To understand the genocide and other dramatic events of Rwanda's recent past, one must understand the history of the earlier realm. Jan Vansina provides a critique of the history recorded by early missionaries and court historians and provides a bottom-up view, drawing on hundreds of grassroots narratives. He describes the genesis of the Hutu and Tutsi identities, their growing social and political differences, their bitter feuds, revolts, and massacres, and the relevance of this dramatic history to the post-genocide Rwanda of today.
Jan Vansina is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor and the Vilas Professor in History and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His many books include his 1994 memoir Living with Africa, Oral Tradition as History, Kingdoms of the Savanna, and The Children of Woot, all published by the University of Wisconsin Press.