Tag Archives: #history

Biography and Economics in African History

The most recent issue of African Economic History, a special issue entitled “Biography and Economics,” is now available. The lead editor for this issue, Paul Lovejoy, explains his choice of theme:

The inspiration for this special issue on Biography and Economics was the realization that economic history often does not focus on individuals and what their personal testimonies can tell us about economics and economic relationships. The issue brings together five articles that address this theme in different ways; the first through the lens of Philip Quaque on the Gold Coast in the eighteenth century; the second the case of the Ologoudou family on the coast of the Bight of Benin; third through biographical perspectives on enslavement in the upper Guinea coast; fourth, through the memories of indentured women in Natal; and lastly through the autobiographical details found in the wills of freed Africans in Brazil.

This was the final issue for Lovejoy, who is now retired after more than 30 years of editing African Economic History. Browse the table of contents on Project MUSE.

African Economic History Welcomes New Editors

Following the retirement of longtime editor Paul E. Lovejoy, African Economic History has appointed two new editors. Earlier this year, George Bob-Milliar and Chétima Melchisedek joined the existing editorial team of Mariana Candido, Toyin Falola, and Toby Green. Together, the editors recently launched a social media presence for African Economic History, posting about current events related to African economies as well as important research in the field. You can follow AEH on Facebook and Twitter. Read on to learn more about the journal’s new editors.


George M. Bob-Milliar is a senior lecturer in the Department of History and Political Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, one of the most prestigious public universities in Ghana. He joined the faculty of KNUST in August 2013 and has been involved in research, teaching, and mentoring of students at all levels. He is currently serving as the director of KNUST’s Centre for Cultural and African Studies (CeCASt). In 2012, Bob-Milliar received his PhD from the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, the oldest center for African Studies on the continent. Trained as an interdisciplinary scholar, his research lies at the intersection of history, political ethnography, and development studies. He has published in the preeminent journals in his field of specialization. Bob-Milliar has been a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge, Uganda’s Makerere University, and the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), as well as a guest lecturer at the Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany. In 2010, he received the inaugural African Author Prize for the best article published in African Affairs by an author based at an African institution, and in 2012 he was awarded a prize for his contribution to research on African policy issues from the Centre for International Governance Innovation. He sits on the editorial boards of African Affairs, African Review of Economics & Finance, and the Journal of Political Economy and Development.

Chétima Melchisedek is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at York University. Before coming to York, Melchisedek was a senior lecturer at the University of Maroua; a fellow at the Nantes Institute for Advanced Studies; the Gordon Henderson Fellow at the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa; and a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for African Studies at the University of Basel. He earned a PhD in history from the Université Laval and a master’s degree from the University of Ngaoundéré in Cameroon. Melchisedek is a member of the editorial advisory board of the Canadian Journal of African Studies. His articles have appeared in the Historical Journal, African Studies Review, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, and Afrique Contemporaine, among others. His article in Cahiers d’Études Africaines (2015) was awarded the Prize for the Best Paper on Central Africa by the Central Africa Studies Association, while his paper in Africa Spectrum (2018) won the UFS/AS Young African Scholar Award. Melchisedek guest edited a special issue of the Canadian Journal of African Studies on “Boko Haram beyond the Media” (Volume 54 Number 2, 2020) and is currently co-editing, with Paul Lovejoy, a volume on Boko Haram and Political Distancing (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2021). Chétima is an affiliate member of the African Academy of Sciences and a founding member of the Cameroon Academy for Young Scientists.

Luso-Brazilian Review Is Now Free to Read on Project MUSE

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, volumes 41–56 (2004–present) of Luso-Brazilian Review are now freely available until May 31, 2020, on Project MUSE. In opening content, the journal joins a wider initiative led by Project MUSE to provide free access to many books and journals, in order to support scholars as they transition to remote teaching and learning. You can find a complete list of free resources on MUSE here.


Luso-Brazilian Review

Luso-Brazilian Review publishes interdisciplinary scholarship on Portuguese, Brazilian, and Lusophone African cultures, with special emphasis on scholarly works in literature, history, and the social sciences. Each issue of the Luso-Brazilian Review includes articles and book reviews, which may be written in either English or Portuguese.

Journal Editor Receives Book Prize from the British Academy

Toby Green, Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King’s College London and a co-editor of the UW Press journal African Economic History, was recently awarded the British Academy’s 2019 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for his book A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2019). The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize honors a non-fiction book that promotes global cultural understanding.

