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TORDAY, Emil (1875-1931)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1446 MS 192-198 and 424-425
Held at: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
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Full title: TORDAY, Emil (1875-1931)
Date(s): [1908-1931]
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 13 boxes
Name of creator(s): Torday | Emil | 1875-1931 | anthropologist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in Budapest, Hungary, 1875; educated in Hungary and Germany; worked for a time in a bank in Brussels; travelled and worked in equatorial Africa, 1900-1910; colonial administrative post at Lake Mweru in the south-east of Congo Free State, 1900-1904; employee of the Compagnie du Kasai, Belgian Congo; increasingly came to act as an agent of the British Museum; undertook ethnographic surveys of the people of the Kwango-Kwilu river basin and of the Kasai, formed comprehensive ethnographic collections, and created photographic and phonographic records; the centre point of Torday's ethnographic work was his engagement with the Kuba peoples; Torday was an excellent linguist who learned to speak fifteen languages, eight of them African; mounted his own expedition in the Belgian Congo, 1907; returned to Europe, 1909; awarded the Imperial gold medal for science and art by the Emperor of Austria, 1910; died, 1930.
On the Trail of the Bushongo (1925)
Descriptive Sociology: African Races (1930)


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Emil Torday, [1908-1931], including:

MS 192
Typescript notes for 'African races', published as Division I, no. 4 of Descriptive sociology, edited by H. Spencer, London, 1930, including notes on a number of African peoples including Bantu, Khoikhoi and Bushmen.

MS 193
Typescript notes on Loango, Angola.

MS 194
Questionnaires, papers and letters in connection with the Union Internationale de Secours aux Enfants, 1930-1931.

MS 195
Translation of Bacongo incantations and prayers, by J. van Wing, S.J.; translated by E. Torday. (London, 1930) and related correspondence.

MS 196
Draft of a book entitled Yarns from the West coast: being the diary of Mr Hilary Jones, edited by F.R.G.S., c. 1908, annotated with corrections.

MS 197
Typescript papers and lectures, [c 1930], including lectures on Hungary to Rotarians; lecture 'On some oddities of the Congo people'; lecture on West Africa, [1931] and lecture on female initiation in Africa.

MS 198
Typescript articles and African folk stories, annotated corrections, mostly in Hungarian.

MS 424
Notes ethnographiques sur les peoples communément appelés Bakuba, by Torday and Thomas Athol Joyce, 1911 (3 copies).

MS 425
Index cards from Torday's library.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and some Hungarian.

System of arrangement:

As outlined in the Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

Appointments are necessary for all visits; please contact the archivist by email to arrange; a fee of £10 is payable by all visitors except Fellows and Members; membership details can be found on the RAI web site; access to material referring to the most recent thirty years is restricted; some material is very fragile and may not be available for view; a few items are of restricted or forbidden access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies and scans for personal research only may be arranged at the discretion of the archivist; charges apply; in all cases forms governing use of copies must be signed; use of digital cameras is not allowed.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue available in the reading room. No finding aids for MSS 424 and 425.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry compiled by Sarah Drewery.
Sources: Oxford DNB.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Sep 2008

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