On the fiftieth anniversary of an ambiguous event – the referendum giving French Africans the choice of immediate independence or a new status within a ‘French Community’ – this article points to the alternative forms of political action which opened up at certain moments in African history and how, at other moments, some of those alternatives closed down. It assesses concepts, issues and arguments used in writing the history of Africa, now that the recent African past – spanning the last years of colonial rule and the years of independence – is becoming a focus of historical inquiry.
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