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Barclays Bank and African Agency: a Historical Ethnography

Barclays (credit: Barclays Group Archives)This archival project builds on the historical anthropology of colonial officers and missionaries in exploring the role of British private sector executives in colonial and post-colonial West Africa. Made possible through access to Barclays Group Archives in Manchester, this research involves close analysis of travel diaries, letters and official reports that Barclays executives produced during their trips to West Africa since the late 19th century. These documents include, among others, photographs and letters that describe the ritual proceedings of opening a new bank branch in Ghana’s capital Accra; minutes of meetings between Barclays and political authorities in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia; as well as situational reports that reveal how Barclays dealt with local demands to ‘africanise’ the banking sector during the wave of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. Central to analysing these documents is to identify how African agency and the value of the ‘indigeneity of finance’ is reconfigured in encounters between private sector representatives of the British Empire and West African politicians and bank employees.

Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change (2018-ongoing). Dr Anna-Riikka Kauppinen.

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