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date: 12 December 2018

The Wisconsin School of African History

Summary and Keywords

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been a prominent producer of doctorates in African history since 1963. As of 2017 the institution had granted more than 110 degrees. Philip D. Curtin and Jan Vansina, both pioneers in launching the field, led the program until 1975 and were joined in 1969 by Steven Feierman. Together, they supervised an initial cohort of graduates, several of whom became leaders of the then still-formative field, particularly in its methodological infrastructure, as well as in economic and demographic history, slavery in Africa and the Atlantic slave trade, and medical history. The distinguishing features qualifying a diverse array of individual intellectual trajectories as a coherent “school” include a focus on epistemologically historical approaches anchored in the intellectual perspectives of Africans as historical actors and often also as they engaged broader commercial Atlantic and Indian Ocean and world contexts; smaller numbers of more recent doctorates had subsequently sustained these orientations.

Former graduates of the program, William W. Brown, David Henige, and Thomas T. Spear, returned after 1975 to update this framework by bringing social theory and cultural history to bear on the African historical actors at the program’s core. Since 2005, a third generation of faculty members, Neil Kodesh, James Sweet, and Emily Colacci (all students of Wisconsin PhDs teaching at other institutions), have added contemporary approaches to the Wisconsin school’s continuing commitment to Africans’ distinctive epistemologies as they engaged the flows of modern global history. Professionally, Madison graduates have, accordingly, led the ongoing effort to bring Africa in from its initial marginality—as the continent seen as uniquely without a history—into the historical discipline’s core. An aphoristic summary of the Wisconsin legacy might be “Africans’ worlds and Africans in the world.”

Keywords: Curtin, Vansina, Feierman, methodologies, oral tradition, slavery, Atlantic history, women’s history

The School

The Wisconsin school of African history is a set of intellectual and methodological approaches that, over some six decades, contributed to significant developments in the broader field.1 Several of the dozen or so faculty, and more than a hundred PhD graduates of the African History program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have also been individually prominent among recipients of widely recognized fellowships, honors, and professional offices, but grouping them as a “school” leads beyond these personal distinctions to their collective distinguishing influences on the overarching trajectory of the field.2 Their goal is bringing Africa’s past in from its origins beyond the fringe of the historical discipline to its current (2018) growing acceptance by colleagues in the older, conventional fields of European and United States history.3

Founders

Philip D. Curtin, originally a historian of British imperialism with an emphasis on the 19th-century West Indies, caught the initial wave of African history as it broke over the historical profession in the 1950s. Curtin had come to Wisconsin in 1956 and was asked also to teach Latin American history.4 Recognizing the relevance of the African context of Britain’s modern history, he had arranged extensive travels on the continent and began work on the intellectual history that became The Image of Africa.5 Deepening his engagement with Africa, he joined the US African Studies Association in 1958, affiliating with the founding fellows of the preceding year. As national independence gained momentum throughout the sub-Saharan portions of the continent, peaking with the emergence of seventeen new nations in the momentous year of 1960, he soon became a consultant to the national foundations supporting the proliferation of so-called area studies in the United States. At Wisconsin, he added Africa to the range of history doctoral fields offered in the momentous year of independence, and international respectability, in Africa.

From nearly the beginning, the African history degree at Wisconsin was closely coordinated with an interdisciplinary African studies program—a (“Title VI”) National Resource Center for Africa, funded under the 1958 National Defense Education Act and administered by the (then) US Department of Health, Education and Welfare—with Curtin as first director. In history, he recruited Jan Vansina, who arrived in late 1960, bringing training in medieval history (Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium), several years (1952 to 1960) of experience as a researcher in Ruanda-Urundi and the Belgian Congo for the then-new Belgian government Institute of Scientific Research in Central Africa (Institute pour la Recherche Scientifique en Afrique Centrale, IRSAC), formal study of anthropology at University College London, and an audacious Leuven doctoral dissertation laying out a formal method for critiquing African oral traditions as sources for their tellers’ unwritten pasts.6

To establish a place for Africa in Madison’s large department, with over seven hundred graduate students dedicated to the histories of United States and Europe that then constituted the discipline, Curtin adopted a strategy anticipating what James C. Scott, in other contexts, later labeled “weapons of the weak.” With Carnegie Corporation funding, he expanded the department’s faculty in Latin America and added positions in Southeast Asia, the Islamic World, and South Asia (or “India” as it then was). Accepting the negatively defined grouping of these “non-western” fields as marginal to the respectable streams of the discipline, in 1959 he clustered them under a positive designation as a Program in Comparative Tropical History. The first class of graduate students arrived in 1960, other students already enrolled in conventional fields converted, and Comparative Tropical History became a recognized caucus (and examination field) in Wisconsin’s Department of History. It did not take the students in the subject long to exult in the inevitable nickname accorded their alliance: “Comp Swamp.”

The epistemology of the program, however, was serious and substantial. It adapted the then-dynamic and disruptive field of “social history,” devoted to rescuing the seemingly inarticulate—French and English villagers, Mexican peasants, and potentially also Africans and others in the low latitudes—from the oblivion assigned them by the prevailing disciplinary reliance on the written words of great men, about great ideas, religious and secular, high politics, and grand wars. Africa became provocatively notorious among all these deserving “people without history” when Hugh Trevor-Roper, one of the United Kingdom’s most eminent scholars in the discipline, with consummate timing mobilized aspiring historians of Africa with his acerbic assertion that “Perhaps in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But, at present there is none: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness . . . [otherwise there were only] the unedifying gyrations of barbarous tribes in picturesque but irrelevant corners of the globe.”7 Even without Trevor-Roper’s unintending call to arms, a palpable and energizing sense of social activism, a mission, permeated this founding generation’s dedication to recovering their past to prepare Africa’s new nations for the bright future promised by their release from colonial constraints. This initial nationalist phase of African historiography, ironically, extended the early 20th-century devotion of the discipline to the histories of European and American nations. The field is only now recovering from some of the ramifications of this implicitly euro-centric launch.

Training in the comparative history program centered on a graduate seminar, taught every semester, first by Curtin and then by a rotating sequence of the new faculty from the other peripheries. It met university minimums for enrollments by assembling the initially small cohorts of students in each of the participating fields in instructionally viable numbers. It departed from the standard format featuring student research for their theses to frame its members’ personal interests in contexts far beyond their own regional fields, often to revelatory effect. Intellectually, the connections among the geographically dispersed equatorial regions were meant to emerge from a methodology comparing recurring and seemingly similar historical phenomena formulated as sociological abstractions; these “models” usually involved such largely still-anonymous aggregates as “slaves” or “millennial movements.” Most of these topics of the tropics offered an intriguing air of exoticism to the historical discipline’s liberal northern-hemispheric mind at the time: slavery, “cross-cultural trade” and trading diaspora, state-formation, “trans-frontiersmen,” “plural societies,” “secondary empires,” mass migrations, and more. These phenomena tended to converge with the main fields of the discipline by focusing on interactions between the West and the Rest and by extending to the historical hallmarks of the era, revolutions, revolts, and nationalist movements.8

The primary historical aspect of the seminar’s comparative social-science logic lay in probing the diverse specific contexts in which the events classed as similar had turned up in what subsequently came to be termed the “Global South.” Students in the seminar learned to think in context-transcending scales, on reasonably informed empirical foundations, that also sensitized them to the broader patterns of historical change later elaborated as “world history.” In African history, large entering classes of graduate students—as many as twelve to fifteen in the peak years after 1965—supported more conventional research seminars leading students into the emerging intricacies of the sources for the field. Although the program had begun by taking captive the existing exclusion of the “tropics” from conventional history’s purview, the vitality of its approach soon attracted participants from the mainstream fields and was redefined, more inclusively, in 1973 as “Comparative World History.”

Comparative tropical history at Wisconsin also joined the simultaneous opening of the conventional fields of the West to the histories of “the Rest.” William McNeill, at the University of Chicago, in 1965 had challenged the prevailing introduction to “history” in US higher-education as axiomatically “western civilization” by problematizing The Rise of the West.9 With barely implicit irony, McNeill presented Europe as a small, parochial peninsula, peripheral to dynamic older Asian and Islamic worlds, which derived key innovations in its “rise” from those “non-western” sources. The book became the basic text for Curtin’s popular undergraduate (and graduate) course in Comparative Tropical History, featuring lectures on the phenomena being compared in the graduate seminar.

Curtin joined the initial leaders in a growing national movement then elevating the conventional secondary-school course in “world history,” scorned in higher education circles as merely a “teaching field,” to the level of sustained scholarly research, prominently including Africa. The graduate students in the seminar were not encouraged to undertake individual research on this dauntingly soaring scale, but several went on to build their own versions of “comparative tropical history” into the professionalization of world history in the later 1970s. They and others reunited and recruited in panels presented at the annual meetings of the American Historical Association and, in 1982, eventually formed a complementing World History Association.10

Wisconsin Africanists prominent among this founding generation of world historians included Ross E. Dunn and Patrick Manning (both earned PhDs in 1969).11 They and visionary colleagues from other institutional bases, including teachers in the schools, went on to bring world history to its current centrality in the discipline’s epistemological accent on contextualizing local events in global patterns.12 For the first cohorts of the Wisconsin school, Curtin’s anchoring of African history in a comparative framework created an impetus to embed Africa’s past in broader processes of historical change, worldwide. As Curtin was acutely aware, world history was a means to reduce the lingering exoticism of history in Africa. A globally inclusive intellectual framework inherently begged the presence of Africa, particularly in the United States, where African Americans were then establishing historical and political places of their own. World history also underwrote the professional growth of the field by allowing even small college history departments to consider Africanists to teach the majority of the human past beyond the required histories of the United States and Europe.

