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Article

Increasingly, the study of law in colonial Africa has moved out of the domain of legal scholarship per se, where it had its origins in the 1940s, and into that of social and cultural history; it has also shifted from a rules-based approach, primarily concerned with legal codes and judicial institutions, to one that focuses on process and explores the complex relationship between law and culture. As the field has expanded, it has divided into sub-branches. Some remain within the scope of legal history, defined as the study of how legal codes and judicial procedures have developed and changed and of the issues of principle that arose; others are more concerned with the social impact of law, how the establishment of colonial legal regimes, including customary law and the courts where cases could be heard, presented new dilemmas and opportunities and altered the distribution of power in African communities. Beyond this, historians have also used legal records, especially court records, as social documents without being directly concerned with their particular legal and judicial contexts. Once their limitations and the difficulties of interpretation that they present have been understood, such records offer potentially rich insights into family and household affairs as well as into more obviously civil or criminal matters.

Article

In the precolonial era, certain women played key governance roles, for example, the queen’s sister and the king’s mother in Buganda, the largest of Uganda’s four kingdoms. At one time they had as much power as the king in Buganda. However, women’s authority declined in Buganda in the 1700s and 1800s with the rise of the hereditary chiefs (batongole) and the demise of the influence of the clans. The coming of the British further undermined their roles. While on the one hand, British colonial engagement with local authorities privileged men, colonial education gave rise to Ugandan women’s leadership in local and national organizations, which provided women with a venue for political mobilization. The first women were appointed to the legislature at the end of British rule in 1954; all of them were British. As a result of pressure from women’s organizations, African women were soon thereafter appointed to the legislature starting in 1956. The number of women in political office remained low until the takeover of President Yoweri Museveni in 1986, when Uganda became a leader in Africa in advancing women in positions in the legislature and executive. The Museveni government’s adoption of reserved seats for women at all levels from local councils to the parliament in 1989 ensured that at least one-third of seats were held by women. The increase in numbers of women in parliament had some impact on the adoption of women’s rights legislation; however, ultimately women remained constrained by patronage and the undemocratic nature of the political system in Uganda.

Article

Mustafah Dhada

The Wiriyamu massacre was a case of structurally determined mass violence in Portugal’s colonial wars, not unlike similar massacres during wars of suppression by colonial and White settler powers in Africa. On December 16, 1972, a young captain in the Portuguese colonial army in Mozambique was summoned to the regional headquarters in Tete, then undergoing insurgency. He arrived at the headquarters at 6:30 am and was told to execute Operation Marosca—eradicate insurgents in five villages in Wiriyamu. Wiriyamu’s periphery was then bombed to soften it, after which he and his commando units moved in to demolish the five villages. Three hundred and eighty-five named civilians died in the process. Excluded from this figure are the victims of police torture and the three-day hunt that followed the massacre. There were no insurgent casualties on record. The massacre would have been lost to recorded history had it not been for the role data-collectors, report-smuggling priests, and fact-checking journalists played in producing a list of the dead, mounting a concerted effort to verify and then publicize the massacre, and engaging in a daring rendition of an eye-witness survivor. On July 10, 1973, 206 days after the event, they succeeded to place their story on the front page of The Times. Five days later, the Sunday Times’ Insight Team followed suit with an extensive background coverage of the affair. The Caetano-led Portuguese regime denied the carnage with counter-narratives and protestors on hire. Nine months after the revelations, however, the Portuguese military ousted Caetano. The new regime acknowledged the veracity of The Times’ reports on Wiriyamu. By then, the United Nations had documented the event, publishing it in a report seven months after the coup, on November 22, 1974. That is how the Wiriyamu massacre happened, and how Wiriyamu the narrative, was revealed, denied, contested as recently as 2012 and reaffirmed in three scholarly texts.

Article

Marie-Albane de Suremain

The colonial condition in Africa has been revisited by all of the main historiographic currents of thought, from a heroizing, highly political and military history of colonization primarily considered from the colonists’ standpoint, to a much more complex and rich history integrating the colonized perspective. This history has been enhanced by contributions from Postcolonial Studies and Subaltern Studies as well as from New Imperial History and perspectives opened by its global interconnected history. At the intersection of these issues and methods, colonial studies offers an innovative reinterpretation of various facets of colonial Africa, such as the factors and justifications for colonial expansion; conquests and colonial wars; processes of territorial appropriation and border demarcation; and the organization and control of the colonies. In these fundamentally inegalitarian societies, accommodation and social and cultural hybridization processes were also at work, as well as multiple forms of resistance or subversion that paved the way for African states to win their independence. In addition to the role played by the First and Second World Wars, the emergence of nationalist and separatist movements helps to clarify the multifaceted nature of these independences, when approached from a political as well as a cultural and social perspective, while questioning the durability of the legacy of the colonial phase in African history.

