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Writing African History


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Writing African History is an essential work for anyone who wants to write, or even seriously read, African history. It will replace Daniel McCall's classic Africa in Time Perspective as the introduction to African history for the next generation and as a reference for professional historians, interested readers, and anyone who wants to understand how African history is written.
Africa in Time Perspective was written in the 1960s, when African history was a new field of research. This new book reflects the development of African history since then. It opens with a comprehensive introduction by Daniel McCall, followed by a chapter by the editor explaining what African history is [and is not] in the context of historical theory and the development of historical narrative, the humanities, and social sciences. The first half of the book focuses on sources of historical data while the second half examines different perspectives on history. The editor's final chapter explains how to combine various sorts of evidence into a coherent account of African history. Writing African History will become the most important guide to African history for the 21st century.

Contributors: Bala Achi, Isaac Olawale Albert, Diedre L. Badéjo, Dorothea Bedigian, Barbara M. Cooper, Henry John Drewal, Christopher Ehret, Toyin Falola, David Henige, Joseph E. Holloway, John Hunwick, S. O. Y. Keita, William G. Martin, Daniel McCall, Susan Keech McIntosh, Donatien Dibwe Dia Mwembu, Kathleeldon, John Thornton, and Masao Yoshida.

John Edwards Philips is Professor of International Society, Hirosaki University, and author of Spurious Arabic: Hausa and Colonial Nigeria [Madison, University of Wisconsin African Studies Center, 2000].


Winner, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2006

A serious, balanced, and useful work that ought to become basic for outsiders new to the field as well as for specialized Africanists. --Joseph C. Miller, T. Cary Johnson, Jr. Professor of History, University of Virginia

African history has clearly come of age with this monumental, comprehensive guide. --Merrick Posnansky, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA

This is essential reading for anyone interested in African history, and should be the first book read by anyone who does not know anything about African history. --Paul E. Lovejoy, FRSC, Distinguished Research Professor, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History

An excellent guide for introducing the field to beginning graduate students and even upper division undergraduates. --Edward Alpers, Professor of History, UCLA

The essays to this book are well written, well thought-out, and very effective in describing the sources and methods used by historians of Africa. H-NET REVIEWS, 2006


First Published: 01 May 2005
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580461641
7 black and white illustrations
Pages: 546
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
BIC Class: GTB

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  What is African History?
  • 2  Archaeology and the Reconstruction of the African Past
  • 3  Writing African History from Linguistic Evidence
  • 4  Physical Anthropology and African History
  • 5  The Importance of Botanical Data to Historical Research on Africa
  • 6  Oral Tradition as a Means of Reconstructing the Past
  • 7  Oral Sources and the Challenge of African History
  • 8  Arabic Sources for African History
  • 9  European Documents and African History
  • 10  Mission and Colonial Documents
  • 11  Data Collection and Interpretation in the Social History of Africa
  • 12  African Economic History: Approaches to Research
  • 13  Signs of Time, Shapes of Thought: The Contributions of Art History and Visual Culture to Historical Methods in Africa
  • 14  Methodologies in Yoruba Oral Historiography and Aesthetics
  • 15  Local History in Post-Independent Africa
  • 16  Africa and World-Systems Analysis: A Post Nationalist Project?
  • 17  What Africa Has Given America: African Continuities in the North American Diaspora
  • 18  History and Memory
  • 19  Writing About Women: Approaches to a Gendered Perspective in African History
  • 20  Writing African History

Writing African History

Writing African History