces after two years; the administering officer, upcountry to install an emir, after four; the governor himself after five, when the latter was making his inaugural tour of the country. Not that the young administrator was always desirous of seeing the governor. When the governor was on tour there would be the donning of the uncomfortable, overstarched colonial service uniform, perhaps the mounting of an unaccustomed steed to escort the governor, and the general whitewash and smartening up involved in any such tour inspection. In the capital, where senior officers were a dime a dozen, the reception at Government House was either above the young administrative officer’s social level or too awe-inspiring an affair. Perhaps the district officer in a remote northern Cameroons province got it right when he replied to the governor, who was grandly apologizing because unexpectedly heavy rains had prevented his reaching the district and was asking the officer to convey his apologies to the assuredly disappointed chiefs and their people, “Actually, Your Excellency, the people much preferred the planting rain.” 94

Relations with Nonofficials. The governor’s relations with nonofficials were more prominent, if not paramount, in areas of white settlerdom or missionary endeavor. Sir Hugh Clifford might bring his gubernatorial guns to bear on Lord Leverhulme and snub that merchant prince into withdrawal 95, but the governor was fortunate in that the noble lord was not resident in the, colony. Not so the governor of Kenya, where Lord Delamere could drum up a powerful lobby in Parliament and in the influential country-house circles of British political life of the period should the governor show himself to be pro-African rather than pro-settler. “Flannelfoot” was the irreverent title given to a governor like Sir James Sadler, who hesitated before committing himself to any policy at all 96. In Kenya the white settlers were not averse to marching on Government House (1908), to planning to kidnap the governor (1922), or to staging a noisy demonstration outside Government House and calling on the governor to resign (1952). In Tanganyika the expatriate planters gave Sir Stewart Symes a tough time during the depression, when the hateful word “retrenchment” was in the air. In Northern Rhodesia Sir Evelyn Hone was forced into a final decision to ban the nationalist United National Independence Party (UNIP) and keep its leaders from entering the western province after the outraged reaction of the copperbelt community to the brutal incineration of Mrs. Lillian Burton at Ndola in May 1960 97
Equally formidable could be the church militant. H. R. Palmer, lieutenant governor of Nigeria’s northern provinces, was determined to protect the Moslem emirates from Christian proselytization and in consequence had coals heaped on his head by the Church Missionary Society; fortunately for him, Palmer was something of a sadhu where fire was concerned. An earlier Missionary Society worker of beloved name, Walter Miller, was a friend of Lugard’s yet a fearless critic of indirect rule, which he publicly condemned as subjecting the peasantry to whips and scorpions. Sir Percy Girouard, too, incurred the displeasure of the missions by tightening the rein on their activities in Southern as well as Northern Nigeria. In tightrope Kenya—few governors would have disagreed with Sir Philip Mitchell’s confidence to his diary that Kenya epitomized all East Africa’s problems and was the most tricky of all the African colonial governorships 98—Sir Edward Grigg found himself in the eye of a Church of Scotland Mission Society storm that blew up between 1929 and 1931 over the issue of female circumcision among the Kikuyu 99. In Uganda no governor could ever afford to relax his sensitivity to the historical rift between Protestants and Catholics, which affected adherents as much as church leaders.

Relations with Africans. While this relationship often assumes a low profile in the literature outside the level of innumerable individual personal friendships, in real. unrecorded life it was an aspect of the office that offered most governors constant current concern and plenty of retrospective pleasure. Here governors who had served their apprenticeship as district officers started off with an advantage, often predicted on their fluency in the local language. Sir Edward Twining was able to reemploy in Government House his former friends and servants. Sir Philip Mitchell invited his erstwhile clerk to come with his wife and stay in Government Housefor a weekend. The blanket-covered Masai laibon whom he also invited, from a friendship of twenty years earlier, understandably preferred the easier atmosphere of the governor’s cook’s quarters. In Northern Nigeria every governor save two had spent a lifetime in the country and knew many of the chiefs and native officials (and their sons, too) as friends—and just occasionally as opponents—of long standing.
But Government House was not the boma. Personal and private relations often had to be subordinated to official and public ones where the governor was concerned. Some governors, such as Lugard, positively disliked the cosmopolitan society of a colonial capital and never were at ease with the African professional classes. There was all the difference in the world between Sir Hugh Clifford’s contemptuous remarks to the Nigerian legislative council and Sir James Robertson’s warm geniality with the Nigerian executive council thirty-five years later. Others, like Sir Edward Twining and Sir Philip Mitchell, could not adjust to the times and establish those close relations with the nationalists that spoke such volumes for the quality of men like Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, Sir Maurice Dorman, and Sir Richard Turnbull in the age of decolonization. In Sir Walter Egerton’s time (1904-1912) the African elite in Lagos thought back to the golden age of the popular Sir William MacGregor (1899-1904) and complained that nowadays they were markedly less welcome at Government House. Indeed, the record of private dinner parties given by the two governors suggests that they were not wrong. Egerton gave forty-nine such parties in 1906 against MacGregor’s thirty-six; but the latter’s guests comprised 55 Africans and 186 Europeans against the former’s 32 Africarv and 455 Europeans 100. Sometimes, of course, it was just a difference of temperament among governors.
In the latter-day empire, the governor’s role was less to govern and lead, more to act as mediator and moderator. Decolonization called for special qualities in a governor, prominent among them being one that had been in notoriously short supply throughout the history of Britain’s imperial district administrators in Indkand the Far East as well as Africa: the ability to get on well with the nationalist leadership. Seldom was this gift of greater value than in the final years of African empire. The difference in relations between Sir James Robertson and Prime minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, on the one hand, and Sir Edward Twining and Julius Nyerere or Sir Arthur Benson and Kenneth Kaunda, on the other, has been taken by some as an indictment of the stereotype colonial service officer 101. One has only to think of Kwame Nkrumah’s depiction of Sir Charles Arden-Clarke as the latter summoned him straight from prison to Government House and invited him to become leader of government business 102; or Sir Richard Turnbull’s first words to Julius Nyerere while the latter was awaiting sentencing, “Well, Mr. Nyerere, you and I working together have got to solve some very big problems in Tanganyika” 103; or again, Sir Evelyn Hone’s brave attempt to cut the Gordian knot and invite Kaunda to come and talk with him at Government House—“the first glimmer of light.”104
Such statesmanlike acts will surely emerge as celebrated entries on the credit side of the British governor’s relations with the African intelligentsia. Or against, on the debit side, the notorious record of Sir Hugh Clifford’s sarcastic apostrophizing of the national congress of British West Africa as “farcical” and “gaseous”105 or Sir Patrick Renison’s unfortunate public description of Kenyatta as “a leader into darkness and death.”106 The average administrator’s relations with the nationalist intelligentsia may turn out to have been the Achilles heel of the British empire.
Whether, as the French would have it, it was the absence in Britain’s history of anything like the tumbrils of 1789 that gave the British colonial administrator his affection for aristocracy, the British colonial governor nearly always seemed to enjoy his best relations with the chiefly class. Lagos probably never forgave Lugard that on his return to Nigeria as governor-general in 1912 he could not shake the capital’s dust off his feet quickly enough: within twenty-four hours of disembarking and being sworn in, he was on that train headed for the northern emirates, where a man—at least a man like Lugard—could breathe unpolluted air. By extension this kind of governor was at his happiest when he was out (often for him it was a case of “back”) in the bush far from the telephones, cyphers, and the generally madding crowd of vulgar Lagos and Accra or artificial Lusaka and Entebbe. Sir Philip Mitchell had a private farm as his retreat; Sir Evelyn Baring found his relaxation in an “assault course” in the Pugu hills or in gossiping with the dockers and market women as he rode round Dar es Salaam on his bicycle at dawn. Sir Edward Twining was seldom happier than when joining in some tribal dance or conducting the police band’s rendering of the regimental march of the Sixth Battalion, King’s African Rifles, “Funga Safari.” One of Sir Andrew Cohen’s final acts was a recreational journey to the remote—in time as well as place—Karamojong 107