Article

In the second half of the 19th century, French imperial expansion in the south of the Sahara led to the control of numerous African territories. The colonial rule France imposed on a diverse range of cultural groups and political entities brought with it the development of equally diverse inquiry and research methodologies. A new form of scholarship, africanisme, emerged as administrators, the military, and amateur historians alike began to gather ethnographic, linguistic, judicial, and historical information from the colonies. Initially, this knowledge was based on expertise gained in the field and reflected the pragmatic concerns of government rather than clear, scholarly, interrogation in line with specific scientific disciplines. Research was thus conducted in many directions, contributing to the emergence of the so-called colonial sciences. Studies by Europeans scholars, such as those carried out by Maurice Delafosse and Charles Monteil, focused on West Africa’s past. In so doing, the colonial context of the late 19th century reshaped the earlier orientalist scholarship tradition born during the Renaissance, which had formerly produced quality research about Africa’s past, for example, about medieval Sudanese states. This was achieved through the study of Arabic manuscripts and European travel narratives. In this respect, colonial scholarship appears to have perpetuated the orientalist legacy, but in fact, it transformed the themes, questions, and problems historians raised. In the first instance, histoire coloniale (colonial history) focused the history of European conquests and the interactions between African societies and their colonizers. Between 1890 and 1920 a network of scientists, including former colonial administrators, struggled to institutionalize colonial history in metropolitan France. Academic positions were established at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France. Meanwhile, research institutions were created in French West Africa (Afrique Occidentale Française [AOF]), French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Équatoriale Française [AEF]), and Madagascar between 1900 and the 1930s. Yet, these imperial and colonial concerns similarly coincided with the rise of what was then known as histoire indigène (native history) centered on the precolonial histories of African societies. Through this lens emerged a more accurate vision of the African past, which fundamentally challenged the common preconception that the continent had no “history.” This innovative knowledge was often co-produced by African scholars and intellectuals. After the Second World War, interest in colonial history started to wane, both from an intellectual and a scientific point of view. In its place, the history of sub-Saharan Africa gained popularity and took root in French academic institutions. Chairs of African history were created at the Sorbonne in 1961 and 1964, held by Raymond Mauny and Hubert Deschamps, respectively, and in 1961 at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, fulfilled by Henri Brunschwig. African historians, who were typically trained in France, began to challenge the existing European scholarship. As a result, some of the methods and sources that had been born in the colonial era, were adopted for use by a new generation of historians, whose careers blossomed after the independences.

Article

Burkina Faso has a remarkable history owing to repeated dissolution and reunification of its territory. Following the French colonial conquest in 1896, a military territory was established over a large part of what would become Upper Volta. In 1905, the military territory was integrated in the civilian colony of Upper Senegal and Niger with headquarters in Bamako. Following a major anticolonial war in 1915–16, the colony of Upper Volta with Ouagadougou as its capital was created in 1919, for security reasons and as a labor reservoir for neighboring colonies. Dismantled in 1932, Upper Volta was partitioned among neighboring colonies. It was recreated after World War II as an Overseas Territory (Territoire d’Outre-mer) within the newly created French Union (Union française). In 1960, Upper Volta gained its independence, but the nation experienced a new beginning in 1983 when it was renamed Burkina Faso by the revolutionary government of Thomas Sankara. The policies and debates that shaped the colonial history of Burkina Faso, while important in themselves, are a reflection of the larger West African history and French colonial policy.

