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From the African Studies Unit to LUCAS


[Note – in 2000, the University of Leeds African Studies Unit (ASU) was renamed Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS). Kate Banham, who retired in 1999 after working for over thirty years for the African Studies Unit wrote a brief history of the ASU, which we are proud to publish online here in a slightly revised form, with additional notes by LUCAS administrator Christian Høgsbjerg, as the first item in our new LUCAS Blog]

African Studies Unit: Background

LUCAS originated as the African Studies Unit that was set up in 1964 on the initiative of Walter Newlyn (Economics), who was the first chairman of the African Studies Advisory Board. It was established to act as a link between all those departments that had an active interest in Africa. Margot Kettle was the first Administrator and I started as her assistant in April 1967 on my return from Nigeria. Margot Kettle left in 1970 and I took over her position.
Over the years the position of Chairman (later known as Director) has been held by, amongst others, Walter Newlyn (Economics), John Goldthorpe (Sociology), Arthur Ravenscroft (English), David Beetham (Politics), Adrian Hastings (Theology), Lionel Cliffe and Ray Bush (Politics), and now Jane Plastow (English/Workshop Theatre).[1]
For many years the Unit operated on a tiny budget – mainly covering the costs of stationery, postage and a subscription to CARDAN [Centre d’Analyse et de Recherche Documentaires pour l’Afrique Noire] for bibliographic materials on Africa, which were filed in a card index, cross referenced under author, subject and country, and where possible it was noted where in the UK the actual publications were held. At the same time work started on abstracting all African materials from the Brotherton Library catalogue, again cross-referenced as above in a card index. The Bulletin, issued twice a year, was a small cyclostyled newsletter recording the activities of any department concerned with Africa.
Occasional lunchtime seminars were held with both internal and external speakers, lunch being catered and charged for!
The Unit was housed for many years in the Economics Department (now the School of English) and then moved to the Emmanuel Institute (now the Workshop Theatre). This facility, as the previous one, included a small reading/seminar room, and the Unit subscribed to various relevant periodicals and journals. It stayed here until moving to the present location in 1999.[2]
Under Adrian Hastings’ chairmanship in the early 1990s the Unit was given a much bigger annual budget by the University. We upgraded and enlarged the Bulletin to a properly printed and bound publication (David Richards of the School of English designed the cover), set up the annual African Studies Lecture, a regular seminar programme and a bi-annual international conference – the first in 1995, the second in 1997…
The rest is your history!

Kate Banham
ASU Administrator, 1970-1999

Additional Notes

[1] Shane Doyle (History) took over from Jane Plastow as LUCAS Director in 2014. In 2018, Adriaan van Klinken (Philosophy, Religion and History of Science) took over from Shane Doyle as LUCAS Director.

[2] The LUCAS office moved into the Economic and Social Sciences Building, then to Hillary Place, then back in the Social Sciences Building and is now located on Woodhouse Lane next to Leeds International Piano Competition building.