Africa's wars of liberation : some historiographical reflections

TitleAfrica's wars of liberation : some historiographical reflections
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsS.D.K. Ellis
EditorP.J.J. Konings, W.M.J. van Binsbergen, and G.S.C.M. Hesseling
Secondary TitleTrajectoires de libération en Afrique contemporaine : hommage à Robert Buijtenhuijs
Pagination69 - 91
Date Published2000///
PublisherKarthala [etc.]
Place PublishedParis [etc.]
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, history, national liberation struggles, nationalism, political science

This chapter examines the ways in which scholars have considered African wars of liberation. Firstly, the author considers some of the general assumptions which have been commonly applied to African history since the middle of the twentieth century when academic historical writing on Africa began, and which have served as a framework for the consideration of wars of liberation. One of these assumptions is that the colonial period was some sort of dividing line in Africa's historical evolution. In the late 1960s, militant nationalism was seen as the fruition of a spirit of resistance which had been present throughout the colonial period, and which now emerged to claim the leadership of African countries; in this view the emergence of African nationalism as a political force marked some sort of progress. The author shows the weakness of this theory and stresses the fact that certain Africans who, on the verge of independence, faced the prospect of government by the group that had seized power in the name of the nation, all too often had reason to fear the hegemonic aspirations of their new leaders. The burgeoning number of armed movements in Africa since has made scholars sceptical about so-called wars of liberation. The question raised today is to what extent African nationalism has been a foreign creation as well as an African one. The author points to a recent attempt to retrace the history of Europe in the twentieth century without viewing it through any particular ideological prism and suggests that the same technique could usefully should be applied to the history of Africa's decolonization. Notes, ref

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