This is the first published account of the role played by ideas of honour in African history from the fourteenth century to the present day. It argues that appreciation of these ideas is essential to an understanding of past and present African behaviour. Before European conquest, many African men cultivated heroic honour, others admired the civic virtues of the patriarchal householder, and women honoured one another for industry, endurance, and devotion to their families. These values both conflicted and blended with Islamic and Christian teachings. Colonial conquest fragmented heroic cultures, but inherited ideas of honour found new expression in regimental loyalty, respectability, professionalism, working-class masculinity, the changing gender relationships of the colonial order, and the nationalist movements which overthrew that order. Today, the same inherited notions obstruct democracy, inspire resistance to tyranny, and motivate the defence of dignity in the face of AIDS.
John Iliffe is Professor of African History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John's College. He is the author of several book on Africa, including The African Poor: A History (Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Africans: The History of a Continent (Cambridge University Press, 1995). The African Poor was awarded the Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association of the United States.
1. The comparative history of honour; Part I. Hero and Householder: 2. Men on horseback; 3. Honour and Islam; 4. Christian Ethiopia; 5. Honour, rank, and warfare among the Yoruba; 6. Honour and the state in West and Central Africa; 7. Honour without the state; 8. The honour of the slave; 9. Praise and slander in southern Africa; 10. Ekitiibwa and martyrdom; Part II. Fragmentation and Mutation: 11. The deaths of heroes; 12. Honour in defeat; 13. The honour of the mercenary; 14. Respectability; 15. Honour and gender; 16. Urbanisation and masculinity; 17. Honour, race, and nation; 18. Political honour; 19. To live in dignity; 20. Concluding questions.