Africa, Empire and Fleet Street

Albert Cartwright and West Africa Magazine

January 2018 9781849048323 288pp


For decades before and after African independence, the London weekly West Africa was a well-known source of news, analysis and comment on the region, especially the (former) British territories. Jonathan Derrick, who worked on the magazine’s staff in the 1960s and again in its final years before closure in 2003, here studies the earlier history of West Africa through the story of its largely forgotten editor, Albert Cartwright, from the magazine’s founding in 1917 to his retirement in 1947.

Before editing West Africa, Cartwright spent twenty years in South Africa, making the headlines in 1901 when, as editor of Cape Town’s South African News during the Boer War, he was jailed for a year for a war crimes allegation against Lord Kitchener. Exploring Cartwright family papers and memories, Derrick reveals the complex nature of a man who, for three decades, ran a colonial magazine but was appreciated by Africans as someone who genuinely understood them.

Derrick places the story of colonial-era West Africa, which would reach its greatest heights during the independence period, within the wider landscape of British periodicals dealing with Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


‘Recording as it does the history of the times through the press, this book gives a very interesting perspective.’ — Chartist

‘[A] fascinating volume… [that] generates fascinating areas for further research [on] the connections between African and British production of newspapers and magazines in the inter-war years [and] the interplay between the private and the professional lives of the people who ran them.’ — The Round Table

‘Deftly moving between continents, this meticulously researched study of the African-oriented press in Britain offers rich biographical details about an editor hitherto neglected by historians. Albert Cartwright’s key role in South African and West African press history is placed at centre-stage, opening up a new vision of colonial-era newspapers.’ — Stephanie Newell, Professor of English, Yale University, author of West African Literatures: Ways of Reading

‘A wonderfully detailed account of the legendary journal West Africa and its first editor, Albert Cartwright. Originally a mouthpiece of British traders in West Africa, it grew critical of colonial government and more sympathetic to the aspirations of nationalists. Essential reading for anyone interested in anti-colonial nationalism and Africa-centred print media.’ — Richard Rathbone, Emeritus Professor, SOAS, author of Murder and Politics in Colonial Ghana

‘Enthralling and accessible … Break[s] new ground in … show[ing] readers Albert Cartwright and West Africa’s influence in shaping both colonial and anti-colonial discourses in Britain and Africa.’ — Journal of Modern African Studies

‘Informative and always interesting.’ — Journal of British Studies


Jonathan Derrick is a freelance editor and scholar who served twenty years on the editorial staff of West Africa magazine. He has authored several scholarly articles on African history, and Africa’s ‘Agitators’: Militant Anti-Colonialism in Africa and the West, 1918-1939 and Africa, Empire and Fleet Street, both published by Hurst.

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