chapter  1
52 Pages

From African Historiographies to an African Philosophy of History

WithE. S. Atieno-Odhiambo

The quest for an African philosophy of history has continued to concern three generations of African historians. Precolonial historiographies of Africa consisted of oral histories as well as written accounts. The oral histories included myths, legends, epics, poetry, parable, and narrative. Colonial historiography produced its own knowledge of Africa, based on the premise of European superiority and the civilizing nature of its mission. The setting up of western-type universities in Africa on the eve of independence marked a significant milestone in what African scholars came to regard as the recovery of African initiative. The meta-narrative of the nationalist historiography begins with Thomas Hodgkin's Nationalism in Tropical Africa, a populist text which sought to equate nationalism with any protest phenomenon generally. South Africa's dominant historiography is orthodox, because it has been constructed by white scholars trained in and adhering to the western canon.