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Figures in a Spare Landscape
Serving in the Twilight of Empire,
Bornu Province, Nigeria, 1959–60
Peter Haring Judd
Illustrated with over 100 photos
ISBN 978-1-947980-86-0 b&w pbk. 266 pages $18.00
ISBN 978-1-947980-57-0 color pbk. $30.00
ISBN 978-1-947980-58-7 color hdc. $40.00
published by Ma'arri, an imprint of Spuyten Duyvil Publishing
“When news of the kidnappings and murders of the Boko Haram surfaced in the 2010s I found datelines from once familiar towns and villages. I looked through my old notebooks and photo slides. They recall places and peoples now long gone and must be shared in homage to who and what was. Here they are.”
Peter Judd is always a rewarding historian. His latest work, Figures in a Spare Landscape, benefits from the same strengths as his other works: historical modesty and a devotion to the close study of unconventional sources. In this case, Judd’s source is himself. Based on diaries kept while he was teaching in Bornu Province, Nigeria, the book understands its position very clearly.
Judd’s position in Nigeria was that of a white, upper-class, very well-educated American man who was teaching in Nigeria because he was interested and motivated by ideals, but also because he wasn’t sure what to do at “home.”
The moment was 1959-60, one year before Nigerian independence from British rule. In fact, one of Judd’s responsibilities was the organizing and teaching of election supervisors. It would have been easy to say that it was a historic year, the year of independence. It would, therefore, also have been easy for Judd to say that he was participating in something historic. However, one of the many strengths of Figures in a Spare Landscape is Judd’s ability to make the “greatness” of things disappear and give evidence of the way individuals are able, but also quite unable, to see or understand their position and opportunities.
Peter Haring Judd graduated from Harvard College AB cum laude in 1954; he served two years in the US Army as an enlisted man in Staff Communications at the Pentagon. In 1959-60 he served as Education Officer in the Northern Region of Nigeria, assigned to the Provincial Secondary School, Maiduguri. In 1962 he published African Independence: the exploding emergence of the new African nations, a mass-market paperback that sold tens of thousands of copies. (New York: Dell Publishing Co, 1962), For a list of contributors see References supra.
He earned a PhD from the Department of Political Science at Columbia University in 1970, with a dissertation, “British Perspectives on the United States, 1840-1860.”
He was with the Corporate and Environmental Planning Department at Northeast Utilities in Connecticut for 20 years, with numerous writing assignments and latterly planning a system wide energy conservation initiative. In 1983 he was appointed Assistant Commissioner, Energy Conservation Division in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) New York City. He retired from city service in 1991. His book The Hatch and Brood of Time: Five Phelps Families in the New World, 1730 1880 (Boston: Newbury Street Press, 1999) received the year 2000 award for family history from the Connecticut Society of Genealogists and, the Donald Lines Jacobus Award, the leading award in the fiedl from the American Society of Genealogists . His More Lasting than Brass: A Thread of Family from Revolutionary New York to Industrial Connecticut (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004) received the Grand Prize in genealogy from the Connecticut Society. In 2008 he published a three-volume account of the direct paternal and maternal ancestries of his four grandparents, Four American Ancestries: White, Griggs, Cowles, Judd… and related families. In 2008 he published a two-volume compilation of family letters, Affection: 80 Years of Family Letters, 1850s 1930s, Haring, White, Griggs Judd Families of New York and Waterbury Connecticut which received the Connecticut Society’s Literary Awards prize in family history in that year. In March 2008 the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly published his article, “Adding muscle and sinew: spicing up a family narrative.” In 2012 he published The Akeing Heart, Passionate Attachments and Their Aftermath: Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland and Elizabeth Wade White. A revised edition, The Akeing Heart: Letters between Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland and Elizabeth Wade White, was published in 2018 by Handheld Press, UK.
He is a professional actor and performed regularly in New York smaller theaters. He lives in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and over the years has actively supported a number of the city’s musical and theater companies.