A Building Generation

Allen Isaacman (PhD 1970) won the Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association (1972) in this vein by using the comparative concept of “transfrontiersmen” to interpret the prazo estate holders in the Zambezi Valley, originally Portuguese women (owing to a particularity of medieval Portuguese land tenure laws), whose 17th- and 18th-century successors integrated themselves thoroughly into the African contexts where they lived.13 The recognition that Africans had converted the Catholics who had, at least nominally, gone to the Zambezi Valley to convert the “natives” reversed the then-presumed dynamics of the encounter to feature initiatives, even attractions, on the side of the Africans. Other early graduates hurdled the barrier of Africa’s seeming exoticism by drawing similarly on the geographical mobility of sociological concepts, which also framed histories in Africa in terms recognizable to departmental colleagues even in conventional fields.14 Patrick Manning normalized Africans’ histories of mobility by devoting several decades to studying human migrations around the world, eventually even to the movements of primordial human linguistic communities “out of Africa,” some seventy thousand years ago.15

Meanwhile Vansina was complementing these modern paradigms from the social sciences with African epistemologies based on close examination of evidence of their own ideas and actions. Vansina’s rigorous applications of the methods of several disciplines ancillary to the document-based history axiomatic at the time, though initially classed only negatively as “unwritten,” became the standards of the entire discipline of African history, particularly for its earlier eras. The richness of Vansina’s lengthy research experience in Belgian Africa, academic training in anthropology, practical fieldwork in recovery archaeology, and familiarity with linguistics (enhanced by fluency in multiple Bantu languages), as well as his calling-card “oral traditions,” introduced students at Wisconsin to a methodological array accessing, and critical perspective on, the earlier centuries of Africa’s past. (One observer wryly qualified this multiplicity of methods as the “decathlon of the social sciences.”)16 Beyond methodological versatility, with students at least as informed consumers, Vansina’s imprint on the Wisconsin school also extended his own illumination of “darkest” central Africa to the earlier—indeed earliest accessible—centuries of its Francophone and Lusophone areas.17 A distinguishing feature of Vansina’s disciplinary agility was his unwavering domestication of the potentially distracting technicalities peculiar to the ancillary disciplines to yield historical insights into the subjects of whatever region he ventured into.18 Methodological finesse never distracted from his devotion to the epistemology of history. So revelatory and enabling were his methods that specialists in the discipline’s other regional fields, including Europe and the Native Americas, adapted them to their own needs. Africa, in Vansina’s wake, transformed the discipline.

With this multidisciplinary background, Vansina joined Curtin in in 1964 in launching a Department of African Languages and Literature, the only such program in United States universities with full departmental status.19 They saw Africa’s languages and its modern literatures as necessary humanistic avenues to research properly couched in the ontologies of Africans rather than in inappropriate projections of modern conceptualizations. The departmental framework gave Africanists control of the languages taught under the auspices of the NDEA National Defense Foreign Languages (initially Zulu, Swahili, and Hausa), expanded to include African literatures in European languages well before conventional departments of French and English (or Portuguese) took seriously the growing corpus of modern writing from Africa.20 One of the Wisconsin graduates, H. Leroy Vail (b. 1940–d. 1999), took his PhD in this department (1972) with a dissertation on Tumbuka (Malawi) grammar and later collaborated with poet and critic Landeg White in landmark integrations of history, linguistics, literary insight, and political economy in central and southern Africa.21 The department underscored Wisconsin’s commitment to the centrality of fieldwork, conducted in relevant African languages, in understanding Africans’ pasts. Wisconsin Africanist historians routinely engaged colleagues in this strong and distinctive program, to the benefit of parties on all sides.

The interdisciplinary framing of African history at Wisconsin flowered further in 1969 with the arrival of Steven Feierman, who had added an Oxford DPhil in anthropology to his training at Northwestern in history. Feierman’s intensive research in Tanzania exemplified Madison’s approach and also extended to eastern Africa Wisconsin’s regional coverage of the continent, then the customary method of dividing the field for purposes of instruction. By the early 1970s, African history was maturing beyond the founding wave of single-volume continental-scaled texts in the 1960s to seem to require multi-authored compendia divided along these regional lines. The three Wisconsin historians combined their perspectives in a text representing the formative years of the Wisconsin school of understanding: African History, with Leonard Thompson (UCLA, and by then at Yale) contributing the chapters on southern Africa.22 The authors had intended to include a fifth colleague to write the text on North Africa, but the region eventually fell to Curtin, owing to difficulties in locating a specialist on Mediterranean Africa sufficiently familiar with sub-Saharan zones to meet the Wisconsin school’s vision of a continent deeply embedded in larger world-historical contexts and to Curtin’s focus on western Africa and its deep connections to the north.23 Including northern Africa, beyond ignoring western and northeastern Africa’s deep historical contacts with adjacent ancient and Islamic areas, also muted potential political overtones of racialization and exoticization implicit in isolating the continent’s sub-Saharan regions.

A tension had existed, from the start of Africa’s belated admittance into the historical discipline, between emphasizing its global contexts—especially the intensity of its commercial contacts with growing Atlantic capitalism—and understanding the uniqueness of African historical processes as local and regional variations on global historical themes.24 The field’s distinctive methodologies made its past appear exceptional, thus working against its integration into the familiar Eurocentric frameworks of the discipline. Awareness of Africa’s engagement in world-historical patterns became a prominent theme in the formation of the Wisconsin school, led by Curtin’s orientation toward Atlantic themes well before “Atlantic history” developed the definition and productivity that it acquired in the 2000s. The slave trade to the Americas was the obvious focus, and Curtin had engaged it first in an edited compilation of a dozen known narratives by survivors, with prefaces written by specialists in the African background of each.25 The biographical window on individuals’ lives also struck a resonantly historical chord among social historians otherwise resigned to discerning captives only in anonymous aggregates.26

In the Wisconsin spirit of interdisciplinary inquiry, Curtin was also working on what became his major monograph on Africa, an economic history and anthropology of the continent’s far-western Senegambian regions between the 16th and early 19th centuries, when trader communities and political authorities there were engaging the growing Atlantic trade.27 Those decades had been treated primarily in terms of the captives whom European traders bought as slaves. Rather than contextualizing Africa in this conventional European “triangular trade,” Curtin contextualized the people condemned to slavery and the warriors and traders who condemned them in far-western Africa’s much larger and more complex regional economy. The region’s full economic history revealed the relatively limited prominence of the people commodified as slaves. To match his contextualization on the African side with its Atlantic complement, originally subordinated in a footnote, Curtin checked standard sources on the maritime Atlantic trade to find the accepted total numbers of captives sent off to enslavement in the Americas. The good news, as it turned out, was that no such consensus (or even an authoritative source) existed; he tracked down only a range of guesses differing by nearly two orders of magnitude, from only a few million to over one hundred million.

With Curtin’s curiosity piqued, but lacking even a preliminary sense for the documentable proportions of this trade in human beings—and working only from published materials available in Madison in an era before the Internet—he wove together these scattered quantitative indicators to write The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census, a book that transformed Atlantic, European imperial, and—most profoundly—African history.28 In it Curtin was able to count and estimate patterns of captives arriving in all American colonies (and eventually nations), who totaled some 10.5 million Africans landed alive, with an estimated error range of +/-20 percent. To reach a similarly controlled estimate of Africa’s even less directly documented demographic losses through the trade (in terms of schematized portions of the continent’s coastline), he made a derivative calculation by augmenting the numbers for American arrivals by an estimated average loss to mortality during the Middle Passage.

For historians familiar with W. E. B. DuBois’s somewhat offhand (1915) speculations on these (and other) numbers of the captive people taken out of Africa, widely (though not carefully) reported as an iconic hundred million, Curtin’s numbers were suspiciously low, if not also somehow demeaning of the enormity of the human suffering that the trade entailed.29 This collision of ethics and economics, a manifestation of the inherent dialogue of the deaf between human morality and the “dismal science,” echoed for decades through debates, sometimes approaching rancorous proportions, on the trade’s true magnitude. Here is not the place to trace the more productive consequences of these intense critiques, as Curtin moved on. However, David Eltis and dozens of other researchers dug into the primary sources on four continents. These were sources Curtin had not intended to consult, but these archives eventually yielded details on more than thirty-five thousand individual ships’ voyages, presented in an Internet database that made the raw data accessible to the public.30 Among the Wisconsin school, Paul Lovejoy became the monitor of the African components of the “numbers game” swirling in the wake of Curtin’s Census in a series of articles refining the estimates of embarkations that Curtin’s method had left a secondary estimation.

