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Sources and Methods in African History


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Spurred in part by the ongoing re-evaluation of sources and methods in research, African historiography in the past two decades has been characterized by the continued branching and increasing sophistication of methodologies and areas of specialization. The rate of incorporation of new sources and methods into African historical research shows no signs of slowing.
This book is both a snapshot of current academic practice and an attempt to sort through some of the problems scholars face within this unfolding web of sources and methods. The book is divided into five sections, each of which begins with a short introduction by a distinguished Africanist scholar. The first section deals with archaeological contributions to historical research. The second section examines the methodologies involved in deciphering historically accurate African ethnic identities from the records of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The third section mines old documentary sources for new historical perspectives. The fourth section deals with the method most often associated with African historians, that of drawing historical data from oral tradition. The fifth section is devoted to essays that present innovative sources and methods for African historical research.
Together, the essays in this cutting-edge volume represent the current state of the art in African historical research.

Toyin Falola is the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Christian Jennings is a Doctoral Candidate in History at the University of Texas at Austin.


First Published: 20 Sep 2004
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580461405
5 black and white illustrations
Pages: 432
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Paperback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
BIC Class: GTB

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Section Introduction: Archaeology and History
  • 2  Trouble with Siblings: Archaeological and Historical Interpretation of the West African Past
  • 3  Material Culture and Cadastral Data: Documenting the Cedarberg Frontier, South Africa, 1725-1740
  • 4  Chronology, Material Culture, and Pathways to the Cultural History of Yoruba-Edo Region, 500 B.C.-A.D. 1800
  • 5  For Trinkets Such as Beads: A Revalorization of Khoisan Labor in Colonial South Africa
  • 6  Section Introduction: Methodology through the Ethnic Lens: The Study of Atlantic Africa
  • 7  Pathways to African Ethnicity in the Americas: African National Associations in Cuba during Slavery
  • 8  Slave Trade Nomenclature and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Evidence from Early Eighteenth Century Costa Rica
  • 9  Africa in Louisiana: In Search of "Bambara" and Creole Identities in Literary and Statistical Sources
  • 10  Section Introduction: New Approaches to Documentary Sources
  • 11  They Called Themselves Iloikop: Rethinking Pastoralist History in Nineteenth Century East Africa
  • 12  Interpreting Cases, Disentangling Disputes: Court Cases as a Source for Understanding Patron-Client relationships in Early Colonial Lagos
  • 13  Capricious Tyrants and Persecuted Subjects: Reading Between the Lines of Missionary Records in Precolonial Northern Namibia
  • 14  Section Introduction: Oral Tradition: Classic Questions, New Answers
  • 15  Narratives on Pilgrimmages to Mecca: Beauty versus History in Mandé Oral Tradition
  • 16  Kingship and the Mediators of the Past: Oral Tradition and Ritual Performance in Nupeland, Nigeria
  • 17  Passages in a Struggle over the Past: Stories of Maji Maji in Njombe, Tanzania
  • 18  Maisha: Life History and the History of Livelihood along the TAZARA Railway in Tanzania
  • 19  Section Introduction: Innovative Sources and Methods
  • 20  Ben and Maggie: Consuming Data: Reassessing Scientific and Anthropological Evidence: Historical Perspective on Nutrition Studies
  • 21  Electricity Networks in Africa: A Comparative Study, or How to Write Social History from Economic Sources
  • 22  "Rain or Shine We Gonna' Rock": Dance Subcultures and Identity Construction in Accra, Ghana
  • 23  Sample Surveys: Underexploited Sources for African Social History

Sources and Methods in African History

Sources and Methods in African History