Relations with Other Governors. There is little guidance in the problem of identifying the correct collective noun for the sumptuous sight of two or three governors gathered together. Some have tried “a Galaxy” of governors; some, with faunic leanings, “a Pride”—of peacocks rather than of lions. Others, of military background, have played with “a Stick of H.E.s,” while others again have thought of “a Provenance of Proconsuls.” Twining favored an “Excess of Excellencies.” 108 Another of their number compared an assembly of governors to a zoological garden “containing prominent and formidable animals.” 109 In practice, the need to cull the dictionary rarely arose. The East African governors conference was limited to three governors, on occasion five; and they often sent their chief secretaries instead. The West African governors met more rarely still—only during World War II, when their 1939 conference was unexpectedly transformed into the high-powered West African war council with no less a go-getter than Lord Swinton as resident minister. Its successor, the West African interterritorial secretariat, did not last long. On one occasion when the governors of Nigeria and Sierra Leone met with their host in Accra they found themselves ignominiously locked out of Government House, Dressed in their civvies they failed to persuade a stubborn Royal West African Frontier Force sentry that they were who they were. Fortunately all Oxbridge graduates, they and their colonial office companion knew all about the art of climbing in after the gates were closed 110
Three notable occasions on which there was a gathering of governors par excellence were the colonial office conferences of 1927, 1930, and 1947. The first two were thought up by Leo Amery, secretary of state, as a way of identyfying his powers over the governors and converting them to his plans for the unification of the colonial services and the colonial office. The third was seen by Arthur Creech Jones and his alter ego, Andrew Cohen, as the right moment to warn the old guard of colonial governors and encourage the young guard that the wind of change, though no larger in 1947 than a little cloud arising out of the sea like a man’s hand, was already inspiring colonial office thinking about constitutional ‘ social, and economic reforms as a prelude to decolonization prestissimo. In their turn, the governors called on the secretary of state to grant them greater devolution of authority on financial matters, a request granted by his dispatch of June 1948 111
Perhaps the most splendid if not the most significant occasion for a gubernatorial gathering was the annual Corona Club dinner. Founded in 1901 by Joseph Chamberlain when he was secretary of state, the club did little more than hold a dinner each June. By tradition the secretary of state addressed the dining members, some 300 or 400 officials of the colonial service on leave in Britain. Both Oliver Lyttelton and his successor, Alan Lennox-Boyd, made it an inviolable matter of honor to keep this engagement year after year. The secretary of state often would use the opportunity to make an important speech. In 1956 Lennox-Boyd, on the night before the news was released to the press, told the Corona Club of the change in title from the colonial service to “Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service.” 112 The head table on those dining evenings was indeed a sight to behold, a night to remember. Begartered and bemedaled, festooned with colorful decorations, here were the British colonial governors in all their dazzling splendor-even though, as at one such dinner, a junior district officer was heard to remind his neighbor, understandably sotto voce, that all that glistered [sic] was not gold.
There is one more venue for governor meeting governor that ought not to be overlooked even if it cannot be adequately evaluated. This is London’s clubland and its comparable societies. The leather armchairs in the Athenaeum and the Royal Empire Society have eavesdropped on many a gubernatorial gossip. Among the grandest gatherings of former governors in the postcolonial age was a Royal Commonwealth Society lunchtime meeting in March 1975 at which Sir Roy Welensky came to talk about the state of South Africa 113
A final dimension of this intergovernor relationship is that between an outgoing and an incoming governor. Colonial service convention dictated that the two should not meet, at least within the colony 114. An administering officer always looked after the interregnum. Partly this was for financial reasons: a colony could afford to pay only one governor at a time. Hence, the new governor could not take up his appointment until his predecessor’s leave had expired. More important, the idea was that the new governor should not feel bound by his predecessor’s policies or inhibited by his last will and testament delivered in situ. This respect for feelings allowed Sir Donald Cameron to respect for feelings allowed Sir Donald Cameron to turn Sir Horace Byatt’s policies upside down; Sir John Macpherson to take one look at Sir Arthur Richards’s constitution and terminate it in midstream; and Sir Edward Twining to make a clean sweep after Tanganyika’s eighteen years in the doldrums since Cameron’s departure in 1931. In the judgment of his biographer, Twining was dispatched to Tanganyika when that country wanted not so much an infusion of new spirit as an electric spark to ignite it 115
There was also the positive advantage of a fresh eye, maybe followed by the proverbial new broom. District commissioners varied in their enthusiasms: one had road building as his passion in life, a second agricultural extension, and a third had a bee in his bonnet about native treasury policy and native courts. So, too, might one governor’s policy be the opposite of another’s in the same colony. For all the lip service paid to continuity, change was the essence locally of British colonial policy. Many governors carried the colonial service convention of “ne’er the twain shall meet” to extremes. Sir James Robertson wished that Sir John Macpherson would have let him pick his brains on the complexities of the Nigerian federation 116. On his appointment to Gambia, Sir Percy Wyn-Harris decided he would consult his predecessor, Sir Andrew Wright, by then in Cyprus 117. In his turn, he left his views on constitutional development recorded in a long minute in the files—in startling contrast to what Sir Kenneth Blackburne discovered in the Government House safe when he took over from Lord Baldwin 118. The colonial office was careful to keep from Bourdillon and Lugard the proposals by the former’s successor, Sir Arthur Richards, for constitutional reforms in the mid-1940s until they were a fait accompli. Most governors when quizzed on this point have replied that they had absolutely no direct contact with their successors—and could have wished for it. On the other hand, the colonial office was by and large remarkably adept at briefing governors on their first appointment. Few of them have complained of inadequacy there.

The Governor’s Office Reviewed

To cap the network of relationships that involved the governor of a colony, it will be appropriate to have a look at the kind of work he did. Lugard’s vision of the colonial governor is too shot through with his own mistrust of the colonial office to be of more than passing value. “The apparent autocracy of the Governor,” his special pleading ran, “is limited by the control of the Secretary of State, who exercises a real autocracy.” 119 Hailey’s disquisition, too, is dry and legalistic 120. Far more entertaining and at least as informative are excerpts from the diaries and letters of two colonial governors who, big men in all senses of the word, lived their exhausting office to the full. A typical day in the life of “Twinks” Twining, at Government House in Dar es Salaam, went like this:

Ali brings me tea at 5 A.M. I get up at 5.15 and write letters or work on the files. 7.15 shave, bath, dress and have breakfast. 8 A.M. to office and dictate minutes, letters, despatches and memoranda which have formed in my mind. 9 A.M. The Chief Secretary comes in for his daily hour. 10-12.15 interviews. 12.30 lunch and forty winks. 2-4.14 meetings. 4.15 tea. 5-6 walk or deck tennis. 6-8 files. 8 dinner. 9.30 bed. One gets [he concluded] into a pretty castiron routine which is the secret of good health 121

Nor are there many more revealing descriptions of the nonstop program of the governor away from Government House and up-country on tour than that given by Sir James Robertson as he described his first visit round the huge federation of Nigeria:

Once I had settled in I made it my first aim to go around the country to obtain a rapid view of it as a whole and to meet as many people as I could. …
[During the next fifteen days] I paid a preliminary visit to Ibadan shortly after my arrival. Early in July I set off on a twoweek tour of the other Regions. I went by train from Lagos to Kaduna, the capital of the North, where I stayed with the Governor, and met the Northern ministers and leading officers of the Northern Government. … While in the North I also visited Zaria and Kano before flying to Sokoto to meet the Sultan. I next went to Maiduguri to meet the Shehu of Bornu, one of the most important emirs in the North. After Maiduguri we flew to Jos on the Northern plateau, the centre of the tinmining area, and then on by train to Makurdi on the Benue. …
I went directly from the North to the Eastern region, beginning my tour at Enugu, the capital. Next morning I went by train, and after calling at Umuahia and Aba, where I met officials and notables on the station platforms, we reached Port Harcourt in the afternoon in a storm of rain. I had to inspect a guard of honour at the station and went on through damp crowds in pouring rain to the Roxy Hall where I was greeted by parades of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and by the time I had inspected them I was just as soaked as they were. Then, in the Hall, there were speeches, singing and introductions to the leading citizens of Port Harcourt. We had a large dinner party that evening, and next day I was shown round the town and the port.… After a lunch for administrative officers I took the afternoon off and had a game of golf on the Port Harcourt course … But in the evening, I was on the job again with a visit to the sports club, and a dinner party at the Residency
Calabar was the next stop, a journey of about forty minutes by air.… There the usual programme: a reception at the Council Hall, a luncheon party for local notables, a visit to the Hope Waddell Institute. … a drinks party followed by a dinner party, and after that a visit to the club where there was a dance. Next morning I was taken into the country to see rubber estates and visited a palm oil plantation and factory, returning in time to call at the Calabar Africa Club, where there were speeches and dances, and then back to the Residency to give lunch to the Nigerian and expatriate administrative officers 122

Diversity and versatility were inherent in the recruitment of the colonial administrative service, right from the range of reasons given by former administrators on why they joined the colonial service 123 to the spectrum of grounds on which they were selected. There was likewise great variety in the retrospective views of colonial governors on their careers in Africa. Guggisberg, professional engineer, was proud of his vision in creating the new harbor at Takoradi and founding the new and famous Achimota College, though fifty years later he is remembered with equal affection for his devotion to a blueprint (it proved to be little more) for the africanization of the civil service. His own image of his kind of governor was, in his biographer’s analysis of the springs of action, a cross between paterfamilias and captain of the soccer team:

it is as head of a family that I wish to govern this country-a family of officials, merchants and natives. My ear will always be open to any member; suggestions and helpful criticism will always be weighed; but once my decision is given I ask all those in the family who do not agree with me to sink their private opinion and to give loyal support for the sake of their side 124

Mitchell, humanist and amateur anthropologist, like Lugard was proud of his role in encouraging higher education: “I saw that my duty lay in promoting to the utmost the development of university education.” 125 But he clung to multiracialism as the key to Kenya’s economic development, at the same time be-tieving no less sincerely that Britain’s mission in Africa was to plant the seeds of Europe’s unparalleled civilization:

He argued in 1954 that conditions in Africa were not yet suitable for the establishment of democracy. Such an attempt could lead only to tyranny. To allow this to happen would be an abrogation of trusteeship, would negate what had been achieved by the European presence in Africa. He considered the emotionalism and fanaticism prevalent in mass movements as a reversion from civilization towards something sub-human 126

Robertson one of the last governors-general in Africa, was naturally unwilling to separate his own goals from the whole imperial story. Conscious—like Hesketh Bell before him—of the prime need for economic development, he found that in both the Sudan and Nigeria the problem far from being that of excess exploitive capital was simply that of trying to find sufficient financial resources 127. Sixty years earlier MacGregor had obtained minimal satisfaction from his governorship of Lagos, apart from the pleasure of his personal relations with the Yoruba chiefs and Lagosian elite, and looked back on his governorship with bitterness. “West Africa is the arena for ribbons and crosses and medals,” he wrote privately on his disappointed departure in 1904. “A man of peace is not wanted nor liked there.” 128
It is Archer’s limited level of satisfaction that classically mirrors that of many governors:

As I look back now in the mellowed years of my retirement to the days of which I write, I can confidently claim that those early years were the happiest years for the British administrator in Africa. Personally I had a meteoric career. … But a “career” is not the only thing. What gives me far greater pleasure is to know that I gained in an exceptional degree the goodwill, the esteem and trust, even the affection, of large sections of the native communities over whom I was called upon to rule 129

As for Twining, in his recipe to the secretary of state in case there should be talk of a successor in 1957 there were-as his biographer wryly notes—certain familiar figures of a self-portrait style:

The next few years are likely to be very crucial for the territory and it is therefore of great importance that its affairs should be guided by somebody with the right qualities. …
On the political side it is likely to prove desirable to have a slowing down of the progress rather than advancing it. This will have to be handled with great tact, diplomacy and strength. … But the greatest emphasis of all will be on economic development.
Therefore what is needed is a man, not with a brilliant record, but with steady common sense, willing to take a strong line when necessary, but having at the same time a real sympathy for African aspirations. He must be a good administrator and should have a bent for economic development. I have found during the last eight and a half years that the position of the Governor has changed markedly and he is expected to be less authoritarian than he was, particularly now that the ministerial system has been introduced and a great deal of the responsibility has been off-loaded on to the shoulders of the Ministers. Nevertheless his role is one of great importance and in fact the burden is much greater now than it was. It is essential that he should know the country thoroughly and should be well-acquainted with the problems of every area or even district. He must be good at management. While I do not regard it as essential for him to have had African experience, this is certainly a valuable asset as is a knowledge of Swahili 130

For Lugard, perhaps the greatest of all the African proconsuls, the retrospective wish was the simplest. To quote the epitaph on his tomb, “All that I did was to try and lay my bricks straight.”

