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New Book Published

The Centre for the History of Colonialisms is pleased to announce the publication of a new book by Dr Giacomo Macola. The Colonial Occupation of Katanga consists of a translated and richly annotated edition of the personal correspondence of Lieutenant (later Captain) Clément Brasseur, the military officer in charge of Lofoi, the first post of the Congo Free State in Katanga. The letters date from September 1893, the month of his arrival in the region, and continue up to 9 November 1897, the day before his career of conquest and subjugation came to a violent end outside the trader Kiwala’s fortified camp on the Luapula River. All of the seventeen long letters included in the volume are addressed to Brasseur’s elder brother, Désiré, a fellow military officer; most of them take the form of regularly updated journals and travelogues.

Brasseur’s dense personal correspondence describes in exceptional detail both his day-to-day activities and administrative determinations and the numerous military operations that he and/or his local allies undertook with a view to impressing upon Katangese communities the need to comply with instructions relating to taxation in kind and labour. The striking candidness and directness of the records presented in this edition challenge top-down understandings of the violent workings of the Congo Free State, cast unprecedented light on early colonial state-building in Katanga and show that the latter process was deeply informed by African strategies and interests. These themes are systematically pursued in the volume’s extensive introduction, which advances the idea that the Congo Free State is best understood as a continuation of the nineteenth-century warlord order in Central Africa, rather than the embodiment of a ‘modern’ colonial project.

The book can be bought here:

Centre for the History of Colonialism’s Director, Dr Giacomo Macola, to edit a new series for Ohio University Press

The Centre for the History of Colonialisms Director, Dr Giacomo Macola, is a founding editor along with Dr Alicia C. Decker (Penn State) of Ohio University Press’ new War and Militarism in African History series. Dr Macola has previously worked with Ohio University Press who published his critically acclaimed The Gun in Central Africa in 2016.

War and Militarism in African History is the first book series dedicated to examining the politico-economic, socio-cultural, and military dimensions of Africa’s past and continuing conflicts. While armed combat and other forms of violence are part of the social experience of large segments of the continent’s population, little of the scholarship published today recognizes the deep roots of these contemporary conflicts or describes them in the larger context in which they occur. In contrast, WMAH seeks works by scholars employing war-and-society approaches, in which the study of developments on the battlefield is interwoven with broader social trends and dynamics. The series also welcomes works that historicize militarism, or antimilitarist movements, as a corrective to the presentism that now prevails in the field.

The series will include monographs, broad syntheses with teaching potential at the graduate or undergraduate levels, and edited collections by both emerging and established scholars. WMAH also aspires to bridge the gap between scholarly readers and nonspecialists in the field.

The series editors particularly encourage submissions from Africa-based scholars, whose voices too often go unheard for lack of publishing opportunities. One of the driving objectives of WMAH is to address this imbalance.

Manuscripts should be between 80,000 and 120,000 words.

Please send inquiries regarding proposals to Ricky S. Huard, acquisitions editor, at See the Ohio University Press submissions page for proposal guidelines:

Editorial Advisory Board
Saheed Aderinto, associate professor of history, Western Carolina University
David M. Gordon, professor of history, Bowdoin College
Michelle R. Moyd, associate professor of history, Indiana University
Richard J. Reid, professor of African history, SOAS, University of London
Elizabeth Schmidt, professor of history, Loyola University Maryland
Pamela Scully, professor of WGSS and African studies, Emory University
William K. Storey, professor of history, Millsaps College
Luise White, professor of history, University of Florida


PhD awarded

Congratulations to Peter Nicholls, a postgraduate student  in the Centre for the History of Colonialisms, for successfully defending his thesis on 8 March 2018.

Peter’s thesis, ‘”The Door to the Coast of Africa”: The Seychelles in the Mascarene Slave Trade, 1770-1830’, was supervised by Dr Giacomo Macola and examined by Professor Clare Anderson (Leicester) and Dr Andrew Cohen (Kent).

We offer Peter our congratulations and wish him all the best for the future.

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!

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.

The Price of Peace, Modernising the Ancien Régime, Europe 1815-1848

It is a great pleasure to report that forty-two scholars from over a dozen European countries and one or two from further afield attended the Conference: The Price of Peace, Modernising ambrothe Ancien Régime, Europe 1815-1848, hosted at the University of Kent Paris between 22-25 August 2016. The Conference, organised by the Centre’s Ambrogio Caiani (pictured), proved a great success.

The post-Napoleonic age has always been regarded as a time of reaction and obscurantism. The very label Restoration implies a return to the past and reconstruction of traditional political structures. The conference very much sought to break with this sterile and unhelpful caricature. The world after 1815 simply could not wind the clocks back to 1789. Scholars from across Europe sought to show that the revolutionary and Napoleonic genie could not be put back in the bottle. This was a period of mass-experimentation in politics and society. After two decades of almost interrupted warfare European statesmen sought to demobilise their societies and economies. They created new constitutions, forms of representative government, invented academic history, new borders emerged, the public sphere expanded and village communities experienced a new lease of life. A delicate balancing act had to be established between the international settlement created at the Congress of Vienna and the demands of domestic politics and society. After the experience of the Napoleonic Empire the continent was more interconnected than ever before but the creation of new states meant that European peoples effectively rejected the systematic integration that the French Imperium had sought to impose. The problem of managing diversity in an increasingly international context, then like now, was the key issue that faced statesmen and diplomats. As the speakers showed, Spain, the Low Countries, France, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia all trialled different solutions to this problem. Moderation and compromise found their expression in the French concept of juste milieu (or middle ground). During the roundtable it was agreed that this period can draw much inspiration from post-colonial studies. It was felt that this was a supremely and uniquely post-Imperial moment in the story of Europe. The conference has been a great success and IB Tauris will publish its findings in a two volume collection entitled: ‘A History of the European Restorations.’ Available in all good book shops in late 2018.


