Historiography of British Africa
The first historical studies in English appeared in the 1890s, and followed one of four approaches. 1) The territorial narrative was typically written by a veteran soldier or civil servant who gave heavy emphasis to what he had seen. 2) The "apologia" were essays designed to justify British policies. 3) Popularizers tried to reach a large audience. 4) Compendia appeared designed to combine academic and official credentials. Professional scholarship appeared around 1900, and began with the study of business operations, typically using government documents and unpublished archives.[citation needed
The economic approach was widely practiced in the 1930s, primarily to provide descriptions of the changes underway in the previous half-century. In 1935, American historian William L. Langer published The Diplomacy of Imperialism: 1890–1902, a book that is still widely cited. In 1939, Oxford professor Reginald Copeland published The Exploitation of East Africa, 1856–1890: The Slave Trade and the Scramble, another popular treatment.
World War II diverted most scholars to wartime projects and accounted for a pause in scholarship during the 1940s.
By the 1950s many African students were studying in British universities, and they produced a demand for new scholarship, and started themselves to supply it as well. Oxford University became the main center for African studies, with activity as well at Cambridge University and the London School of Economics. The perspective of British government policymakers or international business operations slowly gave way to a new interest in the activities of the natives, especially nationalistic movements and the growing demand for independence. The major breakthrough came from Ronald Robinson and John Andrew Gallagher, especially with their studies of the impact of free trade on Africa.In 1985 The Oxford History of South Africa (2 vols.) was published,attempting to synthesize the available materials. In 2013, The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History was published,bringing the scholarship up to date.
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