Collection of the Month – Major H S Leeson

This month the LSHTM Archives are celebrating travel archives and what better way to celebrate then to select the Leeson archive as Collection of the Month!

Major H S Leeson in 'Roads of Africa' 1936

Major H S Leeson in ‘Roads of Africa’ 1936

Major H S Leeson a Liverpudlian entomologist, taught at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1909 until he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Here, he worked with Professor Robert Newstead, Major EE Austen and Mr R Jackson on the study of the housefly in France. His association with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine began on his return from the First World War when he passed his sanitation examination and became an Associate of the Royal Sanitary Institute and in 1925 was hired as collector-demonstrator to Colonel A Alcock in the Entomology Department.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Leeson travelled to Africa and the Middle East to further his studies. From 1926 to 1928 he spent three years in Southern Rhodesia on an Anopheles survey – a work which was published as Memoir No.4 of the Research Series of the School. From 1933 to 1936 he returned to Southern Rhodesia on a study of Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles funestus. In 1936 he went on an expedition to East Africa, including Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika to again study Anopheles funestus.

Plane at Croydon Airport, 'Roads of Africa' 1936

Plane at Croydon Airport, ‘Roads of Africa’ 1936

It was during his expedition to East Africa in 1936 where Leeson and his assistant David Gillett, who was later Professor and honorary research fellow at LSHTM, recorded the 10-month expedition from their departure from Croydon airport to Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya and titled it ‘Roads of Africa’. As well as showing details of the expedition, the film gives an insight into the lives of the people they met in Africa – the men they recruited as assistants, the women preparing food and carrying water, the families dressed in their Sunday best and the children dancing. There are also wonderful views of the scenery and wildlife in Africa. Gillett’s voiceover was added to the ‘Roads of Africa’ shortly before his death in 1995*.

Dr David Gillett in 'Roads of Africa' 1936

Dr David Gillett in ‘Roads of Africa’ 1936.

During the Second World War, Leeson played a vital part in the prevention of malaria in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Cyprus by carrying out anopheline surveys as the entomologist of the No. 2 Malaria Field Laboratory and from 1943 to 1945, Leeson was the head of the malaria wing of the Middle East School of Hygiene. On his return to England, Leeson worked as a lecturer for the Department of Entomology at LSHTM.

The Archive here at LSHTM contains Leeson’s papers from this expedition, including correspondence, work plans, itineraries, photographs, maps, menus, research notes and the original film of ‘Roads of Africa’.

Menu from Leeson's trip to Africa in 1935

Menu from Leeson’s trip to Africa in 1935

The Leeson collection also contains the records of his expeditions to Southern Rhodesia in the late 1920s and early 1930s and Yemen in the mid-1940s. The archive also holds a small collection of material relating to the work of David Gillett from 1930s to 1990s.

For those that are interested all of these items are available to view by appointment in the School Archive. For further information, see the Archives Services webpages which can be found on the School website or contact us:

A screening of ‘Roads of Africa’ will be shown by the Archives in the near future.



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