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African History

African History Book List

Winner of the 2014 Martin A. Klein Prize in African History (American Historical Association) · Winner of the African Studies Association’s 2014 Melville J. Herskovits Award.
Cover of 'Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development'

Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development
Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965–2007
By Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman

This in-depth study of the Zambezi River Valley examines the dominant developmentalist narrative that has surrounded the Cahora Bassa Dam, chronicles the continual violence that has accompanied its existence, and gives voice to previously unheard narratives of forced labor, displacement, and historical and contemporary life in the dam’s shadow.

Cover of 'The ANC Youth League'

The ANC Youth League
By Clive Glaser

This brilliant little book tells the story of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League from its origins in the 1940s to the present and the controversies over Julius Malema and his influence in contemporary youth politics. Glaser analyzes the ideology and tactics of its founders, some of whom (notably Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo) later became iconic figures in South African history as well as inspirational figures such as A. P. Mda (father of author Zakes Mda) and Anton Lembede.

Cover of 'Govan Mbeki'

Govan Mbeki
By Colin Bundy

Govan Mbeki (1910–2001) was a core leader of the African National Congress, the Communist Party, and the armed wing of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid. Known as a hard-liner, Mbeki was a prolific writer and combined in a rare way the attributes of intellectual and activist, political theorist and practitioner.

Cover of 'Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa'

Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa
Edited by Diana K. Davis and Edmund Burke III
· Afterword by Timothy Mitchell

The landscapes of the Middle East have captured our imaginations throughout history. Images of endless golden dunes, camel caravans, isolated desert oases, and rivers lined with palm trees have often framed written and visual representations of the region. Embedded in these portrayals is the common belief that the environment, in most places, has been deforested and desertified by centuries of misuse.

Cover of 'Invisible Agents'

Invisible Agents
Spirits in a Central African History
By David M. Gordon

Invisible Agents shows how personal and deeply felt spiritual beliefs can inspire social movements and influence historical change. Conventional historiography concentrates on the secular, materialist, or moral sources of political agency. Instead, David M. Gordon argues, when people perceive spirits as exerting power in the visible world, these beliefs form the basis for individual and collective actions.

Cover of 'African Intellectuals and Decolonization'

African Intellectuals and Decolonization
Edited by Nicholas M. Creary

Decades after independence for most African states, the struggle for decolonization is still incomplete, as demonstrated by the fact that Africa remains associated in many Western minds with chaos, illness, and disorder. African and non-African scholars alike still struggle to establish the idea of African humanity, in all its diversity, and to move Africa beyond its historical role as the foil to the West.

Cover of 'Epidemics'

Epidemics
The Story of South Africa’s Five Most Lethal Human Diseases
By Howard Phillips

This is the first history of epidemics in South Africa, lethal episodes that shaped this society over three centuries. Focusing on five devastating diseases between 1713 and today—smallpox, bubonic plague, “Spanish influenza,” polio, and HIV/AIDS—the book probes their origins, their catastrophic courses, and their consequences.

Cover of 'South Africa’s Struggle for Human Rights'

South Africa’s Struggle for Human Rights
By Saul Dubow

The human rights movement in South Africa’s transition to a postapartheid democracy has been widely celebrated as a triumph for global human rights. It was a key aspect of the political transition, often referred to as a miracle, which brought majority rule and democracy to South Africa. The country’s new constitution, its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the moral authority of Nelson Mandela stand as exemplary proof of this achievement.

Cover of 'Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake'

Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake
Law and the Experience of Women and Children in Africa
Edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance and Richard L. Roberts

Women and children have been bartered, pawned, bought, and sold within and beyond Africa for longer than records have existed. This important collection examines the ways trafficking in women and children has changed from the aftermath of the “end of slavery” in Africa from the late nineteenth century to the present. The formal abolition of the slave trade and slavery did not end the demand for servile women and children.

Cover of 'Spear of the Nation: Umkhonto weSizwe'

Spear of the Nation: Umkhonto weSizwe
South Africa’s Liberation Army, 1960s–1990s
By Janet Cherry

Umkhonto weSizwe, Spear of the Nation, was arguably the last of the great liberation armies of the twentieth century—but it never got to “march triumphant into Pretoria.” MK—as it was known—was the armed wing of the African National Congress, South Africa’s liberation movement, that challenged the South African apartheid government.

Cover of 'Steve Biko'

Steve Biko
By Lindy Wilson

Steve Biko inspired a generation of black South Africans to claim their true identity and refuse to be a part of their own oppression. Through his example, he demonstrated fearlessness and self-esteem, and he led a black student movement countrywide that challenged and thwarted the culture of fear perpetuated by the apartheid regime. He paid the highest price with his life. The brutal circumstances of his death shocked the world and helped isolate his oppressors.

Winner of the 2013 Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize for best book on East African Studies (sponsored by the African Studies Association)
Cover of 'Taifa'

Taifa
Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania
By James R. Brennan

Taifa is a story of African intellectual agency, but it is also an account of how nation and race emerged out of the legal, social, and economic histories in one major city, Dar es Salaam. Nation and race—both translatable as taifa in Swahili—were not simply universal ideas brought to Africa by European colonizers, as previous studies assume.

Cover of 'The Americans Are Coming!'

The Americans Are Coming!
Dreams of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa
By Robert Trent Vinson

For more than half a century before World War II, black South Africans and “American Negroes“ — a group that included African Americans and black West Indians — established close institutional and personal relationships that laid the necessary groundwork for the successful South African and American antiapartheid movements. The Americans Are Coming! is a rare case study that places African history and American history in a global context and centers Africa in African Diaspora studies.

Cover of 'Our New Husbands Are Here'

Our New Husbands Are Here
Households, Gender, and Politics in a West African State from the Slave Trade to Colonial Rule
By Emily Lynn Osborn

In Our New Husbands Are Here, Emily Lynn Osborn investigates a central puzzle of power and politics in West African history: Why do women figure frequently in the political narratives of the precolonial period, and then vanish altogether with colonization? Osborn addresses this question by exploring the relationship of the household to the state.

An allAfrica.com 2011 New & Notable Book
Cover of 'The Anatomy of a South African Genocide'

The Anatomy of a South African Genocide
The Extermination of the Cape San Peoples
By Mohamed Adhikari

In 1998 David Kruiper, the leader of the ‡Khomani San who today live in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, lamented, “We have been made into nothing.” His comment applies equally to the fate of all the hunter-gatherer societies of the Cape Colony who were destroyed by the impact of European colonialism. Until relatively recently, the extermination of the Cape San peoples has been treated as little more than a footnote to South African narratives of colonial conquest.