The animated 1960s initial burst of political history in Africa had featured both the politics of Africa’s new nations and also of supposed “kingdoms,” and even empires, in the continent’s earlier centuries.31 As this wave crested, the students of the founding generation began to sketch other layers of context in Africa’s past. In Madison, Curtin added a further discipline to the Wisconsin school’s assortment of methodological tools by expanding on its formal economic aspects. Economics in Africa had been almost invisible in the 1960s, a hostage to a lingering colonial-era presumption that people in Africa, whom colonial governments and companies had been mercilessly forcing to undertake tedious, even dangerous, and scandalously under-compensated labor, were “non-economic men” who did not understand modern money and so would not have responded to wages at market-driven levels. Few of the first historians interested in Africa were trained in economics, and trained economists had seemingly more promising areas of the world in which to test their field’s universalist models of the market. But by 1970, as world prices for Africa’s commodity exports fell and foreign investment declined in the military regimes that were replacing civilian republics, the political radiance of nationalist triumph was fading into rather dimmer economic realities. From the shadows of Andre Gunder Frank’s work on The Development of Underdevelopment in Latin America, activist historians of Africa inverted the prevailing “trade and politics” paradigm, which had celebrated the political consolidation that Africans had appeared to have built out of rather ill-defined exchanges with the world economy: rather, as Walter Rodney’s iconic statement of the case for Africa charged, the question was How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.32

All but simultaneously, Curtin’s research for his economic history/anthropology of Senegambia had put him in touch with a generation of young historians determined to understand Africa’s past through the framework of conventional liberal market economics. He collaborated with an agricultural economic historian at Wisconsin named Marvin Miracle, who was working on Africa, to win a Ford Foundation grant to create a Wisconsin Research Program in African Economic History.33 Curtin planned this new initiative as comprehensively as he had laid out the strategy for consolidating Comparative Tropical History, launching an international association at a 1971 conference in Accra, Ghana, with additional support for individual research, as well as a scholarly journal, African Economic History, based in Wisconsin’s African Studies Program.34 A cohort of Wisconsin history graduate students thrived under these auspices and went on to lead the succeeding broad incorporation of economic considerations into Africa’s history.35

As counterparts in Europe, many of them academic exiles from apartheid-constricted South Africa, embraced more theoretical aspects of neo-Marxian political economy, the epistemological question in Madison was how historians might apply liberal economic generic models without abandoning Africa’s historical specificities: material wealth in many places circulated more as tokens of personal esteem, respect, or obligation than serving as units of abstract value, independent of their givers or receivers. Circulating people in Africa, in effect, did not conform to the economic discipline’s presumed universality but which, in fact, reflected only aspects of more commercialized and monetized market economies. Even the relatively commercialized sectors of desert-edge western Africa, and—later—coastal areas’ exchanges with the Atlantic economy, were arguably limited sectors embedded in complementing “domestic” economies worth understanding on their own human terms. Curtin’s Pre-Colonial Trade turned to economic anthropology to combine these two aspects, and Lovejoy, in particular, pursued this institutional vein of economic history with regard to extensions of desert-edge Islamic economic sectors.36

The ticking time-bomb of the history of slavery, particularly in the Americas, exploded in the late 1960s, at a moment (1967–1968 and 1969–1970) when Suzanne Miers (b. 1922–d. 2016) was visiting the program as an instructor. Along with Wisconsin Africanists, Miers went on to co-edit a series of volumes of collected essays that introduced people enslaved in Africa into the history of a continent where slavery had been difficult to discern in the glare of the racialized American formulation of the status, in which only whites enslaved only blacks. It had not seemed conceivable that people in Africa, implicitly still seen as “blacks,” could have enslaved other “blacks” there. It took courage to penetrate this fraught illusion, as sensitive in the contexts of Africa’s new nations’ dedication to liberal equality as it was in the racially divided Americas.

Miers first joined anthropologist Igor Kopytoff to bring out what proved to have been the ubiquity of slaves in Africa’s past.37 She then brought her prior training in 19th-century international anti-slavery to bear on the sequels to this heritage, collaborating with Richard Roberts (a former Madison undergraduate) to edit the ironically titled End of Slavery in Africa, and then, with Martin A. Klein, to move on to the succeeding years of Slavery and Colonial Rule in Africa.38 Claire Robertson, a 1974 graduate of the program, co-edited (also with Martin A. Klein) a no-less path-breaking recognition that the majority of the people enslaved in Africa had been females.39 As slaves became recognized as a principal presence in political economies in Africa eventually understood, in an equivalent phrasing, as based on “wealth in people”, Patrick Manning, working in a demographic and statistical vein derived from his distinguishing earlier training in economics, developed a complex model of Africa’s possible population losses owing to its exports of captives, not only to the Atlantic trade but also eastern Africa’s losses to the Indian Ocean and the costs to sudanic populations in the trade north across the Sahara Desert to Mediterranean Africa and beyond.40

Some graduates of the program combined Vansina’s insights into the internal dynamics of African historical processes and Curtin’s stress on broader contexts to explore their implications for slaveries in Africa, as well as the export trades in captives. Lovejoy, beyond his refinements of exports of captives sent into the Atlantic, described the 19th-century Sokoto Caliphate (now northern Nigeria), his primary research field, in comparative terms, estimating the vast scale of the slave-staffed agriculture there as similar to that of the better-known “plantations” in the New World.41 He continued on to elucidate numerous legal, commercial, demographic, and other aspects of the raiding in western Africa that spread widely to produce these captives, as well as others sent north across the Sahara and still others sold off to the south, where some became slaves in the Atlantic trade.42

To develop this expansive vision, Lovejoy created a vast and very productive international scholarly network based in a center at York University (Toronto) for the study of what he initially termed a capacious “Nigerian hinterland.”43 In the 2000s, this evolving team of collaborators from four continents became the largest, most intellectually diverse, and consistently innovative extension of the Wisconsin school’s integration of Africa in Atlantic and world histories. In a “career-spanning synthesis” he set the West African jihads that gave birth to the Sokoto caliphate in a conventional historical staple, the Atlantic “age of revolutions.” He also set the slaves in Sokoto into the context of 19th-century resurgence of the “second slavery” in the Americas, added West African Islamic clerics’ opposition to selling captive Muslims to infidel Christians to the European abolition movement, and explored the histories of enslaved West Africans in the Americas as evidence for the turmoil in Africa that produced them.44 Lovejoy’s Africa was integral to the modern history of the world.

The writer’s dissertation (1972) attempted to complement the Comparative Tropical History program’s intellectual premise of applying sociological abstractions—plantations, diasporas, or in this instance “states”—

with Africans’ understandings of politics in the background of a trading regime in Angola that later became the principal source of the captives whom Portuguese in Luanda sent to Brazil as slaves. Working from central African motivations built around a strongly collective “political economy of people,” the approach probed the dynamics of how the various African parties engaged the contrasting Atlantic world of commercial wealth, turning trade goods they obtained on credit into personal gains in the human form of dependent followers. The credit that enabled these gains left indebtedness that led to the familiar tragic consequences of seizures of debtors’ whole families and sales of them as slaves, destruction of their communities, and widespread suffering and death.45 The context of African indebtedness to Atlantic merchant capitalism added financial considerations to the Wisconsin school’s accent on African political and economic dynamics.46 Reversing the vector of setting Vansina’s focus on Africans’ historical strategies in Curtin’s world-historical contexts, African sensibilities to community could also be seen to manifest themselves in captives’ creative initiatives to reconstruct viable social worlds in slavery in Brazil, despite renewed isolation through repeated sales.47 This approach enriched Atlantic historical contexts with Africans’ perspectives.

Robert Harms (PhD 1978) combined Atlantic slaving with insight into African dynamics afloat in other registers, first with a history of 19th century Bobangi slave traders on the middle Zaire River, and then followed by the sequence of local contexts along the course of a French slaver’s 1731 voyage from Vannes, in Brittany, to Ouidah and then to Martinique.48 On the other side of the continent, Janet Ewald (PhD 1982) moved toward parallel integrations of Africans in the major currents of world history since about 1700, first from the perspective of the Nuba Hills west of the upper Nile and subsequently integrating eastern African economies into the commercial circuits of the northern and southern Indian Ocean, with emphasis on the historical dynamics of borrowed South Asian capital.49 Wisconsin’s distinctive dialectic of anchoring historical actors’ motivations locally and then setting their actions in expanding spheres of context has proved productive for history in Africa; this dialectic has also begun to enrich the histories of the other world regions in which Africans have long been engaged.

