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Accepted paper:

From The Ashes Reborn: Reconsidering the "Time of Troubles" in Southern Africa in the Context of Global History


Jan-Bart Gewald (Leiden University)

Paper long abstract:

In Southern African history the period described as the Mfecane "Time of Troubles" is seen as determining much of contemporary ethnic identity and land distribution in the sub-continent. However recent work on societal collapse indicates that societies do not collapse due to single causes, history is far more complex and messy. We assert that the "Time of Troubles"/Mfecane is more complex in origin and consequences than the activities of a single man, Shaka Zulu, or a single ethnicity, and can be better understood in the context of global interactions. This insight, coupled with a greater appreciation for Global interactions, allows us to reconsider the Mfecane in the context of: a.) Population growth brought about by the introduction of New World Crops. b.) Climate change and resulting crop failures brought about by the volcanoes Laki in Iceland (1784) and Tambora in Indonesia (1815). c.) Mass-migration brought about by famine. d.) The transition of the Cape in the context of the Global Napoleonic wars. e.) Rapidly industrializing Great Britain, in which massive population growth, mass-migration and professional standing armies were the norm. f.) Mass-migration of Boer settlers from the Cape in the Groot Trek of 1836. The paper drawing on the disciplines of history, archaeology and anthropology, seeks to place this period of southern African history in a broader global context.

panel D19
Disciplinary trends in Africa: history (double panel)