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Rare portrait of Commonwealth leaders during decolonisation

by on June 7, 2010

Thanks to the generosity of the South African Friends of the Bodleian, the Library has acquired a number of portraits, photographs and certificates from Sir Roy Welensky, Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1956 to 1963, which were recently offered for sale.

Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, London, 1957

The most notable item in the new accession is a photograph from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference held in London in 1957. The photograph shows the Prime Ministers and one Foreign Minister of the ten countries which then made up the Commonwealth in the garden of Downing Street and is signed by them. Only ten copies were signed for the ten participants. The photograph captures decolonisation in progress, with Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Shaheed Suhrawardy of Pakistan and Kwame Nkrumah of newly-independent Ghana alongside Welensky of the short-lived Federation and E.H. Louw, the Foreign Affairs Minister of South Africa.

The collection includes a certificate of life membership of the Rhodesian Railway Workers’ Union and a photograph of Welensky at the Union’s annual conference which reflect his origins as a locomotive fireman and driver. A leather-bound album contains the official photographs of the funeral in January 1957 of Lord Llewellin, first Governor General of the Federation, and captures a particular era in colonialism. An illuminated manuscript certificate presented to Welensky and signed by the members of the Federal Cabinet in December 1963 marks the end of the Federation.

The main collection of Welensky Papers was donated to the Bodleian by Sir Roy, who died in 1991, and was catalogued in detail in the mid-1990s. Comprising over 800 boxes it is vital source for the study of central Africa in the mid-twentieth century. A collection-level description can be seen at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/blcas/welensky.html .

Lucy McCann
Archivist
Bodleian Library of Commonwealth & African Studies

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