The Wisconsin school’s emphasis on integrating Africa into the broader discipline of history proceeded also on the professional level. Curtin served as president of the American Historical Association in 1983 but addressed his predominantly Americanist and Europeanist constituents as a world historian, rather than as an Africanist; his restraint would have been prudent at the time. When the Association implemented a triennial policy of rotating candidates for its presidency through the two main fields, the United States and Europe, with the third slot allocated to a sub-rotation among the residual world regions, including Africa, the office fell to Miller when Africa’s turn came in 1996. He took advantage of the significant maturation of Africa’s historiography by then to attempt to bridge the gap between the association’s tiny minority of Africanists and its great US and European majorities, addressing them on “Africa and History/History and Africa.”50 Manning produced a steady drumbeat of Africa-paced interventions in the World History Association’s several online publications and published a sweeping view from Africa on The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture.51 When Manning took an Africanist turn as president of the AHA in 2016, he featured historians of Africa in other aspects of the association’s programming.52

Vansina’s emphasis on methodologies and historical integrity, enriched by Feierman’s proficiency in social theory, became the hallmark of the program in the 1970s, particularly as Curtin’s expansive vision faded locally after 1975, when he departed for Johns Hopkins University. Feierman’s first book, The Shambaa Kingdom (modern Tanzania), historicized “kingdoms,” the venerable staple of African history’s first decade, then seen largely in terms of structurally static European models of monarchy.53 He depicted the complexity and fluidity that in fact marked early African political systems and explored the correspondingly flexible patterns of the oral performances interpreting their histories.54 Feierman’s acute ability to sense and articulate African thought matured through his years in Madison to elaborate the distinctive sophistication of the Shambaa discourse of politics, defying his title’s ironic reference to clichéd “peasant” intellectuals.55 His graduate students have been distinguished by their alertness to the African historical worlds they have entered and for the diversity of the proliferating subfields of African history they have led: cultural studies, environmental history, medical history, women’s/gender history, and public policy from Guinée (Conakry) and Ghana in western Africa through varied parts of eastern Africa to Zimbabwe and South Africa.56

Consolidating

William Allen Brown (b. 1934–d. 2007), a Wisconsin PhD (1969) who was recalled to Madison in 1975 from Yale and Harvard, joined Feierman and Vansina to assume primary responsibility for researching western Africa—the large region that Curtin’s departure had left open—and to expand the program’s coverage of Islam.57 From Brown’s graduate-school days in Madison he had been a respected informal adviser to his fellow students, providing knowledgeable and sensitive guidance particularly to sudanic regions, and he resumed this mentoring role when he returned.58 In the same year, another recent graduate of the program, David P. Henige (PhD 1973), returned to join the university’s Memorial Library as Africana bibliographer. He expanded Vansina’s dedication to methods with a ferocious attention to detail and acerbic dedication to rigorous critiques of sources in all their forms, not least the hazards lurking in oral narratives. A crusader in the cause of method, he single-handedly created, edited, typed, and distributed the first issues of History in Africa: A Journal of Method (vol. 1, 1974, still appearing, with vol. 45 for 2018).59 The journal added impetus to African historians’ growing wariness of earlier amateur writers’ naïve handling of the European written sources for Africa’s earlier centuries, not fully corrected by the first wave of trained researchers. (Many of these first-wave professionals had been eager to make whatever use they could of whatever documentation they could find of the “continent without a history.”) Though Henige never taught a class at Wisconsin, he became an expert and attentive guide to generations of graduate students, in Africa and other fields, “opening up new vistas by dint of mining for new evidence rather than being content to adopt new theories.”60 He found an eager and able co-conspirator in Vansina, who contributed more than two dozen characteristically penetrating (and often dryly witty) reflections on historical method and its ironies to the journal, with methodological implications far wider for history then only Africa. Students thrived on the Wisconsin school’s catalytic combination of imaginative conceptualization and methodological precision.

Thomas Spear had advanced this productive combination in a veritable handbook to the Wisconsin school, dedicated to Kenya’s Past in tribute to the country where his African mentors, no longer implicitly diminished as “informants,” had guided him in his initial fieldwork.61 He then pursued the linguistic component of the Madison historical toolkit, collaborating with (linguist) Derek Nurse to explore The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800-1500.62 Spear’s attention to method never faltered as he moved on to monographs on Kenya’s diverse regions, principally among components of the communities ethnographically oversimplified as “Maasai.” David Newbury (PhD 1979), ventured into Rwanda, the site of Vansina’s original fieldwork, and further probed the intellectual history of oral traditions with a series of essays regarded as exemplary methodological explorations, as well as bringing historical accuracy to paradigmatically distorted tribalizations of that country’s genocidal violence.63 Paul Landau similarly integrated Africans’ political legacy into recent politics in South Africa.64The women among the graduating Wisconsin cohorts of the early 1970s became pioneers in infusing the history of Africa with gender as “a useful category of historical analysis,” as recognition of this belatedly obvious fact surged through every field of history.65 Margaret Jean Hay (PhD 1972), Iris Berger (PhD 1973), and Claire Robertson (PhD 1974) crafted foundational works.66 In a succeeding generation, Elizabeth Schmidt traced colonized African women’s key contributions to protests, strikes, and nationalist movements, and Nancy Rose Hunt (PhD 1992) combined Feierman’s growing interests in medical history with Vansina’s experience in the Belgian Congo to write a series of cultural histories centered on women, medicalization, childbearing, breastfeeding, and other contested aspects of being colonized while female in equatorial Africa.67

The Wisconsin school’s graduates thus contributed to the great growth spurt in African history in the later 1960s, and those taking their degrees in the 1970s often led the original, largely political field’s ramification into its component subject subfields and theoretical perspectives that reflected its growing engagement with the broader historical discipline: The preceding initial Wisconsin cohort of the early 1960s had taken on relatively independent topics, adding more isolated islands of insight to the scattered scenes then only beginning to dot Africa’s earlier past. To the degree that they represented a coherent school, they probed Vansina’s interests in earlier eras and oral traditions.68

Table 1. PhD Degrees in African History By Five-Year Periods, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

five yrs.

No PhDs

19631965

2

19661970

14

19711975

26

19761980

12

19811985

10

19861990

11

19911995

10

19962000

4

20012005

5

20062010

7

20112015

5

The surge of graduates in the later 1960s and 1970s had found themselves at the right place at the right time; and guided by alert and versatile mentoring, they comprised the early Wisconsin school.69 They also secured positions at major research universities, then diversifying their history curricula to include Africa, several of them in other Title VI Africa Resource Programs. That early cohort thus found institutional support that afforded time and funding for research leading to the trend-setting publications that they produced.

A Maturing Field

The PhDs of the 1980s, still under Vansina’s and Feierman’s mentorship and supported by Henige and Brown, continued in the styles of their predecessors but took on greater instructional responsibilities as they followed the growing field into regional universities and smaller colleges. Several, still in larger university settings, published significant monographs, some of them contributing to the launch of Allen Isaacman’s prestigious Social History of Africa series with Heinemann.70 With fewer students in succeeding classes, the program’s research seminars—always the core of graduate instruction in Madison—grew smaller and less defined by subjects than by the diverse research interests of individual students. These students moved alertly into the trending topics and approaches in the by-then robust and diversified field of history in Africa.

They also maintained an activist commitment to Africa that had run through the program since returnees from the Peace Corps, missionary families, and other service experiences on the continent had enrolled in the mid-1960s. Vansina was a dedicated mentor for students from African backgrounds, including many not at Wisconsin but working at institutions in Africa under his remote guidance in energetically mistyped missives. A steady stream of others arrived in Madison from Africa, most returning to their home countries to make contributions to universities there, with several of them rising to distinction in national administrative and diplomatic capacities.71

Activist Wisconsin Africanists in the United States applied their academic knowledge to the causes of liberation movements in southern Africa in the 1970s and to the anti-apartheid boycotts intensifying in the 1980s. Allen and Barbara Isaacman, in particular, were dedicated contributors to reconstructing independent Mozambique in the wake of the assumption of power there by FRELIMO (Frente da Libertação de Moçambique, the colony’s principal and eventually winning liberation movement) after the Portuguese withdrew in 1974. They also built social activism, later extended to post-apartheid South Africa, into a productive MacArthur Center (now the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change) at the University of Minnesota, with a strong emphasis on training students from the continent.72 David Newbury, and Catharine Newbury, beyond their historical contextualizations of the wars in and around Rwanda, became prominent anti-genocide activists. Lovejoy’s network, based in Toronto, participated actively in the UNESCO Slave Route Project.”73 Lovejoy renamed the York University center in honor of Harriett Tubman to memorialize Canada’s role as a promised land for travelers fleeing slavery in the United States on the Underground Railroad and recruited collaborators and students from the diaspora as well as from Africa. Sandra Barnes, a historically trained Wisconsin anthropologist (PhD 1974), created an Africa Humanities Program at the American Council of Learned Societies, an ACLS-administered, Carnegie Corporation-funded fellowship program for faculty at universities in anglophone nations in Africa. As Africa moved further into the main currents of the historical discipline, Meredith Terretta (PhD 2004) combined human rights activism with scholarship contributing to moving global history beyond the fraying paradigm of the nation-state that the founding cohorts of Africanists had celebrated in the 1960s.74

Tom Spear returned from teaching at Williams College to join his predecessors in Madison in 1993, after Feierman had moved on in 1990 to lead the African studies program at the University of Florida and Vansina retired in 1994.75 Although the numbers of graduates in Madison studying the history of Africa continued to decline in response to diminishing national availability of teaching positions in the field, Spear, Henige, and Brown—with Vansina always available—maintained the program’s innovative spirit. Florence Bernault, a francophone central Africanist like Vansina, joined them in 1996, bringing a background in Africanist circles in Paris that contributed to keeping Wisconsin’s training current in theorizations of culture. Her research and teaching on colonial-era injustices also fed into the program’s activist stream.

