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East Africa: Charles Stokes collection

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y30468P

Scope and Contents

Collection of twenty-four loose prints (including eight duplicates), mostly modern copies of contemporary photographs of the career of Charles Stokes (1852-1895) collected in connection with the biography by Anne Luck: 'Charles Stokes in Africa' (1972). There are also fourteen modern copy negatives.

Material for a biography of Stokes was gathered by H.B. Thomas, but in 1961 he handed it to Anne Luck, then resident in Uganda, who undertook research on the spot, including interviews with Stokes' widow Nyanjala (who died in 1968, aged about 97) (see photos 8 and 24). Copies of numbers 1 and 3 were obtained from the CMS. H.B. Thomas continued research into the aftermath of Stokes' will and established contact with C.B. Sherratt, nephew of Ellen Stokes; he lent photographs 21 and 22, though it was later established that they did not, as he had believed, represent Nellie Stokes. The book had been sent to the publisher when, in 1969, Nellie Stokes’ daughter Marie Cooper, visited London and allowed a scrap-book, some letters and photographs in her possession to be borrowed and copied. This is the source of numbers 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 16 and 17. It was too late to alter the illustrations in the book (8, 1, 3, 22), but 5 was used as a cover illustration, and an addendum derived from Miss Cooper's material added on pages 199-203 of the book. Number 15 was given to the library of the RCS after its publication.


  • Creation: 1878 - 1895


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

Charles Henry Stokes was born in Dublin in 1852. In 1877 he entered the service of the Church Missionary Society, and arrived in Zanzibar in May 1878. He became a valuable caravan leader. On 31 January 1883 he was married at Christ Church Cathedral, Zanzibar, to Ellen Sherratt. Ellen was born about 1861 and trained at Wolverhampton Infirmary. She joined the UMCA as a nurse and arrived in Zanzibar on 3 February 1882. The couple then returned to England in the spring of 1883: photographs 1 and 3 were taken at this time. They arrived back in Zanzibar on 5 November, but in March 1884 Ellen Stokes died a few days after giving birth to a daughter, Nellie. The following year Stokes was dismissed by the CMS, having informed them that he had married an African, Limi (see photograph number 15), and he embarked on trading independently, in which he accumulated substantial assets. In addition to Limi, he had other African wives, among them Nyanjala. He was seized by a Belgian patrol, and hanged on 15 June 1895 on a charge of selling guns to the Arabs. This led to international reactions, and eventually to the payment of a substantial sum in compensation, whose disposal led to complicated legal proceedings.


24 item(s) (24 images)

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Copies

This collection is available on microfiche: Africa, fiche number 110.


Photographs numbered 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15 and 16 were used as illustrations in: Harman, Nicholas (1986) ‘Bwana Stokesi and his African conquests’, London: Cape.


This collection level description was entered by WS and MJC using information from the original typescript catalogue.

Date information

DateText: The photographs are modern copies of images taken between 1878 and 1895..


Stokes, Charles Henry, d 1895

Includes index.
2006-08-17 11:50:21+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