Article

The study of the long-term history of what has been known since 1960 as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania is possible largely because of inhabitants’ early embrace of Islam in the 8th century. While research on the early pre-Islamic history of the region is limited by the availability of sources to primarily the archaeological, the arrival of Islam through trade networks crossing the Sahara from North Africa meant that Arab merchants and explorers supplied and produced knowledge about the region’s inhabitants, polities, and natural resources that was then written down in Arabic by Muslim chroniclers and historians. Early Muslims were largely Kharijite and Ibadi but the 11th-century Almoravid reformist and educational movement ensured that the region’s Muslims would predominantly follow Sunni Islam as defined by the Maliki school of law and ʿAshari theology. By the time the Almohad empire succeeded the Almoravid in the 12th century, important centers of Islamic scholarship were emerging in major trading towns in the Sahara and along the Senegal River. The expansion of Sufi thought and practice, the arrival of the Arabic-speaking Banu Hassan, and the subsequent development of political entities known as emirates occurred in ensuing centuries and played a part in the genesis of a social structure that valorized the Arabic language, the study of Islam, and claims of descent from the Prophet Muhammad. The arrival of European merchants in the 15th century and the subsequent colonization of the region by the French led to rapid changes in the economic and cultural bases of political authority and social hierarchy, with colonial policy largely valorizing Sufi leaders as political interlocutors and community representatives. Independence from France in 1960 meant the establishment of an Islamic Republic whose laws are based on a mixed legal system of Maliki Islamic and French civil law. The basis of presidential rule is not religious in nature, though presidents have increasingly used a discourse of religion to legitimize their rule in the face of internal political opposition and external threats from extremist groups such as al-Qaʿeda.

Article

Susana Castillo-Rodriguez and Alba Valenciano Mañé

Women who live in the territories that today comprise the Republic of Equatorial Guinea experienced important material and social changes during pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial times. They faced crucial imbalances in terms of their social and political position: while Guinean women had a vital role in household management and child rearing, in most cases they did not control their income nor the circulation of goods and people within their society. While they have historic commonalities with women in other parts of Central Africa, their particular experiences during the slave trade and Spanish colonialism, including the deployment of the national Catholic colonial state during Franco’s dictatorship in the territory, contributed to their unique history and situation today. Francoist colonialism, which lasted from 1936 until Equatorial Guinea’s independence from Spain in 1968, strengthened the existing patriarchal structure of the societies living within the country. Independence did not substantially change the social and political roles of women in Equatorial Guinea but nevertheless opened up new horizons for them. Since 1968, three generations of empowered women—teachers, traders, farmers, writers, and politicians—have contributed to the creation of alternative narratives for women and increased the scope of their role in the public domain. Despite these new avenues for women, Equatorial Guinea’s current regime and economy not only relies on extracting rents from an oil-based economy but also extracting the organizing and political capacity of ordinary Guinean women. As before, they still face the challenge of managing their households without controlling their larger economic circumstances while lacking political power in the country.

Article

World Wars I and II were very probably the most destructive conflicts in African history. In terms of the human costs—the numbers of people mobilized, the scale of violence and destruction experienced--as well as their enduring political and social impact, no other previous conflicts are comparable, particularly over such short periods as four and ten years, respectively. All told, about 4,500,000 African soldiers and military laborers were mobilized during these wars and about 2,000,000 likely died. Mobilization on this scale among African peasant societies was only sustainable because they were linked to the industrial economies of a handful of West Central European nation states at the core of the global commercial infrastructure, which invariably subordinated African interests to European imperial imperatives. Militarily, these were expressed in two ways: by the use of African soldiers and supporting military laborers to conquer or defend colonies on the continent, or by the export of African combat troops and laborers overseas—in numbers far exceeding comparable decades during the 18th-century peak of the transatlantic slave trade—to Europe and Asia to augment Allied armies there. The destructive consequences of these wars were distributed unevenly across the continent. In some areas of Africa, human losses and physical devastation frequently approximated or surpassed the worst suffering experienced in Europe itself; yet, in other areas of the continent, Africans remained virtually untouched by these wars. These conflicts contributed to an ever-growing assertiveness of African human rights in the face of European claims to racial supremacy that led after 1945 to the restoration of African sovereignty throughout most of the continent. On a personal level, however, most Africans received very little for their wartime sacrifices. Far more often, surviving veterans returned to their homes with an enhanced knowledge of the wider world, perhaps a modicum of newly acquired personal prestige within their respective societies, but little else.

