Sir Donald Cameron, Colonial Governor

Sir Donald Cameron, Colonial Governor

Sir Donald Cameron, Colonial Governor

Sir Donald Cameron, Colonial Governor

Excerpt

The last three decades or so have seen a revolution in the historiography of modern Africa. Historians once devoted their attention largely to the conquerors and builders of empire; their colonial subjects went mainly unrecorded. Then the pendulum started to swing the other way. Imperial history began to fall from academic favor. Scholars attempted to write the annals of modern Africa in African terms, with the colonial period no more than a cruel but short-lived interlude. Some academicians went even further. The historians of Africa were to assume a political mission: they were to assist in nation-building and to lend their skills to bring about the triumph of a particular ideology or a particular class. The term "Eurocentric" became a word of abuse beloved by reviewers anxious to denigrate those authors whose political philosophy they happened to dislike.

Yet the history of the Europeans in Africa cannot be separated from the history of Africa at large. No reputable historian of Eastern Europe, for instance, would deny historical legitimacy, say, to a study of the Ottoman conquerors of Albania or the Austrian invaders of Bosnia. Similarly, the policies of a British governor in what is now Tanzania or the exploits of a Belgian military leader in what is now Zaïre belong to the history of Africa just as much as they belong to the annals of Great Britian or of Belgium, respectively.

Students concerned with the history of the Europeans in Africa, moreover, enjoy advantages today that were not available to their predecessors half a century ago. A mass of new archival material has recently become accessible in depositories both of the former metropolitan powers and of the independent African states. In addition, colonial historians can now draw on a great body of sociological and anthropological material largely unavailable in the early days of European colonization.

To take advantage of this new material and to reanalyze the colonial period as a phase of Euro-African history, the Hoover Institution has launched a new program of scholarly inquiries organized around the theme of African Colonial Studies.

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