Category Archives: QUB & Africa

Prof. Martin Lynn

Chair of African History

Martin Lynn was born in 1951 in Nigeria. He studied at King’s College London and SOAS. After a stint at the University of Ilorin, he was recruited at Queen’s in 1980. He taught there British and Imperial history and, with time, African and Chinese history. He was the first to teach a course on African history at Queen’s.

His area of academic interest was the economic history of West Africa. His first monograph was Commerce and Economic Change in West Africa: the Palm Oil Trade in the 19th century (Cambridge University Press, 1997). The book was very well received and it established Lynn in the field at once. He published extensively on cognate subjects as well, in the very best journals of his field (Journal of African History, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, African Economic History, etc. – see a full bibliography here). In 2001, he edited two volumes of the famed British Documents on End of Empire Project on Nigeria (Part I: Managing Political Reform. 1943-53, cix 643 pp.; Part II: Moving to Independence. 1953-60).

Martin Lynn was promoted to a professorship in African History in 2002, after more than 20 years in Belfast. He thus became the first (and so far the only) chair of African history in Ireland. He remained modest and dedicated to his teaching nonetheless, something he was much appreciated, if not envied for. Prof. Richard Rathbone recently remembered Martin Lynn for his “collegiality, his kindness, his unnecessary modesty, [and] his personal and scholarly integrity”. Professor Martin Lynn passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 2005. The second African Studies in Ireland Network colloquium was dedicated to his memory.


T. Jack Thompson

JackThompsonHistory of Christianity in Africa

Born in Belfast in 1943, T. Jack Thompson read modern history at Queen’s University before going to Edinburgh for postgraduate studies and a Ph.D. He worked as a missionary in Malawi for 13 years, after which he went to work as a lecturer at Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham. In 1993 he became a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh where he taught African Christianity and eventually became the director of the Center for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World.

An superb historian, Thompson wrote 3 books on Christianity in Malawi (Christianity in Northern Malawi: Donald Fraser’s Missionary Methods and Ngoni Culture, 1995; Touching the heart: Xhosa Missionaries to Malawi, 1876-1888, 2000; and Ngoni, Xhosa and Scot: Religious and Cultural Interactions in Malawi, 2007). His last volume was a particularly well-received volume entitled Light on Darkness: Missionary Photography in Africa in the 19th C and early 20th C (2012).

Thompson passed away in August 2017. Two years before, he contacted me to see whether he could apply for a Queen’s Higher Doctorate.  This was possible and we discussed procedure. Somehow Jack did not follow it up. I presume his health got in the way. It was a great pity for this would have been a perfect closing act for a unique student from Queen’s who went on to have a distinguished academic career “across the water” in the history of Africa.

Prof. John Blacking

African ethnomusicology

John Blacking was Professor of anthroplogly at Queen’s University between 1969 and 2000.  After a BA degree under Prof. Meyer Fortes at King College and Cambridge, he moved to South Africa to work with the famous Prof. Hugh Tracey.  He did there a PhD (with a dissertation on Venda music), then obtained a lectureship and eventually a professorship at the University of Witwatersrand.

BlackingIn 1969, after problems with the Apartheid administration, he moved to Queen’s University Belfast to take up the first chair of Anthropology in Ireland. He remained there until his passing away in 2000, supervising tens of students, many of whom Africans who subsequently returned to their country to develop musicology there (e.g. Prof. Joshua Uzoigwe).

For more on Blacking, see:

Nelson Mandela

Honoris Causa

NELSON MANDELA was bestowed a degree “Honoris Causa” by Queen’s University Belfast in July 2008 “for distinction in public service”. Because Mandela not well, he could not attend the ceremony in Belfast. A Queen’s representative flew to South Africa to hand him the degree while he, on his side, recorded a message which was broadcasted at the ceremony in Belfast. Details below.

Here is a picture of the handing of his degree
by Anthony O’Reilly in South Africa:       

Mandela QUB

Here is Mandela’s acceptance speech – video recorded and projected on the day in Belfast (from minute 3,25):

Here is what the Belfast Telegraph wrote at the time:

Prof. Harold W. Rodgers

With no prior connection to Africa, Professor Harold W. Rodgers developed a keen and personal connection with the continent after moving to Queen’s University.

Born in India, Harold Rodger was the first Englishman to hold the chair in Surgery at Queen’s which he took up in 1947. In 1950 and 1951 he did a tour of West Africa for the Colonial Office and the Nuffield Foundation, from which he built personal links to Africa.

After 1950 Professor Rodgers maintained a keen interest in African affairs and looked after the African students at Queen’s University, no least the future Professor Akin O. Adesola (Queen’s first African Honoris Causa in 1989).

After his retirement in 1974, Prof. Rodger took up a post at the University of Ife, Nigeria, for three years – four years before Adesola became the Vice-Chancellor of the same institution.