Article

Jane Hooper

The French formally colonized Madagascar in 1896. After violently repressing resistance movements, the colonial government began efforts to transform the island into a profitable member of the French Empire by taxing their subjects and instituting a harsh forced labor regime. These exactions were resisted by Malagasy throughout the entire colonial period, culminating in a widespread revolt in 1947. In 1960 Malagasy held their first elections, but the French would continue to exercise political and economic influence over the island’s government for the next twelve years. Madagascar has been ruled by a series of strong presidents who were removed from office following popular unrest and military coups. The pro-French government of Philibert Tsiranana was forced out in 1972. In 1975 the new president, Didier Ratsiraka, implemented socialist policies in the country. After Madagascar experienced a sharp economic decline, Ratsiraka agreed to restructure the economy with the assistance of the IMF and World Bank in the 1980s. Since that period, leaders have struggled to deal with recurring environmental crises and to improve living standards for the island’s residents. The pro-business president Marc Ravalomanana was removed from office following mass protests in the capital, Antananarivo, in 2009. He was replaced by Antananarivo’s mayor, Andry Rajoelina. International groups, viewing such a move as unconstitutional, withdrew economic aid, an act that exacerbated economic crises in the country. Fresh elections were held in 2013 but the victor, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, has dealt with strong challenges from several ex-presidents.

Article

Antoinette Errante and Jessica Jorge

By the time António de Oliveira Salazar pressed for mass schooling to “make Portugal rise again” in the late 1930s, a variety of educational and socialization contexts existed in a loose and often contentious manner in Mozambique. Indigenous educational practices of African societies across the territory prepared the next generation to take their place within their communities. As Arabs established a commercial presence along Mozambique’s northern coast from the 9th century onward, Arabic literacy and adoption of the Arabic alphabet for written representation of Indigenous languages gave rise to a growing network of Qur’anic schools. In the 19th century, Protestant, Catholic, and lay mission schools as well as government schools joined these sites of learning. Europe’s “scramble for Africa” intensified Portugal’s interest in “Portugalizing” colonial educational endeavors and marginalizing sites of learning it deemed a threat to this project. By 1930, Portugal established a dual educational system in Mozambique that supported the legal distinction it created between Portuguese and “assimilated” Africans (official schools, or escolas oficiais) and “Indigenous” Africans (rudimentary schools, or escolas rudimentares). In 1933, under the regime he christened the Estado Novo (New State), Salazar institutionalized the role of schools in his imperialist ambitions by applying the Carneiro-Pacheco educational reforms of 1936–1940 throughout the Portuguese colonial empire. The dual educational system as well as the legal distinction between “Portuguese” and “Indigenous” were designed to funnel most Africans into forced labor schemes from which the regime profited. In 1940, the Estado Novo signed the Missionary Accord, which placed exclusive responsibility for rudimentary education with the Catholic Church in an effort to curb Indigenous, Protestant, and Islamic educational activities that the regime considered “denationalizing.” While the accord hampered expansion of Protestant schools, Portugal’s weak administrative capacities and support of Catholic missions as well as Mozambicans’ association of Catholicism with compulsory labor practices enabled Indigenous educational practices, Protestant missions, and Qur’anic schools to continue to exert influence. By the early 1960s, groups pressing for decolonization coalesced around the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO, or Frente de Libertação de Moçambique). As FRELIMO liberated zones in the northern and central parts of the country, it established primary schools and literacy campaigns in an effort to create the cultural, social, and political transformation that liberated the “New Man” (Homem Novo) from a colonial mentality as well as what FRELIMO perceived to be obscurantist Indigenous and religious cultural traditions. FRELIMO established secondary schools and training centers in Tanzania to support the education of the very brightest. FRELIMO generalized the educational model used in the liberated zones after Mozambique won its independence in 1975. While in the early years the country expanded the school network and raised literacy rates from 2 to 40 percent, the country’s educational legacy proved challenging. With the Portuguese exodus, the country lost 95 percent of its skilled workforce. The government’s attempts to rapidly train a teaching force sacrificed quality, and teachers did not have the training to impart the Marxist-Leninist pedagogy that FRELIMO had envisioned. Internal disputes and tensions as well as destabilization campaigns mounted by neighboring White minority governments, which gave rise to RENAMO (Resistencia Nacional de Mozambique), further eroded FRELIMO’s postrevolutionary gains. In 1992, FRELIMO and RENAMO signed peace accords and moved toward a multiparty democracy. Since then, the education sector has focused on postwar reconstruction and democratization, improved teacher training, and improved retention rates for girls, the latter reflecting some of the ongoing conflicts between Indigenous educational practices and values, and mass schooling.

