Prof. Sjoerd Hofstra’s Mende fieldwork notes

Sjoerd HofstraThe African Studies Centre’s library has been given valuable archival material from the estate of the Dutch anthropologist and sociologist Sjoerd Hofstra (1898-1983), who was appointed Professor of African Anthropology at the University of Leiden in 1947. In the 1930s Hofstra had done well-respected  research among the Mende in Sierra Leone, but he never fully wrote up his study of the Mende community of Panguma based on 21 months of fieldwork. The ASC selected a total of 67 publications from his archives and these have since been incorporated into the Centre’s library collection.

map Sierra LeoneTo coincide with the ASC’s seminar on 3 July on the recently published book Among the Mende in Sierra Leone. Letters from Sjoerd Hofstra, 1934-36 (ASC Occasional Publication vol. 19), the library decided to highlight Prof. Hofstra’s research archives. A global inventory was made of the remaining boxes that contain the fieldwork notes written during Hofstra's stay with the Mende between 1934 and 1936. They are handwritten, mostly in English and cover a variety of subjects including the social organization of the Mende, their legal system, hunting customs, healing rites, burial customs, and Mende proverbs and grammar as well as interviews with local people. In addition, there is some statistical demographic material, a series of the Sierra Leone Royal Gazette and a few (school) books in the Mende language. A series of maps of (parts of) Sierra Leone will be catalogued separately.

A description of this archive can be found in the library catalogue:

Hofstra's notesHofsra's notebook