Tag Archives: Africa

The academic papers of Abdul Raufu Mustapha

Abdul Raufu Mustapha (1954-2017), born in Aba, in what is now Abia State in south-eastern Nigeria, was appointed University Lecturer in African Politics at Oxford University in 1996, becoming the university’s first Black African University Lecturer. In 2014 he was appointed Associate Professor of African Politics. His academic papers were donated to the Bodleian Libraries by his widow, Dr. Kate Meagher, in 2018 and 2020 and catalogued recently with the generous support of the Oxford Department of International Development, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and Dr. Mustapha’s family.

Mustapha’s research interests related to religion and politics in Nigeria, the politics of rural societies, the politics of democratization, and identity politics in Africa. His papers contain substantial research materials relating to fieldwork examining the political consequences of rural inequalities, conducted at Rogo Village, Kano State, Nigeria, for his D.Phil. thesis, ‘Peasant Differentiation and Politics in Rural Kano: 1900-1987’ (St. Peter’s College, Oxford, 1990). This fieldwork was followed up in the 1990s by further research using questionnaires for household heads and interviews focusing on topics such as land holding, assets, income, expenditure,  corn production, village life and politics. There are also materials relating to other research projects and articles by him.

Rogo questionnaire

Questionnaire for household heads, Rogo, Feb 1998. Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. 15476/4

In later years, Mustapha studied the issues posed by radical Islamist sects in northern Nigeria, creating a transnational Nigeria Research Network of scholars to study Muslim identities, Islamic movements and Muslim-Christian relations. This culminated in the publication of a research trilogy on Islam and religious conflict in northern Nigeria, comprising Mustapha, A.R. ed., Sects and Social Disorder: Muslim Identities & Conflict in Northern Nigeria (Boydell & Brewer, 2014); Mustapha, A.R. and Ehrhardt, D. eds., Creed & Grievance: Muslim-Christian Relations and Conflict Resolution in Northern Nigeria (Boydell & Brewer, 2018); and Mustapha, A.R. and Meagher, K. eds., Overcoming Boko Haram: Faith, Society and Islamic Radicalization in Northern Nigeria (Boydell & Brewer, 2020).

During his time in Oxford, Mustapha worked to support students from Africa and was the patron of the student-run Oxford University Africa Society. He served as an Associate Editor for the journal, Oxford Development Studies. Within Nigeria, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kano-based development Research and Projects Centre, and of the editorial board of the Premium Times newspaper. Internationally, he was a member of editorial advisory groups for the journals, Review of African Political Economy, and Africa. He participated in the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, where he served in many capacities. He wrote reports for the Working Group on Ethnic Minorities, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and the project on ‘Ethnic Structure and Public Sector Governance’ for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva.


British Medics in Africa


African landscape, copyright Lissa**

Newly catalogued papers from the Rhodes House Library

Three collections of personal papers from the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies have recently been catalogued and made available to researchers. The letters, written by British doctors and nurses working in various parts of Africa in the second half of the 20th century, were sent home to family and friends and contain striking first-hand accounts of their lives.

Barbara Powter (later Akinyemi) was a midwife in war-time Britain and her hastily written letters to her parents contain fascinating details of training in the East End, 1938-9, and working through the Norwich blitz or ‘Baedeker ‘raids, 1940-2. After the war she worked as a health visitor in Nigeria (1949-53) where she struggled with obstructive authorities and a demoralizing lack of planning and initiative.


Peter Bewes was a senior registrar in surgery and a lecturer in surgery at Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda, 1968-72. In one letter he describes his heavy workload, ‘The work involves ward rounds (our 54 bed ward has had as many as 100 patients in it at times), operating (we have had as many as 27 operations in one afternoon and night), emergency duties (the record was 40 admissions in 24 hours!) and teaching’. This was in addition to learning the local language, Luganda, raising three young children and practising as a ‘secular missionary’ for the Church Mission Society. His work in Uganda coincided with the rise of Idi Amin and ended with the expulsion of the Asians. The ensuing chaos caused great difficulties for Peter and his own family as they tried to leave the country en route to a new post in Tanzania, ‘We’ve been writing letters, and tearing them up, re-writing and re-tearing as the political situation deteriorates!…I am cancelling most of work during office hours, so that I can fight the decision to prevent us taking any money or possessions out of the country’.


Similar difficulties faced Cyril Sims Davies a doctor living near Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), whose letters (1964-96) describe his work, living conditions, political unrest in the country, the effect of sanctions (especially the difficulties caused by restrictions on moving money from Britain to Rhodesia), the impact of the ‘Bush War’ on daily life, deteriorating conditions for white citizens and eventually his eviction from his home and position as local doctor.


Despite the obvious difficulties of living through times of political upheaval, all the correspondence is imbued with a love of Africa and a strong commitment to living and working there.