The Person of the British Colonial Governor

From the foregoing account of the office of the British colonial governor in Africa. his functions, and the frequent splendors of the way of life, it is possible to sympathize with King George V who, at the end of the audience he had granted to a particularly distinguished imperial governor, turned to his equerry and whispered, “Now I know what it feels like to meet Royalty.” 131
But if we understand the role—defined in the early editions of Colonial Regulations as a position of “considerable rank, trust and endowment”—do we yet recognize the actor? Who were the colonial governors of the British territories in Africa during the past 100 years? What were their social profiles and career patterns? To study the familial background and upbringing, the education, career. and related affiliations of this brotherhood of imperial proconsuls is ineluctably to study a slice of British social history. By one of those unaccountable vicissitudes o’ imperial history, it was not until after the end of the British empire and the twilight of its imperial services that a sociological interest was taken in who the governors of yesteryear were. Robert Collins’s compelling rationalization of an American’s profound interest in the Sudan political service is no less relevant in the context of the colonial service:

Although the imperialists have departed, many independent countries in Africa are the creations of the half century, or more, of British administration, and the Africans will continue to make use of the institutions and instruments of government and administration which the British left behind. These institutions and instruments, indeed the whole tone of many of the African nations, clearly reflect the imperial heritage and will continue to do so for many decades. Without some understanding of the imperialists themselves, it is impossible to examine imperialism, to assess its impact, or to comprehend the social and political relationships, attitudes, and states of mind it creates 132

To the summary biographical statistics of H. L. Hall (1937), K. E. Robinson (1965), J. M. Lee (1967), Colin Cross (1968), R. V. Kubicek (1969), andj. W. Cell (1970), we can today add a full-scale familial survey of over 200 governors carried out by 1. F. Nicolson and C. A. Hughes (1975) 133. Here we shall first consider the personal background of the generality of British colonial governors and then bring together, in tabular form, somewhat different data from that presented by other scholars on the origin and career of eighteen eminent African governors by way of specialist illustrations.
It was the Reform Act of 1832 that was to curtail, if not immediately to halt, the grosser abuses of governors’ appointments that had distinguished the eighteenth century—a system whose notoriety was summed up by one historian’s interpretation of the nomination of Sir Henry Morgan to be governor of Jamaica as being “presumably on the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief.” 134 From the middle of the nineteenth century the professionalization of the governors’ cadre began noticeably to increase, with a corresponding decrease in the number of appointments that were political, haphazard, curious, or downright dubious, so that the London Times was at last able to editorialize on its belief that “the more distinguished among our fellow subjects in the colonies may feel that the path of imperial ambition is henceforth open to them.” 135 Apart from the Australian states, the lie could gradually be given as the century neared its close to the myth that Disraeli had once laid down that governors must be peers of the realm, or the sons of peers, or at least married to daughters of the nobility. Excluding the “fortress” colonies of Gibraltar, Malta, and Bermuda, the steady professionalization of governors in the second half of the nineteenth century is clearly demonstrated in Table 5.

Table 5. Career Origins of Colonial Governors, 1851-1901
Year Total in survey Military (a) Political Professional (b)
1861 33 12 (c) 11 (d)
1871 30 10
1881 30 13
1891 31 5 (e) 14
1901 29 2 (e) 15

Source: Data from Henry L. Hall, The Colonial Office: A history (London, 1937), pp. 88-89.

  1. One needs to enter the caveat that many army men decided to remain in the colonial service so that if they had entered when they were relatively young the length of career before them might well justify their final classification as professionals.
  2. The earliest use of the term « the professional class » that I have found to describe career service governors is Sir Charles Bruce, The Broad Stone of Empire, 2 vols. (London, 1910), 1:205 ff.
  3. Including two naval officers.
  4. In addition, three lawyers who bad been in the colonial service and one each from the foreign and colonial offices might be said to earn classification as professionals.
  5. All holding a governorship of an Australian state.

Cell’s data on some 260 British governors and lieutenant governors of African colonies and Indian presidencies between 1830 and 1880 show that 139 were English, 34 Scottish, and 33 Irish. They were largely from what are generally recognized as families of the gentry or the upper middle class, twenty-one of them being nobility. Fiftyfour had attended a university (up to the 1920s this was by no means coterminous with taking a degree), and about the same number—but not necessarily the same persons—had been through the British public school system 136. Half of these governors had had a career in the army or navy before their appointment 137. Another quarter had enjoyed a career in politics, the diplomatic corps, or the home civil service, and some ten percent had been called to the bar.
Robinson’s summary relates to the 103 men who held office between 1919 and 1939 as governors of British colonies throughout the world other than the three socalled fortress posts traditionally filled by a serving general. The increased degree of professionalism is shown by the fact that just over half of these had started their careers in the colonial service: sixteen had joined as eastern cadets (selected for service in South-East Asia), twenty had begun in tropical Africa, six had started a, clerks in the West Indies, three had been personally appointed as private secretary or aide-de-camp, one had been a doctor, and another a lawyer. Of the forty-nine whose first job was not in the colonial service, as many as twenty-eight had been army officers. Seven of the remaining twenty-one came from the home civil service; four from the Indian, Sudanese, or Egyptian civil services; and two had been private secretaries to dominion governors- general. Another seven had served in South Africa, either in the British South Africa Company or as part of the reconstruction era after the Boer war. In terms of educational record, only 54 out of the 103 were graduates (Oxford 27, Cambridge 18, Edinburgh 5, London and Dublin 2 each), the proportion being twice as high, however, among those appointed to the public service or the armed forces after 1900. No fewer than twelve of the British colonial governors appointed during the interwar years came from outside the colonial service: eight of them were professional soldiers.
Colin Cross considers only the thirty-four persons holding governorships in 1922. Their ages ranged from fortytwo to sixty-five, and nineteen of them were career colonial administrators. Lee advances the Robinson data chronologically by analyzing the 110 governors appointed throughout the British colonial empire between 1940 and 1960, which he looks on as the period of decolonization. Of these, seventy-eight had had a full career in the colonial service; seventeen came from elsewheree, including the army (four), home civil (three) or other imperial services (one) and five from the legal profession. The proportion of outside appointments to a colonial governorship increased in 1940-1960, totaling 15 out of 110, compared to 12 out of 103 for the period 1919-1939. Educationally, the figures reflect a big advance. Eighty-two of the governors were university graduates (Oxford, forty; Cambridge, twenty-seven). Exactly the same number had been to public schools, but only twenty-four of them to one of the nine leading (Clarendon) schools of Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Rugby, Westminster, St. Paul’s, Charterhouse, Merchant Taylors, or Shrewsbury.
In view of this wealth of social data now available to the researcher, the gubernatorial data presented in this chapter will focus on career statistics. Table 6 brings together the Robinson and Lee figures, and Table 7 offers a comparative summary of the career profiles of eighteen distinguished British colonial governors between 1891 and 1961. Grouped by service generations, these names represent probably the most outstanding governors of tropical Africa in the four distinct phases of its imperial interlude: the period up to World War I, the interwar years, the age of nationalism, and the era of decolonization with its last (or penultimate) colonial service governor. Between them these men held forty-four governorships, :ncluding every one of the senior African posts.

Table 6. Career Profiles of Colonial Governors, 1919 — 1960
Three « generations » holding governorships between 1940 and 1960 (a)
Date of birth
Total appointed 1919 – 1939 1883 – 1891 1892 – 1899 war generation After 1900 Total appointed 1940 – 1960
1. Full- time career in colonial service (or associated work) excluding war service
As eastern cadet, MCS, or Ceylon 16 20
In tropical Africa 20 33 49
In other colonies 15
As aide-de-camp or private secretary
Total 54 21 17 40 78
2. Began in other careers. Appointed to colonial service below the rank of governor
Formerly army 22
Formerly home civil (CO) service
Formerly home civil service, other departments
Formerly Egypt, Sudan, or ICS
Legal profession
All other
(37) (3) (10) (4) (17)
Appointed directly to governor ship
From politics
From army
From home civil service
From diplomatic service
All other
(12) (3) (7) (5) (15)
Total of 1 and 2 103 27 34 49 110
Education of 1 and 2
Clarendon N.G. 12 24
Other public N. G. 10 21 27 58
Other N. G. 11 10 28
None 48 18 28
Oxford 27 23 40
Cambridge 18 19 27
Other 10 15

Sources: J. M. Lee, Colonial Development and Good Government (Oxford, 1967), p. 138; Kenneth E. Robinson, The Dilemmas of Trusteeship (London, 1965), pp. 46-47.
(a). All figures exclude the governorships of Gibraltar, Malta, and Bermuda. The 1919-1939 figures relate to thirty colonies; the 1940-1960 to thirty-two colonies but exclude Ceylon and Palestine.

