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Henry Arthur Northey Barlow was born at Bridgnorth, Shropshire, in 1905, the son of Walter Charles Barlow, a clergyman, and his wife Constance Fanny Northey. Educated at Marlborough College and then at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, he subsequently joined the Indian Colonial Service, and was Acting Consul-General in Kashgar, Western China, between 1935 and 1938. He was awarded an O.B.E. in 1947.
Following the Second World War Barlow transferred to Africa. He was a secretariat officer in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia, between 1948 and 1954, where his letters describe political and social events, alongside his disapproval of the political activities and racial policies of the white settler community. In 1951 he married Pamela C. Hunter and in 1954 he transferred to the Kenyan administrative service for four years.
In 1958 he returned to Lusaka at the invitation of Oliver Green Wilkinson, then Anglican Bishop of Northern Rhodesia and from 1960 Archbishop of Central Africa. Barlow served as Wilkinson's secretary until the Archbishop's death in 1970 and thereafter remained as a secretary in the Anglican headquarters until 1972 when he retired and returned to England. Barlow's letters from this time reflect his personal interest in the training and education of African ordinands and the broad social circles in which he moved as a member of Wilkinson's staff. He welcomed Northern Rhodesia's independence in 1964 and continued to work in the new country of Zambia.
During his service abroad Barlow corresponded frequently with his brother, Walter Northey Cecil Barlow, and his wife Joyce 'Joy' Lloyd, whom Walter married in 1920.
Upon retirement, Barlow moved to Wells in Somerset, where he died in 1978.
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Dr Robert Baldock, 'The Letters of H. A. N. Barlow Esq OBE', The Borthwick Institute for Archives