Category Archives: Events

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).

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.

Childhood in Africa Stream, African Studies Association of the United Kingdom Conference, University of Cambridge, 7-9 September 2016


burundi-734899_1920Temilola Alanamu, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the School of History, University of Kent and Prof Benjamin Lawrance, Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr. Endowed Chair of International and Global Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology will co-chair the Childhood in Africa Stream at the ASAUK conference in September 2016.

The stream is partly funded by the Department of History’s Internationalisation Award and will include sixteen participants from six countries across four panels.

The panels titled: The economy of childhood in African history, Representing the African Child in Postcolonial Africa, Evaluating Childhood, Youth and politics in colonial Africa, Child Rights and Reform in Africa will consider the histories of childhood in pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial Africa. Contributors will examine the multiplicity of expectations, limits and experiences of childhood from the perspective of children, from the view of those with whom they came into contact, and those who contemplated their welfare on the local, national and international platform. Panels within this stream interrogate how concepts of childhoods have been defined, redefined, debated and negotiated across time, cultural and geo-political boundaries reflecting the concerns of those at the centre and margins of society. They also consider the effects of these definitions on children’s lives and their strategies for negotiating fluid boundaries in various historical contexts. Papers explore the gendered, racial and age limitations of childhood and both the changes in and resilience of childhood experiences during moments of stability, struggle, conquest and independence.

Freedom Without Equality: Liberated Africans in the Indian Ocean World

On Thursday 10th March 2016 the Centre will welcome Dr Matthew S. Hopper (Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge) to present an occasional seminar on ‘Freedom Without Equality: Liberated Africans in the Indian Ocean World‘.

The seminar will take place at 4.30pm in Rutherford Seminar Room 15 on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus. Attendance is free and open to all.



Matthew S. Hopper

Matthew S. Hopper is the Smuts Visiting Research Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the University of Cambridge and is an Associate Professor in the History Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. His book, Slaves of One Master: Globalization and Slavery in Arabia in the Age of Empire, was published by Yale University Press in 2015. He received his Ph.D. in History from UCLA (2006) and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University (2009) and a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ (2015). He has held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and Fulbright-Hays, and his writing has recently been published in Annales, Itinerario, and the Journal of African Development. His new book project is tentatively titled, Free But Not Equal: Liberated Africans in the Indian Ocean World.


Between 1858 and 1896 more than 11,000 Africans were apprehended aboard suspected slave vessels in the Western Indian Ocean and relocated to seven port cities between Bombay and Cape Town. Although ending the East African slave trade became Europe’s cause célèbre in the second half of the nineteenth century and freed slaves provided symbolic justification for imperialism, the question of “disposing” (the unfortunate term used by colonial administrators) of freed slaves presented a persistent problem for officials who were equally wary of releasing survivors where they might be re-enslaved as they were of paying for their upkeep. Liberated Africans were therefore assigned to labor aboard ships, in harbors, or on mission plantations, where they were expected to learn the value of their freedom and the ethic of hard work through contractual labor.HopperSeminar

Freed slaves, like their enslaved counterparts, were renamed, re-clothed, converted to foreign religions, taught new languages and placed into arranged marriages. Many also labored to produce cash crops for export to global markets. Drawing on missionary, naval, and colonial records, this paper demonstrates how the perceived failure of Caribbean emancipation, the emergence of scientific racism, and a growing sentiment that certain groups were not suited for freedom guided official treatment of liberated Africans by at midcentury. Thrust from slavery into colonial coercion and contract, liberated Africans in the Indian Ocean world exposed a central tension of mid-Victorian liberalism: the growing divergence between ideals of freedom and equality.

The Gun in Central Africa

Small man with a big gunGiacomo Macola’s monograph, The Gun in Central Africa is now available to pre-order with a 30% discount on regular prices.

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.

Centre PhD Student publication launch

University of Mauritius Invitation to the launch of ‘Evading Enslavement in the Seychelles’ by Peter Nicholls

Peter Nicholls, a PhD student associated with the centre, recently delivered a public address at the University of Mauritius as part of an event celebrating the publication of his Masters’ thesis. ‘Evading Enslavement in the Seychelles’ uncovers a vital piece of the history of resistance to slavery in the Indian Ocean. The booklet has been printed in both English and French and demand has already exceed supply!

The event was covered in detail by a local online magazine: HISTOIRE: À lire en marge du 1er février (article text in French).

AHA Panel in Atlanta

Christine Whyte organised a panel on childhood in 19th century Sierra Leone at the 130th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association on the 8th of January, 2016.The panel focused on the experiences of children as pupils, apprentices and domestic servants in the Colony of Sierra Leone from 1806 until the 1860s.

Panel details

“An Upright and Faithful Boy”: Children of the Elite and Children Removed from Slavery within the CMS Mission Schools, 1806–16 Katrina Keefer, York University

Emancipation and Indenture in Colonial Sierra Leone  Richard Anderson, York University

Fostering Subjects: Lives and Labour of Fostered African Children in the Sierra Leone Crown Colony Christine Whyte, University of Kent

Comment: Colleen Vasconcellos, University of West Georgia

Book launch by Birmingham University Authors

Three members of the University of Birmingham’s Department of African Studies and Anthropology will be discussing their recently published monographs at the London Review of Books bookshop in Bloomsbury at 7pm on 15 January 2016.

  • Maxim Bolt’s Zimbabwe’s Migrants and South Africa’s Border Farms: The Roots of Impermanence
  • Benedetta Rossi’s From Slavery to Aid: Politics, Labour, and Ecology in the Nigerien Sahel, 1800-2000
  • Kate Skinner’s The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics and Nationalism, 1914-2014

Free tickets for this event are available from Eventbrite.

Conference presentation on Liberian development projects

Sign in Firestone plantation in Liberia which reads, Working together with Liberia for Progress: Firestone. United States Trading Co.

Firestone in Liberia

Christine Whyte recently presented some new research into the ways in which the Liberian government used forced labour to assert control and defend their sovereignty in the inland regions of Liberia from the 1870s through to the 1960s. This paper, presented at a panel at the African Studies Association Conference in San Diego alongside Benedetta Rossi, Elisabeth McMahon, Martin Klein and Carolyn Brown, demonstrated how the discourse of ‘development’ was deployed by Monrovia and the American Firestone Corporation to implement these systems of forced labour and justify their hold on the territory.