The biographical data on British colonial governors assembled by Nicolson and Hughes is the most extensive to date and the two following paragraphs draw on their survey. Covering some sixty years under twenty-nine secretaries of state for the colonies, their study examines 214 governors of the thirty colonial territories of the British empire from Aden to Nyasaland and from Fiji to Trinidad. Some 100 further comparable appointments are excluded for reasons that the authors carefully explain. Of the final cohort, 200 were career or professional appointments and only 14 were political ones—“cuckoos in the nest,” to use Sir Edward Grigg’s self-description as one of them 138. Clearly, the colonial office wheel had come full circle between the 1850’s and the 1950’s.
No fewer than thirty-four out of the ninety-five career governors whose fathers’ occupations these researchers were able to trace were the sons of Anglican clergymen: the way from vicarage to Government House was a welltrodden route 139. Nearly ten percent of the career governors were Catholics (six) or Jews (three). Eighteen of the ninety-five had fathers in the armed forces, sixteen were sons of doctors, and thirteen sons of civil servants, mostly in overseas service. Nicolson and Hughes note that out of the 200 governors there were fewer than a dozen scions of landed gentry. The handful of Scots (seventeen), the odd Irish-man, the occasional peer, and the single governor from a working class home all tend to confirm the writers’ thesis that the career governors of the colonial service in the twentieth century were overwhelmingly drawn from the English middle and professional classes.
With regard to education, out of the 168 English governors, 8 went to Eton—a high proportion among the limited number of Etonians who joined the colonial service at all—and 3 to Harrow. Nearly fifteen percent of the total 200 were educated at one of the other seven Clarendon schools, of which Charterhouse (8), 77inchester (7), and Rugby (6) had the highest scores. Among what may for convenience be termed the lesser public schools, forty-two of which were to provide 80 out of the 200 governors, as many as 10 came from Cheltenham, 6 from Clif’on, and 5 each from Tonbridge and Marlborough. State secondary schools pro,, I ded the high figure of thirty-two governors. At the level of postsecondary education, 127 of the 200 had been to a university (103 were at Oxbridge) and 36 had, in addition or instead legal qualifications.
Any analysis of 9 the social background and career profile of the British colonial governors makes clear their heterogeneity. Soldier, sailor; medicine, church; rich man, poor man; lawyer, politician, left in the lurch—nearly all but one of the cherrystone categories are applicable to the governor’s career. Portraits of the African colonial governor in the modern English novel—like Elspeth Huxley’s by-the-book Sir Frederick Begg or Edgar Wallace’s pompous Sir Macalister Cairns, David Unwin’s Fabian Sir Christopher Mountclair or David Karp’s no less liberal Lysander Pellman, and Norman Collins’s proconsular Sir Gardner Hackforth are just as much fact as fiction, no more or less improbable characters than they are quite possible personalities. As Graham Greene once said about a personal friend of his who ended up as governor of Mauritius, “I don’t think the Colonial Office can ever have realised how strange a servant they had enlisted.” 140
If their characteristics and careers were so varied, so, too, were their individual fates. In the twentieth century alone, colonial governors have been elevated in retirement to the House of Lords (Lugard, Richards, Twining—a very select band), neglected (H. H. Johnston, Guggisberg), quietly demoted (Sadler, Bell), more or less dismissed (Renison, Armitage, Girouard), or resigned in the nick of time (Eliot, Archer). They have had attempts on their lives (Harding, Trevaskis), had Government House burned down over their head (Storrs), been assassinated (Gurney, D. G. Stewart), or died in office (Sir Donald Stewart, Gent, Coryndon). They have had statues erected to them (Guggisberg), museums built to honor them (Coryndon), and their coffins stoned by hostile mobs (Denham). Many have retired in broken health (Guggisberg, Graeme Thomson, Bourdillon), and most to a humble way of life sadly removed from the style to which they had grown accustomed in Government House. Some have made a second name for themselves, particularly as authors (H. H. Johnston, Clifford, Luke, Burns, Grimble). At least one went on to take holy orders (Champion).
In their colonial careers, or course, their hobbies and their interests were legion: ornithology (Bourdillon, Jackson, Archer), big-game hunting (Coryndon), mountaineering (Wyn-Harris), Maliki law (Buxton), languages (Burdon, H. H. Johnston), historical research (Palmer, Burns), and founding learned journals and institutes (Wilkinson, MacMichael, Young). They included internationally recognized authorities on botany (Moloney, H. H. Johnston), on crown jewels (Twining), and on sea slugs (Eliot).

Table 7. Selected Career Landmarks of Eighteen Leading British Colonial Governors in Africa, 1891-1961
1891-1919 1919-1939 1939-1949 1949-1961
Johnston Lugard Bell Clifford Guggisberg Cameron Burns Richards Mitchell Macpherson Arden-Clarke Twining Benston Renison Dorman Crawford Turnbull Coutts
Age at first governorship 33 42 41 46 50 52 47 45 45 50 48 47 47 41 44 45 49 49
Length of previous service 23 29 34 29 22 23 27 26 17 22 20 21 22 27 27
Post held immediately prior to governorship Consul. Comm. of WAFF Admin. Chief Sec. Brig. Chief Sec. Dep. Chief Sec. Dep. Chief Sec. Chief Sec. Comp. Carib. Resident Comm. Admin. Chief Sec. Chief Sec. Chief Sec. Dep. Gov. Chief Sec. Chief Sec.
Colonies served in previously
Experience outside Africa No No West Indies West Indies Malaya No West Indies Mauritius West Indies Malaya No Malaya Palestine West Indies No West Indies Mauritius No West Indies Palestine No No West Indies
Experience as district officer No No No Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
African governorships held Nyasaland No. Nigeria Uganda No. Nig Gold Coast Nigeria Gold Coast Tangan. Nigeria Gold Coast Nigeria Kenya Nigeria Gold Coast Tangan. No. Rhodesia Kenya Sierra Leone Seychelles
Tangan. Uganda
Total governorships held
Total years as governor 19 (6)+19 17 10 11 17 17 17 (9)+11 (2)+12 10 16 10
Age at first civil honor 38 37 39 34 39 46 40 48 43 43 43 44 45 39 43 39 44 37
Age at knighthood 38 43 44 43 52 50 49 50 47 47 48 50 47 44 45 47 49 49
Age on retirement from governorship 43 61 60 63 61 63 60 62 62 57 59 59 52 51 60 55 58 51
Total years in colonial service 19 42 46 10 45 42 39 40 38 27 29 27 30 29 32 36 27
University London Sandhurst No Sandhurst Woolwich No No Oxford Oxford Edimburgh No Sandhurst Oxford Cambridge Cambridge Oxford London St. And.
Father’s occupation Col. sec. Rev. Military Trader Planter Col. Service Army Rev. Rev. Rev. Doctor Acct. Rev.

Sources: Data from The Colonial Office List (annual), Who’s Who, Who Was Who, biographies, and autobiographies.
In this table chief secretary and colonial secretary are not distinguished.
Service as resident commissioner of a high commission territory or as administrator in the West Indies is shown in parentheses.

The Selection of Governors

With such a range and richness of personal talent and career data available to the colonial office—although only gradually accessible over the past few years to the social historian—the reader might be excused for thinking that the selection of “the next governor” would be a simple matter of computer programming and infallible printout. The reverse was the truth. There was not exactly unerring method in the colonial office’s filling of governorships during the twentieth century, nor was there overmuch madness in the results (though not every secretariat official or passed over provincial commissioner might accept such an assumption). The analytical literature on the colonial service, already scant, is silent on this point. Nowhere is the procedure for the selection of governors described in detail. The following paragraphs owe a debt of gratitude to some thirty ex-governors and senior colonial office officials who have given much time to answering my inquiries 141. In passing I might add as a relevant fact in itself that many of the governors replied that they had no idea as to how or, with characteristic modesty, why they had been selected.
In the colonial service division of the colonial office two critical cr6me de la cr6me lists were mentioned. List A included incumbents under the age of fifty-five who could be considered eligible for promotion to a governorship when a vacancy occurred. List B performed a similar function for those thought suitable for appointment to a chief or colonial secretaryship. Persons on List A were usually already chief secretaries, though now and again a provincial commissioner of outstanding promise might be considered. It also included the names of incumbent governors who might be considered for advancement to a more important governorship: for these, an essential qualification was to have already demonstrated complete competence in an independent command. A person was unlikely to reach List B when he was still a district commissioner, though such cases are not unknown 142. Just a few names never got off either list until time and pension removed them; administrators, like athletes and roses, could reach their peak too soon and then see their early bloom fade.
Physically, the lists took the form of a card index on which were noted all the pros and cons of a potential governor’s or chief secretary’s career and character. These lists were built up from the annual confidential report on his staff submitted by every colonial governor 143. Often, of course, the governor was merely initialing the detailed report written on a district officer by the latter’s resident or provincial commissioner; but on occasion for high-flying district officers and always for provincial commissioners the governor would make his own careful, confidential comments. The keeping of annual reports was one of the tasks of the private secretary. Copies of all the reports were filed in the governor’s office—except that of the private secretary himself, as a midnight search revealed to at least one over-curious newcomer to the post.
When the confidential reports reached the colonial office, they were scrutinized by the “geographic” departments (e.g., East Africa, Hong Kong, and Pacific) and the “subject” departments (e.g., economic or social services). Individuals with particular promise would be passed to the personnel department with the suggestion that the names might be “noted” for either List A or List B. However, the ultimate decision as to whether to add a name was invariably taken by the permanent undersecretary (PUS) himself. Officers who had been “noted” were often invited to call at the colonial office when they were on leave, often quite informally and probably innocent of why or of the fact they they were being sized up at all. Nor was a spell of beachcombing—being seconded to the colonial office for a couple of years—expected to do one’s career any harm. Visits to the colonies in the 1950s by senior colonial office officials meant that men like Andrew Cohen as head of the Africa department used to come back with a mental list of who he thought would (and knew would not) make governor. In short, there was little doubt that by the 1950s colonial office officials had a pretty thorough personal knowledge about colonial service officers who were in the promotion zone. Gone were the days when, as Sir Ralph Williams did to secure Newfoundland and others did for different appointments before 1910, one might legitimately offer neself for the next colonial governorship to fall vacant.
Some six months before a vacancy was due in a governorship, the names on List A would be examined by a small ad hoc committee of senior colonial office officials and a short list would be drawn up. Comments on competing claims were made by the personnel department and, where necessary, an explanation of names omitted was added. Usually, though not necessarily, these minutes ended with a specific recommendation by the head of the colonial service department responsible for administrative appointments. Other minutes would be added as the file made its way upward. After reading these, the final recommendation was made by the permanent undersecretary. The colonial office machinery after 1945 was very different from that of 1909, when submissions for governorships “were discussed in secret between the Secretary of State and Permanent Under Secretary.” 144
Colonial office lore maintains that it was a rule that nobody could be promoted to governor from within the territory in which he was currently serving 145
However, this convention was now and again overridden or overlooked. For instance, there was Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith’s appointment to Northern Nigeria in 1954. This might be argued as a case of straight promotion since he already held the post of lieutenant governor. No such argument can be made for the choice of Sir Evelyn Hone to succeed Sir Arthur Benson as governor of Northern Rhodesia in 1959 since Hone was serving as chief secretary to Benson in Lusaka at the time. As Sir Evelyn modestly described this signal distinction, “This was something of a break with precedent which made me treasure my appointment as Governor more than ever.” 146 On the other hand, an officer who happened to have served with distinction in the colony whose governorship was now under consideration could be expected to have a certain advantage over his competitors.
In the case of less important governorships where neither the secretary of state nor the permanent undersecretary might have much personal knowledge of the candidates under consideration, they would lean heavily on the information and guidance offered by the colonial office’s colonial service division. For example, the colonial office produced a list of no fewer than eight colonial service names for the resident commissionership of Bechuanaland in 1928 when the dominions office favored an appointment from outside the service 147. In the case of the highest appointments, consideration at an informal level could be expected to have been given from time to time over a long period and well in advance of the vacancy occurring. “In such cases,” noted A. R. Thomas, CMG, doyen of latter-day colonial office procedures,

the field of possible candidates was necessarily limited and fairly obvious. A Governor serving in a less senior appointment might have become naturally earmarked as the obvious choice. Indeed, “career planning” might go as far as to have a later higher appointment in mind for him when appointing a person to a smaller or intermediate governorship. In this, the interest in and knowledge of the Colonial Service on the part of Senior members of the [Colonial Office] was a vital factor 148

