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History in Focus

the guide to historical resources • Issue 11: Migration •


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Author's response


Africa Encountered: European Contacts and Evidence 1450-1700

by P.E.H. Hair
ISBN: 0860786269; pp. 346, 1997

Robin Law

University of York

Since I approve of the Reviews in History project, I reply to Robin Law's fair and generous review of a small collection of my articles, Africa Encountered (1997), although what follows is in no sense a rejoinder. Instead I answer a couple of queries.

The selection of articles was not wholly my choice and was made not entirely for academic reasons, as is very understandable. I have jollier stuff elsewhere. But I admit that I was anxious to include in the volume, and thus make more accessible to younger scholars, particularly those in Africa, a number of pieces locked away in obscure (and sometimes deceased) journals. The sale of enough copies of Africa Encountered may enable the publisher to invite a second selection! I do regret that other commitments prevented me from undertaking a more extensive set of postscripts, listing errors exposed and new knowledge gained, by me and more often by others. But I had hoped that the inclusion of a bibliography of my writings (in the field of African and world history) would, from a viewing merely of titles, encourage the odd scholar to discover my second thought, corrections and apologies.

As regards Robin Law's reasoning comments on the introduction where I lay out my ideological stall, I find the last paragraph of his review particularly intriguing. He asks about early 'training' in other fields of history. A little while ago, the most suitable early training for my generation of African historians was discussed by John Page, considering the early careers of the trio of the Fathers of African History - Roland Oliver, Jan Vansina, and himself. See History in Africa, 20 (1993), 15-26. I recommend it.

July 1997

Original review

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