chapter  [1]
26 Pages

The Wars of August: Diagonal Narrative in African History

WithRobert W. Harms

The growth of teaching and research on the history of precolonial tropical Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s presented a challenge to the Western historical consciousness. Braudel's ideas provided historians of precolonial tropical Africa with a way of determining to what extent the findings of present-day field work or early colonial ethnography could be used to illuminate the precolonial past. The social, demographic, and economic circumstances of life in the Nsangasi swamps before the inevitable changes of the colonial period had to be reconstructed by field work to provide the synchronic baseline from which to identify institutional changes and infer processes. There is some indication that, at least for the eastern edge of the swamps, the wars of August became institutionalized sometime after the founding of Minsange. The evidence is that, in the late nineteenth century, people in villages that claimed ancestry in Minsange never attacked other villages claiming ancestry in Minsange.