Remembering A.H.M. Kirk-Greene

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    by John Edward Philips

Anthony (Tony) Kirk-Greene served in India during the Second World War. He graduated from Cambridge in 1950, and joined the Colonial Administrative Service. In 1967, he came from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University to Oxford on a five-year fellowship and was elected to a Senior Research Fellowship until his retirement in 1992.

Tony made it possible for St Antony’s to provide support for student travel and to establish the Kirk-Greene Fellowship, whose first holder was the late Abdul Raufu Mustafa

Tony’s scholarly interests in Nigeria began during and out of his colonial service. His study of Adamawa: Past and Present was first published in 1958, while he was an administrator in Adamawa. His scholarly contributions were extensive and varied in their form, their subject, and their geography. He was a researcher and writer of books (upwards of thirty), shorter pamphlets, articles, reviews, and contributions to the weekly West Africa. He wrote about the Hausa language, and its proverbs and its everyday usage and about Fulfulde (Fulani). His most widely-sold book, with C.H. Kraft, was Teach Yourself Hausa (1973 and 1983). He wrote about colonial administrators, and therefore the forms of colonial rule and of interactions among the administrators and the administered, and about aspects of Nigerian politics, in the co-edited volume Transition without End: Nigerian Politics and Civil Society Under Babangida. Britain’s Imperial Administrators 1858-1866 (2000) brought into a single volume Britain’s famous overseas civil services: the Colonial Administrative Service, the Sudan Political Service and the Indian Administrative Service.

Kirk-Greene’s most impressive achievement, that will be his greater legacy, were the extraordinary volumes of documents and anthologies he published on, for example, Nigerian provincial gazetteers, Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria, and colonial records and biographies. In Oxford, he provided teaching for African Politics in PPE and Colonialism and Nationalism in Modern History, at a time when faculty provisions hardly existed.

It was in Kirk-Greene’s honour that Terence Ranger and Olufemi Vaughan published Legitimacy and the State in Twentieth Century Africa, a volume of essays by contemporaries, students and former students in Politics and in History. He was also recognized by fellow Africanists when he was awarded to 2005 Distinguished Africanist Prize by African Studies Association UK, and it is evident from the tributes to him how much was especially appreciated by his students.

As Raufu Mustapha once said, he was very proud to hold a Kirk-Greene Fellowship because of everything Tony had done for Nigerians. Mustapha and Adekeye Adebajo dedicated their collection of essays on Gulliver’s Troubles: Nigeria’s Foreign Policy after the Cola War, to “Anthony Kirk-Greene, a.k.a. Mutumin Kirki”, the Hausa concept of the good man.


Dr Gavin Williams, Emeritus Fellow, St Peter's College

(In preparing this obituary, I have depended on Shehu Othman’s Bibliography in Legitimacy and the State.)