African Women: Early History to the 21st Century

African Women: Early History to the 21st Century

African Women: Early History to the 21st Century

African Women: Early History to the 21st Century

Synopsis

African women's history is a topic as vast as the continent itself, embracing an array of societies in over fifty countries with different geographies, social customs, religions, and historical situations. In African Women: Early History to the 21st Century, Kathleen Sheldon masterfully delivers a comprehensive study of this expansive story from before the time of records to the present day. She provides rich background on descent systems and the roles of women in matrilineal and patrilineal systems. Sheldon's work profiles elite women, as well as those in leadership roles, traders and market women, religious women, slave women, women in resistance movements, and women in politics and development. The rich case studies and biographies in this thorough survey establish a grand narrative about women's roles in the history of Africa.

Excerpt

African Women: early History to the 21st Century presents a history of Africa with women as the starting point. the history of African women is a vital and successful field of study, growing from a small number of books and articles published in the 1960s and 1970s to the now thriving research that covers a huge range of places, times, and topics that has been achieved in the twenty-first century. in this book, coverage of important events and individuals documents women’s involvement in critical episodes in African history, and it demonstrates how women have been central to well-known aspects of African history that are often seen solely from a male perspective. the inclusion of topics such as marriage, motherhood, women’s work, and women as religious and political leaders, establishes the reality that knowledge of women’s history is essential to making sense of African history more broadly.

Over many years of teaching and writing about African women’s history, I encountered problems in two areas. Many textbooks on African history have neglected and marginalized women. Women are nearly absent in some books, and when they are included it is often in very limited and passive roles. At the same time, while the field of African women’s history is strong, there has not been a textbook focused on African women that comprehensively covers the geographic, topical, and temporal breadth necessary to offer students and scholars a meaningful engagement with women’s history. Many excellent books on African women’s history are about a single country, a limited time period or topic, or are collections of articles that include a variety of approaches by different contributors. Two books that have been used widely in classrooms are now twenty years old, and they do not include the important new publications that have expanded and given nuance to research on African women. Given those issues and limitations in available African history texts, African Women: Early History to the 21st Century is designed to accomplish two goals.

My first objective was to write a comprehensive narrative of African women’s history by bringing together information that is usually scattered and narrowly focused. Naturally, it is not possible to be completely inclusive because there is far too much research and information to easily compress into one book. African women’s history is a vast topic that embraces a wide variety of societies in over fifty countries with different geographies, social customs, religions, and historical situations. Women enter the story with differences in their ages, marital statuses, education, work experiences, ethnicities, and rural or urban backgrounds.

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