of the African Past
by David Robinson and Douglas K. Smith
Should Read This Book
and students interested in African history
students and others interested in historiography, original documents
and the craft of being a professional historian
- Any one
wishing to learn more about Africa's past
- Any one
interested in listening to the many voices that contributed to the African
You Should Read This Book
the African Past is the most innovative textbook about Africa in print:
- It avoids
the all too common mistake of other texts that try (but fail) to recount
the histories of Africa's thousands of different peoples between the
covers of a single book.
- It weaves
original sources together with explanatory passages into narratives
that tell stories in depth about five particular 19th century African
societies whose pasts continue to echo well into the 21st century:
- The Zulu state of Shaka and Dingane
- The emergence of Lesothos under the legendary Moshweshwe
- Buganda's civil strife on the eve of colonialization
- Islamic reform throughout Northern Nigeria
- The political economy of the Asante
- It draws
attention to the themes that these five societies have in common as
well as those that are unique
- It puts
student and teach on a level playing field by including primary and
contemporaneous secondary sources to each.
- It provides
a variety of aids to understanding including chronologies, glossaries
and essay questions to help readers, teachers and students absorb the
rich tapestry that is Africa's past.
of the African Past combines a case-study approach with an emphasis
on primary and orally transmitted sources to accomplish three objectives;
to tell a story in some depth, to portray major themes and to raise basic
questions of analysis and interpretation. The case studies are set in
the nineteenth century and deal with critical periods in the fortunes
of five societies in different parts of the continent (South, East, and
West Africa). The authors wish students to work with the "raw"
materials of history and to that end have provided a workbook for a "laboratory"
of the African Past is designed for use in a wide variety of courses
and in conjuction with other texts. The authors have kept their own interpretations
to a minimum and invited scrutiny of their decision of selection and arrangement.
They chose the cases on the basis of several criteria: geographical coverage,
abundance and diversity of primary sources, importance in the secondary
literature, and relevance to important historical problems. All the studies
emphasize political change. All witness some growth in European intervention.
the documents, the authors sought a balance of perspective without sacrificing
accuracy and relevance. This means a conscious effort to present a variety
of views: African and European, internal and external, partipant and observer,
those of the victims as well as those of the victors, those of the "people"
as well as those of the elite. Within the limitations of space, they have
made the excerpts sufficiently long to allow the reader to examine the
author's style, purpose and other characteristics. Keeping in mind the
limitations of libraries, they have attemted to make each chapter self-contained.
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