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Peter Canham albums of the Gold Coast [i.e. Ghana]

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y30448O-R

Scope and Contents

A collection of albums relating to Canham's career in the Gold Coast. Like his papers, it is a partial collection.

Y30448O is an album of snapshots of his early days in the Colony.
Y30448P includes some photographs relating to his career and also some cuttings and other historical items.
Y30448Q is chiefly of official photographs of the period of Sir Alan Burns' Governorship, 1941-47.
Y30448R is of the last stages to Independence and of Governors Creasy (1948-49) and Arden-Clarke (1949-57). There is also a group of photographs of the funeral of Asantehene in 1970.

Y30448P-R were originally albums with transparent film across each page, and since this method was not in use during Canham's career in the Gold Coast, these three presumably represent a re-arrangement of his collection during his later career or retirement. This theory is supported by the fact that a number of photographs have dark paper adhering to their backs, suggesting that they were removed from other albums, and Y30448P/23 was probably a mounted photograph removed from a frame. Canham annotated some of the photographs on the back; there are a few inscriptions in other hands, and some official photographs have typed captions on the back or below. The photographs have been removed from their albums and stored in conservation grade plastic sleeves, and the source of captions is given in each entry.

Ronald Wraith wrote a six-page appraisal of Canham's life, a photocopy of which, supplied by Alan Bell, Librarian of Rhodes House, has been inserted in Y30448O, and was drawn upon for the biographical information provided in this catalogue.


  • Creation: 1938 - 1970


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Peter Holmes Canham was born on 24 August 1914 and educated at St. Paul's School and Pembroke College, Oxford; BA (Hons). In 1938 he was appointed a Cadet in the Gold Coast Administration and arrived in the Colony on 10th August. His posts were Assistant District Commissioner, Mampong, 1938-39, Acting D.C. Kumasi, 1940-42 and D.C. Bekwai, 1942-45, all in Ashanti. In this work in the field, he developed a close rapport with Africans and an excellent knowledge of their languages.

After two years as Senior Assistant Colonial Secretary, he was posted to Whitehall for a further two years in the African Department of the Colonial Office. Returning to the Gold Coast in 1950 he was, for a few months, in charge of the Kumasi district with special responsibility for the General Election under the Coussey Constitution, but most of his remaining service, up to the Independence of the Gold Coast as Ghana in 1957, was in central administration - general secretariat duties, 1951-53, regional office, Cape Coast 1953-54, and Secretary to Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, the last Governor of the Gold Coast, 1955-57.

Peter Canham left the Overseas Civil Service on Ghana's Independence; he remained in the country in educational work for a time but later went to Headmasterships of secondary schools in Southern Rhodesia and Uganda, to principalships of teacher training colleges in Western and Northern Nigeria, and finally to teaching Third World Studies in the Institutes of Education at the Universities of London and Cardiff. He retired from Cardiff in June 1981, but his retirement was soon clouded by ill-health, and he died in October 1984.


2 archive box(es) (267 images in 2 boxes)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

generally good condition, unless otherwise stated.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Given by Mrs. Jennifer Irvine, Peter Canham's sister, through Ronald Wraith CBE, in April 1990.

Related Materials

Ronald Wraith deposited Canham's papers, which do not provide a systematic coverage of his career, in Rhodes House, Oxford.


Use was also made, both in the biographical information and the other catalogue notes, of the Gold Coast Staff Lists of 1938 and 1956-57, the Colonial Office List and Who's Who.


This item level description was created by MJC and NE using information from the original typescript catalogue.


Canham, Peter Holmes, 1914-1984, colonial administrator

Includes index.
2004-10-01 11:22:22+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom