M.D.W. Tribal Notes on the Bum

Dr M.D.W. Jeffreys was for many years a prominent figure in the colonial administration of the Cameroon Grassfields. He took great interest in the customs and history of the area researching, writing and sending numerous articles and small pieces on these topics to anthropological journals including the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.He produced two major and, as yet, unpublished works on the Grassfields. The first was a report on local iron working in the region composed in the course of the Second World War in response to war-time shortages of iron for hoes and other implements. The second is a collection of notes entitled 'A List of Tribal Notes sent to Professor Forde on 10. 12. 51 from Dr. Jeffreys'. This comprises a set of notes on forty seven different Grassfield groups including Note 19 on the Bum. This note is included in these pages more or less in the form in which Jeffreys had originally set it out..

Colonial administration required information about the kinds of social and political formations that existed on the ground and their political and economic relations in order to compose effective units of administration and taxation. In the '20s, '30s and '40s a series of Intelligence and Assessment Reports on elements in the region were produced by officers of the colonial administration who had themselves received some training in anthropological methods. These reports typically included information on the social and religious customs of the group or area under study as well as economic and political information. The latter was usually framed in terms of dynastic history, origins and settlement of key elements of the community.

Jeffreys pursued these topics with great vigour and beyond initial administrative requirements. His notes on the Bum exemplify his endeavours. Typically he offers an account of the origins and foundation chiefdom that concerns a group moving in from elsewhere and establishing suzerainty over an indigenous population. This historical narrative is extended through eliciting a king list together with information about individual kings and occurrences. Jeffreys also includes information on the membership of important ritual and political groupings. He includes notes from earlier administrative reports namely an extract from Cadman's 1923 report and an undated piece on inheritance.

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For further information contact Ian Fowler