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George Shepperson prize awarded at SPS Graduate School graduation

This year's prestigious George Shepperson prize goes to Henry Mitchell.

The 2014 George Shepperson prize has been awarded to Henry Mitchell. The prize is awarded to the best Masters dissertation in African Studies or Africa and International Development dealing with a historical topic. Henry's dissertation, submitted as part of his M.Sc. in African Studies, is entitled "Independent Africans: Migration from Colonial Malawi to the Union of South Africa, c.1935-1961". Henry was awarded 80%. (Further text below photo of Henry with Prof Fiona Mackay, Head of School of Social and Political Science.) 

Grad picThe prize has been made possible by an external donation, and celebrates the role of Professor George ("Sam") Shepperson in promoting African Studies at Edinburgh. Henry received the award from Dr Luke March, Director of the Graduate School of Social and Political Science.

Henry's dissertation focuses on the independent nature of migration from colonial Malawi to South Africa and how Malawians engaged in the capitalist economy of Southern Africa on their own terms. It analyses local differences in emigration from across Malawi, rooting migration in terms of local dynamics, motivations and aspirations, rather than colonial recruitment and taxation. Until the late 1950s most Malawians made their own way to South Africa 'clandestinely', on foot or by 'bakkie', and brought back suits, bicycles, sewing machines, fishing nets and money that was often invested in the rural economy; migration offering a high road to rural success.

The dissertation is based on archival research in South Africa, and a number of interviews conducted in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. Both sources provided insights into the lives of Malawians in South Africa, which ranged beyond the well-documented histories of miners to encompass imams, tailors, hospital assistants, police detectives and clerks.

Henry is currently writing an article framing the experiences of independent migrants in contrast to the histories recounted in van Onselen's Chibaro and Crush et al's South Africa's Labour Empire. He starts on a graduate scheme at the British Institute in Eastern Africa in January 2015.

Edinburgh Students