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Centre of African Studies: Events


Dying for History: The Politics of Ta’rikh in the Niger Bend

Dying for History: The Politics of Ta’rikh in the Niger Bend
Speaker: Jeremy Dell # University of Edinburgh
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Date and Time
30th Sep 2020 16:00 - 30th Sep 2020 17:30
Microsoft Teams

Locally authored histories, or ta’rikh, have provided crucial sources for scholars of the Western Sahel, with the most famous undoubtedly being ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Saʿdī's Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān (The History of the Sudan). Composed in the mid-seventeenth century by a bureaucrat employed in the Moroccan administration of Timbuktu, the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān covers more than five hundred years of Sahelian history, from the rise the Songhay Empire to its defeat at the hands of the Saʿdian Dynasty of Marrakesh in 1591. This seminar will explore the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān’s reception and translation by 19th European travelers and Orientalists, arguing that despite the work’s centrality to the reconstruction of the Western Sahel’s precolonial past, we still know relatively little about how such texts actually circulated within Sahelian societies. In order to illuminate this latter point, it will also analyze an early twentieth-century dispute over the possession of another historical chronicle—“The Chronicle of Farabongo”—in a village roughly 60 kilometers to the southwest of Al-Saʿdī’s Timbuktu. By tracing the material history of such a work, we can begin to see the wider stakes involved in historical writing in the Western Sahel. 

Freshers 2013