The Alice Werner Collection contains manuscripts on Swahili history and poetry, especially poems associated with the legendary Fumo Liyongo.

Alice Werner was born in Trieste, Italy, on 26 June 1859, and died in London on 9 June 1935.  In her youth, she lived in New Zealand, Mexico, the USA, and Europe.  She was educated partly in Germany, and later in England, where she attended Newnham College at Cambridge University.

Werner's interest in Africa began with visits to Nyasaland in 1893 and Natal in 1894.   In 1899, she began teaching Afrikaans and Zulu in London.   Her special interest in the Swahili language and culture began in 1911 when she toured East Africa for two years.

In 1917, she joined the School of Oriental and African Studies as one of the first members of staff, initially as Lecturer then Reader.   Eventually, she became Professor of Swahili and Bantu languages until her retirement in 1930.  She also taught at Oxford and Cambridge, in co-operation with her sister Mary Werner.

In 1928, Alice Werner received the Doctorate of Litterature and, in 1930, the title of Emeritus Professor, both awards from the University of London.   She was also awarded the Silver medal of the African Society, of which she was Vice-President, in 1931.

Specific to the SOAS Swahili Manuscripts Collections, Alice Werner is remembered for her collection of Liongo songs and poems.  She also made contributions on African subjects to the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, in addition to other journals.



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