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Europeans in British Administered East Africa: A Biographical Listing, 1888-1905.

Europeans in British Administered East Africa: A Biographical Listing, 1888-1905.

By Stephen J. North. Wantage, Oxfordshire, Eng.: S. J. North, 2005. 3d ed. Pp. xx, 530. Paperback 55 [pounds sterling].

Mission history commonly entails encountering personal names--in diaries, for example--that are hard to identify, even with formidable electronic search engines. The value of Stephen North's hefty book (which is now bound, having first appeared in a three-ring binder) lies in the exhaustive search that he has made for information about the Europeans living in or passing through what became Uganda, Kenya, and Zanzibar. The period covered extends between 1888 and 1905, when control of British East Africa passed from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office. North presents over 4,000 alphabetized personal entries and 800 photos, listing information such as nationality, important dates, and the occupations of colonial officials, explorers, merchants, settlers, soldiers, and missionaries.

The introduction includes brief essays describing the sources consulted and the organizations with which the European visitors to Africa were associated (e.g., Royal Navy, Catholic missions, Uganda Railway). While a timeline might better introduce the period's history, these pieces have important (and often humorous) information. (I noted one inaccuracy: the Universities' Mission to Central Africa arrived in Zanzibar in 1864, not in the 1880s.)

The heart of North's work is the entries. Ascertaining their accuracy would require months. My quick perusal suggests that North has been assiduous; none of those whom I sought (names arising from my work on Zanzibar-centered Catholic mission history) were missing or misrepresented. If one has the name of a European in the region during the period considered and seeks biographical details, then this is a fine resource.

Given North's prodigious efforts, however, the book's organizational limits are unfortunate. Its lack of an index makes cross-referencing difficult. One cannot easily use it to discover, for example, all the Italians in the region, of all the Methodist missionaries. This work thus begs to be computerized, to make these kinds of questions easier to pursue.

Paul V. Kollman teaches theology at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana. He is the author of The Evangelization of Slaves and Catholic Origins in Eastern Africa (Orbis Books, 2005).
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Author:Kollman, Paul V.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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