West African Challenge to Empire
Culture and History in the Volta-Bani Anticolonial War

By Mahir Şaul and Patrick Royer

Winners of Amaury Talbot Prize

“A must-read for any scholar interested in the military and social history of colonial rule in Africa.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“This is only one of many historical studies written by anthropologists in recent years, but it is surely one of the best.”

The International History Review

“This book is an outstanding example of how two scholars from the distinct disciplines of history and anthropology can join talents to produce an excellent study, one that adequately combines dense narratives with insightful theories … [It] presents us with not only a dense political narrative about men and motives, but also a cultural history, with the magic and supernatural dimensions of war.”


West African Challenge to Empire examines the anticolonial war in the Volta and Bani region in 1915–16. It was the largest challenge that the French ever faced in their West African colonial empire, and one of the largest armed oppositions to colonialism anywhere in Africa. How such a movement could be organized in the face of European technological superiority despite the fact that this region is generally described as having consisted of rival villages and descent groups is a puzzle. In this jointly written book the two authors provide a detailed political and military history of this event based on archival research and ethnographic fieldwork. Using cultural and sociological analysis, it probes the origins of the movement, its internal organization, its strategy, and the reasons for its initial success and why it spread.

In 2001 the authors of West African Challenge to Empire were awarded the Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology by the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Mahir Şaul is a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is coauthor of African Challenge to Empire: Culture and History in the Volta-Bani Anticolonial War and author of many articles on West African anthropology and social and economic history.

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In Series

Western African Studies

Related Subjects

African History · Colonialism and Decolonization · Military History · African Studies · Burkina Faso · Mali



Retail price: $35.00, S.
Release date: Feb. 2002
440 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights: World


Retail price: $65.00, S.
Release date: Feb. 2002
417 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights: World