Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Violent Intermediaries
African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa

By Michelle R. Moyd

“[Violent Intermediaries] offers a new and well researched perspective drawing on the insights of the social history of recent decades…[Moyd] has produced a fine social history of African soldiers as intermediaries in the everyday life of colonialism in German East Africa.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Moyd’s insistence on viewing askari not only as soldiers but also as men with social lives and aspirations that transcended their professional activities in maboma, on expeditions, and on the battlefield is refreshing and insightful.…Violent Intermediaries is a highly readable monograph offering an empathetic view on the stigmatized African soldiers of the colonial army in German East Africa.”


“Overcoming methodological challenges posed by translation, memory, and frankly a scarcity of documents disclosing askari voices, Moyd sought to understand these soldiers on their own terms. As a result she explores the everyday life of the askari, from within their households to their official and unofficial roles within colonial society, and she recovers a past widely misunderstood due to German praise and Tanzanian denunciation for their loyalty to the Schutztruppe (the official name of the German colonial army).… Violent Intermediaries, like other books in Ohio University Press’s New African Histories series edited by Jean Allman, Allen Isaacman, and Derek R. Peterson, expands the boundaries of African history in new and exciting directions.”

Canadian Journal of History

“[Moyd] furthers our understanding of everyday colonialism by fleshing out the lives of individuals who were simultaneously agents of colonialism and objects of colonial rule. …She uses [limited sources] thoroughly to provide rich and insightful details about this underexplored dimension of colonialism.”

American Historical Review

The askari, African soldiers recruited in the 1890s to fill the ranks of the German East African colonial army, occupy a unique space at the intersection of East African history, German colonial history, and military history.

Lauded by Germans for their loyalty during the East Africa campaign of World War I, but reviled by Tanzanians for the violence they committed during the making of the colonial state between 1890 and 1918, the askari have been poorly understood as historical agents. Violent Intermediaries situates them in their everyday household, community, military, and constabulary roles, as men who helped make colonialism in German East Africa.

By linking microhistories with wider nineteenth-century African historical processes, Michelle Moyd shows how as soldiers and colonial intermediaries, the askari built the colonial state while simultaneously carving out paths to respectability, becoming men of influence within their local contexts.

Through its focus on the making of empire from the ground up, Violent Intermediaries offers a fresh perspective on African colonial troops as state-making agents and critiques the mythologies surrounding the askari by focusing on the nature of colonial violence.

Michelle R. Moyd is associate professor of history and Red Cedar Distinguished Faculty at Michigan State University. Previously, she has been associate professor of history at Indiana University and a resident fellow at the International Research Center “Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History” of Humboldt University, Germany, and at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. She was also an instructor in the Department of History at the United States Air Force Academy.   More info →

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • A Note on Spellings, Currency, and Measurements
  • Introduction: Reconstructing Askari Realities
  • Chapter 1: Becoming Askari
    Narratives of Early Schutztruppe
    Recruitment in Context
  • Chapter 2: Making Askari Ways of War
    Military Training and Socialization
  • Chapter 3: The Askari Way of War
  • Chapter 4: Station Life
  • Chapter 5: Askari as Agents of Everyday Colonialism
  • Conclusion: Making Askari Myths
  • Chronology
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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Retail price: $34.95, S.
Release date: July 2014
304 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: July 2014
304 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Violent Intermediaries

“[Moyd] manages to reconcile the German inflated myth of the ‘loyal askari’ and the post-colonial Tanzanian emphasis [on] the askari as brutal agents of colonialism, by showing the many nuances in between—tracing the contradictory accounts to reveal simple human behavior.”


“I expect Violent Intermediaries to become the definitive English-language history of the East African Schutztruppe [the colonial forces of Germany]. Michelle Moyd has bravely and productively ventured into the realm of conventional military history to draw social and cultural conclusions from the ways that the Schutztruppe fought. This attention to how African soldiers carried out their primary mission is largely missing from most of the recent scholarship on colonial militaries.”

Timothy H. Parsons, professor of history, Washington University (St. Louis)

“Michelle Moyd brings to life the world of the East African askari in this imaginative and original study of their role in shaping German colonialism in Africa in the early twentieth century. Readable, well argued, and carefully researched, Violent Intermediaries is an important study that will enrich the work of scholars in many areas.”

Philippa Levine, author of The British Empire, Sunrise to Sunset

“Michelle Moyd offers a uniquely empathetic reading of colonial sources and a new narrative voice as she uncovers the histories of … actors that have been mythologized, misused, and misunderstood for more than a century.”

Jamie Monson, professor of history, Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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