My own history with David Henige goes back to 1985, when I had just finished a master's degree in African studies at the Centre of West African Studies in Birmingham, England, and was looking for a place and a supervisor for a planned doctoral dissertation involving a historiographical study of Nigeria. One of my supervisors, Tom McCaskie, suggested getting in touch with Henige, to see if he could assist me. The reply was elaborate and positive, which I appreciated much. Circumstances for graduate students at the time being quite different from the present, and funding systems for study abroad still in their infancy, the plan came to nothing. The connection with Henige and his work was there to stay, however.
This article is an effort to give a reflection on David Henige's career and his impact on the discipline of history in Africa, through his work as editor of History in Africa. The scope of the reflection is limited, as we concentrate on David's own contributions, rather than setting him and his work in a comparative framework. When David Henige started History in Africa in 1974, it was yet another scholarly journal on Africa, in an ever-growing series, counting already more than two hundred titles, as Henige pointed out himself. And indeed, in such circumstances, a new journal needs ‘to justify itself to the audience it addresses.’