Planning the Dictionary of Mambila Biography

Planning the Dictionary of Mambila Biography

Here is some DMB planning discussion.

This project was inspired by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, UK

Thinking about the UK DNB with Mambila in mind raises some interesting questions of method and practice and it these questions that I hope to explore in this blog.


DNB criteria are here:

Scope: limits on inclusion. Not just the self-proclaimed ethnically Mambila. Surely other long term residents should be considered e.g. Paul Gebauer, the first missionary to be resident in Warwar? (This prompts the question: Who was the first Mallam to be based on the Mambila Plateau?)

Criteria for inclusion:

a) no longer being alive

b) Should being first help? e.g. first to get a university degree, first to travel to Europe or USA?

c) being holders of an offices in itself is not enough – I don’t think we want entries on every chief of every village. (Or should we?)

d) Gender balance

e) village balance (this raises the question of what counts as a village, what a constituent hamlet?). Should we start with a gazetteer and say 2 entries per village, then once we’ve got that go round again? But surely larger towns such as Gembu deserve more?

We should bear in mind the criteria used by the ODNB:

The Oxford DNB includes people who have left their mark on an aspect of national life, worldwide, from the Romans to the early 21st century. All people included in the ODNB are deceased.
To have an entry in the Dictionary is not an ‘honour’; rather it’s an acknowledgement that an individual has shaped an aspect of national life (for good or ill), and is duly recorded for today’s, and future, readers and researchers with an interest in the British past. accessed 25 June 2015

This does not oblige us to follow in their footsteps but it is nonetheless suggestive. If we depart from this precedent we need good reasons for so doing. Reasons which can be explained in public: for example, we will not add entries because we have been paid to do so by the families of the person concerned.

A first step is the Gazetteer