Article

The ransoming of captives and the redemption of slaves in precolonial and early colonial sub-Saharan Africa refer to two distinct practices. The ransoming of captives refers to the practice of paying for the release of a captive at the time of capture or soon afterwards and where the freed captive usually returns to their own society with their social status intact. In contrast, the redemption of slaves refers to the practice of the purchasing of the freedom of an enslaved person who then usually remains in a subservient status in their owner’s society. The redemption of slaves has been a well-studied subject throughout sub-Saharan Africa as both a form of indigenous African and colonial manumission policies as well as part of the growing field of social abolition of slavery. The ransoming of captives in precolonial sub-Saharan Africa, unlike in North Africa, is a more recent area of research, with most research concentrated on West Africa. The existence of both ransoming and redemption practices demonstrate that people and their family and friends valued freedom and used a myriad of strategies to achieve and maintain it.

Article

This article outlines historical and ongoing uses of the past and academic heritage research into those activities within eastern Africa. The use of the past will be discussed as a deep historical practice in the area that is the EAC in the 21st century, demonstrating how political elites have constructed versions of the past to suit contemporary and future aims for hundreds of years. Then there is an outline of the colonial introduction of formalized Western heritage institutions and legislation in the early 20th century, the subsequent nationalization of these in the mid-20th century, and the late-20th- and early-21st-century internationalization of heritage. These overviews are followed by a discussion of different approaches to heritage research including early studies of museums, traditions, heritage management, archaeological introspections, and more recent “critical heritage studies,” which interrogate the use of the past as a form of cultural production.

Article

While the single most consequential event in Africa during the 19th century was European colonization of the continent, most of the century was characterized by tremendous growth and innovation in African political and economic institutions, as well as the expansion of literacy and the development of enduring intellectual traditions. Many African societies were making strides toward the creation of new self-governing nations over the course of the 19th century, as the ending of the transatlantic slave trade made way for the development of new industries and commercial systems. Large powerful states governed in numerous places across the continent, including the Sokoto and Tukulor Empires, Asante, Dahomey, Egypt, Buganda, Bunyoro, and Ethiopia. Many African states had powerful armies and distinct political identities. The emergence of modernities in 19th-century Africa also came in the form of religious change. This era saw the expansion of Islam in rural areas of western, northern, and eastern Africa, accompanied by the rapid growth of Islamic education and literacy. At the same time, Christian mission societies facilitated the establishment of mission schools and colleges based on European institutions of higher education. The new class of mission-educated African elites included teachers, clergymen, doctors, civil servants, law clerks, journalists, private entrepreneurs, and academics. These individuals, mostly men, had a profound influence on African visions of modern nationhood, particularly in West and Southern Africa. In many ways, Africa was becoming modern in the decades prior to the European conquests of the late 19th century. For the purposes of this article, “modernity” refers to the cultural and social revolution that accompanied the rise of industrial capitalism and included an expansive universalism. The development of modernity in Africa and elsewhere was linked to the new age of science, economics, realism, rationalism, and humanism dawning toward the end of the 18th and start of the 19th century. In particular, the newly founded colonies of Sierra Leone and Liberia became centers for the diffusion of African-American cultural influence, as liberated former slaves and their descendants from the British Empire, the United States, maroon communities, and captured slave ships settled there. In order to appreciate the 19th-century development of African modernity, it is important to remember, as A. Adu Boahen once explained, that European colonization of the African continent occurred suddenly and unpredictably. As late as 1880, there was little indication that European nations intended to dramatically alter the map of Africa by force. Most African states and societies were entirely autonomous and controlled by their own rulers. The unexpected European conquest of African territories at the end of the 19th century thwarted much of the progress Africans had made throughout that century and arguably reversed key processes of modernization. And while colonial regimes also introduced new modernities into Africa, these were mainly destructive and exploitative in nature.

