African Histories: New Sources and New Techniques for Studying African Pasts / Edition 1

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A multidisciplinary study of African pasts: method, content, ethics and philosophy come together in one place.

African Histories gives readers a rich understanding of Africa's complex history through a wide variety of sources while exposing them to the African voice. The text offers examples of how scholars have, over the past 60 years, demonstrated Africa’s detailed history. It is about how historians interpret the past by giving full and adequate attention to the stories of Africans in ways that can be meaningful and acceptable to Africans and researchers alike. The text is titled African Histories in recognition of the diversity of sources and ways in which they are examined.

Note: MySearchLab does not come automatically packaged with this text. To purchase MySearchLab at no extra charge, please visit or use ISBN: 9780205006892.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Overall, I think this text responds to the problem of getting students to think "historically;" that is, to demonstrate the ability to derive information from primary and secondary sources and to weigh the reliability of these sources, and to critically evaluate diverse interpretations of the same historical event…I applaud what the authors have done. In students, it should inspire active learning, critical thinking, and a deeper engagement with the material than a typical textbook could accomplish.

-James Gump, University of San Diego

I am excited about this text book because it teaches skill development as well as context. I also like the chapter organization around a problem. The "Further Reading" suggestions also provide ideas for supplementing lesson plans and providing students with more breadth about a subject or region.

-Jeremy Ball, Dickinson College

Students will find this work helpful when trying to find the primary sources to support their arguments especially in their research assignments.

-Saneta Maiko, Indiana University, Purdue University – Fort Wayne

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780136155584
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 8/17/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Trevor Getz is an associate professor of African history at San Francisco State University and the author of Slavery and Reform in West Africa (2004). He has co-authored several textbooks including Exchanges: A Global History. Trained as an Africanist, he was a Fulbright scholar at the University of the Western Cape and the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He is currently working on both a graphic novel and a monograph of the life of Abina Mansah, a young enslaved woman who liberated herself in 19th century Ghana.

Esperanza Brizuela-Garcia is an assistant professor of history at Montclair State University where she teaches courses on African history, methodology and philosophy of history. She was a Rockefeller fFellow at the Center of African Studies of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and is currently working on a book that examines the intersection between African history, world history and the philosophy of history.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Archaeobotany and Cultivation in Africa



Humans and plant interaction

Source 1.1: Cave painting of hunters and their prey, southern Africa, undated

Source 1.2: Conversations with Ogotemmêli, Dogon-speaker, Sahelian West Africa, 1965

Source 1.3: The Eloquent Peasant, Middle Kingdom Egypt/Kemet (c.2040-1650 BCE)


Source 1.4: Pollen from important Sahelian crops, 1995-2005

Source 1.5: Enset and banana phytoliths, 2005-2006


The spread and use of Bananas in Africa

Source 1.6: Comparative morphology of Musa and Ensete phytoliths, 2005-2006

Wine and Beer in Pharaonic and Roman Egypt

Source 1.7: Main components of pollen samples from Šaruma amphorae (jars), 4th-7th century CE


Exercise 1: Exploring the domestication of sorghum

Exercise 2: Interpreting archaeobotanical data


Chapter 2: Early Written Evidence of State and Society in Classical North-Eastern Africa



The Scorpion King and depictions of ancient and classical North-East Africa

How did early North-East African societies organize themselves to face challenges?

Writing in North-East Africa

The connections between written sources and challenges to society


Basic practices for interpreting sources


Egypt: The Book of the Dead and the challenge of creating a civil society

Source 2.1: Two versions of the “Declaration of Innocence”, Late Period Egypt, c.717-332 BCE

Kush: The Confirmation of Aspelta and the challenge of succession

Sources 2.2: Aspelta’s Coronation stela, image and translation, Napata, c.600-595 BCE

Aksum: Ezana’s conquest stones and the challenge of war

Source 2.3: Ezana’s conquest stone, Meroe (c.360-350 CE)


Exercise 1: Interpreting early written sources

Exercise 2: Reflections upon the meaning of written sources


Chapter 3 : Linguistic Evidence and the Bantu Expansion


THE PROBLEM The Bantu expansion


Language classification and linguistic methods

Source 3.1: Tree diagram for Great Lakes Bantu, present day extending backward

Source 3.2: Tree diagram for Western Lakes (a portion of Great Lakes Bantu)

Word histories and social histories: How social historians use linguistic evidence


Western Lakes Bantu as a case study

Source 3.3: Western Lakes terms for discussing power, c.200-1400

Source 3.4: Constructing Dominion over the Land, c.200-1400


Exercise 1: Interpreting linguistic evidence of Nilo-Saharan languages

Source 3. 5: A section of the Nilo-Saharan language group (not all modern or historical languages shown)

