This history of African motherhood over the longue duree demonstrates that it was, ideologically and practically, central to social, economic, cultural and political life. The book explores how people in the North Nyanzan societies of Uganda used an ideology of motherhood to shape their communities. More than biology, motherhood created essential social and political connections that cut across patrilineal and cultural-linguistic divides. The importance of motherhood as an ideology and a social institution meant that in chiefdoms and kingdoms queen mothers were powerful officials who legitimated the power of kings. This was the case in Buganda, the many kingdoms of Busoga, and the polities of Bugwere. By taking a long-term perspective from c.700 to 1900 CE and using an interdisciplinary approach - drawing on historical linguistics, comparative ethnography, and oral traditions and literature, as well as archival sources - this book shows the durability, mutability and complexity of ideologies of motherhood in this region.
Rhiannon Stephens is Assistant Professor of African History at Columbia University. Her work has been published in scholarly journals such as Past and Present and the Journal of African History. She received her PhD in history from Northwestern University.
Introduction; 1. Writing pre-colonial African history: words and other historical fragments; 2. Motherhood in North Nyanza, eighth through the twelfth century; 3. Consolidation and adaptation: the politics of motherhood in early Buganda and South Kyoga, thirteenth through the fifteenth century; 4. Mothering the kingdoms: Buganda, Busoga, and East Kyoga, sixteenth through the eighteenth century; 5. Contesting the authority of mothers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; Conclusion.