Sources of the African Past
by David Robinson and Douglas K. Smith

Who Should Read This Book

  • Professors and students interested in African history
  • Academics, 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 experience

Why You Should Read This Book

Sources of 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.


From the Publisher
Sources 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" experience.

Sources 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.

In selecting 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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Sources of the African Past David Robinson, Douglas K. Smith

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