African History

Gandhi Before India

April 29, 2014

The first volume of what may well be the definitive biography of Mohandas Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha’s Gandhi Before India covers the years from Gandhi’s birth in 1869 through his departure from South Africa in July, 1914. Biographers have often treated Gandhi’s earlier life– especially his two decades working in South Africa–as a  little more than […]

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Re-Run: Cowboys and Indians, North African Style

March 4, 2014

Unlikely though it seems, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the French Foreign Legion over the last week. I bet most of you have a few stock images of the Foreign Legion in your heads: men fleeing from their past into the desert and anonymity, absinthe, burning sands and blazing sun, those funny […]

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Re-Run: Word With A Past–Maffick

February 28, 2014

The Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) started badly from the British point of view. British troops, supposedly the best trained and best equipped in the world, suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of Boer farmers. (Anyone else hear echoes of another colonial war that pitted farmers against British regulars?) The only bright spot […]

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Black Athena

March 28, 2013

A recent exchange with a slightly disgruntled reader of Mankind: The Story of All of Us * led me to pull a book off the shelf that I hadn’t looked at for several years: the first volume of Martin Bernal’s Black Athena . Sub-titled The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, Bernal’s book was a smack […]

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From Here to Timbuktu

August 21, 2012

Timbuktu has been in the news lately as a result of growing control by Islamic extremists, whose narrow interpretation of sharia law has led to the destruction of Muslim tombs, innocent people lashed in the streets, and thousands of refugees fleeing their homes. It’s a good time to remind people of a time when Timbuktu […]

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