A Fistful of Shells describes the relationship between West Africa and European colonial powers as it evolved through the growth of the slave trade. Prior to the fifteenth century, gold-rich African kingdoms and European economies had been on equal terms, but Green shows through six case studies how European merchants created an imbalance by importing large quantities of objects used as currency in African kingdoms, such as cowrie shells and copper rings, to exchange for gold and slave laborers. This influx of currency created inflation and lead to economic instability and social upheaval in West African societies. The book then traces political developments that led to a revolutionary nineteenth century in Africa.

In an interview on the British Academy’s blog, Green emphasizes the importance of fieldwork to his project and for anyone studying the history of West Africa. “The problem with using just written materials . . . is that in the end you will reproduce the perspectives of the authors. In this case, they were white male slave traders and that’s going to give you a very lopsided view – which is what traditionally has happened.” To avoid this pitfall, Green’s research supplemented written narratives with archival research, oral histories, art, archaeology, and letters. The book is the culmination of over twenty years of research.

To learn more about West African economic history, read an excerpt from the book, and browse the latest African Economic History, a special issue entitled “Colonial Economic History in West Africa” co-edited by Green and George M. Bob-Milliar.

Thirty Years of Editing African Economic History

By Mariana Candido, Toyin Falola, and Toby Green, co-editors, African Economic History

African Economic History

African Economic History salutes Professor Paul E. Lovejoy for the thirty-plus years of service he has given to the journal. In that time, Paul has performed wondrous feats in maintaining the vitality of a discipline which is fundamentally relevant to so many areas of African Studies, but which had been allowed to wither on the academic vine. The continued existence of the journal is a standing example of Professor Lovejoy’s outstanding service to the discipline of economic history and the field of African history in general. We will miss his contributions and editorial oversight so very much, but are also so grateful for all that he has done.

With Paul Lovejoy’s retirement as an editor, we are delighted to announce the appointment of two new editors: George Bob-Milliar, of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and Melchisedek Chétima, Banting Fellow at York University.

The journal is also pleased to announce that we are now accepting submissions in Portuguese. This opens the journal to a wider range of potential contributors in Africa and Brazil,  from which we are very keen to see more submissions. We are pleased to join African Studies Review and the Journal of West African History in taking this step. If you are interested in having your work considered for publication in African Economic History, please see our submission guidelines.

Colonial Economic History in West Africa

African Economic History

A special issue of African Economic History, “Colonial Economic History in West Africa: The Gold Coast and Gambia in Comparative Perspective,” reconsiders the comparative place of economic frameworks in British colonies in West Africa. One of the issue’s important aims is to emphasize the difference in divergent spaces, between the “profitable” colony of the Gold Coast and the “economic drain” of The Gambia colony. Edited by George M. Bob-Milliar and Toby Green, the issue is also characterized by new and distinctive archival research from archives in the countries considered; this empirical detail places the economic impact of colonialism in an important new light.

Browse the table of contents and read the editors’ introduction, freely available on Project MUSE.

Book Series Renamed to Reflect Historian’s Work and Legacy

The University of Wisconsin Press and the George L. Mosse Program in History are pleased to announce a change in the name of our joint book series. Now called the George L. Mosse Series in the History of European Culture, Sexuality, and Ideas, the revision better reflects the focus of both Mosse’s work and the titles published under its auspices—both historically and in the future.

Skye Doney, director of the George L. Mosse Program and Mosse series editor, says, “The new title encompasses the scope of Mosse’s innovative scholarship and the wide reach of those books published in the series. The George L. Mosse Program will continue its close collaboration with UW Press in order to support groundbreaking historical work in the fields of European culture, sexuality, and ideas.”

Originally known as the George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History, the name change was approved in June by the series’ advisory board during the conference “Mosse’s Europe,” held in Berlin on the occasion of Mosse’s hundredth birthday.

A legendary scholar, teacher, and mentor, Mosse (1918–1999) joined the Department of History at UW–Madison in 1955. He was an early leader in the study of modern European culture, fascism, and the history of sexuality and masculinity. In 1965 Mosse was honored for his exceptional teaching by being named UW’s first John C. Bascom Professor. He remained famous among students and colleagues for his popular and engaging lectures, which were often standing-room only. A Jewish refugee from prewar Germany, Mosse was appointed a visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1969 and spent the final decades of his career traveling frequently between Madison and Jerusalem.

Nathan MacBrien, UW Press editor in chief, says, “A towering figure and one of the great historians of the latter twentieth century, George Mosse never shied from the most challenging questions: How did fascism arise? What constitutes a people? How is sexuality historically constituted? The scholarship we publish in the Mosse series is a tribute to his enduring legacy.” 

