Since the end of the 19th century Africa stood out as an agent in the globalization process; acting both as an element of direct action, particularly through the exploitation of its natural resources in the widest sense possible, but also through the unique features of its political situation as regards international relations. During the “Belle Époque” the network of transactions of goods and people had spread considerably, bringing remote and peripheral places, like the African territories, closer to the centre of the world-economy.
In 1914 when the First World War started all major European powers, with the exception of the Habsburg Empire, ruled over territories outside Europe. Although most of the clashes have occurred on European soil, the involvement of the African continent played an essential role within the Great War, which was a fundamental expression of the globalisation of the conflict: for over four years Africa provided human and material resources on an unprecedented scale to the Western Front. From the “black continent” standpoint, it is worth to note, how the First World War contrasted in terms of objectives, impact, scale and duration with the many conflicts that erupted throughout the nineteenth century, conducted mainly against native populations, and motivated by local and limited objectives.
The Great War represented a defining moment, introducing a profound break in the course of European and global contemporary history, whose rupturing and long-lasting effects significantly involved, marked and influenced the population and the history of all European empires in Africa. Yet, this particular front continues to be one of the less studied aspects of the First World War.
In January 2013 scholars from different research areas and countries came together and created the International Network for the Study of the Great War in Africa. The Network is based at the Instituto de História Contemporânea at NOVA University of Lisbon and exists to promote studies related to the African front of the Great War, analysing such topics as:
• the dispute of empires;
• the mobilization and the strategy of the European powers toward war in Africa;
• the protection, preservation and maintenance of the integrity of colonial empires;
• race and empire;
• social and culture history of soldiers in colonial armies;
• war and religion in Africa;
• war and peace in Africa.
Collaborative research and interdisciplinary exchange among members will be encouraged. Membership is free.
The Network meets every two years in early July, for a conference. All interested scholars are welcome to participate, and to submit a paper proposal. More details about the themes of the first meeting, to be held in Lisbon, on July 2013 will be announced shortly.
The forthcoming 100th anniversary of World War I, in 2014, evidently raises great interest both at domestic and international level, with multiple initiatives already under way in many countries. In addition to the importance of the study of World War I and its impacts in Africa, in a multiple and global perspective at the national level, the evocation of the centenary, organised and studied in the international context, involves a dynamic that requires an active role from all countries, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness among scholars and the general public on the African front of the Great War.
Such evocations are still significant opportunities to stimulate the renewal and further research and historical dissemination and to raise awareness of the importance of historical memory, knowledge, valuing and dissemination of material and immaterial heritage and the importance of its preservation. It is through dialogue with the past, by promoting debate and scientific dissemination, and bearing in mind the new practices and socio-cultural needs, that we may seek a true renewal, in historical continuity and active dialogue between past, present and future, in a conscious and dedicated way.
The Network intents to became an international forum for dialogue among the Great War in Africa scholars community, keeping them updated on current research topics. It is open to everyone.
If you wish to join please contact:
Anne Samson – Great War in East Africa Association
Michael Neiberg – US Army War College
Michelle Moyd – Indiana University – Bloomington
Pierre Purseigle – Yale University
Remy Porte - Service Historique de la Défense
Richard Fogarty – University at Albany – SUNY
Santanu Das - King's College - University of London
Ana Paula Pires – IHC- FCSH-Nova University of Lisbon
Maria Fernanda Rollo - IHC- FCSH-Nova University of Lisboa