This book is not addressed to the general reader interested in African history. As Professor Vansina says, "this work will remind the reader very often of a Swiss cheese-all holes with enough cheese to keep the holes together." However, for the professional student of Central African history and ethnology, it is required reading. Vansina outlines the fluctuating fortunes of the kingdoms and the chiefdoms in the Central African Savanna, north of the Zambesi and south of the Equatorial forest (lying in contemporary Angola, Zambia, and the Congo), from dim fourteenth century beginnings to the final collapse about 1900. Sources in an impressive range of western and southern European languages are employed, these include archives, travellers', traders' and missionaries' reports, and the ethnographic record. The author's own work among the Bakuba gives him the necessary perspective. The import of Professor Vansina's argument is perhaps best grasped by comparing his data with what we know of the East African inter-lacustrine kingdoms. Whereas the immigrant pastoral Nilotic minorities provided distinct ruling aristocracies for most inter-lacustrine kingdoms, usually with economic differentiation between the rulers and the ruled, Vansina's kingdoms are relatively homogeneous and incorporate, at best, adjacent Bantu peoples. "... the varying
Journal of Asian and African Studies (in 2002 continued as African and Asian Studies) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1967
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