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Africa and World War II

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Timothy Parsons, Judith A. Byfield, Carolyn Brown, Louis Grundlingh, Driss Maghraoui, Catherine Bogosian Ash, William G. Clarence-Smith, Allen M. Howard, Eric T. Jennings, Malyn Newitt, Thaddeus Sunseri, Giulia Barrera, Suryakanthie Chetty, Ruth Ginio, Carina Ray, Barbara M. Cooper, Hailu Habtu, Daniel Hutchinson, Raffael Scheck, Elizabeth Schmidt, Ahmad Sikainga, Carol Summers
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  • Date Published: April 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107630222

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About the Authors
  • This volume considers the military, economic, and political significance of Africa during World War II. The essays feature new research and innovative approaches to the historiography of Africa and bring to the fore issues of race, gender, and labor during the war, topics that have not yet received much critical attention. It explores the experiences of male and female combatants, peasant producers, women traders, missionaries, and sex workers. The first section offers three introductory essays that give a continent-wide overview of how Africa sustained the Allied effort through labor and resources. The six sections that follow offer individual case studies from different parts of the continent. Contributors offer a macro and micro view of the multiple levels on which Africa's contributions shaped the war as well as the ways in which the war affected individuals and communities and transformed Africa's political, economic, and social landscape.

    • Illustrates Africa's centrality to the Allied victory
    • Demonstrates the critical impact of the war in Africa
    • Uniquely highlights race and gender issues
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "For Africans, World War II began in 1935 with Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, and it lasted well beyond 1945, as Africans demanded that their contributions and sacrifices for the Allied war effort be recognized. Africa and World War II brings together well-researched and compelling accounts by accomplished scholars, exploring not only the importance of Africans’ roles as soldiers and producers, but the war’s effects on class, race, and gender relations. This collection makes clear the importance of the war in provoking a crisis in colonial empires and transforming the nature of political mobilization across the African continent."
    Frederick Cooper, author of Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960

    "A seminal book marking a new stage in studies of the Second World War in Africa. These wide-ranging essays offer new ideas, insights, and analyses of the pervasive impact of the Second World War throughout the continent. Here are model macro- and micro-studies to stimulate further research on this important period of Africa’s recent past."
    David Killingray, School of Advanced Study, University of London

    "Lest we forget, this book reminds us of the vital role that African men and women and African resources played in winning a supposedly good war. Often seen simply as forerunner to decolonization, the Second World War had its own African history. It conscripted sweated African labor, female and male; it recruited African masculinity into a racial equality of sacrifice while denying it equality of esteem; it opened African eyes to the possibilities of a different world. This comprehensive collection portrays a war fought not only on many frontlines but also, and with more lasting significance, in households and communities far behind them."
    John Lonsdale, Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge

    "The editors merit high praise indeed for assembling this large and impressive collection. The volume sheds much new light on the remarkably neglected African dimension of the ‘global’ war of 1939–1945. The authors of the various essays demonstrate how events north and south of the Sahara affected the outcome of the conflict, and also how the economic, political, and cultural developments of the period affected profoundly the lives of Africans, men and women alike."
    Evan Mawdsley, University of Glasgow

    "This book offers a very substantial contribution to an understanding of both the significant role of African peoples and resources in Allied victory in World War II and of the impact of the war on the peoples of the continent."
    Gerhard L. Weinberg, Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

    'Although there have been several recent works on the role of various European colonies in World War II, the two dozen plus essays in this volume by an international group of scholars demonstrate that much ground remains to be covered. … As a volume, this will prove of great value to serious scholars of Africa, while individual essays may be of interested to those with narrower interests, such as the Free French movement or various military options.' NYMAS Review