Source 3.6: Words from the Nilo-Saharan family, c.1 CE – Present


Chapter 4: Archaeological Evidence for the Development of African Cities



Early African Cities


The practice of archaeology in Africa

Source 4.1: Sequence Chart for Northern Upemba Depression

“Historians, are Archaeologists your Siblings?”: Using archaeological evidence and evaluating archaeological studies


The Middle Niger as a case study

Source 4.2: Discovery/Recovery, 1977

Sources 4.3 and 4.4: The Findings

Sources 4.5 and 4.6: Interpretations


Exercise 1: decoding a text on Benin City (in modern Nigeria)

Exercise 2: stratigraphy and association in Benin City

Source 4.7: Stratigraphic analysis of Clerks’ Quarters site, Benin, 1975

Exercise 3: analysis of Northern Upemba Depression (in modern Democratic Republic of Congo)

Exercise 4: Interpreting archaeological data


Chapter 5: African Memories and Perspectives of the Atlantic Slave Trade



How did West and Central Africans understand and experience the Atlantic Slave Trade?


Oral Histories

Source 5.1: Sibell’s Narrative, collected by John Ford, Barbados, 1799

Autobiographies and memoires

Source 5.2: The autobiography of Venture Smith, Connecticut, 1798

Oral Tradition

Source 5.3: “Kpele” dirge memorializing the effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade, Ghana, collected c.1970


Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative as a memory of Africa during the era of the Atlantic slave trade

Source 5.4: Olaudah Equaino’s memories of Essaka, written in London, c.1789

Written and oral accounts of “cannibalism” and “witchcraft” as idioms for understanding the slave trade

Source 5.5: The slave trade viewed through the idiom of cannibalism, 1659-1755

Oral traditions from Atorkor as a message from the past

Source 5.7: Togbui Awusa’s narrative, Ghana, collected c.2002


Exercise 1: Interpreting memory in oral and written form

Exercise 2: Ashy’s narrative from Barbados

Source 5.8: Ashy’s Narrative (‘Fantee’), transcribed by John Ford, Barbados, 1799


Chapter 6: Islamic Sources and Version of Swahili Origins



“Origins” in African history and the Swahili past


Islamic sources in Africa

The production of sources as a guide to their meaning

THE SOURCE The Pate Chronicle

Source 6.1: Excerpt from the Stigand Version of the Pate Chronicles, 1908, Lamu archipelago

Source 6.2: Excerpt from the Werner version of the Pate Chronicles, 1911, Lamu archipelago

Source 6.3: King-list of Pate from the Werner version of the Pate Chronicles

Source 6.4: MS 177 version of the Pate Chronicles, c.1900, Lamu archipelago/Dar es Salaam

Source 6.5: Tomalcheva’s “stratigraphy” of versions of the Pate Chronicle

Source 6.6: Pouwels’ comparisons of king-lists in versions of the Pate Chronicles


Exercise 1: Exploring Swahili origins

Exercise 2: interpreting versions of the Pate Chronicle


Chapter 7: Intellectual History and Cultural Nationalism in West Africa



Who were nineteenth century West African intellectuals and how can we describe their projects?


Intellectual history through written sources


The emergence of West African cultural nationalists

James Africanus Horton on self-government in West Africa

Source 7.1: James Africanus Horton, West African Countries and Peoples, completed in the United Kingdom, 1868

John Mensah Sarbah on indigenous institutions of government

Source 5.2: John Mensah Sarbah, Fanti National Constitution, Ghana, 1906


Exercise 1: analyzing Casely-Hayford’s Gold Coast Native Institutions

Source 5.3: J.E. Casely-Hayford, Gold Coast Native Institutions, Written in West Africa and published in the United Kingdom, 1903

Exercise 2: Cultural nationalism as a theme in intellectual histories


Chapter 8: Planning, Photography, and the Struggle for Power in Colonial Africa



What was everyday life like for Africans under colonial rule?


“Power” as a concept in human societies

Architecture and urban planning as evidence of power relationships

Source 8.1: Italian plan for colonial Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1940

Source 8.2: Photograph of Atakpame, Togoland, c.1910

Source 8.3: European buildings in Palime, Togoland, c.1910

Source 8.4: Women’s March on the Union Buildings, Pretoria, South Africa, August 9, 1956

Photographs as evidence of power relationships

Source 8.5: Hair dressing in Abokobi, Gold Coast (modern Ghana), c.1900-1904

Source 8.6: “Is It Higher Wages at Last?”, South Africa, 1960


Architecture and urban planning in Italian colonial North and North-East Africa

Source 8.7: Arch by Rava in Somalia, 1935

Two neighboring “national” monuments in South Africa: The Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park

Source 8.8: The Voortrekker Monument, South Africa, completed 1949

Source 8.9: Images from the “historical frieze”, Voortrekker Monument

Source 8.10: Freedom Park and Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria, 2009


Exercise 1: Interpreting the built environment

Exercise 2: City planning and architecture in Cape Town

Source 8.11: “District Six: The Razzle and Dazzle Good, Bad Land”, Cape Town, 1963

Source 8.12: District six before and after forced removals, Cape Town

Source 8.13: The Rhodes Memorial, Cape Town, 2009


Chapter 9: Remembering Decolonization Through Ethnography and Popular Painting in Central Africa



How can we comprehend popular experiences of decolonization in Africa?


