The primordial points of the GHA project were signed in the Project Presentation , signed by the then president of the committee, the Kenyan historian Betwhell Ogot:. Notwithstanding the best scientific quality possible, the General History of Africa does not seek to exhaust the subject and intends to be a work of synthesis that avoids dogmatism. In many aspects it constitutes an outline of problems indicating the current state of knowledge and the important currents of thought and research, not hesitating to highlight in these circumstances divergences of opinion.
It thus opens the way for later publications. Africa is considered here as a whole. The aim is to show the historic relations between the different parts of the continent, very often subdivided in previously published works. The General History of Africa consists, above all, of a history of ideas and civilizations, societies and institutions. It is based on a wide diversity of sources, here understood as oral tradition and artistic expression. Here the General History of Africa is essentially examined from within.
An erudite work, it is also to a great extent the faithful reflection of the way in which African authors see their own civilization. Although prepared in an international environment and drawing on all the current scientific data, the History is equally a capital element in the recognition of African cultural heritage, showing the factors which have contributed to the unity of the continent. This effort at examining the facts based on its interior constitutes the novelty of the work and can, in addition to its scientific qualities, confer on it a great current value.
By showing the real face of Africa, the History can, at a time dominated by economic and technical rivalries, propose a particular conception of human values Ogot, a , p. This article aims to analyze the final point mentioned above. Both in relation to the problematization of its theoretical significance and the consequences derived from this for the construction of the history of Africa in the eight volumes of the work.
Based on an initial reading of the point mentioned above, certain central elements can be highlighted. This is history essentially examined from within. After all, it was to be a scientific history, a history which sought the recognition of African cultural heritage and, finally, a history which sought factors to contribute to the unity of the continent. Finally, it involved a particular conception of human values. Undoubtedly, this is a large number of elements for a historic perspective.
On the other hand, they are points which deserve to be problematized. There was no doubt that GHA was intended to publicize the opinion of African intellectuals about their own history. As has been said, we consider this a fundamental legacy for the work. However, GHA was not a work organized and written only by African intellectuals. They were the majority in the directive councils of the project. On the other hand, the work counted on the participation of three hundred and fifty international specialists, mostly non-African.
Similarly, the organization and effective implementation of the work also owed much to the active presence of non-African intellectuals.
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Five of them in particular: M. Devisse a French anthropologist and historian , J. Vansina a Belgian anthropologist and linguist , I. Hrbek a Czech historian 3 , and J. Vercoutter a French Egyptologist and historian. Given this fact, two positions are possible. As we will see, based on the reading of the primary sources especially the minutes of project organization meetings and the writing of the history of the GHA , it has to be concluded that the second interpretation is more true. For this reason, the institutional history of the project is analyzed seeking to define its essential significance.
The African perspective in the institutional history of GHA. As has been stated, the General History of Africa began in , when it was approved as one of the projects of international scientific cooperation at the 16 th Unesco General Conference. Chosen for the position was one of the first African academic historians: the Nigerian Kenneth Onwuka Dike; vice-dean of Ibadan University and president of the 1 st International Congress of Africanists It was thus under the supervision of K.
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Dike that the first project organizers were appointed. The first meeting of the specialists indicated by Unesco was held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, between August and September The president of this Commission was K. Lacheraf Algeria , its executive secretary. In addition, the following researchers took part in the meeting without specific positions, J.
Ade Ajayi Nigeria , M. Dagnogo Ivory Coast , J. Devisse France , H. El Fasi Morocco , H. Djait Tunisia , D.
Niane Senegal , L. Yabloshkov the former USSR. The Director General of Unesco was represented by N. Bammate, from the Division of Cultural Studies of Unesco.
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In this meeting, GHA was projected, with the following aims: a the organization of sources; b a summary of existing knowledge; c the construction of a new history of Africa. In relation to the final point, of direct interest here, the Abidjan meeting traced some more long term questions, relevant for the writing of the history that was to emerge from the project.
The first was the scientific nature of the history intended for GHA. Something else that can also be noted was the concern with emphasizing the essential nature that the oral tradition would play in this; as well as the centrality of interdisciplinary work. Especially the relationship between History, Linguistics, and Archeology. Also defended was the idea that the writing of the GHA should constitute a totalizing vision of Africa, aimed at the description of the continent as a related whole.
