Also in Global History, Globally
, Omar Gueye’s chapter on the history of global perspectives in Africa
asserts that it would be nearly impossible to write the history of Africa in the modern era without references to places, people and processes on different continents, with very few African historians having done so. As a consequence, African historians have almost always taken on a wider, if not yet global, perspective. They wrote the history of the continent or of substantial parts of it; they wrote pan-African history that included the African diaspora in the Americas or they wrote global economic history centered on Africa, as in the pioneering work of Abdoulaye Ly. Yet history was as central to the forging of African nation-states as it was elsewhere: in the twentieth century, history became a prime ideological battleground, as African historians asserted their versions of history against European-dominated narratives that saw Africa as a continent ‘without history’. Gueye describes the early and central role historians played in the struggle for national liberation and the ways that the global orientation weakened as newly forged nation-states sought to establish their legitimacy. Historians wrote national histories that became central to the project of nation making, but still these histories remained connected to events outside the continent. It was only later that the transnational perspective became less prominent, as African historians increasingly focused their work on subnational groups. Today, Gueye says, the wealth of research accumulated over the past decades has encouraged African historians to step back out into the world and connect aspects of the continent’s past, including local histories, to that of the globe.