Article

The sty of women in East Africa did not begin until the 1970s and 1980s. Knowledge of times past comes from colonial records, filtered through the lenses of late Victorian-era men and from casting back the structures of early colonial years to create imaginaries of preexisting realities. Living in age-grade social systems that featured gendered lines of authority, men occupied societal institutions of power while women were informal political actors. Women were highly subordinated to their menfolk in some societies but held positions as chiefs in others. A gendered division of labor confined females to the domestic sphere, including subsistence production. We know little about intergender relationships, less about sexuality—studied in those eras almost exclusively in terms of the physical desires and behaviors that were morally right, appropriate, and “natural” and how those ideas were used to create unequal access to status, power, privileges, and resources. The extractive focus of the colonial era transformed women’s lives and relationships as taxation and wage labor incrementally located and oriented males outside family and community spheres. Colonists dealt mainly with men, rendering women mostly silent. Missionaries taught a new morality and way of life that framed the concepts of marriage, family, and sexuality, and provided openings into unknown spaces as well as new possibilities. The trajectory of women’s lives, gender, and sexuality in East Africa is shaped by the continuation of policies and forces set in motion during the colonial period. Some, particularly the educated, have been able to pursue careers and become producers and consumers. Immersed increasingly in the social values of individuality and personal satisfaction, women are expanding their horizons to control their own lives. Their sexuality is increasingly considered as a dimension of personhood, rather than as a domain of externally imposed social control.

Article

The Gambian archives, established in the 1960s, have rich and valuable resources for deeper study and teaching of the history of The Gambia and the subregion. The collections are representative of a substantial amount of The Gambia’s precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial history on a range of subjects, including settlement patterns, migration, family histories, folktales, myths, legends, proverbs, songs, religion, early colonial trading in The Gambia, histories of the ethnic groups and their cultural ceremonies, history of individuals, nationalists politicians, postcolonial political parties, and World War II. Although these sources can be valuable to students, international researchers, and specialists, there is a great need for their care and maintenance.

Article

The Republic of Mali comprises a very diverse population spread over a vast territory composed of a large part of the southern Sahara, the Sahel, and the savannah. One of the world’s great rivers, the Niger, runs through much of the national territory, reaching its northern apex near Timbuktu. For over a millennium, this territory has allowed empires and kingdoms to flourish alongside decentralized societies. These include the empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhay, as well as any number of smaller states, trading diasporas, and nomadic and semi-nomadic communities. The territory of Mali has long been a hub in African commercial and intellectual circuits, notably those linking the societies of the Maghreb (or North Africa) to those bordering the Atlantic. In the 19th century, as elsewhere in Muslim Africa, new and explicitly Islamic states emerged in western and central Mali. They did not endure more than a few decades, as the territory was colonized by France in the late 19th century. The Republic of Mali claimed its independence in 1960 and rapidly developed greater autonomy from French neo-colonialism than did most of its neighbors. Mali has maintained an out-sized diplomatic and cultural role on the African continent and beyond under a socialist government from 1960 to 1968, military government through 1991, and a vibrant democracy in the decades since. However, since 2011, the country has been increasingly beset by violent conflicts between nonstate actors, the national government, and foreign forces including the French. Thus, in historical perspective, Mali’s geographic position and its environment have proven conducive to the production of expansive, diverse, and mutually dependent communities that have produced radically distinct and often fragile states.

Article

Angolan independence was achieved on November 11, 1975, after a 14-year-long war. The war was the result of three overlapping dynamics. The first was Portugal’s refusal to consider the possibility of a negotiated settlement for the independence of its colonies in Africa. Under the dictatorial regime of António Salazar, Portugal had become extremely dependent on its colonies, both economically and politically, and was therefore, by the late 1950s, bent on maintaining its colonial empire. The second was the development of nationalist feelings among Angolan elites, which eventually materialized in the late 1950s to early 1960s in two—and, as of 1966, three—competing nationalist movements. The third constituted a series of popular grievances within sectors of the Angolan population, especially landless farmers and plantation workers in the north, against their growing marginalization and impoverishment due to exploitative colonial policies. This eventually led to three uncoordinated revolts in January, February, and March 1961 that marked the beginning of the war of independence. The division of Angolan nationalism into three competing movements—the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA)—was shaped by Angola’s long history of violent integration into Portugal’s colonial empire. The 20th-century Portuguese colonial state in Angola relied on the exploitation of the so-called native workforce through a vast system of forced labor and on taxation. It was also exclusionary and discriminatory, leaving very few avenues for upward social mobility for Angolan “natives.” It was therefore mostly at the margins of the colonial world that such mobility was possible, especially within Christian missions. The integration of these Angolan elite groups into the colonial world, or their exclusion, followed different paths according to local contexts and histories. As a result, the different lived experiences of the social groups that formed the backbone of the nationalist movement made it exceedingly difficult for them to agree on a common vision for independent Angola. This, together with the uncompromising thirst for power of the leadership of the three movements and Cold War logics, contributed to the civil war that engulfed the country at independence and lasted until 2002.

