Who was N. W. Thomas?

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Northcote Whitridge Thomas (1868-1936) was the first official government anthropologist to be appointed by the British Colonial Office. He was born in the English market town of Oswestry, near the Welsh border. Although his mother and father lived until 1907…

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Between 1909 and 1915, the Government Anthropologist, Northcote Thomas, conducted a series of ethnological surveys of Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone. He took thousands of photographs and made hundreds of wax cylinder sound recordings. The names of many of those he photographed and recorded are unknown. Many are identified only by a number. In one case, a casual note tells us that the subject of photograph 1430 is 'the singer of record 283'.…


Between 1909 and 1915, Northcote Thomas led four extensive anthropological surveys in Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Explore the journeys on Google Maps.


The [Re:]Entanglements project has been researching and rearticulating the collections originally assembled by the anthropologist N. W. Thomas in the early years of the twentieth century in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. What does this remarkable ethnographic archive mean for different


Between 1909 and 1915, Northcote Thomas led four extensive anthropological surveys in Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone, West Africa. We have reconstructed Thomas’s travels from fieldnotes, letters and information associated with his photographs, sound recordings and collections. Explore the itineraries


One of the main objectives of the [Re:]Entanglements project has been to bring copies of the photographs and sound recordings made by Northcote Thomas in Nigeria and Sierra Leone between 1909 and 1915 back to the communities whose heritage they

[Re:]Entanglements: Colonial Collections in Decolonial Times

Over the last few years, the [Re:]Entanglements project has been re-engaging with a remarkable ethnographic archive – including objects, photographs, sound recordings, botanical specimens, published work and fieldnotes – assembled by the colonial anthropologist, Northcote W. Thomas, in Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone between 1909 and 1915. As well as better understanding the historical context in which these materials were gathered, the project seeks to examine their significance in the present. What do these archives and collections mean for different communities today? What actions do they make possible? How might we creatively explore their latent possibilities?

The project is being led by Paul Basu at SOAS University of London and involves many partnerships in the UK, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and beyond. These include the many institutions across which this ethnographic archive has been dispersed, including the Nigerian National Museum, Lagos, the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the British Library Sound Archive, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the UK National Archives.

New articles and resources are constantly being added to the website. If you are interested in finding out more or would like to get involved please contact us! Join the project Facebook Group and contribute to the debates about colonial collections in decolonial times.


Project Partners

Project Partners

University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
British Library
Royal Anthropological Institute
Pitt Rivers Museum
The National Archives
Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage
Research Centre for Material Culture