Africa

“Dogs Were Our Defenders!” Canines, Carnivores, and Colonialism in Namibia

“Dogs were our defenders! For black men who didn’t have guns . . .”
A. Christiaan (interview, January 18, 2016)

In May 1922, the Bondelswarts (a Nama nation in southern Namibia) took up arms against the South African colonial administration.[1] The short-lived and poorly organized uprising was put down with ground troops, machine guns, and airplane bombing of the reserve. Prior to the uprising, the Nama constantly complained over a tax on dog ownership that was introduced into the rural areas in 1917.

Killing for Sheep: Locating “Vermin” in the Namibian Archives

Over the course of my research into sheep farming in Namibia during the colonial and apartheid periods (emphasis on 1915–82), I’ve grown to realize that I’m writing less and less about sheep and more about all sorts of other animals, from jackals to hares and rock hyrax. Sheep farming involved a lot of killing, not just of ewes for mutton or newborn karakul lambs for pelts, but also of mammals that interfered with production. Throughout the 20th century, these other animals—carnivores and herbivores alike—were classified as “vermin,” or ongedierte in Afrikaans, which translates literally to a “non-animal” or a “de-animaled” entity.

Teaching the Slave Trade with Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database

One of the most impressive archives on the web, Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database is the product of a massive undertaking from a network of scholars, technology experts, and government organizations from around the world who have invested thousands of hours into building a database of nearly 36,000 slaving voyages. Users can search the database using a variety of variables including a ship’s name, year of arrival, number of captives transported, outcome of voyage, embarkation and disembarkation locations, and the ship’s flag.

The Politics of Pepper: Deciphering a Venetian-Mamluk Gift Exchange

At the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice, just a few feet from Piazza San Marco, where thousands of tourists come each day to pose for pictures and eat gelato, sits a manuscript—Codice Marciano It. XI, 66—containing an invaluable account of a crucial diplomatic mission to Egypt from the 16th century. I consulted this text, which holds the only surviving version of Giovanni Danese’s eyewitness report of Ambassador Benedetto Sanudo’s embassy to the sultan in 1503. Danese, Sanudo’s personal secretary, has left us a wealth of information on the materially based forms of diplomacy that helped maintain a stable relationship between Venetians and Mamluks in the early modern period.

Teaching the End of Empire: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Decolonization

By Jessica Pearson-Patel

In the summer of 2013, I had the incredible fortune to participate in the National History Center’s 8th International Seminar on Decolonization in Washington, DC. I had just received my PhD in history and French studies at New York University and was about to start a postdoc at Tulane University. Although much of the seminar focused on helping participants advance their own research projects on the history of decolonization, I found that some of the most engaging conversations I had with both the seminar faculty and with my fellow participants centered on teaching.

The Aftertaste of Empire: Food and Decolonization

By Amanda Banacki Perry

“I’m not getting curry powder at all. Being a Brit, we eat a lot of curry, and I don’t taste it in this.” As I was watching Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship, this comment by Lorraine Pascale, one of the judges on the show, jumped out at me. Her comment, which drew on a legacy of presumed British culinary expertise concerning curry, carried a clear message: Brits know their curry.[1] And yet, the process by which curry became one of the most popular dishes in modern Britain is a complicated one of imperial appropriation, invention, and transformation.