This was the case with Twining when he was offered Saint Lucia in 1944. Cameron refused to let Mitchell leave Dar es Salam to take the chief secretaryship of Nyasaland. He promised him he would not be the loser. Nor was he. After promotion to chief secretary, Tanganyika, Mitchell was quickly offered the governorship of Uganda. He himself turned down the governorship of Tanganyika—“there was no post I desired more” 149—but in due course Kenya came his way.
Although the final recommendation was that of the permanent undersecretary, the appointment lay in the hands of the secretary of state. Often he had strong views of his own. Arthur Creech Jones’s touch was visible in the unusual appointment of a director of medical services to the governorship of the Seychelles. Awkwardly, it fell to Oliver Lyttleton to tell the chief secretary and acting governor of Malaya, del Tufo, while staying with him and watching him in action, that he regretted he did not feel able to recommend him to the queen for appointment as substantive governor (he did, however, secure him a deserved knighthood). Lennox-Boyd, Iain Macleod, and Duncan Sandys all had positive views on the governors appointed, inherited, or removed during their tenures of office. The prime minister had the right to be consulted on the name finally recommended 150. Oliver Lyttleton notes that this was something of a formality although there is evidence that both Harold Macmillan and Clement Attlee took a personal interest in gubernatorial nominations—sometimes with calamitous results. Finally, of course, there was the sovereign. Queen Victoria took a close inamest in who was appointed. No case in recent history is on record of Buckingham Palace’s having turned down the secretary of state’s recommendation. Sir Hilton Poynton has observed, however, that up to a few years ago the colonial office Would have been careful not to submit the name of anyone who would not have been admitted to the royal enclosure at Ascot 151
Apart from political nominations and military men in an earlier age, most of the governorships were filled from within the service. From the 1930s onward this PITactice was in accord with a positive recommendation from the powerful civil smice reform committee under Warren Fisher, permanent secretary of the treasury 152. In nine cases out of ten this meant the colonial administrative service, “the normal nursery” for such appointments 153. Professional officers were rarely considered to have the right qualities; the few exceptions included the outstanding Guggisberg and the less distinguished Selwyn-Clarke. For the most part, the incoming governor came from a chief or colonial secretaryship (see Table 7), though the post of financial secretary could also be a launching pad. Very occasionally a man went straight from administrative officer to a minor governorship, e.g., Anthony Abel to Sarawak, Geoffrey Archer and Theodore Pike to Somaliland; indeed, in East Africa officers distinguished something of a royal line of succession from Kenya’s northern frontier district to the governorship of Somaliland—Archer, Kittermaster, Glenday, Reece, and Pike. Colonial office staff were not allowed to feature in either List A or List B, but governorships were now and again filled from within the office-for instance, Sir Gerald Creasy to Gold Coast in 1947 and Sir Andrew Cohen to Uganda in 1952. These would seem to have been more in the nature of positive decisions by the secretary of state than the outcome of the normal colonial office practice for the selection of governors.
The choice of the last governor for the final stages of a colony’s dependent status or of governor-general for the first year of its prerepublican status was also often that of a noncolonial service man. This might be a politician like Lord Listowel to the Gold Coast in 1957 and the remarkable Malcolm Macdonald to Kenva in 1963, or he might be drawn from the former Sudan political service such to quote two outstandingly successful cases, Sir James Robertson to Nigeria in 1955 and Sir Gawain Bell to Northern Nigeria in 1957 154. At this sensitive period, too. the views of the local prime or chief minister also were consulted. The chief minister of Guiana made an a priori decision not to accept Sir Richard Luyt as governor because of his South African origins, but a very warm testimonial from Kenneth Kaunda, whose chief secretary Luyt had been in Northern Rhodesia, persuaded Jagan to change his mind.
Quot sententiae, tot proconsulares. Is it, then, possible to identify the qualifications for a colonial governor from so many men of so many parts? Certainly not in the way a computer programmer would require. If any qualities can be isolated, they might be said to include proven ability, wide experience, a “good name” in the service—more easily recognized in its negative than in its positive respect—and a certain but by no means a statutory seniority. Furthermore, there were very few exceptions to give the lie to the belief, as widely held in the service as in the colonial office, that a sine qua non in a potential governor was secretariat experience. Classically, this took the form of a colonial secretaryship of a West Indian colony perhaps followed by the chief secretaryship of a major African colony (see Table 7). Finally, as in so many cases of getting to the top, there was that element of luck in having the right qualifications at the right time for the right place. If the methods were open to question by those brought up in trade unionist suspicions or committed to the ideals of democratic socialism, at any rate the results of colonial office pragmatism were on the whole remarkably successful. Even if the colonial office had not by the 1950’s fully subscribed to Charles Buller’s view, expressed a century earlier that its “sole business should be to breed up a supply good colonial governors and then leave them to manage their own affairs,” 155 it had nevertheless moved a long way beyond Lord Steyne’s not so altruistic patronage in Vanity Fair and Gladstone’s gloomy reflection that nobody in England who was well known would even dream of accepting a colonial governorship 156
Perhaps the last word on the selection of British colonial governors should go to one of the most successful of their number (though not a career colonial service man himself), Cabling the secretary of state for a governor to replace D, G. Stewart, assassinated in 1949 as he was inspecting a guard of honor in Sarawak, Malcolm Macdonald, commissioner general for Southeast Asia, asked in effect for names of three outstanding district officers on its books. “We don’t want a Governor as such,” he said. “We want the best District Officer in the Colonial Empire.” 157

Honors. Honors were for governors what automobiles supposedly are to Californians: it would be virtually unheard of not to have one; many had two and some three. Nearly every governor was knighted during his term of office. “The Colonial Service?” remarked an Oxbridge tutor when one of his pupils told him of his career plans after taking his final examinations. “Now that’s where you get a C.M.G. after twenty years and a K.C.M.G. after thirty, isn’t it?” 158 Burns complained that it was a pity that a governor should sometimes have to take up his appointment without the inevitable honor that quickly followed, as it belittled him on his arrival in the new colony: “I have thought it would be wiser,” he argued, “if the Secretary of State were to recommend to Her Majesty that this honour l[knighthood] should be awarded to the Governor of even a small colony before he assumes office.” 159 Furthermore, surprise would be expressed in the colony when the sovereign’s birthday or the New Year honors lists were published and still no knighthood for the governor: “This gives rise to speculation and affords the opportunity to agitators to ascribe the withholding of the honour to Colonial Office dissatisfaction with the Governor’s activities.”
Two orders were particularly associated with the colonial service: the Order of St. Michael and St. George and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. The chancery of the former order, which goes back to 1818, was located in the colonial office. Designed for service to the crown overseas, in precedence it ranked between the two Indian orders—the Star of India and the Order of the Indian Empire. Promotion within an order was a frequent feature of a distinguished career. In the former the ranks were, in ascending order, companion (CMG), knight commander (KCMG), and knight grand cross (GCMG). The most common award to British colonial governors was the KCMG, whose holders are allotted a stall in the order’s chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a mark of special distinction to be advanced to GCMG. Many a longtime official who got no further than colonial secretary or senior provincial commissioner ended up with a CMG. Among members of the service, inured to occasional exhibitions of pompous pride, these decorations were known—in an inflating order of folie de grandeur—as Call Me God, Kindly Call Me God, and God Calls Me God. The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, founded in 1917, consists of member (MBE), officer (OBE), commander (CBE), knight commander (KBE), and knight grand cross (GBE). Though finite, the order was much larger than that of St. Michael and St. George. In 1924 the latter was limited to 100 GCMGs—of which 30 were assignable for services rendered abroad—300 KCMGs, and 725 CMGs. Whereas it was very unusual—but not unknown—for a colonial service officer under the rank of colonial secretary or its comparable grade in the provincial administration to be awarded the CMG, outstanding senior district commissioners were sometimes the recipient of the OBE and high-flying district officers might be awarded an MBE.
There were two other styles of knighthood bestowed on governors. Among them, the knight bachelor (Kt) was generally looked on as the least prestigious of the four knighthoods that could be awarded. Whereas all these orders were awarded by the sovereign on the recommendation of the governor (other, of course, than his own honors) made through the secretary of state for the colonies, the Royal Victorial Order is in the sovereign’s personal gift. Awards like GCVO, KCVO, CVO, and MVO are therefore indicative of recognition for a personal service rendered to the royal family. In the colonial context, the KCVO was often bestowed on the governor for having been the queen’s host at Government House during the course of a royal visit to the colony. It was possible for a governor to be awarded more than one knighthood, especially when one of them was a KCVO.