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After the Abidjan meeting, other meetings with smaller groups were held to normatize the collection of sources and the organization of institutions, which was done by Unesco between and In , for example, there was an administrative meeting in Paris. This was important because it moved GHA forward to the second phase of the project, aimed at writing the work. However, many of the fundamental decisions in relation to this new path were taken in the following meeting of the Commission for the General History of Africa , held between 22 and 26 June , in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia.
Furthermore, it was the meeting in which, after the analysis of the sources gathered by Unesco, that the number of the volumes eight which would form GHA and their essential content was established. These guidelines would be followed in the publication of the work in the s and s.
It is worth highlighted that the statutory points were created there to guarantee that GHA would be eminently a project coordinated by African researchers. In this sense, the Commission defended that the Committee establish in its statutes that African researchers form a majority of members of the Committee two thirds and of the EC four members.
Furthermore, it was decided that the editors of the volumes, chosen by the commission, be African researchers. Concomitantly, the Addis Ababa meeting decided on other important points in relation to the division and content of GHA. In this meeting, the formation of a broader picture and the completion of the points to be followed in the second phase of GHA was emphasized. The concept of the General History of Africa essentially signified that the continent should be understood as a totality;. The General History of Africa should be seen from within, starting with the continent itself as the center of interest, considering Africans as subjects and not mere objects of history;.
The focus should be on the history of ideas and civilizations; a scientific summary of this was aimed at;. The approach could not be dogmatic, but problematic, open, seeking current knowledge about the subject, in accordance with the current state of research, its tendencies, without omitting indications, when necessary, about divergences between specialists, and about what still needed to be known, in future research 8. First, because of the administrative organization of the project.
Second, by the indication of the basic thematic project, which was followed afterwards. Third, because the meeting consolidated the position of the coordination of African researchers in the GHA project, as part of the statutes of the Scientific Commission. Something that was ratified at its first meeting in Paris The primordial questions raised in this Addis Ababa meeting were established statutorily in the first meeting of the International Scientific Committee for the Writing of a GHA, which occurred in Paris between 30 March and 8 April Mohktar Egypt ; c Volume 3: H.
El Fasi Morocco ; d Volume 4: D. Niane Senegal ; e Volume 5: B. Ogot Kenya ; f Volume 6: J. Ade Ajayi Nigeria ; g Volume 7: A. Also consolidated there was the thematic content of each of these volumes, which did not really change afterwards. The following years, between and , marked the initial period of the concretization of the work. In this stage, as can be noted in the primary sources, there were four primordial difficulties imposed on the organizers. The first was the constant absences of important editors for the project, such as Bethwell Ogot and Ali Mazrui.
Second was the delay in the writing and editing of the first volumes to be published, which were supposed to be finalized in Third was the lack of participation of many commission members, who did not reply to EC contacts. Finally, there were misunderstandings about the chapter contents between editors and authors. Part of this controversy was a consequence of the different rhythms of the two bodies. This led to the two bodies being out of step.
It was a complex collective work, which could only be done with the participation of dozens of committed intellectuals. However, the organizers were few in number. In the s, a crucial period for the concretization of the work, there were probably only around twenty intellectuals involved, who were obviously overloaded. Vansina Belgium , C. Diop Senegal , J.
Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s
Devisse France , J. Franco Cuba , M. Fage United Kingdom , A. Kagame Ruanda , J. Vercoutter France , A. Habte Ethiopia , T. Tshibangu the old Zaire , M. Shibeika Sudan , I. Hrbek Czechoslovakia , and V. Grottanelli Italy.
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Each volume is lavishly illustrated and contains a comprehensive bibliography. Volume VI covers the period from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the onset of the European "scramble" for colonial territory in the s. In spite of a growing European commercial, religious, and political presence during the first three quarters of the century, outside influences were felt indirectly by most African societies, and they made a number of culturally distinctive attempts to modernize, expand, and develop.
Condition: Very Good. Minimal wear to hardcover. No marks or names inside. Clipped corner of half-title page. NO dust jacket. Book Description Heinemann, London, Condition: Near Fine. Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine. Volume 6 only. Many figures and plates. Brown hardcovers with gilt titles on the spine, embossed titles on the upper cover.
Corners not bumped. Tiny bit of wear on corners and edges. Publisher: University of California Press , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Review : "One of the most ambitious academic projects to be undertaken in this century. Buy Used Condition: Poor Volume 6.
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