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In the Realms of Gold: Pioneering in African History
     

In the Realms of Gold: Pioneering in African History

by Roland Oliver
 

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Over the last fifty years, Roland Oliver has been both a witness to the post-colonial history of Africa and a preeminent scholar of the continent’s pre-colonial history. Oliver was a young Cambridge graduate in 1947 when he took a newly created position at the University of London to research, and eventually teach, the pre-colonial history of Africa. Seeking

Overview

Over the last fifty years, Roland Oliver has been both a witness to the post-colonial history of Africa and a preeminent scholar of the continent’s pre-colonial history. Oliver was a young Cambridge graduate in 1947 when he took a newly created position at the University of London to research, and eventually teach, the pre-colonial history of Africa. Seeking from the outset to establish a unified conception of African history free from European frameworks, Oliver and his colleague John Fage went on to write the influential A Short History of Africa, found the Journal of African History, and co-edit the eight-volume Cambridge History of Africa.
     In the Realms of Gold is Oliver’s account of his life and work. He writes in a deft and lively style about the circumstances of his early life that shaped his education and outlook: his childhood on a river houseboat in Kashmir, the influential teachers and friends met at Stowe and Cambridge, and his service in World War II as a cryptographer in British intelligence, where he met his first wife, Caroline Linehan. His interest in church history while at Cambridge led him to study the historical effects of Christian missionaries in Africa, and thus his career began.
     The core of the book is Oliver’s account of his research travels throughout tropical Africa from the 1940s to the 1980s; his efforts to train and foster African graduate students to teach in African universities; his role in establishing conferences and journals to bring together the work of historians and archaeologists from Europe and Africa; his encounters with political and religious leaders, scholars, soldiers, and storytellers; and the political and economic upheavals of the continent that he witnessed.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The genial but almost overwhelmingly painstaking autobiography of a founding figure in the field of African history.

In 1947 Oliver became the first lecturer in African history at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, and so an originator of the academic study of precolonial Africa. Oliver's records of his professional life over five decades have apparently been superhumanly detailed. Thus, while the anecdotes of his first cross-continent research trips create sharp snapshots of African life, the relentless inclusion of minutiae later on (extensive lists of graduate students and their research topics, or the precise layouts of Oliver residences in England) makes it almost impossible to read every word. Those unfamiliar with precolonial African history will find their heads spinning, albeit pleasantly, from Oliver's breathless summaries of the far-flung historical and methodological issues he and his colleagues encountered. But these do give a feel for what the discipline of African history is like—its complexity, vastness, and peculiar historiographic problems. And Oliver's real story is just this—the making of a discipline. It is one of the happier ironies of colonialism that an Africa-centered history of that continent should have been made possible by resources, institutions, and idealism to be found among its foreign rulers. It's exciting to read of an entire field's creation by a small group of dedicated and unusually curious scholars, and its rapid growth, fed by the abundant and challenging evidence ignored by their dismissively Eurocentric colleagues. The contemporary history-making of decolonization is gracefully absorbed into the narrative, as it seems to have been into Oliver's own appreciation of the continent.

While testing the general reader's patience at times, this should prove an exhaustive resource for intellectual historians and a fitting foundation myth for future Africanists to look back to.

From the Publisher
“This autobiography is essential to understanding the historiography of Africa. Oliver vividly evokes facets of life, research, and the effects of rule in tropical Africa from the Second World War onward to the waning days of the first generation after independence.”—Jan Vansina, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781134571789
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
10/16/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
440
File size:
8 MB

Meet the Author

Roland Oliver is emeritus professor of the history of Africa at the University of London.  His most famous book, A Short History of Africa, has been translated into some dozen languages, and among his many  other books are The African ExperienceAfrica since 1800, and The Cambridge History of Africa.

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