Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Mozambique’s Samora Machel
A Life Cut Short

By Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman
Foreword by Albie Sachs

“Allen the idealist and Barbara the sceptic joined forces to provide us with a portrait of a great African leader that is rich, loving, and incisive.”

Albie Sachs, from the foreword

“An all-encompassing book that covers the major events in Mozambique’s modern history … recommended to all scholars of Mozambique.”

American Historical Review

“Essential reading for anyone trying to understand the impact of Samora Machel on Mozambique and the African continent.”

William Minter, editor of AfricaFocus Bulletin

“Acutely attuned to the politics of memory, the authors scrutinize a diverse—often conflicting—array of public and private archival sources, memoirs, scholarly literature, and oral sources to assess the life of this remarkable, complex African leader.”

Edward A. Alpers, author of East Africa and the Indian Ocean

The precipitous rise and controversial fall of a formidable African leader.

Samora Machel (1933–1986), the son of small-town farmers, led his people through a war against their Portuguese colonists and became the first president of the People’s Republic of Mozambique.

Machel’s military successes against a colonial regime backed by South Africa, Rhodesia, the United States, and its NATO allies enhanced his reputation as a revolutionary hero to the oppressed people of Southern Africa. In 1986, during the country’s civil war, Machel died in a plane crash under circumstances that remain uncertain.

Allen and Barbara Isaacman lived through many of these changes in Mozambique and bring personal recollections together with archival research and interviews with others who knew Machel or participated in events of the revolutionary or post-revolutionary years.

Allen F. Isaacman, Regents Professor of History at the University of Minnesota and Extraordinary Professor at the University of Western Cape, is the author of seven books, including the co-authored (with Barbara Isaacman) Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development, winner of the ASA Book Prize (formerly Herskovits Award) and the AHA Klein Prize in African History. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has won fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, among others.   More info →

Barbara S. Isaacman, a retired criminal defense attorney, worked with the Mozambican Woman’s Movement (O.M.M.) and taught at the Law Faculty of the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane while living in Mozambique in the late 1970s. She wrote Mozambique—Women, the Law, and Agrarian Reform and co-authored with Allen several books, including the award-winning Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development.   More info →


Review in the American Historical Review 126, no. 2, June 2021


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In Series

Ohio Short Histories of Africa




Retail price: $17.95, S.
Release date: September 2020
25 illus. · 258 pages · 4¼ × 7 in.
Rights: World except SADC

Release date: September 2020
25 illus. · 258 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Mozambique’s Samora Machel

“Lively, accessible, and ideal for undergraduate teaching and the wider reading public."

Elizabeth Schmidt, author of Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War: Sovereignty, Responsibility, and the War on Terror

“A comprehensive, up-to-date, expanded perspective on Samora Machel’s political thought, his contributions to international socialism, and his leadership. The authors knew Machel, and their exceptional access enriches the text with accounts of his personal life and controversial death.”

Kathleen Sheldon, author of Pounders of Grain: A History of Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique

“The authors have achieved a compelling narrative of how Samora shaped post-colonial events in Mozambique and how the leader’s personality and life trajectory were transformed by these same events. Students and all those readers interested in learning more about Mozambique’s recent history will find this book a great introductory read.”

Ana Moledo, Connections: A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists

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