The Govemor’s Wife For all her exalted position as the first lady, not even the governor’s wife might forget in public who her husband was. Sir Gordon Gug,isberg hissed furiously at his wife, the actress Decima Moore, whenwith the stage in her blood and the spotlight in her heart-she stepped forward before him to curtsy to the Princess Marie Louise. He had physically to pull her back before bowing himself. Other governors’ wives have been known to fly the pennant on the Government House car when out shopping without His Excellency being in the car. Protocol could go to the head of some first ladies. Margery Perham found Lady Rodwell extremely frightening and rather odd, “a bundle of nerves” and “intimidating,” and could compare Lady Maxwell only with “a large splendid cabbage rose just tumbling over its prime.”160 Another such lady-but the wife of the officer administering the government-insisted that the aide-de-camp draw up a table plan even when there were just six people for dinner at Government House. When K. G. Bradley was administering officer of another colony, his wife confessed she felt like a Victorian wax posy under a glass dome 161. The quip that governors’ wives were either actresses, aristocrats, or Americans would have added truth to it if one were to extend the classification to Caledonian, couthie, or slightly crazy. On occasion one met with a confusing, tutti frutti combination of all these ingredients.
But ideally—and frequently—the governor and his lady were a real, hardworking team. Lady Clifford directed a magnificent tableau vivant on the Gold Coast in 1918; Lady Dundas and Lady Coryndon typified many other governors’ wives by their tireless charitable activities; Lady Twining was a qualified doctor. Lady Guggisberg was one of the “actress” governors’ wives; Lady Grantham and Lady Bede Clifford were among the “American” governors’ wives; whereas Lady Robertson was one of the warmhearted, motherly types who never forgot her supreme role as the ideal wife of the beau ideal district commissioner. Aides-de-camp and private secretaries were more often than not looked on with genuine affection by the governor and his wife as part of the family. just now and then, as Leo Amery once observed from his long and intimate experience of colonial governors, he would have liked the secretary of state to be granted special papal powers so as to divorce Governor A from his lady and marry her to Governor B, thereby forming the best colonial team for the best colonial occasions 162


Such being the facts of the man and his office, the case studies in the following chapters can be no more than samples of the British colonial governor in action. They must be taken as illustrative rather than exhaustive. Two of the governors selected by the editors, Lugard and Clifford, rank among the half dozen most distinguished and experienced governors of sixty years of the British administrative presence in Africa. The third, Coryndon, was resident commissioner of two of the three high commission territories in turn and then went on to become governor of two out of the three East African territories, all within the space of twenty years. The fourth, Sir Andrew Cohen, for ten years a key figure in the colonial office before moving to a governorship, is better known for his role in decolonization than in actual governance.
The five essays on British proconsuls do more than constitute a contribution toward filling in the real lacunae in our knowledge of the British colonial governor. They may well, in their turn, arouse more interest from imperial historians and so generate further study of the whole story of the British colonial service. Set alongside the few—all too few—biographical studies that we now have of British Colonial governors in Africa like those of Guggisberg, Johnston, and Twining and monographs such as those on Cameron and Mitchell, as well as the somewhat better served genre of autobiographical memoirs (all of which have been happily drawn on in the writing of this chapter), the total literature on the British colonial governors still does no more than reflect the mixed feelings of the organizers of many a charitable institution: grateful for the little they have, they would still welcome much, much more.
As the high noon of imperialism recedes, a younger generation of scholars and informed readers has begun to realize that in talking of British colonial governors they are dealing with a breed that is rapidly approaching extinction. In place of living cheek by jowl with a colonial service—a situation that, to judge from the paucity of critical literature on the men who served abroad, confirms the proverbial conclusion of familiarity breeding contempt or at least indifference—today the rarity of the colonial service career and the dwindling numbers of those whom Robert Heussler has neatly labeled “yesterday’s rulers” are giving rise to a renewed interest in who they were, what they did, and why they did it; the balancing proverb, perhaps, of absence making the mind if not the heart grow fonder.
The Indian civil service has been fortunate in its memorialist, and Philip Woodruff s work has a niche all of its own in the annals of those who by profession Mped to make imperial history. The Indian political service has recently had its story told by Terence Craig Coen, and the history of the Malayan civil service is presently in hand. On the French colonial service, a fine start has been made by William Cohen. But for all the sterling attempts by Heussler and Jeffries, Bertram and Furse, the history of the British colonial service remains not so much in arrears as in default.
Meanwhile, if a start is to be made, there is no better place to start than at the top. For if the British colonial governor has today virtually left the stage, his audiences have not yet forgotten his performance. There can be few better ways to take leave of the governor than by recalling the once familiar scene of pomp and circumstance that used ritually to mark a colon’s farewell to the governor as he set sail for home and retirement.
I opened this chapter with Sir Donald Cameron’s final departure from Dar es Salaam in 1935. I close it with Sir James Robertson leaving Lagos in 1960. The sunlit marina was crowded with thousands of spectators, waving and cheering excitedly as the governor-general, magnificent in his full-dress uniform, drove down to the lagoon and boarded the launch to transport him across the harbor. On the quayside the band was playing and an immaculate guard of honor was mounted. Final inspection; salutes and handshakes; the last goodbyes, thank yous, good wishes for the future; slowly up the gangplank. The ship pulls away almost impercetptibly from the quay, Standing to attention along the mole, the buglers play the nostalgic “Hausa Farewell.” As the great liner moves gracefully into the open sea the strains of the massed bands on the quayside can just be heard, rendering the traditional tune with which for sixty years the colony had bid farewell to the departing governor, “Will ye no’come back again?” 163
Whereupon Sir James turned to his wife and, with that characteristic twinkle in his eyes that had calmed so many moments of political passion, whispered to
her, “They’d be upset if we did!”

