In 1961 Tony Allott, then a rather young elder statesman of African law, helped to foster my interest in that subject, and my subsequent work in Ethiopia. He and several other distinguished colleagues in London also encouraged other American initiatives to assist the development of legal education and research in Africa, efforts which began in 1962, burgeoned during the ensuing decade, and then withered rapidly.
The activities of the early 60s helped to generate an extraordinary number of different kinds of projects: the temporary placement of over 150 Americans in law teaching positions in African institutions; a large and wide variety of research and writing; the founding of law reporters, law journals and university institutes of African law, both within Africa and elsewhere; the flow of a substantial number of Africans to graduate legal studies in U.S. and U.K. universities; new kinds of interactions between African, British and American scholars. These activities also contributed to the emergence (notably in North America) of that amorphous, contentious field of scholarship which came to be called “law and development”, and, then, in the latter 70s, to acrimonious critiques and agonising reappraisals of much of all this effort.
Tony Allott participated in, or observed, much of this history, as anyone familiar with his career and bibliography will know. I hope that this brief account of some of these past activities may be of some interest to him, and to others interested in law and social change in Africa.