Field Notes Introduction

Introduction and Orientation to Using the Miller Field Notes

The Miller Field Notes are a digitized searchable collection of original East African field notes collected by Dr. Norman Miller in three districts in Tanzania in the years 1964-1966.  The original field notes were in the form of 1800 5” x 8” perforated notes which were typed in the field [photo].

Dr. Miller devised an accompanying pre-computer punch card search system to index the material on the field notes, which covers a broad array of topics. The research was conducted as part of Dr. Miller’s doctoral dissertation:

Miller, Norman N. “Village Leadership and Modernization in Tanzania: Rural Politics Among the Nyamwezi People of Tabora Region.” 1967. (PhD dissertation, Indiana University).

The years after Tanzanian independence in 1964 was a time of enormous political change. Traditional chiefs were being eased out for political party leaders, and there was a lot of development pressures for roads, wells, and agriculture.

The Miller study was done to compare three different traditional leadership systems: one, hierarchical with paramount chiefs (Nyamwezi), one without paramount chiefs but with traditional leaders (Rungwe), and one with family and clan heads as the political authority (Kisarawe).

Information Captured:

Field notes were gathered in a systematic basis, studying local government structure, political party activity, and the “micropolitics” of the three regions.


How the notes were classified

Sample Field Note and Corresponding Punch Card:

Ideas for Research:

Students who wish to work with this material have a lot of options:

Study the three districts in Tanzania in terms of their history, agricultural development, and transitional realities coming into independence. The three districts represent three very different geographies, an arid savanna agriculture (Tabora), a fertile highlands producing coffee, tea, and mixed agriculture (Rungwe), and a coastal fishing and cassava area (Kisarawe). Other topics of interest are political attitudes, economic profiles of villagers and village leaders, study of witchcraft and religion, a study of local leadership, and historic attitudes of different groups of Tanzanians just after independence.


How to Use this Search System:

The Search system is based on two types of categorization. First are the types of documents available–their type, location, and geographic scale (village, district, ect)–and second are subject matter distinctions such as “ethnic group,” “political system,” “economic material,” ect.

These field notes and corresponding punch cards have been added to a database. Each field note is searchable according to the search categories. They are listed on the side of this page. Select one or more search categories and all of the field notes that are categorized as either will be in the search results. For example, if you choose the tribe Nyakyusa and the tribe Nyamwezi you will get all notes that are categorized as either Nyakyusa OR Nyamwezi as opposed to notes that are classified as both Nyakyusa and Nyamwezi. The text from the punch card is also searchable by typing a word in the search box at the top of the search categories. Again, if more than one word is typed into the search field, the results will contain field notes that contain either of the words. After you have selected your search criteria, click the Submit button at the bottom of the search criteria and your results will appear indicating the total number of notes found at the top. You can use the reset button at the bottom of the search categories to clear the search criteria and start over.

Please note that each image of a field note could be made up of 1 or more of the 5” x 8” cards used to take notes. You will see in the field note which paragraph is referenced but the image could contain more than the paragraph referenced.  You may need to scan the image to find the appropriate section before delving into the detailed field notes.