1. Sir Donald Cameron My Tanganyika Service and Some Nigeria (London 1939) pp. 289-290.
2. London Times, 12 May 1950.
3. Henry L. Hall, The Colonial Office: A History, Royal Empire Society Imperial Studies Series, no. 13 (London, 1937), p. 87.
4. Margery Perham African Apprenticeship (London 1937) p. 232.
5. For a detailed examination of the biographical data on some 200 governors see Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene A Biographical Dictionary of the British Colonial Governor in Africa. Hoover Institution Press. Stanford University Press. 1980.
6. Idem, “Reflections on a Putative History of the Colonial Administrative Service,” Journal of Administration Overseas 14 January 1975):39-44.
7. The Sudan had a monopoly on this rank in the African context; but officials who elsewhere might have been recognized as provincial commissioners or residents were in the Sudan dignified with the title of governors of provinces.
8. Mauritius Legislative Council Sessional Paner No. 9 of 1952- secretarv of state’s disnatch 21106 CR, no. 59, dated 1 March 1952.
9. Sir Alexander Grantham, governor of Hong Kong 1947-1957, enjoyed three extensions. But among African governors the lore ran that the Chinese were so courteous that a governor whose appointment they did not ask to be extended must have been a disaster indeed.
10. Quoted in Sir Michael Blundell, So Rough a Wind (London, 1964), p. 97.
11. Quoted in Darrell Bates, A Gust of Plumes (London, 1972), p. 130.
12. Sir Alexander Grantham, Via Ports (Hong Kong, 1965), p. 67.
13. Sir Charles Jeffries, Whitehall and the Colonial Service (London, 1972), p. 41; see also Sir Bede Clifford, Proconsul (London, 1964), p. 183.
14. However, it must not be overlooked that in accepting this transfer Clifford was returning to Malaya, his first colony and the one he had loved and written about. It was a privilege denied to another great “Malayan,” Sir Arthur Richards. Interview, 22 February 1969, Oxford Colonial Records Project (hereinafter cited O.C.R.P.), Rhodes House Library, Oxford University.
15. The legislation is contained in the periodic issuance of orders made under the Pensions (Governors of Dominions, etc.) Act of 1911. I am grateful to the archivist of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for assistance in tracing the different regulations.
16. In brief, the difference in title of the senior executive officer may be said to be that in a colony he was known as colonial secretary and in a protectorate as chief secretary.
17. Not that a private income necessarily insured a peaceful administration. In the Bahamas, His Excellency the Honourable Bede Clifford followed up his legislators’ agreement to turn the island into a tax-free haven and tourist attraction by himself purchasing a hotel, a beach, and a golf course, which he then proceeded to sell to his own Bahaman government. Clifford, Proconsul,
18. Dispatch dated 15 February 1907, quoted in Sir Charles Bruce, The Broad Stone of Empire, 2 vols. (London, 1910), 1:213. In addition to the Pensions (Governors of Dominions, etc.) Act of 1911 and its subsequent amending legislation (e.g., in 1929, 1935, 1936, 1948, 1949, 1959, and 1964), the debate in the House of Commons on June 29, 1956, and in the House of Lords on July
23 in connection with further amending legislation is of prime importance. See also Colonial Governors Pensions, (Parliamentary Command Paper) Cmd. 3059 (London, 1928); Sir Kenneth Roberts-Wray, Commonwealth and Colonial Law (London, 1966), pp. 314-316.
19. R. E. Wraith, Guggisberg (London, 1967), p, 297.
20. Ibid., pp. 329, 336. When H. H. Johnston died in 1927, a quarter of a century after his retirement, his pension was a scant 9500 a year. The foreign office treated Sir Francis Wingate in almost as cavalier a manner; after seventeen years as governor-general of the Sudan, they offered him a pension of E600 annually.
21. Sir Alan Burns, Colonial Civil Servant (London, 1949), p. 10. Cf. Sir Charles Jeffries, Partners for Progress: The Men and Women of the Colonial Service (London, 1949), p. 110. Christopher Fyfe has much interesting information on a governor’s emoluments in A History of Sierra Leone (Oxford, 1962).
22. Rita Hinden, Downing Street and the Colonies (London, 1942), p. 22.
23. Quoted in Bates, A Gust of Plumes, pp. 228-229.
24. Sir G. William des Voeux, My Colonial Service, 2 vols. (London, 1903), 1: ix.
25. Laura Boyle, Diary of a Colonial Officer’s Wife (Oxford, 1968), pp. 134-135. For further advice on how a district officer’s wife should and should not entertain the governor on tour see Emily Bradley, Dearest Priscilla (London, 1950), pp. 136-138.
26. Grantham, Via Ports, p. 125.
27. Sir Geoffrey Archer, Personal and Historical Memoirs of an East African Administrator (Edinburgh, 1963).
28. Quoted in Roy Lewis and Yvonne Foy, The British in Africa (London, 1971), p. 137.
29. Constance Larymore, A Resident’s Wife in Nigeria (London, 1908), p. 65.
30. Report by Sir F. D. Lugard on the Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria and Administration, 1912-1919, Cmd. 468 (London, 1920), paras. 62-66.
31. Quoted in Ellen Thorp, Ladder of Bones (London, 1956), p. 65.
32. Perham, African Apprenticeship, p. 235. from the Summit (London, 1962), p. 362.
33. Lord Chandos (Oliver Lyttelton), An Unexpected View
from the Summit, p. 382.
34. Id. ibid.
35. Grantham, Via Ports, p. 122.
36. G H. Mungeam, British Rule in Kenya, 1895-1912 (Oxford, 1966), p. 117.
37. Sir Harry Luke, Cities and Men, 3 vols. (London, 1953), 1:192. Dr. Ivan Lloyd Phillips recounts Sir John Macpherson’s story of how, when Sir Harold Macmichael eventually returned his private secretary to district administration after many years in Government House, the secretary was referred to in the service as being released “to do some ditching and hedging.” In a well-known Nigerian case, the governor was heard to complain that his main trouble on tour was getting his private secretary to the railway station on time.
38. Wraith, Guggisberg, pp. 244, 306. Comparable problems of potential ranking were amusingly contemplated among the bursars of Oxford and Cambridge colleges during the 1960s, when senior officers from the armed form distinguished many a common room.
39. Quoted in Bates, A Gust of Plumes, p. 205.
40. Kweli, “Borrowed Plumes,” Corona 8 (September 1956):359-360.
41. Perham, African Apprenticeship, p. 235.
42. Chandos, An Unexpected View, p. 349. For Perham, the perfect aide-de-camp was “spruce, kind, soothing, and self-effacing to the end” (African Apprenticeship, p. 241). The obverse portrait is seen in one of the stories submitted for Lady Clifford’s essay competition in aid of the Red Cross at Accra in 1918; it was meaningfully entitled “A Happy Day at Government House, by the ADC.”
43. Colonial Regulations, Col. No. 270-2 (1951), part 2, no. 105.
44. Paul Reinsch, Colonial Government: An Introduction to the Study of Colonial Institutions (New York, 1916), p. 167 (italics in original).
45. Jeffries, Partners for Progress, p. 108.
46. Without entering into the juridical classification of the British colonial empire, “colonies” may be said to have been dependencies that had been annexed by the crown whereas “protectorates” were territories in which the crown had acquired control of foreign relations and defense. In the first, the inhabitants were British subjects; in the second, British protected persons. For a detailed discussion see Martin Wight, British Colonial Constitutions (Oxford, 1952), pp. 5-14; RobertsWray, Commonwealth and Colonial Law.
47. “It was shortly afterwards that, having intimated that I did not wish to be considered for the vacant post of Governor of Trinidad, I was asked whether I would cut short my leave and go to British Guiana” (Sir Kenneth Blackburne, Lasting Legacy [London, 1976], p. 153). “Grateful your opinion before I consult Palace” ran the telegram from the secretary of state to another govemor seeking his views on the promotion of a member of his staff. See also the correspondence in Archer, Personal and Historical Memoirs, p. 158.
48. John Hilary Smith, letter to the author, 2 April 1975; Sir Harry Luke, From a South Seas Diary London, 1945), entry for 26 July 1938.
49. Quoted from an address given by Sir John Shuckburgh to the Oxford University Summer School on Colonial Administration, 1937. However, a more recent royal commission appoints “the said XYZ to be Our Governor of ABC during Our pleasure, with all the powers, rights, privileges and advantages to the said Office belonging or appertaining,” Although the commission is issued to the governor personally, it has to be published in the London Gazette.
50. Quoted in Jeffries, Partners for Progress, p. 64; see also J. C. Beaglehole, “The Royal Instructions to Colonial Governors, 1783-1854” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 1929).
51. G. V. Fiddes, The Dominions and Colonial Offices (London, 1926), p. 49.
52. Bruce, The Broad Stone, p. 225.
53. Sir Philip Mitchell, African Afterthoughts (London, 1954), p. 115.
54. Cameron, My Tanganyika Service, p. 20.
55. Sir Anton Bertram, The Colonial Service (Cambridge, 1930), p. 25.
56. See Burns, Colonial Civil Servant, pp. 219 ff.
57. Sir Stewart Symes, Tour of Duty (London, 1946), pp. 153-160. On the transatlantic myth that all colonial governors had to be over six feet tall see Margaret Laurence, The Prophet’s Camel Bell (Toronto, 1963), pp. 204, 208.
58. Sir Charles Dundas, African Crossroads (London, 1955), p. 16.
59. Sir James Robertson, Transition in Africa (London, 1974), p. 236.
60. Interview with Sir Dennis Wright, Oxford, 19 November 1974; interview with Sir Charles Johnston, London, 17 November 1975.
61. Sir Hesketh H. Bell, Glimpses of a Governor’s Life (London, 1946), p. 123.
62. J. M. Lee, Colonial Development and Good Government (Oxford, 1967), pp, 1-2.
63. Lord Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (Edinburgh, 1922), p. 158 n.
64. Sir Charles Jeffries, Transfer of Power (London, 1960), p. 35.
65. I am grateful to Ronald E. Robinson, Beit Professor of Commonwealth History in the University of Oxford, for this information, taken from his forthcoming biography of Sir Andrew Cohen.
66. Colonial Office (hereinafter cited C. 0.) Misc. 416 (confidential), 1927, meeting of 10 May.
67. Harold Macmillan, Riding the Storm (London, 1971), pp. 734-736; see also Anthony Eden, Full Circle (London, 1960), p. 402.
68. Minute by A. Freeston, 23 February 1939; C.O. 847/13/47100. 1 am grateful to Dr. Curtis Nordman for this reference from “Prelude to Decolonization in Africa: The Development of British Colonial Policy, 1938-1947” (Ph.D. dissertation, Oxford University 1976).
69. Robert Heussler, letter to the author, 12 February 1975. Cf. Sir Ralph Furse, Aucuparius (London, 1962), p. 227.
70. Blundell, So Rough a Wind, p. 293.
71. This is the view of David Goldsworthy, Colonial Issues in British Politics, 1945-1961 (Oxford, 1971), p. 52. It is denied, however, by Cohen’s biographer, Ronald E. Robinson (personal information).
72. “So you thought I was going to reply to the Treasury despatch by a minute, did you?” asked H. H. Johnston. “Why, I never reply to anything in less than two volumes octavol” (quoted in Roland Oliver, Sir Harry Johnston and the Scramble for Africa [London, 1957], p. 197).
73. Bertram, Colonial Service, p, 27.
74. Lee, Colonial Development, p. 11. The Creech Jones papers are now in the Rhodes House Library, Oxford.
75. Address to Corona Club, London, June 1921.
76. Quoted in Bruce, The Broad Stone, p. 222.
77. Sir Cosmo Parkinson, The Colonial Office from Within (London, 1947), p. 136.
78. Grantham, Via Ports, p. 175.
79. Cf. Hugo Williams’s poem “Beachcombers, from Some Sweet Day (London, 1975):
The same train each night
Enters the same station a little late
And different passengers going home
Look up from different books with a start
Their eyes narrowing back into a world
Hardly more shared
As they rake the length of the platform
For something they should find there
The thread of their lives
Difficult to recognise in the gloom.
80. For a fuller discussion see Martin Wight, The Development of the Legislative Council, 1606-1945 (London, 1946); H. V. Wiseman, The Cabinet in the Commonwealth (London, 1958), part 2.
81. See Cmd. 2884, 1927, Appendix 7.
82. Sir Ronald Storrs, Orientations (New York, 1937), p. 533.
83. Sir Charles Johnston, The View from Steamer Point (London, 1964), p. 178.
84. Green pencil was restricted to the audit department. The premier of Northern Nigeria, searching WE a distinctive medium in which to match the gubernatorial red ink, effectively institutionalized the use of green ink.
85. Cameron, My Tanganyika Service, p. 142. Cf. Harry A. Gailey, Sir Donald Cameron: Colonial Governor (Stanford, 1974), pp. 25-27.
86. Sir Donald Cameron, Sir Shenton Thomas, Sir Selwyn Grier, Sir Douglas Jardine, Sir Henry Moore, and Sir Alan Burns.
87. See Mitchell, African Afterthoughts, p. 125. For a glorification of the secretariat-wallah see the poem by C. W. Welman in Lady Clifford, Our Days on the Gold Coast (London, 1919), with its paeon of:
Fill, fill my inkpot to the brim,
Put nib into my pen,
And I will vault into my chair
To bandy words with men,
