Sources and Methods in African History

Sources and Methods in African History

Spoken Written Unearthed

Edited by Toyin Falola, Christian Jennings

Personal eBook

University of Rochester Press



An overview of the ongoing methods used to understand African history.
Spurred in part by the ongoing re-evaluation of sources and methods in research, African historiography in the past two decades has been characterized by the continued branching and increasing sophistication of methodologies and areas of specialization. The rate of incorporation of new sources and methods into African historical research shows no signs of slowing.

This book is both a snapshot of current academic practice and an attempt to sort through some of the problems scholars face within this unfolding web of sources and methods. The book is divided into five sections, each of which begins with a short introduction by a distinguished Africanist scholar. The first section deals with archaeological contributions to historical research. The second section examines the methodologies involved in deciphering historically accurate African ethnic identities from the records of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The third section mines old documentary sources for new historical perspectives. The fourth section deals with the method most often associated with African historians, that of drawing historical data from oral tradition. The fifth section is devoted to essays that present innovative sources and methods for African historical research.

Together, the essays in this cutting-edge volume represent the current state of the art in African historical research.

Toyin Falola is the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Christian Jennings is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Texas at Austin.


5 black and white illustrations
432 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
Hardback, 9781580461344, May 2003
Paperback, 9781580461405, September 2004
Personal eBook, 9781782047544, May 2003
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001000, HIS016000, SOC002010
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Table of Contents

Section Introduction: Archaeology and History - James Denbow
Trouble with Siblings: Archaeological and Historical Interpretation of the West African Past - Christopher DeCorse
Material Culture and Cadastral Data: Documenting the Cedarberg Frontier, South Africa, 1725-1740 - Laura J. Mitchell
Chronology, Material Culture, and Pathways to the Cultural History of Yoruba-Edo Regioin, 500 B.C.-A.D. 1800 - Akin Ogundiran
For Trinkers Such As Beads: A Revalorization of Khosian Labor in Colonial Southern Africa - Edwin Wilmsen
Section Introduction: Methodology through the Ethnic Lens: The Study of Atlantic Africa - Paul Lovejoy
Pathways to African Ethnicity in the Americas: African National Associations in Cuba during Slavery - Matt Childs
Slave Trade Nomenclature and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Evidence from Early Eighteenth-Century Costa Rica - Russell Lohse
Africa in Louisiana: In Search of "Bambara" and Creole Identities in Literary and Statistical Sources - Kevin Roberts
Section Introduction: New Approaches to Documentary Sources - Thomas Spear
They Called Themselves Iloikop: Rethinking Pastoralist History in East Africa - Christian Jennings
Interpreting Cases, Disentangling Disputes: Court Cases as a Source for Understanding Patron-Client Relationships in Early Colonial LagosColonial Lagos - Kristin Mann
Capricious Tyrants and Persecuted Subjects: Reading between the Lines of Missionary Records in Precolonial Northern Namibia - Meredith McKittrick
Narratives on Pilgrimages to Mecca: Beauty versus History in Mande Oral Tradition - Jan Jansen
Kingship and the Mediators of the Past: Oral Tradition and Ritual Performance in Nupeland, Nigeria - Constanze Weise
Passages in a Struggle over the Past: Stories of Maji Maji in Njombe, Tanzania - James Giblin
Maisha: Life History and the History of Livelihood along the TAZARA Railway in Tanzania - Jamie Monson
Section Introduction: Innovative Sources and Methods - David Henige
Ben and Maggie: Consuming Data: Reasessing Scientific and Anthropological Evidence: Historical Perspective on Nutrition Studies - Cynthia Brantley
Electricity Networks in Africa: A Comparative Study, or How to Write Social History from Economic Sources - Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch
"Rain or Shine We Gonna' Rock": Dance Subcultures and Identity Construction in Accra, Ghana - Steven J. Salm
Sample Surveys: Underexploited Sources for African Social History - Dennis Cordell


Marked by high-quality editing and scholarship, this volume is a welcome and important contribution to current African historical studies, deserving of wide readership. Summing Up: Essential. --CHOICE

2003 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

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