Book Launch: The Politics and Economics of Decolonisation in Africa: the Failed Experiment of the Central African Federation by Andrew Cohen

On 5th October the Centre for the History of Colonialisms was delighted to celebrate the publication of Dr. Andrew Cohen’s The Politics and Economics of Decolonisation in Africa: the Failed

The Politics and Economics of Decolonization in Africa: The Failed Experiment of the Central African Federation

Experiment of the Central African Federation. A critical examination of the so-called ‘second colonial occupation’ in Africa, Andy’s book draws on newly released archival records to provide a fresh examination of Britain’s central African territories in the late colonial period. Based on a truly impressive amount of original primary research, and a command of its significance in the newly emerging political and economic context of the post-war world, the book puts forward a multi-causal explanation for decolonisation in the region, with particular attention to the decline in global commodity prices (copper in particular), and the political context of white settlement in the region.

Our celebrations began with a lively introduction from Dr. Giacomo Macola, Director of the Centre for the History of Colonialisms, who praised Andy’s work as a colleague, friend and historian – a point enthusiastically seconded by colleagues around the table. We were then fortunate enough to welcome Dr. Kate Law from the University of Chichester who ‘interviewed’ Andy about his work and his book. While disdaining counterfactual questions (and any discussion of cultural history!), Andy gave the assembled staff and students an intriguing insight into his work and arguments, and the audience were pleased to have the opportunity to ask some questions as the talk came to an end. As such, while the sun literally set upon the room (leading at one point to something of a scramble for the lights), the decolonisation of Empire in Africa was discussed and debated with before we retired to communal chat over wine and nibbles. Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all – and Andy’s book, meanwhile, can be purchased here (hyperlink: ) for the bargain price of £69!

Many congratulations to Andy on this impressive achievement!

Doctor Who and the Sudanese soldier

A Black soldier of Queen Victoria’s army fighting Ice Warriors on Mars?

It’s more historically accurate than you might imagine. Writer Mark Gatiss delved into a bit of colonial history while writing a recent episode and uncovered the story of Jimmy Durham, a Sudanese boy who was rescued from the River Nile in 1886 and brought up by soldiers of The Durham Light Infantry regiment.

Read the full story here

But, Jimmy was not the only African child ‘rescued’ during the reign of Queen Victoria.

In 1868, His Imperial Highness Prince Alemayehu of Ethiopia (son of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia) was brought to Britain and introduced to Queen Victoria when he was only seven years old, after the suicide of his father. You can read more about him, and the campaign to return his remains to Ethiopia here:




And in 1850,  at the age of eight, Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a Yoruba royal was brought to England as a “gift” for Queen Victoria. She later attended school in Sierra Leone, but returned to England at the age of twelve, and lived with a Mr and Mrs Schon at Chatham, Kent. She married a successful Yoruba businessman in Brighton in 1862 and the couple moved to Badagry in modern-day Nigeria. She remained in contact with the Queen throughout, even naming her daughter Victoria.

And these are only a couple of the most prominent examples. Many African children spent time in education, training or being fostered in the UK through the 18th and 19th centuries.

More about the history of Black people in Britain:

BBC: 15 great black Britons who made history

The Black Presence in Britain

Black History Month


New book on the Politics and Economics of Decolonization in Africa

The Politics and Economics of Decolonization in Africa: The Failed Experiment of the Central African Federation

We are delighted to announce the publication of Andrew Cohen’s latest book, The Politics and Economics of Decolonization in Africa: The Failed Experiment of the Central African Federation

This insightful and erudite intervention into the study of African decolonization sets the end of empire into its international context, using archival material from southern Africa, Europe and the United States.

Andrew is Lecturer in Imperial History at the University of Kent, teaching courses on the history of the United Nations and African resistance to colonial rule.

