This pioneering book was one of the first to place the history of East Africa within the context of the environment. It has been used continuously for student teaching. It is now reissued with an introduction placing it within the debate that has developed on the subject; there is also an updated bibliography.
The book puts people at the centre of events. It thus serves as a modification to nationalist history with its emphasis on leaders. It presents environmental factors that had been underestimated; for instance, it points to the critical importance of the rinderpest outbreak.
Helge Kjekshus provides evidence to suggest that the nineteenth century was a period of relative prosperity with well-developed trade. He questions the view that warfare was pervasive and that the slave trade led to depopulation. He points to a balance between man and the environment.
This book is reissued at the same time as the first publication of Custodians of the Land: Ecology and Culture in the History of Tanzania edited by Gregory Maddox, James I. Giblin and Isaria N. Kimambo. The footnotes in that book point to the importance of the work of Helge Kjekshus.
Helge Kjekshus taught Political Science at the University of Dar es Salaam.
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