Pride of Men: Ironworking in 19th Century West Central Africa available in Paperback
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Admired, respected, and remembered as legendary heroes, ironworkers occupied a special social position in precolonial west central Africa. Pride of Men investigates how and why this was so.
Colleen Kriger unveils the "mystique" of ritual and legend surrounding ironworking to shed light on the labor processes, workplaces, and metalwares that were deemed so indispensable to central African societies. She identifies complex patters of iron production and consumption that reveal master blacksmiths, as opposed to smelters, to be the key for understanding the special status of ironworkers during the nineteenth century. Successful smiths were wealthy and worldly. In addition to designing and making effective tools and weapons, metallic forms of currencies, and impressive symbols of prestige, blacksmiths created and reshaped social networks and cultural values that extended far beyond their own local communities.
This study raises issues about the definitions and structures of work in precolonial Africa, the roles of material objects in conveying public messages about power and prestige, and the ways in which cultural practices both constrain and encourage innovation and technological change.
About the Author
Colleen Kriger is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Table of Contents
I. The Work and the Setting
1. African History, Ironworking, and the Mystique of the Blacksmith
Iron Production in Central Africa: Building a Craft Tradition, ca. 600 B.C. to 1920
Social and Economic Values of Ironworking: Regional Patterns
3. Smelting Iron: Fathers of the Furnace
Making and Changing Money: Iron Currencies
The Work of the Finishing Forge
Social and Economic Values of Ironworking: Local Histories
6. Patronage and Innovation in the Kuba Kingdom
Markets for Prestige Along the Middle Zaire
Ironworkers in West Central African Society
8. The Blacksmith's Mystique Unveiled: Ideology, Identity, and the Social Prominence of Ironworkers