“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. 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.
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.
The image of the “shell-shocked soldier” remains one of the most enduring of the First World War. His symptoms have become fundamental to understanding the war and the damage it inflicted on the human mind and spirit. Soldiers, however, were not the only war participants to suffer psychological trauma. Women—both on the battle front and the home front—exhibited symptoms of trauma directly related to their war experience, as evidenced by case notes, hospital records, pension files, and correspondence. It is their experiences that I wish to highlight in my AHA Today summer contest blog posts.
The AHA is pleased to announce the winners of our 2017 AHA Today Blog Contest. Over the course of the summer, these historians will be writing for AHA Today about the archival research process and historical documents relevant to their dissertations.
A key skill for 21st-century historians, whether they work in the professoriate, public history, government, publishing, or beyond, is the ability to communicate through a variety of media to different audiences. Many historians have turned to blogging to reach a broad public, and the success of historical writing online demonstrates a certain hunger for historians’ point of view.
This summer, three history graduate students presented their research on subjects as varied as plantation architecture, gift exchange between Muslims and Christians in the early modern Mediterranean, and Reconstruction politics in Mississippi on the pages of AHA Today. Our bloggers talked about the challenges of doing research—from studying decrepit buildings with little or no historical record to discovering that the central figure of their research was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. They described cross-cultural interactions between groups that are traditionally seen as having little in common and unearthed the messy histories of slavery and racial politics in the South.
I was wrapping up the second to last chapter of my MA thesis when I received a call from a local historian from Holly Springs, Mississippi. During our conversation, my colleague read out an excerpt from a short biographical sketch about Dr. William M. Compton that she’d found in a local history book published in the 1930s. What struck me about the sketch was that it named Compton as the founder and “Grand Cyclops” of Marshall County’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.