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Sources of the African Past combines a case-study approach with an emphasis on primary and orally transmitted sources to accomplish three objectives; to tell a story in some depth, to portray major themes and to raise basic questions of analysis and interpretation. The case studies are set in the nineteenth century and deal with critical periods in the fortunes of five societies in different parts of the continent (South, East, and West Africa). The authors wish students to work with the "raw" materials of history and to that end have provided a workbook for a "laboratory" experience.

Sources of the African Past is designed for use in a wide variety of courses and in conjuction with other texts. The authors have kept their own interpretations to a minimum and invited scrutiny of their decision of selection and arrangement. They chose the cases on the basis of several criteria: geographical coverage, abundance and diversity of primary sources, importance in the secondary literature, and relevance to important historical problems. All the studies emphasize political change. All witness some growth in European intervention.

In selecting the documents, the authors sought a balance of perspective without sacrificing accuracy and relevance. This means a conscious effort to present a variety of views: African and European, internal and external, partipant and observer, those of the victims as well as those of the victors, those of the "people" as well as those of the elite. Within the limitations of space, they have made the excerpts sufficiently long to allow the reader to examine the author's style, purpose and other characteristics. Keeping in mind the limitations of libraries, they have attemted to make each chapter self-contained.

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