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Highlights of the FCO periodicals collection


Its purpose was made clear in the first issue:

It has been suggested that more guidance and information might be given to help those who are in close contact with the people of the Colonies to answer some of the more difficult questions put to them, and this leaflet is an attempt to meet this need. (vol. 1, no. 1,July 1952, p. 1)

The questions and answers it states are not suitable for general reading material. Rather than being read directly by the questioners the writers felt that “its most effective use has been found to be in the oral business of question and answer between the well informed and those who have to get their facts by asking” (vol. 5, no. 3, September 1956, p. 1).

In the first issue the questions were made up by the editors based on what they assumed people would be asking. This encouraged the type of questions they wanted people to write in about. In every issue readers were encouraged to write in with their own questions, or questions people had asked them. It was suggested that each reader supply one question per year.

Questions covered in the first issue were:

  1. Why is the British Government going to go ahead with Central African Federation when the Africans don’t want it?
  2. How can the Government be short of money? It can always print notes?
  3. Why should Africans be sent to fight to keep Malaya for the British?
  4. We have helped Britain to defeat the Germans twice. Why does Britain now want to rearm Germany?

These questions are a good representation of topics covered by the periodical. The question of self-governance was frequently brought up. Other topics covered included trade unions, economic independence, Communists (in particular the difference between Communists and Nationalists), Apartheid, race relations, neo-colonialism, women’s rights and international politics.

Answers given reflected the policy of the time. Self-governance was key and something that all colonies and dependencies should be working towards. However, the periodical makes it clear on numerous occasions that it does not think that colonies yet have the capacity to govern themselves and need a helping hand. It is maintained throughout that Britain wants her colonies to become independent. In response to the question “What is ‘colonialism’?” the magazine states,

Britain’s declared policy towards her colonial peoples is the exact opposite of ‘colonialism’. Her whole political purpose is not to maintain their colonial status, but to help them achieve their independence as soon as they are likely to be able to carry the less publicised but heavier burdens of independence  (Vol. 1, no. 10 April 1953, p. 1).

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