Harry Nkumbula Documentary Out Now

A DOCUMENTARY on Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), which fought for the country’s independence from Britain has now been released in selected cinemas. See here for details 9780230622746
The documentary, titled ‘Nkumbula: Liberating a Nation’ by Chris Mukkuli, is a celebration of the life of Nkumbula and his contribution to the liberation struggle. Mukkuli has talked to a number of personalities who came across Nkumbula including the likes of Sikota Wina, Vernon Mwaanga, Andrew Sardanis, Simon Zukas, Daniel Munkombwe and our very own Giacomo Macola who has published a biography of Nkumbula.

We hope to arrange a showing of this fascinating documentary in the Centre for the HIstory of Colonialisms soon.

Congratulations John!

Photograph of a young Paul Kagame in army camoflage.

Paul Kagame, leader of the RPF and current Rwandan President.

John Kegel was awarded an AHRC-CHASE scholarship for his doctoral research on the Rwandan civil war (1990-1994). John’s research will look at the crucial, yet neglected, immediate antecedents of the Rwandan genocide. John graduated from Kent University with a BA in War Studies in 2014, and broadened his scholarly work at SOAS, where his MA dissertation was supervised by William Gervase Clarence-Smith, before returning to Kent for his PhD studies.

Future Research Project by Members of the Centre

Central Africa and the Making of the Global Nineteenth Century

This project will investigate central Africa as a focal point for the making of the modern world. Capitalising on the emergent methods of the digital humanities and global history, it will examine central Africa’s principal axes of global interconnection and the influences that flowed through them before the imposition of formal European control from the 1880s. The project will supplement existing studies of the long-distance slave and commodity trades by investigating the formative impact of central Africa’s consumer demand on international economies, alongside local political responses to globalization.

A central pillar of the project will be the creation of a database of central Africa’s long-distance trade: ‘Sinews of Globalization’, covering the area stretching from the Limpopo and Orange rivers in the south, up to the northern Congo basin.


Figure 1. Africa, showing region to be covered by ‘Sinews of Globalization’.

The raw data for ‘Sinews of Globalization’ will be extracted from nineteenth century publications, in particular the accounts and travelogues of explorers, hunters, missionaries and administrators. In general terms, the purpose of this database is to integrate these diverse records, allowing the user to search down to the level of individual records, but also use the accumulated data to look for connections and patterns that would otherwise be less than obvious. (An example of how data can be extracted from the source material can be found here: Support document – Concepts for the database (1)). A suitable search interface will permit users to search by record type, date range, sources, geographical region etc. More important to the database, and its accessibility, is the ability to represent the data on a map using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

Some of the database’s potential applications are illustrated by the following ‘mock-ups’.

MAP 1. (click on image to enlarge)


Map 1 is intended to show how portions of the journeys of Serpa Pinto, David Livingstone and Verney Lovett Cameron might be represented by the ‘Sinews of Globalization’ GIS implementation. Many of the basic features shown here, such as the pan and zoom controls and the map location indicator, are self-explanatory. The panel on the left shows an expandable list view and key of the available ‘Overlays’ corresponding to the date range 1851-1879 and selected map area.

Map 2. (click on image to enlarge)


Map 2 shows a series of trade routes in the same region, those classified as ‘Major Routes’ in the ‘Overlays’ panel on the left. Many of the features and selections are similar to those shown in Map 1, but the alteration of the date range and selection of overlay is reflected on the maps, and in the ‘Results’ box in the upper right. In this ‘mock-up’, the user has selected the route highlighted in red.

Map 3. (click on image to enlarge)


Map 3, the most complex of the series, displays some data precisely as is done in Map 2. However, in this instance, further ‘Overlays’ have been added, showing both ‘Trade Goods’ (ivory, firearms and cloth in this case), and ‘Instances of Trade’ (represented by scaled wheels/pie charts). A simple ‘Base Map’ has been selected for ease of comprehension, and the data relating to unselected trade routes returned by the search criteria are greyed-out for clarity.

Forthcoming Presentation by a Centre Member at the University of Birmingham


Book Cover 2

On 14 October 2015, the Centre for the History of Colonialisms’ director, Giacomo Macola, will deliver one of the ‘Africa Talks’ seminars (full programme details) to the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham.

His paper – ‘Firearms in Nineteenth-Century Central Africa: A Revisionist History’ – presents the main conclusion of his forthcoming monograph: The Gun in Central Africa: A History of Technology and Politics (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2016). Marrying the insights of Africanist historiography with those of consumption and science and technology studies, the paper adopts 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 paper presents Africans as agents of technological re-innovation who understood guns in terms of their changing social structures and political interests.