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Christian Cole enters the ODNB

ODNB logoChristian Frederick Cole (1851/2-1885) is one of the the subjects of the nine new entries of the sixty-seventh update of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB).

Cole is now the latest Old Member of Univ to be included in the ODNB. The update (there is a general summary here) coincides with Black History Month, and has a specific focus on the lives of people of Black/African descent who have had an impact on British History. The ODNB is under the general editorship of Professor Sir David Cannadine and contains biographical entries for 60,000+ people, who have shaped British history and culture from the Romans to the 21st century. Cole has now been recognised as such a figure.

Cole has become a well-known figure around Univ and Oxford thanks to the work of Dr Robin Darwall-Smith (Archivist at Univ) and Pamela Roberts, author of Black Oxford: the untold stories of Oxford University’s black scholars), and the “Making History Exhibition” (available online here), co-curated by Elizabeth Adams (Librarian at Univ).

Cole, Locke and WildeCole’s ODNB entry was authored by Dr Philip Burnett (Assistant Librarian at Univ). The entry draws on archival material from Oxford, and local and international newspaper reports. During his short life Cole lived in Sierra Leone, Britain, and Zanzibar, and the article establishes Cole’s importance in a national and international context, as opposed to a purely local, Oxford narrative.

Very little exists by way of personal papers, but writing Cole’s biography is possible through tracing his movements during his short life and picking up the observations of others, and references made to him in newspapers. The closest we have to Cole’s own voice are his pamphlets. Because of the topics they address and the places where they were distributed, the pamphlets place Cole in a wider context of the development of pan-Africanism and pan-African thought. There are copies of Cole’s pamphlets in libraries in the United Kingdom and United States, and these are the only ones known to exist. Univ is fortunate to have a copy of one of his pamphlets in the Library and you can read more about this here.

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