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Allen, John Willoughby Tarleton

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 PP MS 20
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Allen, John Willoughby Tarleton
Date(s): Created 1898-1977
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 13 boxes
Name of creator(s): Allen | James Willoughby Tarleton | 1904-1979 | anthropologist and linguist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in Chalfont-St-Giles, Buckinghamshire, 1904; son of Roland Allen (a missionary in North China with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel until his resignation in 1907, and a radical critic of the Church) and his wife (Mary) Beatrice (née Tarleton); educated at Westminster School; studied classics at St John's College Oxford; travelled to the Sudan to work on the Gezia Cotton Scheme Project for the Sudan Plantations Syndicate as Assistant Inspector of a cotton plantation, 1927; learnt to speak Arabic and developed an interest in Islamic culture and the Islamic world; returned to England and entered the Colonial Service as Superintendent of Schools in Tanganyika (later Tanzania), 1929; married Winifred 'Winkie' Ethel Emma Brooke (d 1991), 1930; became increasingly interested in the Swahili language; gained a diploma in Swahili from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, by distance learning, 1932; Political Officer and then Deputy British Agent in the Western Aden Protectorate, 1947-1952; returned to Tanganyika, 1952; left the Colonial Service, 1958; Secretary of the Inter-Territorial Swahili Language Committee from 1959; a close friend of many East African writers, notably Shabaan Robert; appointed Honorary Research Fellow at University College, Dar-es-Salaam, with a Rockefeller Foundation grant to document Swahili, 1965; collected, edited and published Swahili and Arabic manuscripts; with his wife, made extensive collections on the East African coast in connection with his academic post and in conjunction with the East African Swahili Committee; Director of the Institute of Swahili Research, University of Dar-es-Salaam, 1968-1970; after retirement from the University, with his wife ran the special Swahili language programme at the Danish Volunteer Training Centre in Tengeru, near Arusha, 1970-1973; continued to translate and publish Swahili texts; four children; died, 1979. For further biographical details see Friederike Wilkening, Der Swahilist John Willoughby Tarleton Allen - Biographie, Werk und Bibliotek (Universität zu Koln, 1998). Publications include: Maandiko ya Kizungu yaani kitabu cha kusomea herufi wanazozitumia wazungu, etc (Swahili-Arabic reader) (Longmans & Co, London, 1938, and later editions); Utenzi wa Vita vya Wadachi Kutamalaki Mrima: the German conquest of the Swahili coast (Beauchamp Printing Co, Arusha, 1955); Utenzi wa Kutawafu Nabii: the release of the Prophet (Beauchamp Printing Co, Arusha, 1956); The Swahili and Arabic manuscripts and tapes in the Library of the University College, Dar-es-Salaam: a catalogue (E J Brill, Leiden, 1970); Tendi: six examples of a Swahili classical verse form (Heinemann Educational, Nairobi and London, 1971); The customs of the Swahili people: the Desturi za Waswahili of Mtoro bin Mwinyi Bakari and other Swahili persons (University of California Press, Berkeley and London, 1981); A Poem concerning the death of the prophet Muhammad: Utendi wa kutawafu Nabii, a traditional Swahili epic (Edwin Mellen, Lewiston and Lampeter, 1991).


Scope and content/abstract:

Working papers of John Willoughby Tarleton Allen, 1898-1978 and undated, the bulk dating from 1957-1978, including correspondence, 1963-1977; papers on Swahili culture, poetry and customs, 1903-1978 and undated; papers relating to the Danish Volunteer Training Society, including language instruction, 1969-1973, and Britain Tanzania Society, 1974-1977; published articles by Allen and others, 1898, 1970 and undated; undated photocopies of various Arabic manuscripts; tape recordings of literary performances; microfilms of Swahili material.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Swahili, Arabic

System of arrangement:

The collection has been arranged into the following sections: correspondence; Swahili culture; Swahili poetry; customs of Swahili Desturi Za Waswahili; Danish Volunteer Training Centre/Britain-Tanzania Society; organisations; published articles; The Story of Old Kerebe: Traditional Customs and Mores by Aniceti Kitereza; miscellaneous; Arabic scripts; microfilms. The correspondence is arranged in chronological order.

Conditions governing access:

Unrestricted, except for the tapes, which are reel-to-reel recordings and cannot be used until they have been conserved.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated in 1982.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies Library holds microfilm copies (25 reels) of Swahili and Arabic manuscripts deposited by Allen in the Library of the University College at Dar-es-Salaam (Ref: M1008-9). The Special Collections Reading Room holds photographic enlargements of some of these Swahili and Arabic manuscripts, made from the microfilms and bound into 19 volumes, including an annotated catalogue in volume 1 (Ref: MS 279888).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Source: British Library OPAC.

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
15 May 2000, revised Jan 2002

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