The challenge of understanding art as an historical source



The Congo Crisis

Memory and Popular Paintings of the Congo Crisis

Sources 9.1 and 9.2: Two popular paintings from Democratic Republic of Congo, 1990s

Ethnographies of popular painters

Sources 9.3 and 9.4: Tshibumba Kanda Matulu (T) and Johannes Fabian (F) Democratic Republic of Congo, 1990s (representing 1960)

Source 9.5: Tshibumba Kanda Matulu paintings, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1990s (representing 1960)

Sources 9.6 and 9.7: Tshibumba Kanda Matulu paintings, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1990s (representing 1960/1961)


Exercise 1: Interpretation of ethnography

Source 9.8: Tshibumba Kanda Matulu, “The Deaths of Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito

Exercise 2: Representations of Lumumba

Sources 9.9 and 9.10, Tshibumba Kanda Matulu paintings, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1990s (representing 1960)

Source 9.11: Interview between Fabian (F) and Tshibumba (T), Democratic Republic of Congo, 1990s


Chapter 10 : Literature and Decolonization in Africa



How did Africans perceive the causes, strategies, and effects of the struggle for independence?


Historicizing literature as a product of society

Source 10.1: Excerpt from Léopold Sédar Senghor, “Message”, c.1945, France/Senegal

Source 10.2: Excerpts from Kobina Sekyi’s “The Anglo-Fanti”, c.1917-1918, Ghana

The role of literature in the formation of culture and politics


Things Fall Apart: Chinua Achebe’s precolonial Africa from the inside

Source 10.3: Achebe on themes in Things Fall Apart, 1969-1981

Source 10.4: Proverbs from Things Fall Apart, 1958, Nigeria

Source 10.5: First stanza of William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming, 1920, Ireland

God’s Bits of Wood: Sembène Ousmane’s visions of the decolonization of Senegal

Source 10.6: Excerpts from God’s Bits of Wood, 1959-1960, Senegal

Source 10.7: Excerpt from God’s Bits of Wood

Source 10.8: Gadjigo on reading God’s Bits of Wood, 2007


Exercise 1: Interpreting novels by African authors

Exercise 2: Analyzing David Diop’s “The Time of the Martyr”

Source 10.9: D. Diop, "The Time of the Martyr"


Chapter 11: Textbooks and Tribunals in the Aftermath of Crises



How do societies and individuals deal with the aftermath of crises?


Reading curricula and course materials

Source 11.1: Textbook treatments of the 1913 Native Land Act, 1974/1999, South Africa

Sources 11.2: South African curriculum policy statements, 1962/2005, South Africa

Reading Testimonies

Source 11.3: Testimony from the Special Court for Sierra Leone, 2006, Sierra Leone/Netherlands


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa

Source 11.4: The purposes of the TRC, 1994/1998, South Africa

Source 11.5: Testimony of Sheila Thandiwe Bless, on the death of Zandisile Matiti, 1996, Queenstown, South Africa

Source 11.6: Questions at the Amnesty Hearings, 1997, Cape Town, South Africa

Source 11.7: Political groups submissions to the TRC, 1996, South Africa


Source 11. 8: The Gacaca Courts, 2001, Rwanda

Source 11.9: A Lesson plan for Module III of the proposed Rwandan history curriculum, 2006, Rwanda


Exercise 1: Intepreting courtroom testimony


Chapter 12: Anthropology and the Gendering of the Study of AIDS in Africa



Why has HIV/AIDS spread so fast and affected so many in Africa?


Relationships between anthropology and history

Gender as a category of analysis


Studies of gender, sexuality, and sex in Uganda and South Africa

Source 12.1: Theory in “African Sex is Dangerous!”, Uganda, 2001-2003

Source 12.2: Context in “African Sex is Dangerous!”, Uganda, 2001-2003

Source 12.3: Description in “African Sex is Dangerous!”, Uganda, 2002-2003

Source 12.4: Historical change in the meaning of isoka among isiZulu-speakers, South Africa, 1940s

Source 12.5: Femininity among isiZulu-speakers, South Africa, 1920s and 1930s

Source 12.6: Contemporary constructions of masculinity among isiZulu-speakers, South Africa, 2000s


Exercise 1: Interpreting ethnographic data


Epilogue: African histories and Histories of Africa

The Limitations of this book

Methods for exploring the past

The values of historical enquiry

Questions remaining

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