Bernault and Spear trained graduate students especially in modern African religious and intellectual history, an updated version of the Wisconsin focus on African understandings of, and political responses to, the colonial presence of the 20th century.76 Spear also provided steady leadership in consolidating Africa’s position in the university, almost immediately assuming direction of the African Studies Program (1995–1998) and, after a term as an editor of the Journal of African History, chairing the Department of History from 2001 to 2003. He became the first Africanist to hold departmental office, marking Africa’s full integration as a keystone of the department’s international repute. He also restored the distinction of the University of Wisconsin Press as a publisher of significant scholarship on Africa, editing (with Madison colleagues in other departments) an ongoing series of monographs on Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture.77

Continuities and Change

After Spear retired in 2004, Neil Kodesh (Northwestern) and James Sweet (CUNY), both of them students of graduates of the Wisconsin school, joined the faculty of history in 2005. Kodesh’s interests in medical history, historical anthropology, and multidisciplinary methodologies for writing early African history continued the program’s long-standing strengths in these areas imparted by Curtin, Vansina, and Feierman.78 Sweet concentrated on placing Africans and their descendants in the Americas in African contexts, through comparative slavery, race, and nation in the Atlantic world, and world history. His acclaimed biography of Domingos Álvares, a Mahi healer captured in Dahomey’s wars of expansion in the 1730s and sent in slavery to Brazil, traced the career of this savvy survivor though multiple layers of the human isolation in the anonymizing context of the commercialization underway in Portugal’s 18th-century dominions in Brazil.79 This intricate integration filled out Sweet’s initial training in the history of Latin America with Africa, bringing full circle Curtin’s initial movement across the Atlantic into Africa in the opposite direction.

Another intellectual “grandchild” of the Wisconsin school, Emily Callaci, arrived in Madison in 2012, further strengthening the contemporary culture component of the program with interests in modern eastern Africa.80 Once again the skills of Wisconsin Africanist faculty resonated with Africanists in other departments of the university.81 The medical history accent in the Wisconsin school of African history received a vitalizing infusion with the university’s merger of the Department of History and its Department of the History of Medicine, adding three faculty members specialized in Africa and its diasporas.82 Sweet chaired the Department of History from 2012 to 2015, and in 2014 Kodesh assumed direction of the African Studies Program.

The Madison program suffered the loss of William Brown, who died in 2007. Spear retired in 2004, and Henige followed suit in 2010, along with Bernault in 2017. Despite these departures, the Wisconsin school’s distinctive coherence around multidisciplinary methodologies placing Africa in world historical patterns continues to contribute unique African sensibilities to emerging intellectual currents both in the study of history in Africa and increasingly to the discipline of history as a whole.83

Table 2. Graduates of the African History Program.

John Williams

1963

SUNY/Stony Brook (r)

Julian Witherell

1964

Library of Congress (r)

E. J. Alagoa,

1966

Port Harcourt (r)

Andrew Roberts

1966

SOAS (r)

John Rowe

1966

Northwestern (r)

Raymond Kent

1967

UC/Berkeley (d)

Bruce Fetter

1968

UW/Milwaukee (r)

J. Forbes Munro

1968

Glasgow (r)

William Brown

1969

Yale & Wisconsin (d)

Victoria Coifman

1969

Minnesota (r)

John Davidson

1969

Aberystwith (d)

R. Hunt Davis

1969

Florida (r)

Ross Dunn

1969

San Diego State (r)

Patrick Manning

1969

Northeastern & Pittsburgh (r)

Leo Spitzer

1969

Dartmouth (r)

Allen Isaacman

1970

Minnesota

Fred Berg

1971

Colgate (r)

Joseph Corry

1971

Wisconsin (admin) (r)

Myron Echenberg

1971

McGill (r)

Hassan Abdin Mohamed

1971

Khartoum

Kingsley Ogedengbe

1971

Luther, Simmons College (d)

Babatunde Agiri

1972

Lagos and Norfolk (r)

James Brown

1972

South Carolina/Spartanburg (r)

M. Jean Hay

1972

Boston University (r)

Allen Howard

1972

Rutgers (r)

Joseph Miller

1972

Virginia (r)

Lucy Quimby

1972

psychologist

Thomas Tlou

1972

Botswana (d)

John Works

1972

Missouri/St. Louis (r)

Iris Berger

1973

Wellesley and SUNY/Albany (r)

Lee Cassanelli

1973

Pennsylvania

Jeffrey Fadiman

1973

San Jose State

David Henige

1973

Birmingham & Wisconsin (library) (r)

James Hubbard

1973

Independent historian

Paul Irwin

1973

Stanford (admin) (r)

Joseph Lauer

1973

Michigan State (library) (r)

Paul Lovejoy

1973

York

Stephen Baier

1974

Boston University & banking

James Johnson

1974

Minnesota (admin) (r)

Claire Robertson

1974

Ohio State (r)

Philip Shea

1974

Bayero (d)

Thomas Spear

1974

La Trobe, Williams & Wisconsin (r)

Shirin Walji

1974

Nairobi

Adell Patton

1975

Howard & Missouri/St Louis (d)

Kings Phiri

1975

Chancellor College, Malawi (r)

Richard Sigwalt

1975

Voice of America (r)

Randall Packard

1976

Tufts, Emory and Johns Hopkins

David Sandgren

1976

Concordia (r)

Robert Schecter

1976

[??]

Tom Shick

1976

Wisconsin (d)

Henry Bucher

1977

Austin (r)

Dennis Cordell

1977

Southern Methodist and Montréal (d)

Peter Koffsky

1977

US Government

Monica Schuler

1977

Wayne State (r)

Robert Harms

1978

Yale

John Berntsen

1979

State Department (r)

David Newbury

1979

North Carolina and Smith (r)

Jeffrey Peires

1980

Transkei & Member of Parliament

Ismail Abdalla

1981

William & Mary (r)

Mwelwa Musambachime

1981

Zambia, Namibia, and Zambian Ambassador to UN (d)

Bakonzi Agayo

1982

Zaire

Marc Dawson

1982

Union and Western New England

Janet Ewald

1982

Duke

David Anthony

1983

UC/Santa Cruz

Carol Dickerman

1984

Michigan (admin)

Bryant Shaw

1984

USAF Academy and Troy

J. S. Mohlamme

1985

VISTA, South Africa

Keletso Atkins

1986

Minnesota

Elizabeth Eldredge

1986

Michigan State, independent scholar

Susan Grabler

1986

Los Angeles CC

James Giblin

1986

Iowa

Joyce Kirk

1987

UW/Milwaukee

Elizabeth Schmidt

1987

Loyola (r)

Lynda Day

1988

CUNY/Brooklyn

Jonathon Glassman

1988

Northwestern

Tharcisse Nsabimana

1988

Kigali

Kenneth Curtis

1989

Cal State/Long Beach

Renée Tantala

1989

Shippensburg (r)

Michele Wagner

1991

Williams, Minnesota, and USDS

Nancy Rose Hunt

1992

Arizona, Michigan, and Florida

Pier Larson

1992

Penn State and Johns Hopkins

Paul Landau

1992

Maryland

Joe Allie

1993

Fourah Bay

Tefetso Mothibe

1993

Lesotho

Joe Lunn

1993

Michigan/Flint

Carolyn Keyes Adenaike

1994

Memphis

Chris Bierworth

1994

North Texas and Murray State

David Leaver

1995

Cincinnati and Armstrong State

Cathy Skidmore

1996

Georgia Southern

Kathleen Smythe

1997

Xavier (Ohio)

Erick Mann

1998

Oakton CC

Susan O’Brien

2000

Penn State & Florida

Jeremiah Kitunda

2003

Appalachian State

Sean Hanretta

2003

Stanford, Northwestern

Robert Houle

2003

Fairleigh Dickenson

Meredith Terretta

2004

Le Moyne and Ottawa

Stephen Volz

2005

Kenyon

Ousman Kobo

2006

Marquette, Gettysburg, and Ohio State

Dior Konate

2006

South Carolina State

Ryan Ronnenberg

2006

Kennesaw State

Gary Marquardt

2007

Westminster (Utah)

Daniel Magaziner

2007

Cornell and Yale

Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch

2008

Dartmouth

Paul Bjerk

2008

Texas Tech

Jessica Krug

2012

George Washington

Nicole Eggers

2013

Loyola (NOLA) and Tennessee

Lacy Ferrell

2013

Central Washington

Sarah Hardin

2013

Saint Anselm

Bennett Cross

2014

Not academic

Sean Bloch

2015

Dartmouth

Patrick Otim

2017

Bates

Note: 109 PhDs total.