Article

Simon Pooley

Fires have burned in African landscapes for more than a hundred million years, long before vertebrate herbivores trod the earth and modified vegetation and fire regimes. Hominin use of lightning fires is apparent c.1.5 million years ago, becoming deliberate and habitual from c. 400 thousand years ago (kya). The emergence of modern humans c. 195 kya was marked by widespread and deliberate use of fire, for hunting and gathering through to agricultural and pastoral use, with farming and copper and iron smelting spreading across sub-Saharan Africa with the Bantu migrations from 4–2.5 kya. Europeans provided detailed reports of Africans’ fire use from 1652 in South Africa and the 1700s in West Africa. They regarded indigenous fire use as destructive, an agent of desiccation and destruction of forests, with ecological theories cementing this in the European imagination from the 1800s. The late 1800s and early 1900s were characterized by colonial authorities’ attempts to suppress fires, informed by mistaken scientific ideas and management principles imported from temperate Europe and colonial forestry management elsewhere. This was often ignored by African and settler farmers. In the 1900s, the concerns of colonial foresters and fears about desiccation and soil erosion fueled by the American Dust Bowl experience informed anti-fire views until mid-century. However, enough time had elapsed for colonial and settler scientists and managers to have observed fires and indigenous burning practices and their effects, and to begin to question received wisdom on their destructiveness. Following World War II, during a phase of colonial cooperation and expert-led attempts to develop African landscapes, a more nuanced understanding of fire in African landscapes emerged, alongside greater pragmatism about what was achievable in managing wildfires and fire use. Although colonial restrictions on burning fueled some independence struggles, postcolonial environmental managers appear on the whole to have adopted their former oppressors’ attitudes to fire and burning. Important breakthroughs in fire ecology were made in the 1970s and 1980s, influenced by a movement away from equilibrium-based ecosystems concepts where fires were damaging disturbances to ecosystems, to an understanding of fires as important drivers of biodiversity integral to the functioning of many African landscapes. Notably from the 1990s, anthropologists influenced by related developments in rangeland ecology combined ecological studies with studies of indigenous land use practices to assess their impacts over time, challenging existing narratives of degradation in West African forests and East African savannas. Attempts were made to integrate communities (and, to a lesser extent, indigenous knowledge) into fire management plans and approaches. In the 2000s, anthropologists, archeologists, geographers, historians, and political ecologists have contributed studies telling more complex stories about human fire use. Together with detailed histories of landscape change offered by remote sensing and analysis of charcoal and pollen deposits, these approaches to the intertwined human and ecological dimensions of fire in African landscapes offer the prospect of integrated histories that can inform our understanding of the past and guide our policies and management in the future.

Article

Between 1888 and 1897, rinderpest virus (cattle plague) spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, presumably for the first time, killing over 90 percent of African cattle and countless wildlife, expedited by European colonial conquest. Beginning in the Eritrean port of Massawa, the virus was transmitted across the Sahel, reaching the Senegal River by 1891. The epizootic spread south out of the Horn of Africa, into the western and eastern Rift valleys, and likely by sea with coastal commerce, infecting East Africa after 1891. Although slowed by the Zambezi River, in 1896 rinderpest reached the regions of modern Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and southern Angola before it burned out or was arrested by breakthroughs in vaccine therapy by 1900. South of the Zambezi, early European methods of stanching rinderpest by destroying all cattle exposed to the virus often elicited protest, resistance, and sometimes rebellion. Rinderpest was eliminated from southern Africa shortly after the turn of the 20th century but became enzootic in other parts of the continent, often in wildlife, until eradicated globally in 2011. In each region of infection, local ecologies, trade patterns, agricultural bases, social structures, and power dynamics shaped the impact of rinderpest. Almost everywhere, rinderpest was preceded by drought and locust plagues, and followed by human diseases, especially smallpox and malnutrition.