Academic journal article African Studies Review

Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa: From Slavery Days to Rwandan Genocide

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa: From Slavery Days to Rwandan Genocide

Article excerpt

John Laband, ed. Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa: From Slavery Days to Rwandan Genocide. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. ix + 301 pp. Photographs. Maps. Charts. Notes. Select Bibliography. Index. $65.00. Cloth.

Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa is part of a Greenwood Press series of books entided "Daily Life through History," which-as I write-includes sixty-six titles, ranging from Daily Life during the Black Death to Daily Life in the Soviet Union. According to the publisher, the series is meant to represent "a treasure trove of information for students and general readers" and provide "easy reference and enjoyable reading." Laband's volume covers a lot of ground, stretching across Africa from the eighteenth century to the present. And with such widely different forms of conflict and such broad implications of the term "civilian," assembling "a representative range of civilian experiences during wartime in Africa" (12) is indeed a challenging task. The book includes essays on the Atlantic slave trade, on the mfecane and Zulu kingdom, on the Boer War and the First and Second World Wars, on Angola after independence, on Liberia and Sierra Leone in recent decades, on civil wars in Sudan, and on genocide in Rwanda.

The contributions are concerned with a variety of experiences. They are also of varying quality and interest; despite the objectives of the series, many chapters are neither "easy" nor "enjoyable" for either the "general" reader or others. Paul Lovejoy writes well about enslavement and the slave trade, and argues that since slavery required "the redistribution of population through coercive means" (34) it should be considered as warfare. John Laband's own chapter on the Zulu is full of stereotypes and generalities and reproduces casualty tables from his 1990 Ph.D. dissertation; it does not tell readers about subsequent advances in Zulu historical research, such as the work by Jeff Guy.

Bill Nasson's essay, titled "Civilians in the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902," is the best in the book-competent, focused, well written, and likely to engage both expert and lay readers. …

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