The W. H. Whiteley Collection comprises the collected papers of Wilfred Howell Whiteley.

Wilfred Howell Whiteley was born in Liverpool on 19 November 1924.   He was educated at King Edward's High School, Birmingham, with the last two years at Lancaster Grammar School.   His education was interrupted by a period of National Service, which took him to East Africa for a time.

This lasted until the end of the War, when he became a student at the London School of Economics, graduating in Anthropology in 1949.   He was then appointed as Research Assistant at the International African Institute, but after a short time he accepted the post of Government Anthropologist, in Tanganyika.   His duties took him mainly to the Southern province, where he became interested in the local Bantu languages.

During this period, he was also in touch with the East African Institute of Social Research at Makerere, Uganda.   When his contract as Government Anthropologist ended in 1952, he was appointed Research Fellow at the Institute until 1958.

During his time in East Africa, Whiteley concentrated mainly on linguistic research, with the help of the eminent African linguist, Malcolm Guthrie, and he focused specifically on the languages to the east of Lake Victoria in both Kenya and Tanganyika.   The material collected was used for his doctoral thesis in Linguistics awarded by the University of London in 1955.  

Because of his knowledge of Swahili he became Secretary of the East African Swahili Committee that was formed in 1930 at Kampala to co-ordinate work on Swahili throughout the then British East Africa.   He also promoted the standardisation and nationalisation of Swahili at the time when the territories were gaining independence.

In 1959 he was appointed as the first Reader in Bantu Languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and he focused on teaching and research in Swahili. Between 1961-1962 he conducted fieldwork in Nyasaland among the Yao people where he began to study their language, as well as conducting research among the Kamba people of Kenya.  

After this two year research leave, he spent one academic year as visiting Professor at the University of Wisconsin.   He then returned to Tanganiyka in 1964 when plans were finalised to the opening of the Department of African Languages and Linguistics at the University College of Dar es Salaam, of which he became a member of staff and Head of Department between 1964-1967.   He also became Director of the Institute of Swahili Research, which was established on his recommendation to take over the functions of the East Africa Swahili Committee.

At the end of 1967, he returned to the School of Oriental and African Studies and he succeeded Malcolm Guthrie as Head of the Department of Africa.   However, before taking up the position, he had to complete his appointment as member of the Survey of Language Use and Language Planning in East Africa that was conducted in Kenya.   Also, when M Guthrie retired in 1970, he succeeded him to the Chair of Bantu Languages. Whiteley's main interest and field of work was socio-linguistics, but he also made significant contribution to the study of Swahili syntax.  

W. H. Whiteley died suddently on 16 April 1972 at the age of 47, whilst on a lecture tour to Indiana University, USA.

Much of Whiteley's works have been published, which include 'Studies in Iraqw-an Introduction' (Kampala, 1953); 'A practical introduction to Kamba' (OUP, 1962); 'A Study of Yao Sentences' (Clarendon, 1965); and 'Some Problems of Transitivity in Swahili' (SOAS, 1968).



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