Rather than reflecting a shift in editorial direction, the new series title more accurately captures the breadth and depth of the series since its founding in 2001 by Mosse Program Director Emeritus, John Tortorice. The first three titles were published in 2003—Collected Memories by Christopher R. Browning, Mosse’s own Nazi Culture, and the edited volume What History Tells. Over the past sixteen years an additional twenty books have been published by the University of Wisconsin Press under the auspices of the series. Forthcoming projects include titles on the Genocide Convention and on fascist culture.

UW Press Colophon

About the University of Wisconsin Press
University of Wisconsin Press is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world.

About the George L. Mosse Series in the History of European Culture, Sexuality, and Ideas
The Mosse series promotes the vibrant international collaboration and community that historian George L. Mosse created during his lifetime by publishing major innovative works by outstanding scholars in European cultural and intellectual history.

Civic Virtue and Women’s Political Activism

9780299322908Today we are featuring a piece by Goshen College professor and author Jan Bender Shetler, whose book Claiming Civic Virtue is part of our series Women in Africa and the Diaspora.

When we think about women’s activism we imagine protest marches, banners and pink hats. But women have claimed their voice, their right to speak, in public discourse in so many different and unexpected ways over time. One thinks of The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina during the “Dirty War,” who in 1977 began showing up in the plaza everyday to demand information about their “disappeared” children.  Another example was older women in Nigeria during the anti-colonial “Igbo Women’s War” of 1929 reclaiming their space of authority by showing up in the thousands to enact the traditional practice of “sitting on a man” which involved chanting and dancing to shame the men. In less obviously public ways, elite women in Qing China wrote and published poetry that asserted their moral authority as wives and mothers who controlled the household economy where boys were first educated and men found retreat after their travels. These are all stories of women who claimed their right as public intellectuals to contribute to civic debates based on an assertion of their virtue as responsible citizens.

But, because of the tendency to universalize our own cultural assumptions, we often miss these claims of civic virtue and see women confined to the home and domestic labor, uninvolved in public affairs.  The quintessential African grandmother telling stories to her grandchildren at night figures into popular, and even academic, culture as a quaint, but a politically innocuous, figure who entertains with animal tales.  My research in the Mara Region, Tanzania, to explore women’s historical knowledge, however, showed that here their narratives asserted a claim of recognition for the value of their own civic contribution.  They told very different kinds of stories about the past than men, who were recognized as the legitimate historians of the ethnic group.  Women’s stories, by contrast, were about the value to the community of the cross-ethnic networks they formed across the region.

During the late nineteenth century East Africa experienced a series of El Niño droughts that resulted in famine, displacement and the spread of epidemic disease from the caravan trade. In the Mara Region young women and girls were often “sold” or pawned to wealthier families for food that would allow the rest of the family to survive.  While some ended up in the slave trade, many more remained in the region and were incorporated into new families as daughters, or wives, becoming part of the family.  The interests of men’s public stories was to forget where these women came from and sever their ties to their original families.  However, the interests of grandmothers who told their stories to grandchildren at night was to preserve their honor as women with kinship ties in distant places that should not be forgotten. The distant networks preserved in grandmothers’ memories proved useful for getting help in times of trouble or finding marriage partners. Women’s counter-memory asserted their virtuous past and ongoing value to the community, precisely because of their network memory.

Does this work of elderly women telling their own versions of history qualify as activism? In order to demand change in the public arena one has to first assert the authority to speak at all. In the case of Mara women they may speak their concerns for the public good in the private spaces of grandmothers sleeping with their granddaughters or around cooking pots but they are heard in the larger public arena because of the moral authority that they claim. The dominant account remains that of elderly men who hold responsibility for “history.”  But women’s alternative narratives of the past crossed ethnic groups in building durable networks of security.  Even though hard to read in our cultural vernacular, women’s assertion of voice in the public sphere is sometimes as close as the stories they tell in defining an alternative version of the past.

Jan Bender Shetler is a professor of history at Goshen College. Her books include Telling Our Own StoriesImagining Serengeti, and Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives.

Uncovering Hellenistic Sardis

Today’s piece is written by editors Andrea M. Berlin and Paul J. Kosmin, whose book Spear-Won Land , a collection of essays on the city of Sardis during the early Hellenistic period, is featured in our series Wisconsin Studies in Classics.

For most of archaic and classical Greek history (from about the seventh to the fourth centuries BCE), the richest and most important city in the Aegean world was not even in Greece. It was an Anatolian capital famed for luxurious living, cavalry horses, and rivers of gold—Sardis. As the royal capital first of the Kingdom of Lydia and then as the primary “satrapal” center of the Persian Empire in the west, Sardis was a political and cultural center of renown. The city in its Lydian and Persian periods is well known, thanks to lengthy accounts in the Histories of Herodotus and Thucydides as well as a half-century of excavation.

