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Centre of African Studies: News


The death of Christopher Fyffe

It is with regret that we announce the death of Christopher Fyffe...

Published Date:  17 September 2008  

The Scotsman By PAUL NUGENT

Pioneer of African history
Born: 9 November, 1920.

Died: 26 August, 2008, in London, aged 87.

CHRISTOPHER Fyfe was a pioneer in the field of African history and is considered the father of Sierra Leone studies. He was also an active force in the Edinburgh arts scene and a passionate defender of the heritage of the Old Town. While instinctively averse to authority, he contributed enormously to countless collaborative ventures, winning the admiration of those who shared his passions.

He was born in England to a family of Scottish ancestry. His father was principal of Queen's University (Ontario) and subsequently of Aberdeen University. His own studies at Oxford were interrupted by the war. He saw little active service and was proud of the fact that he never rose above the rank of gunner. Thereafter, he completed his degree and took up a post at a secondary school in Dusseldorf.

His life took a sudden diversion when his brother-in-law invited him to organise the Sierra Leonean archives. Fyfe, who served as government archivist from 1950-52, was wont to say he was not much of an archivist although others beg to differ and that his fascination lay in the contents.

On his return to London, he spent a further ten years conducting research, leading to the publication of his History of Sierra Leone in 1962. This 852-page text, which has never been superseded, was modelled on Ulysses. It was written as a single block of text, and when the publisher insisted on chapters, Fyfe merely inserted breaks with numbers attached. His determination, to the point of stubbornness, won him this battle and countless others.

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