Up to 2001

[Again, the page has remained unchanged since Chris died.]

Chris’s journey through education was just a little more distinguished than mine! He was first a scholar at St Paul’s Boys School, in London, then at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he got a First Class Honours degree in Philosophy and Psychology (having first got the equivalent of a general degree in Chemistry).

After Brasenose, Chris went on to Nuffield College, first as a graduate student, then as a Junior Research Fellow, having once again switched disciplines, this time to African Politics. Then, after our brief period at Ahmadu Bello University, where Chris taught African History (another subject switch!), he moved to the Politics Department at Edinburgh University (initially a joint post with the Centre of African Studies), where he stayed for the next 30 years.

In 2001 he too took early retirement and we both moved from Scotland to France.

What this brief resumé fails to mention is the significant changes of personality and beliefs that Chris has undergone in his life. Although his father was a distinguished academic librarian, family life did not appear to have much to do with intellectual interests. His parents were Christians (something Chris never shared with them), conservative, but with strong views about the wrongness of apartheid (which he certainly inherited). In some ways Chris conformed: he excelled a rugby at school and up to his first year at university did not display any strong non-conforming tendencies, other than a disatisfaction with his school and boredom with life in general.

All changed in his first summer at Oxford, when, along with two friends he went to the States, and became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He spent two summers working alongside, mainly black, activists, campaigning to get blacks registered to vote. This was perhaps the most important event in his life, and changed him for ever. (I have managed to find out some information about his first visit, in 1962, but not his second, a year later.)

Back in Oxford he was no longer a rugger playing public schoolboy, but a serious, angry, active member of the Communist Party. Hs commitment to the CP only wavered and finally broke after his research as a postgraduate in West Africa and subsequent arguments with the Party leaders in Britain about their analysis of politics in Africa.

Perhaps the second important event in Chris’s life was his time as a research student, and in particular his relationship with his doctoral supervisor, Thomas Hodgkin, whom he loved and respected. Much of the time when he should have been finishing his doctorate (Thomas used to suggest plaintively that Chris simply submitted just one of the chapters he had written on African trade unionism in order to get his doctorate), Chris and his two fellow research students, Bill Johnson and Gavin Williams, were working on preparing a festschrift for Thomas, and then getting it published by Cambridge University Press.

The other distracting factor was the student unrest in universities in the late sixties. Chris was, of course, an activist, and as by then he was living in my flat, his palatial suite of rooms at Nuffield College were put at the disposal of the Oxford Left, as a location for the printing press of Oxford Radical Students, as well as a dormitory for visitors to various radical workshops. None of this endeared him to the academic establishment, particularly Nuffield, where the Warden found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that his college housed several of the leading radicals of 1968.

It proved pretty impossible to find an academic job in Britain post 1968 (we have some evidence of blacklisting) and, thanks partly to the help of Thomas, in 1970 Chris was successful in getting a job in ABU, Zaria.

We loved Nigeria and both learnt a lot during our short time there. However, it was evident that the longer we stayed out of the UK, the more difficult it would ever be for Chris to return. Plus he felt strongly that, since there was a suitable Nigerian candidate, his job should be Nigerianised. Thanks partly to the independent attitude of the then Professor of Politics at Edinburgh, James Cornford, who refused to submit to the pressures of the time not to appoint known left-wingers, Chris was successful in his application for what turned out to be one of the last jobs in African politics in Britain.

It’s been a mixed three decades for Chris. He continued to buck the system, to show his open discontent and scorn for academic administrators and leaders, even when he eventually was head of department for five years. He was isolated: there was not really anyone north of Sheffield with whom he could discuss his interests. Plus his commitment to being an active father and husband (as well as a natural laziness …) meant that – to my mind – he never achieved the academic success which our friends assured me he was capable of.

But there have been plus sides: he has loved teaching and I know one the respect, gratitude and affection of generations of students. He played a key role and was for several years the chief editor of ROAPE, perhaps the most significant left-wing publication on Africa. He published a number of key bibliographies on Africa, contributing to his reputation as a man of scholarship if not huge research output. And his academic writings have been well respected within his own field, even if the world of political studies over the past three decades has been increasingly hostile to this type of qualitative, inter-disciplinary, reflection on the nature of politics, rather than quantitative field research on one small aspect or particular country.

The third big influence on Chris has been family life. We married in 1970, Kate was born in 1972 and Jude in 1977. Chris has always been the provider, dating back to those early days when I was a reporter, working late at the Oxford Mail, totally uninterested in cooking, happy to grab the odd unhealthy pub sandwich. Chris used to arrive with flasks of home-made soup. Gradually he established the role as the family cook and shopper, while I took on the roles driver and decorator/DIY person.

I remember after the birth of Kate, Chris said this was the most important single event in our lives: life would never be the same again. During that first year, when Kate was recovering from the initial period of illness, Chris willingly took on the role of night care – feeding, comforting and changing nappies. Indeed later he said that when Jude was a baby he rather missed these sessions – Jude slept more readily through the nights, and besides, I was feeding her. It was Chris who took the girls to their nursery and primary schools. A vivid memory of this period was seeing him, hand-in-hand with two little girls, singing as they skipped down India Street.

He was perhaps a less active parent as they grew older, and tended to work away in his tiny study, while I went on the outings with the girls, or took them to ballet or music lessons. But his continued love and caring for them was expressed by the daily meals he provided – not always easy, particularly given Kate’s fastidious eating habits – the only vegeterian to not really like vegetables…

As the girls got older and became lovely, lovable, high achieving adults, we both agree that they are the most important thing in our lives and we are very proud of them.

So perhaps the only drawback to our otherwise fairly idyllic life of retirement in France is that we do not live near enough to our daughters.

After nearly 40 years together, I am a bit too ready to list the ways in which he can irritate or annoy me, but not ready enough to appreciate the many virtues of this complex man.

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