Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Development of African History as a Discipline in the English-Speaking World: a Study of Academic Infrastructure

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posted on 2021-11-09, 00:33 authored by Watterson, Craig

This thesis examines the infrastructure behind the academic discipline of African History. By looking at government reports, a selection of reflective essays and memoirs written by key historians, and the key precolonial sources that have driven select studies, my thesis explains how African History emerged in British and U.S. universities. Key factors include the English colonisation of Sierra Leone in 1787, the affiliation of Fourah Bay College with the University of Durham in 1876, and the creation of universities in 1948 in Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda and Ghana. In Britain, the importance of African territories resulted in a series of influential reports that shifted missionary controlled education on the African continent to colonial government control. After 1945 a series of pivotal government reports established the impetus and funding for the academic institutionalisation of African History in the United Kingdom. The influence of an English academic recognition of African History provided a transnational current of ideas that flowed between Africa and the United Kingdom, and from there to the United States. With the advent of the Cold War the United States recognised the importance of developing Area Studies programmes, including African Studies, and during the 1960s and 1970s became world leaders in the field. Crucial to this development was the role of pioneering historians who travelled to Africa to teach and research, and who then returned to train a new generation of Africanists. Africanist scholars, recognising the importance of African agency, expanded the shape of the discipline through investigation of oral sources and reexamination of extant pre1800 European written records. 'Charter historians' established university programmes that would produce scholars with the necessary skills required to sustain the new discipline. The infrastructure that undergirded and positioned African History in the mainstream of academia is analysed indepth, and is, as such, the central theme of this thesis.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Behrendt, Steve