But when it comes to the city’s history in the years following Alexander the Great’s overthrow of the Persians, it is as if the lights go out. Historical sources are much fewer, and archaeological remains more scattered and difficult to piece together. Yet these were pivotal years, both for Sardis and for the wider interconnected worlds of Greece and the East. In the century after Alexander, Sardis was transformed into a true Hellenistic city, acquiring a vast stone temple to the goddess Artemis, a theater and gymnasium, and the institutions and status of a Greek polis. At the same time, the city was re-made as yet another imperial capital, this time as the western center of the vast new Seleucid Empire, the greatest of Alexander’s successor kingdoms, home to bureaucrats, royal archives, and Indian elephants.

Spear-Won Land: Sardis from the King’s Peace to the Peace of Apamea, offers a comprehensive, interconnected understanding of the transformations and effects of these centuries. A multidisciplinary research team – with expertise ranging from urban archaeology and history to numismatics and field-survey – here present up-to-date analyses of Sardis’ urban form, political history, interactions with neighbors, religious life, and foodways. It is a thrilling story that significantly enlarges and fundamentally changes what we know of Hellenistic western Asia Minor.

Andrea M. Berlin holds the James R. Wiseman Chair in Classical Archaeology at Boston University. She has written extensively on a broad variety of topics in classical archaeology, including six volumes reporting and interpreting excavations. 

Paul J. Kosmin is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire, and Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire.

Flamenco Nation

9780299321802

Today we present a piece from author Sandie Holguín. Her recently released book Flamenco Nation explores how Flamenco dance became tied to Spain’s national identity. In this personal essay, Sandie details her journey of writing and researching the book, and the challenges of writing about a topic distant in regard to both geography and time.

If, as L.P. Hartley once said and historians like to quote, “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” what happens when a scholar grapples with the history of a foreign country? Can an outsider twice-removed by time and place contribute meaningfully to a discussion of that place’s past? These are questions I have wrestled with over the years while trying to write about the history of Spain, especially about ephemeral cultural phenomena. My questions are really no different from those that underrepresented communities ask when mainstream historians write about marginalized groups, and yet as a historian, I have to believe that one can engage in historical analysis about people, places, and times far removed from one’s own experience—otherwise, why does anybody practice history? Still, there seem to be greater barriers to understanding a culture and its past when the country, society, and language are not part of your cultural patrimony. Overcoming those barriers, or at least recognizing how to maneuver around them, requires experience in historical practice, patience, a willingness to listen, and the help of insiders.

When I began to imagine a cultural history of flamenco in Spain, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount that had been written on the subject, especially by people who were experts on the art form. Many scholars and flamenco aficionados could easily rattle off the names of performers, songs, rhythmic styles, and situate them in their places of origin. What could I, a North American with no background in music, have to say about something that seemed ubiquitous in Spanish culture (or at least in the culture that was presented to the world outside of Spain)? The only way for me to enter this study was to think in structural terms. How did cultural forms in various countries come to be dominant? For example, were there similar processes that made the tango popular in Argentina, the samba in Brazil, jazz in the United states, and flamenco in Spain? The answer was yes. Of course how those processes differed from country to country is what makes for engaging historical analysis. My grounding in nationalism studies and cultural history made it possible for me to begin to write something meaningful about flamenco and its role in Spanish history, despite the challenges present when speaking about a culture that is not one’s own.

The work of writing a history about a foreign country is fraught with danger, however.  Language might be the primary one. If one is not a native speaker, then one cannot always attend to the nuances of humor, metaphor, or slang. And although a place’s culture (or multiple cultures) may have changed over time, one imagines—wrongly, no doubt—that one’s own historical culture is accessible in a way that a foreign country’s historical culture might not be. Immersing oneself in the country’s native scholarship and culture helps to soften these barriers, but having friends and colleagues from that place help even more because they aid in cross-cultural translation and, sometimes, just literal translation.

I have begun to view the distance in time and space as an advantage to understand Spanish history.  Outsider status has granted me certain insights that might be harder to gain by those immersed within Spain’s many cultures, only because I am less personally invested in the national narratives that unfold in my research and writing and because I am at a remove from  such horrors as Spain’s civil war and dictatorship. The anxiety I feel about “not getting it right” is mitigated by the knowledge that I am trying to listen both analytically and empathetically to the voices of the past to make sense of them. It is this  journey toward cross-cultural, cross-temporal understanding that guides my work and gives me hope—however misguided—that the study of history can be used to understand our shared humanity, despite our many cultural differences.

Sandie Holguín is a Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches European cultural and intellectual history and European feminist thought and gender studies. She specializes in Spanish history and is the author of Creating Spaniards: Culture and National Identity in Republican Spain.