African History

The End of French Algeria

February 21, 2015

The Algerian Revolution, which lasted from 1954 to 1962, was one of the bloodiest of the anti-colonial wars that broke out in Asia and Africa after the end of World War II. * Algerian resistance against colonial rule in Algeria was nothing new. Abd al-Qadir fought against French expansion in North Africa for fifteen years […]

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Abandoning the Algerian Model

February 8, 2015

Tunisia and Morocco came under French control much later than Algeria, in 1883 and 1912 respectively, as part of the great “scramble for Africa” at the end of the nineteenth century.* From the French perspective, the imperial experience in Tunisia and Morocco was very different than that in Algeria.** In both states, French investors became […]

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By Sword and Plow: French Settlement in Algeria

January 27, 2015

The conquest of Algeria in 1830 was the beginning of France’s second period of imperial expansion. * Like many colonial wars, the conquest became a sinkhole, eating armed forces and resources that many believed could better be used back home in France, which was in political turmoil following the July Revolution. (You could argue that […]

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History On Display: Amazing Grace, the Musical

October 18, 2014

Earlier this week, My Own True Love and I took a chance on the “pre-Broadway world premier” of a musical by a new composer/playwright based on the historical story of John Newton (1725-1807), the slave trader turned Anglican minister and abolitionist who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”.  At a minimum, we knew there would be […]

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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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