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The Trouble with the African Past

28 November 2013

Professor Richard Reid, History of Africa at SOAS, University of London will be giving his inaugural lecture on the African past, looking at the significance of precolonial history which has declined markedly in the public and professional eyes of the people of sub-Saharan Africa over the last forty years.

The lecture will take place on Wednesday 4 December in the Brunei Building at SOAS. Professor Reid will demonstrate how history has been demonised – depicted as a deeply dangerous and as the source of savagery and instability – or portrayed as irrelevant when set alongside the needs of economic modernisation and development.

This lecture explores this trend in the context of Uganda, chosen for its particularly rich oral and literary heritage and its complex and troubled twentieth century. Professor Reid will consider the role of History in a modern African society vis-à-vis the developmental agendas and notions of economic growth against which African ‘progress’ and prospects for ‘stability’ are currently measured.

Professor Reid was at SOAS between 1993 and 1996 as a PhD student. He then taught at the University of Asmara (Eritrea) for several years, where he was part of team which launched the country’s first History degree programme; and at Durham University, from where he came to SOAS as a lecturer in 2007. His work has focused primarily on the history of warfare and militarism in Africa, notably eastern and northeast Africa, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, and has published numerous books and articles on the subject. He is currently an editor of the Journal of African History, and in addition to the research project on which this lecture is based, he is working on a modern history of Uganda.