restricted access In Search of Africans’ Histories - Editors’ Introduction
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In Search of Africans’ Histories - Editors’ Introduction

This volume marks the 40th anniversary of History in Africa. Readers will note that the journal now is published by Cambridge University Press, with the African Studies Association remaining the journal’s owner. History in Africa maintains an emphasis on theory and method, but at the same time this volume illustrates the journal’s pluriform definition of “Africa” that includes the worlds of the diaspora and recognizes regional variations in the continent.

Historians long have recognized the often “vulnerable” nature of African historical sources, including the deterioration of manuscripts, the destruction of archives in conflict zones, and the loss of recorded interviews to decay, to name just three. The present volume illustrates the “resilient” nature of African historical sources in an era that brings new opportunities and challenges, especially due to the introduction of new technologies and media and their roles in the collection, preservation, and distribution of historical sources. These recent technological developments remind us that History in Africa is a global journal that produces, thanks to its focus on Africa and research methods, knowledge and inspiration for all historians as well as all those who relate themselves to the African continent historically.

The contributions to this volume represent the search for Africans’ histories in existing collections as well as the adoption of innovative methods and the exploration of new issues in historiographical traditions or historical sources that illustrate the riches and dynamics of the field of research. [End Page 1] Critical Historiography consists of five articles that reveal the many layers in one of the journal’s basic missions. Michel Cahen meticulously explores to what extent historians may compare colonial histories in Lusophone colonies in Africa and Latin America by problematizing the use of concepts like “colony” and “state” in the analysis of the histories of the colonies. Mustafah Dhada, with his study of the Wiriyamu massacre of 1972 in Mozambique, reconstructs the tight rope along which the accounts about this massacre have been preserved in spite of pressure to hide this politically unwelcome message or, even, efforts to destroy the evidence. Critical historiography thus opens debates varying from levels of conceptualization to levels of data construction and preservation.

Critical historiography may sometimes mean careful examination of specific cases to assess their wider relevance. Vincent Hiribarren’s study of the seamless collaboration of the Borno elite and colonial administrators in search of a career demonstrates African agency and is an alternative to the often used analytical model that suggests that colonial rule was imposed on local elites. Saima Nasar studies The Indian Voice of British East Africa, Uganda and Zanzibar, a newspaper that was published in Nairobi in the period 1911-1913, a period for which there is no other journal published by and for the Indian communities in East Africa.

Insa Nolte’s contribution to Critical Historiography brings together the tropes from the other four contributions. She describes, in a case study of two linked debates in the small Yoruba town of Ode Remo, how colonial African historiography was shaped both by the textual forms and conventions associated with local historical knowledge and by the complex political interests which emerged under colonial rule.

The two articles of Reports on Slavery Research show the analytical fruit of the historians’ “classical” effort to relate large collections of documents with each other. Richard Anderson, Alex Borucki, Daniel Domingues da Silva, David Eltis, Paul Lachance, Philip Misevich, and Olatunji Ojo draw an image for a social history of Liberated Africans – Africans who were liberated from ships that transported them to the Americas - by exploring methodological pathways to know their origin on the base of their surname as these were recorded in the Registers of Liberated Africans.

Paul Lovejoy and Vanessa Oliveira made indexes to relevant volumes of the 147 volume British Parliament House of Commons Sessional Papers of the eighteenth century, published in 1975 but seldom used by historians of Africa and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, thus opening for further research a wealth of hitherto never consulted sources for Africans’ histories.

Where the previous two contributions work with “established” databases, and “established” academic categories for...