Silas Palmer Fellow Brooks Marmon Explores African Decolonisation

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

My PhD project investigates how political changes throughout Africa, particularly the rise of liberation movements across the continent, influenced and stimulated domestic political activities across political and racial divides in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) in the ‘wind of change’ period (1950s – 60s) during which most African colonies became independent nations.  As we continue to see today, the decisions and actions taken during the era of decolonization still impact contemporary political and social developments.

The dissertation anticipates drawing on a two-part approach to illustrate the prominent role of pan – African political organisations, and regional and continental developments on Southern Rhodesia’s political life.  Part one examines the impact of a trio of newly independent countries across the continent on Southern Rhodesia, while part two examines how the dynamics of African liberation struggles impacted domestic policies, party politics, and crucial events that led to Southern Rhodesia’s monumental unilateral declaration of independence from British oversight.

The bulk of my two weeks at Hoover was divided between three collections: the papers of Diana Mitchell, a journalist and politician from Southern Rhodesia; George Loft, an American Quaker activist stationed in Salisbury in the late 1950s; and the Gann – Duignan papers, Gann was an archivist in Southern Rhodesia prior to his recruitment to the Hoover Institution by Duignan.  

Cumulatively, the papers provided rich insights covering a diverse range of political actors. Loft and Mitchell boasted extensive contacts among both the white minority political elite as well as with black African nationalists.  The Gann - Duignan collection held valuable historical materials collected for Gann’s research as well as fascinating personal correspondence between the two scholars which illuminated important day to day political developments in Rhodesian society.  At the conclusion of the Fellowship, my broader understanding of political life in Southern Rhodesia was immeasurably enriched.

In addition to my intellectual stimulation, I was delighted by daily lunches of a fantastic plate of nachos from The Treehouse and greatly enjoyed watching the top – ranked Stanford women’s soccer team.  The most poignant aspect of the Fellowship, however, was discovering a tree (planted the year of my birth) outside of the Institution honoring John Emmerson, whose analyses as the State Department’s Consul General in Southern Rhodesia are invaluable sources for my research (he was a Hoover Fellow in retirement).  The discovery of the tree was completely serendipitous, but I shouldn’t have been surprised that at a place like Hoover, relevant connections to my research would be multitudinous.

Brooks Marmon PhD

PhD student at Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Brooks Marmon is a PhD student in the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh.  He previously worked in Liberia, supporting initiatives to build resilience and strengthen governance.  Before moving to west Africa, he supported the implementation of international higher education partnership initiatives at the American Council on Education and the American Political Science Association.  He volunteered with the Peace Corps in Niger and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Clark University.  He tweets about his research @AfricaInDC.