The warrior’s joy is famed in song,
What of the penman’s glee,
Why through the Secretariat
Swoops phrases with H.E.!
In a similarly light vein see Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene, “Just a Minute,” Corona 9 (May 1957): 185-188.
88. Interestingly enough, Lugard, for all his admiration of the field service, never was a district officer. The general opinion in the service was expressed by a non-colonial service governor in these words: “Nobody can really know about the Colonial Service unless he has sweated all the way up the ladder; unless, in particular, he has been a District Commissioner or the equivalent, and has thus acquired that ‘D.C. outlook’ which is like the Ark of the Covenant or the corporate essence of the Service” (Johnston, The View from Steamer Point, p. 191). The debate is likely to be revived as the colonial administrative service is subjected to posthumous scrutiny.
89. See for instance, G. B. Masefield, A History of the Colonial Agricultural Service (Oxford, 1972), pp. 144 ff.
90. See Nigerian Gazette, 21 November 1920.
91. See Cmd. 2883, 1927.
92. J. J. White, “The Development of Central Administration in Nigeria, 1914-1935” (Ph.D. dissertation, Ibadan University, 1970).
93. John Smith, Colonial Cadet in Nigeria (Durham, 1968), pp. 6-7.
94. This paragraph is based on personal experiences. A rich example of how the young administrator looked—both askance and in admiration—at a succession of governors is to be found in Robin Short, African Sunset (London, 1973). Compare another district officer’s description of a governor of Nigeria under whom he served as “not a Governor who gave you the impression he as pleased to see you. Men trod warily when Old Sinister was around” (Ian Brook, The One-eyed Man Is King [London, 1966), p. 150).
95. See Sir Frederick Pedler, The Lion and the Unicorn (London, 1974), pp. 187-189.
96. Cf. John Lonsdale’s cryptic portrait of one of his successors—“In Grigg, the settlers had not so much a governor as a trumpeter”—in a paper presented to the conference on “The Political Economy of Kenya,” Trinity College, Cambridge, June 1975, quoted here with the author’s permission.
97. David C. Mulford, Zambia: The Politics of Independence, 1957-1964 (London, 1967), p. 153.
98. Mitchell, African Afterthoughts, p. 213.
99. Carl G. Rosberg and John Nottingham, The Myth of Mau Mau (Stanford, 1966), chap. 4.
100. For these statistics, taken from “The Dinner Book, Government House, Lagos” (NNA, Ibadan, CSO 2/17, 1899-1907), 1 wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Kristin Mann, who drew my attention to this source. For an illuminating account of dinner parties at Government House in Lagos a generation earlier see John Whitford, Trading Life in Western and Central Africa, 2d ed. (London, 1967), pp. 95-96.
101. Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia Shall Be Free (London, 1962), Awolowo, Awo (Cambridge, 1960), Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana (Edinburgh, 1957), and Sir Ahmado Bello, My Life (Cambridge, 1962), are specimens of that important but so far rare genre, the African politician’s autobiography, which we need to complete the portrait of any latter-day colonial governor.
102. Nkrumah, Ghana, p. 136.
103. Judith Listowel, The Making of Tanganyika (London, 1965), p. 334; this wording should be compared with Nyerere’s version, cited in ibid., p. 424.
104. Richard Hall, Kaunda: Founder of Zambia (London, 1964), p. 36.
105. Proceedings of the Nigerian Council, 29 December 1920.
106. Rosberg and Nottingham, Myth of Mau Mau, p. 318.
107. R. N. Posnett, “Debasien Gubernatoris,” Corona 9 (October 1957): 390-392.
108. See, e.g., Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene, “A Galaxy of Governors,” in West Africa (24 November 1975), pp. 14051407; and West Africa (1 December 1975), p. 1443; Bates, A Gust of Plumes, pp. 198-199; and 1. F. Nicolson and Colin A. Hughes, “A Provenance of Proconsuls: British Colonial Governors,” in journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 55, no. 1, October 1975, pp. 77-106.
109. Cmd. 3628, 1930, p. 13. This remark of Sir Edward Stubbs Uamaica) was capped by Sir William Cowers’ (Uganda) observing: “It also contains shy, retiring and insignificant animals.”
110. Sir Charles Jeffries, “Excellencies excluded,” Corona 9 (July 1957):277-278.
111. Lee, Colonial Development, p. 55. It has been suggested that Macmillan called a special meeting of African governors and senior colonial office officials to secure their backing before embarking on his famous “wind of change” tour of Africa in 1960, but this has been denied by Sir Richard Turnbull (interview, Henley-on-Thames, 29 August 1975). A conference of East African governors did, however, take place at Chequers in 1959. With pardonable exaggeration, Colin Cross has defined the niggling supervision over finance: “A Governor with powers of life and death might have to get permission from London to buy a bicycle for a court messenger” (The Fall of the British Empire [London, 1968], p. 143).
112. See Cmd. 9768, 1956 on Her Majesty’s Oversea Civil Service. See also Jeffries, The Colonial Service, 1969.
113. See London Times, 7 March 1975, p. 14.
114. Cf. Dundas, African Crossroads, p. 197.
115. Bates, A Gust of Plumes, p. 222.
116. Interview with Sir James Robertson, Cholsey, 17 November 1967.
117. Letter to the author, 10 March 1975.
118. Blackburne, Lasting Legacy, pp. 130-131. Later he was to comment: “Despite popular belief in the colonies that Governors were just’lackeys of the Colonial Office,’ I had been given no instructions and very little advice” (ibid., p. 140).
119. Lugard, Dual Mandate, p. 124.
120. Lord Hailey, An African Survey (London, 1938), p. 160.
121. Bates, A Gust of Plumes, p. 230; see also Jeffries, Partnersfor Progress, pp. 110- 111.
122. Robertson, Transition in Africa, pp. 183-186; for the reverse side of gubernatorial tours see the splendid anecdotes in such district commissioner memoirs as Charles Chenevix Trench, The Desert’s Dusty Face (Edinburgh, 1964), and Harry Franklin, Flagwagger (London, 1974).
123. This conclusion is based on interviews conducted with former colonial service officers when I was research officer of the Oxford Colonial Records Project (1962-1972), directed by J. J. Tawnev. See J. J. Tawney, “The Oxford Colonial Records Project,” African Affairs 67 (October 1968):,345-350. O.C.R.P. transcripts are in the Rhodes House Library, Oxford, but not all the interviews are yet open to readers. For a checklist see Louis B. Frewer, Manuscript Collections oj Africana in Rhodes House Library, Oxford (1968), and Supplement (1971).
124. Quoted in Wraith, Guggisberg, p. 245.
125. Mitchell, African Afterthoughts, p. 180.
126. Fay Carter, in Kenneth King and Ahmed Salim, eds., Kenya Historical Biographies (Nairobi, 1971), p. 38.
127. Robertson, Transition in Africa, p. 251.
128. R. B. Joyce, Sir William MacGregor (Melbourne, 1971), p. 299.
129. Archer, Personal and Historical Memoirs, p. 257.
130. Bates, A Gust of Plumes, p. 271.
131. Quoted in W. R. Crocker, Nigeria: A Critique of British Colonial Administration (London, 1936), p. 266.
132. Robert Collins, “The Sudan Political Service,” African Affairs 71 (July 1972):293-303.
133. M Hall, Colonial Office; Kenneth E. Robinson, The Dilemmas of Trusteeship (London, 1965); Cross, Fall of the British Empire: Lee, Colonial Development; John W. Cell, British Colonial Administration in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New Haven, 1970); 1. F. Nicolson and Colin A. Hughes, “A Provenance of Proconsuls: British Colonial Governors, 1900-1914,” journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 4 vol. IV, no 1 (October 1975):77-106.
134. Hall, Colonial Office, p. 87.
135. Quoted in ibid., p. 88. A similar rise in standards can be seen in the recruitment of colonial office clerks from c. 1870; see Brian Blakeley, The Colonial Office, 1868-1892 (Durham, 1972), pp. ix, 13 n.
136. An important study on the influence of the British public schools on recruitment for the colonial service is Robert Heussler, Yesterday’s Rulers (New York, 1963).
137. One is reminded of Joseph Howe’s strictures on colonial governors appointed from the armed forces, “rulers snatched from the tented field or quarter-deck,” and his insistence that they henceforth be “men to whom the British Constitution does not appear a prurient excrescence … and possessing great command of temper” J. A. Chisholm, ed., Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe, 3 vols. [Halifax, 1909), 1:619).
138. Lord Altrincham, Kenya’s Opportunity (London, 1960), p. 56.
139. Collins, “Sudan Political Service,” p. 301, calculates that one-third of the 400 men who joined the Sudan political service were the sons of clergymen. Cf. Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene, “More Memoirs as a Source for a Service History,” Journal of Administration Overseas 15 (October 1976):235-240.
140. Graham Greene, “The Lines on the Palm,” London Daily Telegraph Magazine, no. 101 (19 November 1974), pp. 53-56.
141. Out of these, three former colonial office officials merit a special mention of thanks: Sir John Martin, Ambler Thomas, and W. A. C. Mathieson. Among the many former governors who have given generously of their time in interview and letter in collection with this essay, a particular debt of gratitude is due Sir Richard Turnbull for having read the whole chapter in draft and saved its author from several pitfalls.
142. Cf. letter to the author from Sir Miles Clifford, 24 January 1975. In being appointed to take over the administration of Somaliland in 1913, Archer, still a district commissioner himself, was promoted over the heads of six provincial commissioners and thirty-two other district commissioners on the same grade as he.
143. This was the document so castigated by Crocker; see idem, Nigeria, pp. 244 ff. There is an informed discussion of what happened to these reports in the colonial office and of the famous card index in Blackburne, Lasting Legacy, pp. 45-47.
144. Parkinson, The Colonial Office, p. 44.
145. Cf. Hailey, African Survey, p. 225: “Governors and Colonial Secretaries are not normally appointed to the territory in which they have done most of their service.”
146. Letter to the author, 17 February 1975.
147. For this information I am grateful to the late Dr. Anthony Sillery.
148. Letter to the author, 7 June 1975.
149. Mitchell, African Afterthoughts, p. 189.
150. Interview, Lord Boyd, Oxford, 12 December 1974. Cf. R. B. Pugh, “The Colonial Office 1801-1925,” in The Cambridge History of the British Empire, 8 vols. (Cambridge, 1959), 3:728, where he observes how the appointment of a colonial governor was such “an act of high policy” that the prime minister, if not the whole cabinet, had to be consulted.
151. Letter to the author, 23 January 1975; see also Queen Mary’s firm directive to Sir Edward Grigg when he was appointed governor of Kenya, in Lord Altrincham, Kenya’s Opportunity (London, 1960), p. 74.
152. Report of a committee on the system of appointment in the colonial office and the colonial service, Cmd. 3554, 1930, p. 31. This was called “the Magna Carta of the modern Colonial Service” by Sir Charles Jeffries, The Colonial Empire and Its Civil Service (Cambridge, 1938), p. 55.
153. Jeffries, Partners in Progress, p. 107.
154. The colonial service seemed less pleased with an earlier appointment from the Sudan, that of Sir Harold MacMichael, one of the greatest Sudanese officials, to the governorship of Tanganyika in 1934. However, some have seen this as an evening of the score after the way the Sudanese service forced the resignation of one of the most rapidly promoted colonial service governors, Sir Geoffre,, Archer. For a perspective on the qualified success of transferring Indian civil service officials to colonial governorships see L, S. S. O’Malley, The Indian Civil Service, 1601-1930 (London. 1931), pp. 259 ff.
155. Quoted in Cell, British Colonial Administration, p. 45.
156. Quoted in Hall, Colonial Office, p. 91.
157. Rt. Hon. Malcolm MacDonald, letter to the author, 1 September 1975.
158. Quoted in G. F. Sayers, “What’s in a Name?” Corona 5 (November 1953):423-424.
159. Burns, Colonial Civil Servant, pp. 147-148.
160. Perham, African Apprenticeship, pp. 248, 235.
161. K. G. Bradley, Once a District Officer (New York, 1966), p. 155.
162. L. S. Amery, My Political Life, 3 vols. (London, 1953), 2:370.
163. See Robertson, Transition in Africa, p. 244.



Bienvenue dans mon monde d'exploration et de découverte ! Je suis Ingrid Allain, une voyageuse passionnée avec une curiosité insatiable pour la riche tapisserie de la culture africaine. Pour moi, l'Afrique n'est pas juste une destination ; c'est une fascination de toute une vie et une source d'inspiration. Des rythmes vibrants des cercles de tambours d'Afrique de l'Ouest à la perlerie complexe des artisans Maasaï, chaque coin de ce continent détient un trésor de traditions à découvrir. À travers mes écrits, je vise à partager la beauté, la diversité et la résilience des cultures africaines avec le monde. E-mail: [email protected] / Linkedin
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