Africa Bureau

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"In 1952 David Astor set up the Africa Bureau as a focus for the fight against colonialism." [1] For the Bureau's first sixteen years it was headed by Anglican priest Michael Scott (“Astor described it as 'a vehicle for Michael'”). The “prime original function” of the Africa Bureau was to offer “backdoor diplomatic access to the British government for emergent African nationalists”; an early project at the Africa Bureau was the formation of the African Development Trust which a few years later was “merged into” E.F. Schumacher's Intermediate Technology Group. Scott's work with in Africa also “prompted” George Hauser to form 'Americans for South African Resistance' in 1952, and the following year “Houser extended the compliment by establishing the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), with the assistance of Roger Baldwin and Bill Sutherland.” Initially, the Africa Bureau had relied “heavily” upon David Astor's financial support, but with time it soon became more reliant upon philanthropic foundations, such that by the “late 1950s one of the most dependable sources of finance was the Farfield Foundation, based in New York.” [2]


"The cast list of those involved was like a roll-call of the liberal establishment. Flanking Scott as the Bureau's first chairman was Lord Hemingford, a Conservative peer recently returned from the Gold Coast (later Ghana), where he had served as head of a teachers' training college at Achimota. The executive committee included Arthur Creech Jones, who had been Secretary of State for the Colonies in Attlee's Labour government, John McCallum Scott, a leading Liberal, and Lady Elizabeth Pakenham, wife of the former Labour minister, Frank Pakenham. The Bureau's headed notepaper listed no fewer than nine Honorary Presidents: Sir Maurice Bowra, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University; the Very Reverend Principal John Baillie of Edinburgh University, and a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland; Professor Arthur Lewis, West Indian Professor of Political Economy at Manchester University; the Reverend Professor C.E. Raven, Warden of Madingley Hall, Cambridge; the Reverend Dr W.E. Sangster, Moderator of the Methodist Church; the Right Reverend J.L. Wilson, Bishop of Birmingham; Isaac Foot, a Liberal politician; James Crawford, representing the trade-union interest as President of the National Union of Boot and Shoe operatives; and Miss Mary Attlee, the former Prime Minister's sister, who had spent much of her life engaged on welfare work in South Africa.
"There was also a third, and somewhat more significant tier of what were termed 'advisers' to the Bureau. These included Margery Perham, who also regularly advised the government on colonial issues, George W.W. Greenidge of the Anti-Slavery Society, Colin Legum, a South African journalist who wrote on African affairs for the Observer, and Astor himself. The Secretary of the Bureau was Mary Benson." [3]

Future Leaders

According to Anne Yates and Lewis Chester:

"The Bureau had rapidly become the first point of call for Africans aiming to navigate the corridors of power in Westminster and Whitehall, and while this could be combined with requests for publicity, very often confidentiality was deemed more appropriate. As the unofficial bridge between the British government and emergent African movements, the Bureau was naturally hampered by the fact that many of the movements' leaders, like Kwame Nkrumah in the Gold Coast (later Ghana) and Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya, were in jail. Despite this constraint, the Bureau's staff were able to develop a range of fruitful contacts with lieutenants of the imprisoned leaders in both East and West Africa. In the case of Kenya, the Bureau worked closely with Tom Mboya, who played a crucial role through the Mau Mau Emergency period and in the protracted constitutional negotiations that led to his country's independence. Indeed, most of the territories that would eventually achieve independence across the continent, from Ghana to Tanganyika, would later express gratitude to Michael Scott's Bureau for its discreet assistance through the 1950s in keeping open a line of communication with the colonial power." Other leaders who "owed a debt of gratitude" to the Bureau included Hastings Banda and Kenneth Kaunda. [4]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Telegraph David Astor, organizational web page, accessed February 22, 2012.
  2. Anne Yates and Lewis Chester, The Troublemaker: Michael Scott and His Lonely Struggle Against Injustice (Aurum Press, 2006), p.127, p.238, p.143, p.150, p.151, p.233.
  3. Anne Yates and Lewis Chester, The Troublemaker, pp.127-8.
  4. Anne Yates and Lewis Chester, The Troublemaker, p.178, p.238.