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On Some Unpublished Material Regarding Eritrean Social History: The TYevaskis Papers in the Bodleian Library Irma Taddia Università degli studi di Bologna Few documents are as totally unknown to scholars as the Trevaskis papers kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.* Ignoredby historians of modern African history, they provide a useful and, in many respects, unique background for the social history ofEritrea.2 My aim in this note is to present the material systematically and to consider more carefully only those documents which deal with the socialhistory ofEritrea, since I believe that they should be made known to a wider group of scholars. The Trevaskis papers are the most important of all available documents for an understanding of the agrarian history of the colony. They are central to the study of the land tenure system of the Eritrean highlands throughout the precolonial period as well as to an observation of the changes effected during colonialism. Furthermore, they incorporate a large amount of information on the Eritrean lowlands and their nomadic populations, as well as political material dealing with Eritrean issues from the 1940s to 1950s. These papers form a private collection in the Bodleian Library; in order to consult and reproduce them, scholars must obtain special permission from the Trevaskis farruly.3 The material is divided into two different boxes: Box 1 concerns six items related mainly to the social history ofthe colony; Box 2 deals with two items regarding political matters during die period ofBritish Military Administration.4®Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 4, No. 2 (New Series) 1997, pp. 7-18 8 Irma Taddia Boxes i and 2, i 944- 1 951: Eritrea Box 1: 1944 and n.d. Papers by Trevaskis about Eritrea: Typescripts and Preparatory Material Item 1: 1944. The Hamasien: A Social Survey. The typescript is annotated by Trevaskis and the introduction is signed by him and dated 10 August 1944. Pp. 168, widi maps, diagrams, photographs . Item 2: n.d. The Tribes and Peoples ofNorthern Eritrea: A Survey of the Keren Division Book 1: The Peoples: Part 1: The Tigre-speaking peoples Part 2 : The Belein-speaking peoples Part 3 : The Tigrinya-speaking peoples. Book 2: The Administration Five Appendices. Pp.119 and two pages of manuscript notes on Keren town. Statistics. Item 3: n.d. Eritrean Tribes. Typescript notes. Pp. 16. Statistics and otiier relevant material including statements concerning the history of tribes, translation from the Arabic, list of Tigre words and phrases. Manuscript notes. Pp. 31. Item 4: n.d. Notes ofGuidancefor the District Officer in Eritrea. Pp. 70. The preface is signed by Kennedy Trevaskis, Major. Item 5: n.d. TheformerItalian Colony ofEritrea:PartsIand?. Typescript. Pp. 220. Part I: The Background provided by environment and history. Part ?: The inhabitants of Eritrea. Item 6: n.d. Three photographs, which include Trevaskis and members ofbis family. Box 2: Eritrea: Reports, 1 948-1 951 Item 1: 1948 Four Power Commission of Investigation of the Former Italian Colonies. Vol.1, Report on Eritrea. D-evaskis Papers in the Bodleian Library 9 Item 2: 1951. Cyclostyled volume ofpapers concerning the appointment of the United Nations' Commissioner in Eritrea, following a resolution (December, 1950) of the General Assembly. Chapter I The Historical Background Chapter ? Activities of the Commissioner Chapter m Developments in Eritrea The pages are numbered 5-176.5 The documentation highlighted here deals witii the Eritrean highlands , particularly their social history. This topic has not been fully researched in contemporary studies, although relevant material dating back to the colonial period and written by anthropologists and historians working for the colonial government does exist.6 Furthermore, we have to consider the number of unpublished documents kept in Italian Archives which, although useful and informative, have not been properly exploited.7 Most of these sources, however, deal with administrative, legal, and political problems, witii the notable exception of the files of the "Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare" in Florence which contain valuable material on land tenure issues.8 Eritrea would thus appear to be a poorly researched area, a subject under-investigated until recently in contemporary literature on Ethiopian social and agrarian history. Recent studies on the area mainly focus on central and southern...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 7-18
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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