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Kronos

On-line version ISSN 2309-9585

Abstract

JACOBS, Nancy J.. Marriage, Science, and Secret Intelligence in the life of Rudyerd Boulton (1901-1983): An American in Africa. Kronos [online]. 2015, vol.41, n.1, pp. 287-313. ISSN 2309-9585.

W. Rudyerd Boulton was a museum ornithologist in New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago who became a specialist in the birds of Africa, notably Angola. He participated in several expeditions to Africa and the Americas, but published little. With the onset of World War II, he joined the newly formed US intelligence and espionage agency, the Office of Strategic Services. He became head of the Secret Intelligence desk for Africa and was connected to the top-secret import of Congolese uranium for atomic bomb development. His postwar career remains largely classified, but in 1953 he was employed in a personnel office of the Central Intelligence Agency. Retired in 1958, he then moved to Southern Rhodesia, where he managed the Atlantica Foundation, an organisation of his own making, which appeared to have extensive funding of unknown origins. Boulton spent the rest of his life on his 'ecological research station', a farm outside Salisbury that he offered to American and Rhodesian scientists as a research base. A retired CIA official who moved to Africa during decolonisation is inherently suspicious. Despite exhaustive efforts, Boultons continuing connection to Washington could not be documented. In fact, several indications - including his own managerial shortcomings - argue against the conclusion that he moved to Africa as a CIA plant. This paper provides an alternative explanation for his relocation, that it was the organic culmination of decades of self-construction effected through three marriages to accomplished women, two of whom were wealthy. Through his partnerships with Laura Craytor, Inez Cunningham Stark, and Louise Rehm, he developed into an expert on African nature, a liberal on American racial matters, and a wealthy patron of scientific work. Evidence of Boultons intelligence gathering may yet turn up, but for now the intimate politics of his life provides a better way to explain his relocation to Africa. Although American interests cannot explain his presence, his American origins mattered in that his African retirement was based on wealth, prestige and racial privilege gained in that country.

Keywords : Ornithology in Africa; decolonisation of Africa; the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Rhodesia.

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