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A History of African Motherhood
The Case of Uganda, 700–1900

$32.99 (C)

Part of African Studies

  • Date Published: August 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107547193

$ 32.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This history of African motherhood over the longue durée 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.

    • New approach to gender in African history with focus on motherhood as an ideology and social institution
    • First book-length study of history of motherhood in pre-colonial Africa
    • Interdisciplinary approach drawing on historical linguistics, oral traditions and comparative ethnography
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “This work is a major contribution to the expanding new, groundbreaking field of African historical studies, which aims to bring to light the hitherto neglected precolonial social history of the continent. The author shows a full and finely tuned grasp of the techniques of linguistic historical reconstruction and a complete knowledge of - and an ability to effectively incorporate - the literature and the historical sources.”
    Christopher Ehret, University of California, Los Angeles

    "This study provides a fascinating analysis of language regarding the nature of marriage and matrilateral relationships in patrilineal societies. It makes a convincing case for seeing marriage and motherhood as lying at the heart of alliance-building in precolonial Africa. This is the most readable and comprehensible text available based on African historical linguistics."
    Shane Doyle, University of Leeds

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107547193
    • length: 248 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.37kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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

  • Author

    Rhiannon Stephens, Columbia University, New York
    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.

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