Archive | Blogs

A research visit to Benin

In this post, Prof Tony Chafer reports on his recent research trip in Benin and some of the challenges and opportunities available there for scholars working on French West Africa. Having worked on decolonisation in former French West Africa for many years, Alex Keese and I wondered why no one, in the many studies we have read, has used the Benin archives. We knew of academics who had used the Senegal national archives, those of Mali, Mauritania and – to a lesser extent – Côte d’Ivoire, but no one, it seemed, had used the Benin archives. Yet Dahomey (modern Benin) had once been described as the Latin quarter of Africa, because of the number of French-educated Africans trained there, and graduates from its schools were to be found working for the colonial administration throughout French West Africa. The territory’s importance for any study of decolonisation in West Africa was thus beyond doubt. Initial prospects for the visit did not look good. There was no sign of the national archives on the internet and it was only when I stumbled across a local press article on the web, reporting on the events that had been organised that week to mark the […]

Continue Reading 0

Hélène de Gobineau’s Noblesse d’Afrique

Prof Margaret Majumdar, Professor of Francophone Studies, University of Portsmouth December 2014’s edition of Le Monde diplomatique discusses the newly republished edition of Hélène de Gobineau’s Noblesse d’Afrique by Présence africaine (Paris, 2014), along with other works relating to the role of African colonial troops in the two world wars. Originally published in Paris in 1946 by Fasquelle éditeurs, this book relates the experiences and stories of African soldiers during the Second World War. These were told to Hélène de Gobineau during her time as a volunteer in prisoner-of-war camps and hospitals where she came into contact with captured African soldiers, many of whom would die of disease, especially tuberculosis. They are remarkable for the stories of individual courage in the fight to preserve a basic human dignity, while not devoid of humour and everyday concerns. Hélène de Gobineau (1903-1958) studied ethnology at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris and was married to the grandson of Arthur de Gobineau, author of Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines. She clearly did not share the latter’s views on racial inequality and praised the strength and humanity of the African soldiers who took part in the Second World War, as well as their desire […]

Continue Reading 0