Revealing Prophets: Prophecy in Eastern African History

Revealing Prophets: Prophecy in Eastern African History

Revealing Prophets: Prophecy in Eastern African History

Revealing Prophets: Prophecy in Eastern African History

Excerpt

The ideas around which this book has taken shape first emerged at a conference held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in December 1989. The theme of that meeting, organized by Andrew Roberts, David Anderson and Douglas Johnson, was 'Seers, Prophets and Prophecy in East African History'. The conference brought together more than 40 scholars of eastern Africa, mostly historians and anthropologists, who spent two very full days considering some 30 papers on a wide variety of topics related to the role of prophetic figures in the history of the region.

The discussion generated at the conference was enormously stimulating, pushing the boundaries of the subject far beyond the scope of the papers themselves, and offering challenging insights on the need to re-evaluate broader issues of terminology, definition, comparability and historicity. The implication of those discussions was that a major revision in the writing of the history of prophets and prophecy in eastern Africa was called for, and that such a revision might make a significant impact on the current historiography of the region. For this reason, the organizers decided not to seek to publish the conference papers as a group, but instead to take up the most promising themes discussed and use these as the framework around which to commission chapters for a book. This collection is the result.

Of the eleven chapters gathered here, only three survive in any recognizable form from the original conference, whilst the remaining eight have been written specifically for this volume. All of our contributors, bar one, attended the 1989 meeting. This collection thus has a close relationship to a conference, but it is in no sense the proceedings of a conference. We hope it is a stronger and more coherent collection as a consequence.

There are people and institutions who deserve thanks for helping to bring this project to publication. The Nuffield Foundation generously funded the administrative costs of the 1989 conference, and provided additional monies to bring speakers from overseas. The Research Committee of the School of Oriental and African Studies assisted with funds to support those attending the conference from Africa. The hard work of managing the conference was accomplished by Marion Swiny with her customary efficiency, and we were glad to be able to run the conference under the auspices of the Centre of African Studies, University . . .

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