Further Reading

Berger, Iris. Threads of Solidarity: Women in South African Industry, 1900–1980. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Curtin, Philip, Steven Feierman, Leonard Thompson, and Jan Vansina. African History from Earliest Times to Independence. New York, NY: Longman, 1978.Find this resource:

Curtin, Philip D. The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.Find this resource:

Curtin, Philip D. Economic Change in Precolonial Africa: Senegambia in the Era of the Slave Trade. 2 vols. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975.Find this resource:

Curtin, Philip D. On the Fringes of History: A Memoir. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Dunn, Ross. Panorama: A World History. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.Find this resource:

Feierman, Steven. The Shambaa Kingdom: A History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974.Find this resource:

Feierman, Steven. Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Harms, Robert W., Joseph C. Miller, David S. Newbury, and Michele D. Wagner, eds. Paths to the African Past: African Historical Essays in Honor of Jan Vansina. Atlanta, GA: ASA Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Hunt, Nancy Rose. A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Landau, Paul, ed. The Power of Doubt: Essays in Honor of David Henige. Madison, WI: Parallel Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Lovejoy, Paul. Jihād in West Africa During the Age of Revolutions. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

Lovejoy, Paul E., ed. Africans in Bondage: Studies in Slavery and the Slave Trade. Madison: Wisconsin: African Studies Program. 1986.Find this resource:

Manning, Patrick. Slavery and African Life: Occidental, Oriental, and African Slave Trades. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Manning, Patrick. The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Miers, Suzanne, and Igor Kopytoff, eds. Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977.Find this resource:

Miller, Joseph C. Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Robertson, Claire, and Martin A. Klein, eds. Women and Slavery in Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983.Find this resource:

Schmidt, Elizabeth. Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005.Find this resource:

Spear, Thomas. Kenya’s Past: An Introduction to Historical Methods in Africa. London, UK, and New York, NY: Longman, 1981.Find this resource:

Sweet, James. Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Vail, Leroy, and Landeg White. Power and the Praise Poem: Southern African Voices in History. Carter G. Woodson Institute Series in Black Studies. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991.Find this resource:

Vansina, Jan. Kingdoms of the Savanna: A History of the Central African States Until European Occupation. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966.Find this resource:

Vansina, Jan. Oral Tradition as History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.Find this resource:

Vansina, Jan. Paths in the Rainforests: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Vansina, Jan. Living with Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Both founders of the Wisconsin history program, Philip Curtin (b. 1922–d. 2009) and Jan Vansina (b. 1929–d. 2017), wrote autobiographies detailing their experiences: Curtin until he moved in 1975 to Johns Hopkins University and Vansina until he retired in 1994. See Philip D. Curtin, On the Fringes of History: A Memoir (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005) and Jan Vansina, Living With Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994). Appreciative graduates of the program produced Festschriften for both: Paul E. Lovejoy, ed., Africans in Bondage: Studies in Slavery and the Slave Trade (Madison, WI: African Studies Program, 1986) and Robert W. Harms, Joseph C. Miller, David S. Newbury, and Michele D. Wagner, eds., Paths to the African Past: African Historical Essays in Honor of Jan Vansina (Atlanta, GA: ASA Press, 1994).

This history of the Wisconsin school account draws appreciatively on three unpublished narratives written by Thomas T. Spear, on the occasions of Vansina’s retirement in 1994, the forty-fifth anniversary of the program in African history in 2005, and the fiftieth anniversary of the university’s African Studies Program (2012), as well as compilations of the PhDs awarded, 1963–2017. Jean Allman, Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, and Jeanne Penvenne generously provided details. Elizabeth Schmidt reviewed an initial draft, particularly an elder’s characterization of the program’s recent years. My thanks to all of them. Lingering imprecisions are, of course, mine.

(2.) The MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the African Studies Association, the American Historical Association, the Royal Society of Canada, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among numerous others.

(3.) The collective intellectual place in the broader field implied in an essay on a “school” does not open up to detailing the prominence of some of the graduates of the program as they have moved on to lead, even define, fields of their own, although without infusing the Wisconsin school as such. Nor does it detail the many (no less significant) and diverse individual contributions that graduates of the program have also made to the institutions where they have taught and to the profession in general. Throughout, the essay cites only selected and usually single works as representative of larger bodies of publication. A full listing of the Wisconsin corpus would consist of several thousand titles.

(4.) A combination of fields, however remotely related, intended—it was later reported—to reduce the department’s investment in obscure and distant regions of the world. See Curtin, On the Fringes of History, 93.

(5.) The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Action, 1780–1850 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964).

(6.) De la tradition orale: Essai de méthode historique, published as Issue 36 of Annales: Sciences humaines (Tervuren, Belgium: Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, 1961).

(7.) Surely reacting implicitly to the tide of African history already rising in London with the successes of Roland Oliver’s and John Fage’s degree course at the School of Oriental and African Studies, supported by publication of the Journal of African History 1, no. 1 (1960), by the otherwise respectable Cambridge University Press; from a series of lectures delivered at the University of Sussex in October 1963, printed in The [BBC] Listener (1963), and repeated in The Rise of Christian Europe (London, UK: Thames and Hudson, 1966). Trevor-Roper, of course, reasoned from strong philosophical grounding in Hegel. Within only two decades, the American anthropologist Eric Wolf, with extensive experience in rural Mexico, was able to appropriate Trevor-Roper’s phrasing in the richly ironic title of his global narrative of Europe and the People without History (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), including Africa.

(8.) The scholarly journal Comparative Studies in Society and History appeared in October 1958.

The iconic French interdisciplinary journal, Annales: économies, sociétés, civilisations, founded by ‎Lucien Febvre in 1929 and continued by Marc Bloch and ‎Fernand Braudel, oddly was not a centerpiece of the program, perhaps owing to its concentration on European subjects and its minimal emphasis on systematic comparison as historical method.

(9.) William McNeill, The Rise of the West (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1965). Africa remained relatively marginal to McNeill’s world history, other than as a source of slaves and, later, commodities for European consumption, further mobilizing Curtin’s students to try to fill the void.

(10.) Now with its own peripatetic annual meeting and several research and teaching journals.

(11.) Patrick Manning, Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), and World History: Global and Local Interactions (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2005); Ross Dunn with Gary B. Nash and Charlotte Crabtree, eds., History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997); and Laura J. Mitchell and Kerry Ward, eds., The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2015), and Panorama: A World History (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education 2015). Leaders from other tropical Wisconsin historical fields included Caribbeanists Franklin Knight (Johns Hopkins, PhD 1969) and Colin Palmer (UNC, CUNY, Princeton, PhD 1970), and Southeast Asianists Michael Adas (Rutgers, PhD 1971) and Craig Lockard (U. Wisconsin—Green Bay, PhD 1973)

(12.) At this point, the US-based world-history initiatives tapped the contemporary Annales-school emphasis on Fernand Braudel’s global history of capitalism Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, 3 vols., (Paris: Armand Colin, 1967–1979), translated (Siân Reynolds) into English as Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Centuries, 3 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press/London: Collins, 1979).

(13.) Mozambique: The Africanization of a European Institution, the Zambezi Prazos, 1750–1902 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1972); and referencing the term, Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, “The Prazeros as Transfrontiersmen: A Study in Social and Cultural Change,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 8, no. 1 (1975): 1–39.

(14.) See, for example, Leo Spitzer, The Creoles of Sierra Leone: Reactions to Colonialism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974).

(15.) With, among other strategies, a World History Center at Northeastern University devoted to migration studies and Migration in World History (New York, NY, and London, UK: Routledge, 2005). “Homo Sapiens Populates the Earth: A Provisional Synthesis, Privileging Linguistic Data,” Journal of World History 17, no. 2 (2006): 115–58. He embedded physical movements in experiential aspects of the process in a culminating Africa-centered The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2009).

(16.) Wyatt MacGaffey, “African History, Anthropology, and the Rationality, of Natives,” History in Africa 5 (1978): 101–120.

(17.) See dissertations, some published, by E. J. Alagoa, Iris Berger, Henry Bucher, Victoria Coifman, Dennis Cordell, Elizabeth Eldredge, Jeffrey Fadiman, Allen Isaacman, Raymond Kent, Pier Larson, Joseph Miller, David Newbury, Kingsley Ogedengbe, Andrew Roberts, John Rowe, Robert Schechter, Philip Shea, Richard Sigwalt, Catherine Skidmore-Hess, Thomas Tlou, and Michele Wagner.

(18.) Starting from Rwanda, then to the southwestern Belgian Congo (Kuba, in Kasai province), then a survey of the savanna regions to the south (from Angola to Mozambique), on to the Tio (Teke) of Congo-Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo), the entire forested regions of the Congo/Zaire River basin, back to Kuba and Rwanda, and finally the Angolan southwestern fringes of the region.

(19.) This has since become the Department of African Cultural Studies.

(20.) The African Literature Association was founded in 1974.

(21.) With Landeg White, Capitalism and Colonialism in Mozambique: A Study of Quelimane District (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980), and ed., The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1989); and Landeg White, Power and the Praise Poem: Southern African Voices in History (Carter G. Woodson Institute Series in Black Studies) (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991).

(22.) Philip Curtin, Steven Feierman, Leonard Thompson, and Jan Vansina, African History from Earliest Times to Independence, 2nd ed. (Harlow, UK: Longman, 1995).

(23.) Elsewhere, British journalist and writer Basil Davidson published regional volumes, and Roland Oliver collaborated with several colleagues to produce similarly focused surveys. Preparations were also proceeding for both the Cambridge History of Africa (8 vols., 1975–1986) and the internationally collaborative UNESCO General History of Africa (also 8 vols., launched in 1964, published 1981–1999), the latter advised by both Vansina and Curtin.

(24.) The text that defined the field, Roland Oliver’s and John Fage’s Short History of Africa (London, UK: Penguin, 1960) had set western and eastern Africa in their Mediterranean and Indian Ocean contexts, but at the cost of retaining faint overtones of the racist “Hamitic hypothesis” in attributing sub-Saharan political formations to an ancient “Sudanic civilization” of foreign inspiration. The next-generation texts, both by political scientists, had focused on “tropical” or “sub-Saharan” Africa: Robert I. Rotberg, Africa: A Political History of Tropical Africa (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965), and Robert W. July, A History of the African People (London, UK: Faber and Faber, 1970). The first volume of the collective regional History of West Africa, ed. Jacob Ajayi and Michael Crowder (London: Longman, 1971) had designed its sub-regional chapters to link “west” and “north” Africa across the Sahara.

(25.) Philip D. Curtin, ed., Africa Remembered: Narratives by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967).

