Divisional Office Files

The materials contained in these files reflect a number of the concerns and interests of the British colonial administration and its officers. Local disputes over succession were very common as were disputes arising from bridewealth payments and rights over marriage wards. (The two are not unconnected). The files on the Fon's marriage wards, notification of the death of Fon Kwangga and also the dynastic lists are indicative of these concerns. The file on iron working reflects a shortage of hoes for agriculture, that arose as a result of the Second World War. British colonial administrators had earlier not failed to notice the physical evidence, in the shape of large slag heaps, of a formerly widespread local iron industry. M.D.W. Jeffreys gathered a great deal of very useful information from local informants which was put together in the form of an unpublished report on Grassfields iron working. It should also be noted that colonial officers were given some training in anthropology before being sent off to administer colonies. The file on musical instruments indicates an interest in material culture that may be linked to this training.

Sally Chilver uses these files as a direct, albeit biased, source of historical information. In so doing she casts her ethnographic net more widely than was common in the anthropology of that time. She is, however, concerned more than simply with the breadth of her historical and ethnographic data. She is concerned to take into account 'feedback'. In other words in undertaking this research in the 1960s it was necessary to consider the likely effects of the results of earlier enquiries by administrators, explorers and others which had been fed back to the community under study. Such feedback necessarily influenced that nature of answers given to subsequent researchers.

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For further information contact Ian Fowler