“[Violent Intermediaries] offers a new and well researched perspective drawing on the insights of the social history of recent decades…[Moyd] has produced a fine social history of African soldiers as intermediaries in the everyday life of colonialism in German East Africa.”
International Journal of African Historical Studies
“Moyd’s insistence on viewing askari not only as soldiers but also as men with social lives and aspirations that transcended their professional activities in maboma, on expeditions, and on the battlefield is refreshing and insightful.…Violent Intermediaries is a highly readable monograph offering an empathetic view on the stigmatized African soldiers of the colonial army in German East Africa.”
“Overcoming methodological challenges posed by translation, memory, and frankly a scarcity of documents disclosing askari voices, Moyd sought to understand these soldiers on their own terms. As a result she explores the everyday life of the askari, from within their households to their official and unofficial roles within colonial society, and she recovers a past widely misunderstood due to German praise and Tanzanian denunciation for their loyalty to the Schutztruppe (the official name of the German colonial army).… Violent Intermediaries, like other books in Ohio University Press’s New African Histories series edited by Jean Allman, Allen Isaacman, and Derek R. Peterson, expands the boundaries of African history in new and exciting directions.”
Canadian Journal of History
“[Moyd] furthers our understanding of everyday colonialism by fleshing out the lives of individuals who were simultaneously agents of colonialism and objects of colonial rule. …She uses [limited sources] thoroughly to provide rich and insightful details about this underexplored dimension of colonialism.”
American Historical Review
The askari, African soldiers recruited in the 1890s to fill the ranks of the German East African colonial army, occupy a unique space at the intersection of East African history, German colonial history, and military history.
Lauded by Germans for their loyalty during the East Africa campaign of World War I, but reviled by Tanzanians for the violence they committed during the making of the colonial state between 1890 and 1918, the askari have been poorly understood as historical agents. Violent Intermediaries situates them in their everyday household, community, military, and constabulary roles, as men who helped make colonialism in German East Africa.
By linking microhistories with wider nineteenth-century African historical processes, Michelle Moyd shows how as soldiers and colonial intermediaries, the askari built the colonial state while simultaneously carving out paths to respectability, becoming men of influence within their local contexts.
Through its focus on the making of empire from the ground up, Violent Intermediaries offers a fresh perspective on African colonial troops as state-making agents and critiques the mythologies surrounding the askari by focusing on the nature of colonial violence.
Michelle R. Moyd is an assistant professor of history at Indiana University. Previously, she has been a resident fellow at the International Research Center “Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History” of Humboldt University, Germany, and at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. She was also an instructor in the Department of History at the United States Air Force Academy.
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