(26.) Paul Lovejoy (PhD 1973) subsequently elaborated this micro-historical initiative, now a leading theme in studies of Atlantic slaving, especially with seemingly improbable settings of the biographies of Baquaqua (with Robin Law, The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America [Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener,, 2001] and the iconic Gustavus Vassa, or Equiano the African.

(27.) Philip D. Curtin, Economic Change in Precolonial Africa: Senegambia in the Era of the Slave Trade, 2 vols. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975). The first volume presented an integrated historical narrative, and the second elaborated the creative quantitative methodologies Curtin employed to write it.

(29.) Ongoing heated debates about the numerical dimensions of the Atlantic slave trade may merit a digressive comment on what Du Bois employed so large a number to denote. The one hundred million figure he offered as an inclusive estimate of all losses “that the slave trade cost Negro Africa,” including exports to Muslim lands that he estimated at two-thirds the size of the European trade (that is, 40/60), multiplied by six to reflect his entirely arbitrary—though, in his intended rhetorical sense, probably not far off the mark—assumption that “every slave imported represented on the average five corpses in Africa or on the high seas”; W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, The Negro (New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1915), 155; Du Bois began by warning that the “total number of slaves imported” to the Americas through the Atlantic portion of the several trades in slaves from Africa “is not known.” He then went on to summarize others’ estimates to speculate that “perhaps 15,000,000 in all” might have arrived, and that “at least 10,000,000 Negroes were expatriated” across the Atlantic from Africa. Curtin’s sophisticated inferences from reports of arrivals in the Americas and from census reports of New World enslaved populations essentially confirmed Du Bois’s minimal estimate.

(30.) The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: Voyages. The database contains data on roughly 80 percent of all voyages and yields an estimated total of 10.7 million captives disembarked alive, 2 percent more than Curtin had calculated; the estimated total of people embarked from Africa is 12.5 million.

(32.) Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Boston, MA: New England Free Press, 1966); and two succeeding studies Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1967) and Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution (New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1969); original edition: London: Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, 1972.

(33.) The state‘s land-grant university, with a School of Agriculture, which included a global land tenure program.

(34.) Volume 1 (1974), still appearing, with Volume 46 (2018); Anthony G. Hopkins’s An Economic History of West Africa (London, UK: Longman, 1973), which appeared virtually simultaneously, thoroughly integrated the history of the region around the general principles of market theory.

(35.) Patrick Manning, “An Economic History of Southern Dahomey, 1880–1914” (1969); Babatunde Agiri, “Kola in Western Nigeria: A History of the Cultivation of Cola Nitida in Egba-Owode, Ijebu-Remo, Iwo and Ota Areas, 1850–1950” (1973); Margaret Jean Hay, “Economic Change in Luoland: Kowe, 1890–1945” (1973); Paul Lovejoy, “The Hausa Kola Trade (1700–1900): A Commercial System in the Continental Exchange of West Africa” (1973); Philip Shea, “The Development of an Export Oriented Dyed Cloth Industry in Kano Emirate in the Nineteenth Century” (1975); and Stephen Baier, “African Merchants in the Colonial Period: A History of Commerce in Damagram, 1880–1960” (1974). Stephen Baier, An Economic History of Central Niger (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980). [Agiri, Hay, and Shea never published. Lovejoy cited in following note - Caravans of Kola: the Hausa Kola Trade, 1700–1900 (Zaria, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University press, 1980); Manning is cited in fn 40: Patrick Manning, Slavery, Colonialism, and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640–1960 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

(36.) Caravans of Kola: The Hausa Kola Trade 1700–1900 (Zaria, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University Press. in association with Oxford University Press, 1980). Also, for example, Toyin Falola and Paul E. Lovejoy, eds., Pawnship in Africa: Debt Bondage in Historical Perspective (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994).

(37.) Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977); The simultaneous development of a francophone school of neo-Marxist anthropology, led by Claude Meillassoux, set the stage of still-ongoing debates over these seemingly competing theorizations of slavery in Africa as inclusive (Miers/Kopytoff) or exclusive (Meillassoux). Meillassoux, ed. L’Esclavage en Afrique précoloniale (Paris, France: Maspero, 1975), and Anthropologie de l’esclavage, le ventre de fer et d’argent (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1986), the latter translated (with an introduction by Lovejoy) as The Anthropology of Slavery: The Womb of Iron and Gold (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

(38.) With graduate training at the University of Toronto by Martin A. Klein, in the early days of the Wisconsin program a visiting student in Madison; Madison: University of Wisconsin 1988, and London: Frank Cass, 1998.

(39.) Women and Slavery in Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983).

(40.) The classic formulation of people as wealth came later from Jane Guyer and S M. E. Belinga, “Wealth in People as Wealth in Knowledge: Accumulation and Composition in Equatorial Africa,” Journal of African History 36, no. 1 (1995): 91–120, though graduates of the Madison program had emphasized other formulations of the idea in the 1970s: for example, Thomas T. Spear (PhD 1973), The Kaya Complex: A History of the Mijikenda Peoples of the Kenya Coast to 1900 (Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau. 1978); Joseph C. Miller, “Slaves, Slavers, and Social Change in Nineteenth Century Kasanje,” in Social Change in Angola, ed. Franz- Wilhelm Heimer (Munich, Germany: Weltforum Verlag, 1973), 9–29; Manning, Slavery and African Life: Occidental, Oriental, and African Slave Trades (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990). The theme of slaving in Manning’s work had emerged in the book developed from his 1969 dissertation: Slavery, Colonialism, and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640–1960 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

(41.) This work expanded into the long-standard Transformations: A History of Slavery in Africa (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011), always within broader contexts elaborated throughout the Americas and elsewhere as far as Iran in a succession of co-edited and sponsored collections of studies engaging nearly every aspect of the exploding field of comparative/global slavery.

(42.) Initially, with Jan Hogendorn, in Slow Death for Slavery: The Course of Abolition in Northern Nigeria, 1897–1936 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), Slavery, Commerce and Production in West Africa: Slave Society in the Sokoto Caliphate (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, The Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora, 2005), and Ecology and Ethnography of Muslim Trade in West Africa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, The Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora, 2005).

(43.) Now the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas after several changes in its designation as the center diversified its activities and became more integrated into the structure of the university. Its consistent accent on “diaspora” continues to bear the Wisconsin hallmark of Curtin’s conceptualization of “comparative tropical history.”

(44.) Jihād in West Africa during the Age of Revolutions (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017).

(45.) Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988).

(46.) On the Atlantic side, “Credit, Captives, Collateral, and Currencies: Debt, Slavery, and the Financing of the Atlantic World,” in Debt and Slavery in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Worlds, ed. Gwyn C. Campbell and Alessandro Stanziani (London, UK: Pickering and Chatto, 2013), 105–121.

(47.) “Retention, Re-Invention, and Remembering: Restoring Identities Through Enslavement in Africa and Under Slavery in Brazil,” in Enslaving Connections: Changing Cultures of Africa and Brazil During the Era of Slavery, ed. José C. Curto and Paul E. Lovejoy (Amherst NY: Prometheus/Humanity Books, 2003), 81–121. An edited Princeton Companion to Atlantic History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), included Africans as engaged but autonomous initiators in broader historical contexts.

(48.) Robert W. Harms, River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade, 1500–1891 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1981) and The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2002).

(49.) Soldiers, Traders, and Slaves: State Formation and Economic Transformation in the Greater Nile Valley, 1700–1885 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990); also a preliminary statement as “Crossers of the Sea: Slaves and Migrants in the Western Indian Ocean, c. 1800–1900,” American Historical Review 105, no. 1 (2000): 69–91.

(50.) See American Historical Review 104, no. 1 (1999): 1–32. The donation of an AHA Martin A. Klein Prize in African history in 2011 was a further step toward professional acknowledgment. Vansina received the AHA’s highest Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2015.

(52.) His 2017 successor, Tylor Stovall, added to the momentum that Manning created by presiding over an annual meeting (2018) themed “Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective.”

(53.) The Shambaa Kingdom: A History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974).

(54.) Feierman’s synthesis of anthropological insight and historical method also resolved tensions between the two disciplines that had followed Vansina’s assertion of oral narratives’ historicity. Vansina revised his original Oral Tradition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965) to accommodate growing recognition that narrative traditions had recoverable histories of their own; also see Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition as History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

(55.) Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990).

(56.) Among more than twenty at Wisconsin, Thomas Spear (professor of history emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Claire Robertson (professor of history and women’s studies emerita at Ohio State University, PhD 1974), Randall Packard (William H. Welch Professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, PhD 1976), James Giblin (professor of history, University of Iowa, PhD 1986), Elizabeth Schmidt (professor of history emerita, Loyola University Maryland, PhD 1987), and Jonathon Glassman (professor of history, Northwestern University, PhD 1988).

