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To Fiji with Measles

Terence Ranger: Plagues, 4 February 1999

The Black Death and the Transformation of the West 
by David Herlihy.
Harvard, 117 pp., £17.95, October 1997, 0 674 07613 3
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Plague, Pox and Pestilence 
edited by Kenneth Kiple.
Weidenfeld, 176 pp., £25, January 1997, 0 297 82254 3
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Epidemics and History: Disease, Power and Imperialism 
by Sheldon Watts.
Yale, 400 pp., £30, January 1997, 0 300 07015 2
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... So-called World History originated in an attempt to escape from the tyrannical perspective of dead white Euro-American males, yet that ‘world’ perspective has had the effect of making those same males more dominant than ever. Thus Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History (1982), however heroic in intention, ends up asserting that extra-European peoples did have a history, but it was a history of their relations with Euro-American economies ...

Dark Corners

Terence Ranger, 9 July 1987

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself 
by Harriet Jacobs, edited by Jean Fagan Yellin.
Harvard, 306 pp., £29.95, July 1987, 9780674447455
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The Spirit and the Drum: A Memoir of Africa 
by Edith Turner.
University of Arizona Press, 165 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 8165 1009 1
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Kaffir Boy: Growing out of Apartheid 
by Mark Mathabane.
Bodley Head, 354 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 370 31058 6
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... The publishers of each of these books claim a revelation of common experience and suffering through the true recounting of an individual life. Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself was first published anonymously in 1861. The dust-jacket of this new edition hails it both as a true life-story and as a classic expression of ‘the Afro-American experience ...

The Road to Independence

David Caute, 21 November 1985

Peasant Consciousness and Guerrilla War in Zimbabwe 
by Terence Ranger.
James Currey, 377 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 85255 000 6
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Guns and Rain: Guerrillas and Spirit Mediums in Zimbabwe 
by David Lan.
James Currey, 244 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 0 85255 200 9
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... Terence Ranger’s major new exploration of Zimbabwean peasant politics spans the ninety years from the early colonial period to the 1980s. While drawing heavily on his own intensive research in the Makoni district of Manicaland – virtually a scholarly fief of his – Ranger constantly illuminates Rhodesia’s tortuous passage to majority rule by comparison with two contrasting ‘models’ of decolonisation: Kenya (conservative) and Mozambique (a luta continua ...


Norman Stone, 21 July 1983

The Invention of Tradition 
edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger.
Cambridge, 320 pp., £17.50, March 1983, 0 521 24645 8
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... One of Arnold Toynbee’s Laws was that, in any civilisation, mannered imitation of the past was a Bad Thing: he chose the Poles’ decision to reconstruct the Old City of Warsaw after 1945 as an instance, and would have much preferred to see them raze the ruins and build a ‘city of towers’ on modernistic lines. In a similar way, Victor Hugo remarked of the post-Napoleonic Bourbons that ‘nothing is more decrepit than at the moment of its restoration ...

Zero Grazing

John Ryle, 5 November 1992

To Blight with Plague: Studies in a Literary Theme 
by Barbara Fass Leavy.
New York, 237 pp., £27.95, August 1992, 0 8147 5059 1
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Epidemics and Ideas: Essays on the Historical Perception of Pestilence 
edited by Terence Ranger and Paul Slack.
Cambridge, 346 pp., £35, April 1992, 9780521402767
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The Fourth Horseman: A Short History of Epidemics, Plagues and Other Scourges 
by Andrew Nikiforuk.
Fourth Estate, 200 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 1 85702 051 0
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In Time of Plague: The History and Social Consequences of Lethal Epidemic Disease 
edited by Arien Mack.
New York, 272 pp., $35, November 1991, 0 8147 5467 8
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Miasmas and Disease: Public Health and the Environment in the Pre-Industrial Age 
by Carlo Cipolla, translated by Elizabeth Potter.
Yale, 101 pp., £16.95, March 1992, 0 300 04806 8
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International Journal of STD and Aids. Vol. II, Supplement I: Aids and the Epidemics of History 
edited by Harry Rolin, Richard Creese and Ronald Mann.
Royal Society of Medicine, January 2000, 0 00 956462 4
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Monopolies of Loss 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 250 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 571 16691 1
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Aids in Africa: Its Present and Future Impact 
edited by Tony Barrett and Piers Blaikie.
Belhaven, 193 pp., £35, January 1992, 1 85293 115 9
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... a handful of articles in scholarly periodicals (the African response is considered, inter alia, by Terence Ranger in Epidemics and Ideas). And there is Oliver Sacks’s Awakenings, on the outbreak of encephalitis lethargia that was triggered by the flu. But that’s it. Most people know more about smallpox, or the plague of 1665. Why should this be? The ...

With Gods on Their Side

Basil Davidson, 7 September 1995

The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 
by Adrian Hastings.
Oxford, 706 pp., £65, January 1995, 0 19 826921 8
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A History of Christianity in Africa from Antiquity to the Present 
by Elizabeth Isichei.
SPCK, 420 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 281 04764 2
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Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression 
edited by Thomas Blakely, Walter van Beek and Dennis Thomson.
Currey, 512 pp., £45, November 1994, 0 85255 206 8
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... the saga of ‘independency’ which continues to flourish from indigenous roots. That is why Terence Ranger, writing in Religion in Africa with his unfailingly original way of measuring African religious matters, can say that anyone who may now aspire ‘to think in black’ – the people he has in mind are those of eastern Zimbabwe, but the point ...

Contra Mundum

Edward Said, 9 March 1995

Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 
by Eric Hobsbawm.
Joseph, 627 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 7181 3307 2
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... will not do to brush aside as irrelevant. This blindspot of Hobsbawm’s is very surprising. With Terence Ranger, he is a pioneer in the study of ‘invented tradition’, those modern formations that are part fantasy, part political exigency, part power-play. Yet even about this subject, clearly related to the new appearance of religious mass ...

What is a tribe?

Mahmood Mamdani, 13 September 2012

... tribes. In others, tribes were designated arbitrarily – or ‘invented’, as Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger meant the term in The Invention of Tradition (1983). The common aspect of all these cases is that tribe was everywhere an administrative unit during the colonial period, and tribal identity an officially designated administrative identity. The ...

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

... ever-widening regional conversation, from Achebe on ‘English and the African Writer’, through Terence Ranger on Roger Casement, to Paul Theroux on Tarzan, a send-up of expatriate attitudes and an early example of cultural studies in Africa.Shortly after Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in Ghana in 1966, Mazrui published ‘Nkrumah: The Leninist ...

Frameworks of Comparison

Benedict Anderson, 21 January 2016

... on nationalism in the UK with The Invention of Tradition (1983), a collection he compiled with Terence Ranger. The odd man out was Tom Nairn, strictly Scottish. All these people more or less knew one another. All except Nairn were very attached to the UK, partly because it was largely uncontaminated by fascism and violent anti-Semitism, and partly ...

No Waverers Allowed

Clair Wills: Eamonn McCann, 23 May 2019

War and an Irish Town 
by Eamonn McCann.
Haymarket, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2018, 978 1 60846 567 5
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... But we hadn’t expected the animal brutality of the RUC,’ says McCann. By November 1968 Terence O’Neill, the prime minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Unionist Party, was promising change. His proposals included abolishing Derry Corporation and instituting universal suffrage. McCann argues that if these reforms had come three months ...

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