    'This collection of essays by historians and political scientists from across the English-speaking world examine various aspects of the political and diplomatic institutions and decisions that had immediate influence on the outbreak of the Great War. The essays fall into four groups, 'Overview of Debates about the Causes of the First World War', 'Structure and Agency', 'The Question of Preventive War', and 'The Role of the Other Powers'. The essays are all well-documented and thoughtful, but tend to be analytical, rather than narrative, often fall into political science jargon, and presuppose considerable knowledge of events and actors on the part of the reader. An excellent work, this is primarily for the serious scholar of the Great War and of decision-making in times of crisis.' A. A. Nofi, StrategyPage (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107630222
    • length: 564 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 150 x 33 mm
    • weight: 0.8kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The experiences of ordinary Africans in World War II T. Parsons
    2. Producing for the war J. A. Byfield
    3. African labor in the making of World War II C. Brown
    4. The military, race, and resistance: the conundrums of recruiting black South African men during the Second World War L. Grundlingh
    5. The Moroccan 'effort de guerre' in World War II D. Maghraoui
    6. Free to coerce: forced labor during and after the Vichy years in French West Africa C. B. Ash
    7. No country fit for heroes: the plight of disabled Kenyan veterans T. Parsons
    8. Women, rice, and war: political and economic crisis in war-time Abeokuta (Nigeria) J. A. Byfield
    9. Africa's 'battle for rubber' in the Second World War W. G. Clarence-Smith
    10. Freetown and World War II: strategic militarization, accommodation, and resistance A. M. Howard
    11. Free France, unfree Africa: extraction and labor in French Equatorial Africa under free French rule E. T. Jennings
    12. The Portuguese African colonies and World War II M. Newitt
    13. Pit sawyers, rubber tappers, and forest farmers: World War II and the transformation of the Tanzanian forests T. Sunseri
    14. Wrestling with race on the eve of human rights: British management of the color line in post-fascist Eritrea G. Barrera
    15. To be treated as a man: masculinity, race, and the imperial state in the Nigerian coal industry C. Brown
    16. 'A white man's war': settler masculinity in the Union Defense Force, 1939–45 S. Chetty
    17. African soldiers, French women, and colonial fears during and after World War II R. Ginio
    18. World War II and the sex trade in British West Africa C. Ray
    19. American missions in war-time French West Africa B. M. Cooper
    20. Fighting fascism: Ethiopian women patriots 1935–41 H. Habtu and J. A. Byfield
    21. Defending the land of their ancestors: African American military experience in Africa during World War II D. Hutchinson
    22. French African soldiers in German POW camps, 1940–5 R. Scheck
    23. Resistance and mobilization: Guinea and World War II E. Schmidt
    24. Sudanese response to World War II A. Sikainga
    25. Uganda after World War II C. Summers
    26. Consequences of the war A. Sikainga.

  • Editors

    Judith A. Byfield, Cornell University, New York
    Judith A. Byfield is Associate Professor of History at Cornell University, teaching African and Caribbean history. She is coeditor of Gendering the African Diaspora: Women, Culture and Historical Change in the Caribbean and Nigerian Hinterland (2010) and author of The Bluest Hands: A Social and Economic History of Women Indigo Dyers in Western Nigeria, 1890–1940 (2002). She is a former president of the African Studies Association (2011) and is on the editorial board of the Blacks in the Diaspora series.

    Carolyn A. Brown, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
    Carolyn A. Brown is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is the author of We Are All Slaves: African Miners, Culture, and Resistance at the Enugu Government Colliery, Nigeria, 1914–1950 (2001). She is coeditor, with Paul Lovejoy, of Repercussions of the Atlantic Slave Trade: The Interior of the Bight of Biafra and the African Diaspora (2010). She is on the editorial board of Cambridge University Press's Africa Studies series and is a senior editor of the labor journal International Labor and Working Class History.

    Timothy Parsons, Washington University, St Louis
    Timothy Parsons holds a joint appointment as Professor of African History in the history department and in the African and African American studies program at Washington University, St Louis, where he also directs the international and area studies program. His primary publications include The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall (2010), Race, Resistance and the Boy Scout Movement in British Colonial Africa (2004), and The 1964 Army Mutinies and the Making of Modern East Africa (2003).

    Ahmad Alawad Sikainga, Ohio State University
    Ahmad Alawad Sikainga is Professor of History at the Ohio State University. He is the author of City of Steel and Fire: A Social History of Atbara, Sudan's Railway Town, 1906–1984 (2002), Slaves into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan (1996), Western Bahr al-Ghazal under British Rule, 1898–1956 (1990), and Sudan Defense Force: Origin and Role, 1925–1955 (1983). He is coeditor of Post-War Reconstruction in Africa (2006) and Civil War in Sudan (1993).


    Timothy Parsons, Judith A. Byfield, Carolyn Brown, Louis Grundlingh, Driss Maghraoui, Catherine Bogosian Ash, William G. Clarence-Smith, Allen M. Howard, Eric T. Jennings, Malyn Newitt, Thaddeus Sunseri, Giulia Barrera, Suryakanthie Chetty, Ruth Ginio, Carina Ray, Barbara M. Cooper, Hailu Habtu, Daniel Hutchinson, Raffael Scheck, Elizabeth Schmidt, Ahmad Sikainga, Carol Summers

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