(57.) For an impassioned memorial by a college friend and eventual Wisconsin graduate student, part of the William Allen Brown Memorial Lecture on African History (University of Wisconsin Department of History and the African Studies Program), see Adell Patton Jr. (PhD 1976), Remembering Dr. William Allen Brown (1934–2007): Africanists, Outliers, and Different Roads Taken to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

(58.) Paul Lovejoy, “The Hausa Kola Trade (1700–1900): A Commercial System in the Continental Exchange of West Africa” (1973); Joseph Paul Irwin, “An Emirate of the Niger Bend: A Political History of Liptako in the 19th Century” (1973); Adell Patton, “The Ningi Chiefdom and the African Frontier: Mountaineers and Resistance to the Sokoto, ca. 1800–1908” (1975); Sean Hanretta, “Constructing A Religious Community in French West Africa: The Yacoubiste Sufi Order until 1960” (2003); and Ousman Kobo, “Enjoy The Good and Forbid the Reprehensible: A Comparative Historical Study of Ahl-as-Sunna Islamic Reform Movements in Ghana and Burkina Faso, 1950–2000” (2005). [Lovejoy cited previously, fns. 35, 36; Irwin never published; Patton never published; Sean Hanretta, Islam and Social Change in French West Africa: History of an Emancipatory Community (NewYork, NY: Cambridge University Pressd, 2010); and Ousman Kobo, Unveiling Modernity in West African Islamic Reforms, 1950-2000 (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2012),]

(59.) The journal is an official publication of the African Studies Association (US), subsequently distributed by Cambridge University Press as A Journal of Debates, Methods, and Source Analysis.

(60.) The quote, with characteristic acuity, not without pointedness , is from his concluding issue: “It Is a Job I Would Like,” History in Africa 36 (2009): 1–3.

(61.) Consonant with Feierman’s Peasant Intellectuals: Kenya’s Past: An Introduction to Historical Methods in Africa (London, UK, and New York, NY: Longman, 1981).

(62.) Philadelphia: Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985. Vansina, meanwhile, had elaborated methods of historical linguistics on regional scales, with a series provocative updates on, and responses to, work elsewhere on the “Bantu question” as generic “expansion,” at levels engaged primarily in other centers at UCLA and in Belgium. See Vansina, Paths in the Rainforests: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990) and How Societies are Born: Governance in West Central Africa before 1600 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004).

(63.) Kings and Clans: Ijwi Island and the Lake Kivu Rift, 1780–1840 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991); also see historical essays collected in The Land Beyond the Mists: Essays on Identity and Authority in Precolonial Congo and Rwanda (Athens: Ohio University Press. 2009). There are also numerous interventions on the historical context of the agonized politics of the independent nation, as well as eastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), often with Catharine Newbury, a Wisconsin political scientist (PhD 1975), The Cohesion of Oppression: Clientship and Ethnicity in Rwanda 1860–1960 (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1988).

(64.) Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400 to 1948 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

(65.) The iconic understated phrase came later from Joan Wallach Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” American Historical Review 91, no. 5 (1986): 1053–1105.

(66.) Beyond Robertson’s and Klein’s Women and Slavery: Hay and Marcia Wright, eds., African Women and the Law: Historical Perspectives (Boston, MA: Boston University African Studies Center, 1982); Robertson, Sharing the Same Bowl: A Socioeconomic History of Women and Class in. Accra, Ghana (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984); Hay and Sharon Stichter, eds., African Women South of the Sahara (London, UK: Longman, 1984); Berger and Robertson, eds., Women and Class in Africa (New York, NY: Homes and Meier, 1986); Hay, “Queens, Prostitutes, and Peasants: Historical Perspectives on African Women, 1971–1986” (Issue 130 of Working papers in African studies, Boston University African Studies Center, 1988); Berger, Threads of Solidarity: Women in South African Industry, 1900–1980 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); Robertson, Trouble Showed the Way: Women, Men, and Trade in the Nairobi Area, 1890 1990 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997); and Berger and E. Frances White, Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: Restoring Women to History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).

(67.) Schmidt: Peasants, Traders, and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870–1939 (London, UK: Heinemann, 1992), and Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005); and Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Work, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999) and A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), among many other studies; and Nancy Rose Hunt, Tessie P. Liu, and Jean Quataer, eds., Gendered Colonialisms in African History (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1997).

(68.) E. J. Alagoa (1966), “The Settlement of the Niger Delta: Ijo Oral Tradition”; Andrew Roberts (1966), “A Political History of the Bemba (North-Eastern Zambia) to 1900”; John Rowe (1966), “Revolution in Buganda: 1856-1900”; Raymond Kent (1967), “Early Kingdoms in Madagascar and the Birth of the Sakalava Empire, 1500–1700.”; two earlier PhDs had been graduate students in other fields, converted to the new African field. Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, A History of the Niger Delta: An Historical Interpretation of Ijo Oral Tradition (Port Harcourt , Nigeria: Onyoma Research Publications, 2005); Andrew D. Roberts. A History of the Bemba: Political Growth and Change in North-eastern Zambia before 1900 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 1973); Rowe never published; Raymond K Kent, Early Kingdoms in Madagascar, 1500-1700 (New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970).

(69.) Forty percent of the total number of degrees in one decade, 1966–75, and another 40 percent in the succeeding two decades, 1976–1995.

(70.) The leading series of social-history monographs on Africa, first at Heinemann (seventy-five titles) in collaboration with Jean Hay and then, with other collaborators, the “New African Histories” at Ohio University Press (approaching fifty titles at this writing, including two monographs of his own, with Barbara Isaacman). Other Madison graduates published steadily with other presses: among others, Elizabeth Eldredge (PhD 1986), A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of. Security in Nineteenth Century Lesotho (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge. University Press, 1993) and more recently Kingdoms and Chiefdoms of Southeastern Africa: Oral Traditions and History, 1400–1830 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2015); and James Giblin (PhD 1986), The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania, 1840–1940 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992); Elizabeth Schmidt (see fn 67), as well as integrating recent African political dynamics into Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2013). Jean Hay, the founding partner in editing the series, later became production editor of the International Journal of African Historical Studies (Boston University) and was lead editor there for six years, 1999–2005.

(71.) Alagoa (PhD 1966) at Port Harcourt; Hassan Abdin Mohamed (PhD 1971) at Khartoum, later secretary of state for presidential affairs, under-secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and ambassador of Sudan in Algeria, Iraq, and the United Kingdom; Babatunde Agiri (PhD 1972, 1954–2010) at Lagos; Thomas Tlou (1932–2010, PhD 1972) at Botswana (vice-chancellor), chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, and ambassador to the UN; Shirin Walji (PhD 1974) at Nairobi; Kings Phiri (PhD 1975) at Chancellor College, Malawi; Jeffrey Peires (PhD 1980) in Transkei and Member of Parliament (African National Congress), Republic of South Africa; Mwelwa Musambachime (PhD 1981) in Zambia and Namibia and as Zambian ambassador to the UN; Bakonzi Agayo (PhD 1982) in Zairean politics; J. S. Mohlamme (PhD 1985) VISTA, South Africa; Tharcisse Nsabimana (PhD 1988) at Kigali; and Joe Allie (PhD 1993) to Fourah Bay; Tefetso Mothibe (PhD 1993) in Lesotho; and Philip Shea (PhD 1974, 1945–2006) returned to Nigeria to dedicate his career to teaching at Bayero University. Several early international PhDs returned to the United Kingdom: Andrew Roberts (PhD 1966) at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, becoming a long-serving editor of the Journal of African History (1974–1990); J. Forbes Munro in Glasgow; and John Davidson at Aberystwith, as well as Myron Echenberg at McGill (Montréal).

(72.) Together with a succession of colleagues (several of them Madisonians: Victoria Coifman, James Johnson, Keletso Atkins, and Michele Wagner).

(73.) Launched in 1994.

(74.) These highlights were the peaks of a surge of activism that numerous students constantly brought to the program; space does not permit acknowledging more of their personal commitments.

(75.) Where he joined R. Hunt Davis (PhD 1969), the previous director of Florida’s center.

(76.) Kathleen Smythe, Susan O’Brien, Sean Hanretta, Ousman Kobo, Daniel Magaziner, Steven Volz, Robert Houle; of the twenty PhDs since 1995, and without prejudice, three examples: Sean Hanretta (2003), Islam and Social Change in French West Africa (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Meredith Terretta (2004), Nation of Outlaws, State of Violence: Nationalism, Grassfields Tradition, and State-Building in Cameroon (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014); Daniel Magaziner (2007), The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010), and The Art of Life in South Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2016).

(77.) The first title in the series appeared in 2004. The press has, as of 2015, also assumed publication of three journals in African studies: African Economic History, Ghana Studies, and Mande Studies; Spear, retired but not inactive, went on to edit the Oxford University Press’s online “Research Encyclopedia of African History,” guiding the most comprehensive survey of the current state of the field, converted from paper to updatable digital format.

(78.) Initially exploring the indistinguishability of politics and public healing in Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010).

(79.) Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). A first book (revised dissertation) had interpreted colonial Brazil as Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

(80.) Callaci was a Northwestern PhD and student of Madisonian Jonathon Glassman.

(81.) Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017).

(82.) Richard C. Keller, history of colonial medicine and public health, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis; Colonial Madness: Psychiatry in French North Africa (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007); Gregg Mitman, Reel Nature: America’s Romance with Wildlife on Film (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999); and Pablo Gómez, The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), particularly resonant with Sweet’s African healer, Domingos Álvares.

(83.) Festschriften appropriately followed: Paul Landau, ed., The Power of Doubt: Essays in Honor of David Henige (Madison, WI: Parallel Press, 2011) and Michel Doortmont, “Literacy’s Feedback on Historical Analysis Revisited: Papers in Honor of David Henige,” and “Making History in Africa: David Henige and the Quest for Method in African History,” History in Africa 38 (2011): 1–6, 7–20.