“This is a very well researched work on a topic of considerable contemporary importance in relation to forest utilisation and conservation. It is especially good on the wide range of historic uses of the coastal forests in particular, not just for material resources, but also for social and ritual purposes by local people.”
“Sunseri’s history consistently argues that the loss of local environmental control helped push a substantial deforestation across the coastal landscape. He contends further that the assault on coastal peoples' rights to forest access continues. The overt authoritarianism and violence of former decades has yielded to a more benign intervention on the part of international conservation organizations…a new wrinkle on a historically familiar pattern….”
African Studies Review
“Tanzania enjoys a reputation as a place deeply concerned with preserving its beautiful landscapes and wildlife for global humanity to enjoy in perpetuity. This compact and masterful study (Wielding the Ax) traces the fraught environmental history that preceded this current era of ‘eco-governmentality’ in Tanzania.”
“(Wielding the Ax) illustrates the wide variety of demands placed on the forests with the not-so-surprising, but documented, conclusion that Tanzanian scientific forestry was neither rational nor efficient, but fell prey to the usual political machinations…. This is the first significant work bringing together Tanzanian forestry and social issues….”
International Journal of African Historical Studies
Forests have been at the fault lines of contact between African peasant communities in the Tanzanian coastal hinterland and outsiders for almost two centuries. In recent decades, a global call for biodiversity preservation has been the main challenge to Tanzanians and their forests.
Thaddeus Sunseri uses the lens of forest history to explore some of the most profound transformations in Tanzania from the nineteenth century to the present. He explores anticolonial rebellions, the world wars, the depression, the Cold War, oil shocks, and nationalism through their intersections with and impacts on Tanzania’s coastal forests and woodlands. In Wielding the Ax, forest history becomes a microcosm of the origins, nature, and demise of colonial rule in East Africa and of the first fitful decades of independence.
Wielding the Ax is a story of changing constellations of power over forests, beginning with African chiefs and forest spirits, both known as “ax–wielders,” and ending with international conservation experts who wield scientific knowledge as a means to controlling forest access. The modern international concern over tropical deforestation cannot be understood without an awareness of the long–term history of these forest struggles.
Thaddeus Sunseri is a professor of African history at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He is the author of Vilimani: Labor Migration and Rural Change in Early Colonial Tanzania. More info →
Save 20% ($26.36)
Save 20% ($64)
US and Canada only
Availability and price vary according to vendor.
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
Click or tap on a subject heading to sign up to be notified when new related books come out.
Retail price: $32.95, S.
Release date: March 2009
37 illus. · 304 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Retail price: $80.00, S.
Release date: March 2009
37 illus. · 304 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Release date: August 2014
37 illus. · 304 pages
“This exemplary book is worth reading far beyond the boundaries of Tanzania or the shores of Africa for several reasons. It takes the strong political ecology approach to writing environmental history in a way that is mercifully jargon free. It reveals the sequence of transformations from tribal society to imperialism and post-colonialism, and right through to present ‘green neoliberalism’ of international conservation. It rests on wide reading and thorough research…. Sunseri’s book tells how Tanzania’s forests have always been peopled. It is a perspective too easily ignored.”
Environment and History
“Sensitive oral interviews and deft fieldwork support a markedly populist perspective on the impact of national and international decisions on resilient local residents…. Highly recommended.”
“Sunseri demonstrates how authority over the forest has shifted from nineteenth‐century chiefs, known as ‘ceremonial ax wielders,’ to scientific forestry experts of the colonial state, and later to biodiversity advocates of the global NGO community…. Surprisingly, a forest history provides a new lens for interpreting the major events of Tanzanian colonial and postcolonial history.”
American Historical Review
Encountering the Past in Nature
Essays in Environmental History
Edited by Timo Myllyntaus and Mikko Saikku
A deeper understanding of contemporary environmental problems requires us to know where we come from, and the study of environmental history will help us in that quest. Environmental history, in short, may be described as an attempt to study the interaction between humans and nature in the past. How have human societies affected their environment and vice versa? What does history tell us about ecological change?The
Custodians of the Land
Ecology and Culture in the History of Tanzania
Edited by Gregory H. Maddox, James L. Giblin, and Isaria N. Kimambo
Farming and pastoral societies inhabit ever-changing environments. This relationship between environment and rural culture, politics and economy in Tanzania is the subject of this volume which will be valuable in reopening debates on Tanzanian history.In
African History · Environmental Studies · History | Historical Geography · Tanzania · African Studies
The Game of Conservation
International Treaties to Protect the World’s Migratory Animals
By Mark Cioc
The Game of Conservation is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable examination of nature protection around the world.Twentieth-century nature conservation treaties often originated as attempts to regulate the pace of killing rather than as attempts to protect animal habitat.
History | Historical Geography · African Studies · History · Environmental Policy
War in Pre-Colonial Eastern Africa
The Patterns and Meanings of State-Level Conflict in the 19th Century
By Richard Reid
War in Pre-Colonial Eastern Africa examines the nature and objectives of violence in the region in the nineteenth century. It is particularly concerned with highland Ethiopia and the Great Lakes. It will be of use to those interested in military history and to anyone involved in modern development and conflict resolution seeking to understand the deeper historical roots of African warfare.Contents:
African History · Violence in Society · Military History · Eastern Africa · African Studies
Sign up to be notified when new African Studies titles come out.
We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.