African History and the Tradition of Historical Writing
Keywords:African History, Eurocentric View, Historical Writing, African Historians
In the bid to establish the validity of African history and civilization, it is customary for the African scholars to prove that Africa has a long and glorious history before the advent of European colonial masters. Great efforts are usually made to show that this history is worthy of investigation like the history of Europe or that of the United States of America. Although African history has now become a respectable academic discipline in colleges and universities all over the world, it is important to realize that until about six decades ago, Africa was regarded by European historians and historical writers as a continent whose history only began with European intervention in Africa as from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, This study examines the European conception of African history and African response to those racist propaganda. Emphasis is laid on oral traditions as a valid and viable source for reconstructing African history and the ongoing trend in the tradition of historical writings in Africa by African and Africanist historians through time.
2. George Wilhem Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History, New York, Dover, Publications, 1956.
3. This famous phrase is from Professor H.R. Trevor Roper, “The Rise of Christian Europe”, Listener, London, November 28, 1963.
4. See, C.G. Seligman, Races of Africa, London,1930 (later editions), 1957, 1966; Edith E. Sanders, “The Hamitic Hypothesis: Its Origin and Functions in Time Perspective”, Journal of African History (JAH), Vol. 1, No. 4, (1969), pp. 521-532.
5. See E. J. Alagoa, “The Python’s Eye: The Past in the Living Present”, University of Port-Harcourt Inaugural Lectures, Harrison Pub. Coy, 1981, p. 17
6. The Late 19th Century was the high-water mark of European Imperialism. The period also witnessed the vulgarization of science in the hands of the social Darwinian theorists and anthropologists who supplied the much needed intellectual justification for the imposition of European rule on so-called “weaker races” of the world.
7. See E.J. Alagoa, The Python’s Eye…, 1981, p. 19
8. See Nigeria Magazine 115-116, 1975, p. 10
9. See Jan Vansina, Oral Traditions: A Study in Historical Methodology, London, Penguin, 1965; also, Jan. Vansina, “Recording the Oral History of the Bakuba” in Journal of African History, 10, 1960, pp. 46-53.
10. West Africa has had a very long tradition of historical writing/scholarship dating back to the advent of Arabic writing from the 9th century onward.
11. See E.J. Alagoa, The Python’s Eye…,1981, p. 18
12. Olufemi Omosini, “Carl Christian Reindorf: His Contributions to, And Place in the Development of Modem African Historiography”, Department of History, University of Ife Seminar Papers, 1979-80, p. 2
13. The task was first placed on a firm scholarly footing by Jan Vansina in his seminal, work, Oral Traditions: A Study in Historical Methodology, published in French in 1961 and in English in 1965.
14. See George G. Igger and Harold T. Parker, (eds.), International Handbook of Historical Studies: Contemporary Research and Theory, (n.d.)
15. George G. Igger and Harold T. Parker (eds.), n.d.
16. E.J. Alagoa, The Python’s Eye..., 1981