Download publishers’ leaflet including special launch price (pdf)


The slow collapse of the European colonial empires after 1945 provides one of the great turning points of twentieth century history. With the loss of India however, the British under Harold Macmillan attempted to enforce a ‘second’ colonial occupation – supporting the efforts of Sir Andrew Cohen of the Colonial Office to create a Central African Federation. Drawing on newly released archival material, The Politics and Economics of Decolonization offers a fresh examination of Britain’s central African territories in the late colonial period and provides a detailed assessment of how events in Britain, Africa and the UN shaped the process of decolonization. The author situates the Central African Federation – which consisted of modern day Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi – in its wider international context, shedding light on the Federation’s complex relationships with South Africa, with US Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy and with the expanding United Nations. The result is an important history of the last days of the British Empire and the beginnings of a more independent African continent.

Orientalism in a European Context?

‘Ornamentalism in a European Context? Napoleon’s Italian Coronation, 26 May 1805’

Portrait of Napoleon

Andrea Appiani: Napoleon King of Italy, Vienne, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie

Inspired by the concept of ‘ornamentalism’ (Cannadine, 2001) Ambrogio Caiani’s new article in The English Historical Review explores how Napoleon sought to promote collaboration and local investment in the satellite kingdom of Italy. This article reflects Dr Caiani’s innovative approach which scrutinises the Napoleonic empire using the analytical tools of imperial and colonial history.

Kent African History Student Publication

We are pleased to announce that Enid Guene, who studied African History with Dr Giacomo Macola at the University of Kent between 2007 and 2010, has recently published a book based on her Master’s thesis, titled Copper, Borders and Nation-building: The Katangese Factor in Zambian Economic and Political History. The book investigates the interplay between the English and French-speaking parts of the Copperbelt in the Republic of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its impact on Zambian political processes. The thesis was runner-up for the 2014 African Studies Centre Leiden African Thesis Award. Enid Guene is now a PhD candidate in history and anthropology at the University of Cologne.

CHASE Studentship Award

The Centre is pleased to announce that one of the first students on the MA in Imperial History has been awarded a prestigious CHASE studentship. Tarryn Gourley will use this fully-funded PhD scholarship to pursue a project on youth and political violence in post-colonial Zambia. Congratulations Tarryn!

Panel at the African Studies Association Conference 2016

Christine Whyte was invited to present a paper as part of a panel organised by Kristin Mann (Emory)  on ‘Claims-making by Slaves and Ex-slaves in African Colonial Courts: Women and Children, Family and Household’ at the 59th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association Conference in Washington DC. Her paper, ‘Slavery in the Family: Women, Children and Violence in the Sierra Leone Courts, 1880s-1920s’ focused on disputes within families over slave wives and children in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

She also chaired a panel (pictured) on ‘Atlantic Sierra Leone: Slavery, Missionaries, and Migrants’ organised by Joseph Yannielli (Princeton University).

Panel on US Foreign Policy

Christine Whyte was invited to be part of a panel organised by the Women in International Law Interest Group (WILIG), which is part of the  American Society of International Law, in Washington DC. The panel discussed the potential for taking a gendered approach to shaping American foreign policy and humanitarianism in the new administration.

Centre Book launch

Staff and students from the University of Kent were joined by colleagues from as far afield as South Africa at the launch of Giacomo Macola’s new monograph The Gun in Central Africa.

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9780821422113Why did some central African peoples embrace gun technology in the nineteenth century, and others turn their backs on it? In answering this question, The Gun in Central Africa offers a thorough reassessment of the history of firearms in central Africa. Marrying the insights of Africanist historiography with those of consumption and science and technology studies, Giacomo Macola approaches the subject from a culturally sensitive perspective that encompasses both the practical and the symbolic attributes of firearms.

Informed by the view that the power of objects extends beyond their immediate service functions, The Gun in Central Africa presents Africans as agents of technological re-innovation who understood guns in terms of their changing social structures and political interests. By placing firearms at the heart of the analysis, this volume casts new light on processes of state formation and military revolution in the era of the long-distance trade, the workings of central African gender identities and honor cultures, and the politics of the colonial encounter.

Christine Whyte  and Andrew Cohen from the Centre for the History of Colonialisms provided commentary and fielded questions in the lively discussion following Dr Macola’s presentation of the book.