|Three Decades of Production of Historical Knowledge at Dar Es Salaam (Dar Es Salaam University Press, 1993, 27 p.)|
The year 1969 had special significance for the Department of History at Dar es Salaam because of the appearance of a number of its collective publications and those of some of its members, including a number of pamphlets of the Historical Association of Tanzania, Perhaps the most influential of these was the book entitled A History of Tanzania7 containing collective efforts of members of the Department and edited by I.N. Kimambo and A.J. Temu. The work had initially been discussed in a conference of history teachers and members of the Historical Association of Tanzania In 1967. It was eagerly being awaited by teachers and students to fill a gap in teaching the history of the new nation.
The individual publications were also important in demonstrating the new types of sources and emphases required to popularize history. Kimambo's A Political History of the Pare8 was a result of studying oral traditions, and Iliffe's Tanganyika Under German Rule 1905-129 was looking at colonial period in the new determination to see what the Africans were doing; i.e. to discover African Initiatives.
In his professorial inaugural lecture delivered in March 1969, just before he left Dar es Salaam, Professor T.O. Ranger remarked: These publications mark... the end of a phase in the operation of regaining the Tanzanian past. His lecture, which he called a sort of 'trailer' for these publications, effectively announced their appearance to internal and external audience in such a way that their discussion and review followed almost immediately.
Professor Ranger's lecture was titled The Recovery of African Initiative in Tanzanian History. He saw this as the common theme uniting all the publications of the Department that time. This theme was reacting against colonial historiography which was seeing Africa mainly through the activities of Europeans, i.e. it was producing Eurocentric history of Africa. In Tanzania, the activities of the people themselves could not be documented in the knowledge so produced. In fact such historiography would even deny that Africans had history before the coming of Europeans into the country. Some colonial historians had recognized existence of some history of invaders and not of the indigenous people themselves.10 But the revolt against colonial historiography was almost general for the new generation of scholars on Africa during the 1960s. That is why one needs to examine more deeply on the reaction of the people in the academic world who read the material produced by the Department.
There were debates at two levels. First among the historians of the time who were affected by the nationalist enthusiasm of the birth of new nations in Africa; they still saw something radically new in Dar es Salaam. One reviewer put it this way:
....the new historiography has adopted the political philosophy of current African nationalism, and has used it to inform the study of African history. That commitment inclines the school towards rhetoric in defence of narrowly selected themes and interpretations, and the stereotyping and total rejection of other views.
Internationally, the Department came to be recognized as distinct school of historiography. Before the main methodological debate ensued within the Department itself, the special mark for the school was its commitment to the political philosophy of current African nationalism. But was this not a fact for the whole nationalist historiography generally?
The main difference in this school was that it was new and all its members were of the new nationalist enthusiasm; there were no colonial historians to struggle against. But what the critics of the time had not recognized was that the political environment in which the historians were operating did affect their efforts. Tanzanian nationalism was definitely much more radical in terms of wanting to see Africa liberated. Dar es Salaam even before the Arusha Declaration, had already become the centre of political refugees fighting for liberation of their colonised countries. It was a kind of nationalism which was bound to affect those who were participating in the activities of the new nation.
Henry Slater, in his recent review of the activities of the Department,12 recognized the radical leaning of members of the Debarment against the colonial position. He, however, ascribes it to individuals: the movement of Ranger from Rhodesia to Dar es Salaam and his being joined by... two young Tanganyikans returned from studies in North America. But he forgets about the political climate in Dar es Salaam. It is the argument of this lecture that the political climate in Dar es Salaam from the 1960s had contributed to the appearance of what seemed to be a single dynamic school of historiography, able to adjust its production of knowledge to meet the needs of the masses. In a way the methodological and philosophical positions have changed, but the stimulus for its activities has always come from the prevailing political climate.
The second point to be made here is that the impact of the nationalist historiography was much broader than a study of its publications can reveal. The revolt against colonial historiography was nation wide; there was an effort to look for relevant historical material for different levels of the school system. The Department was able to cooperate with the Institute of Education and the Ministry of National Education in this task. To ensure that a mass-based interest is created the Historical Association of Tanzania was founded in 1966 and, through it, much of the research undertaken by the Department of History was made available to schools in Tanzania. Furthermore the Association published pamphlets intended for school teachers, held week-end schools, seminars and conferences, all intended to popularize the teaching and studying of history in schools.
Even within the Department itself, the production of historical knowledge during this period, cannot be understood by looking at the major historical works of professional historians alone. The work of students, some of which had been published in their individual names,13 has been forgotten. Thus over and above the publications, the achievement in popularizing the study of history, is to be seen all the way from the introduction of new syllabuses in schools, new history courses within the Department, and activities of the Historical Association.
External examiners who visited Dar es Salaam praised the thematic approach introduced in the Department of History. One of them is quoted as having said:
I think it can be said that the new courses initiated in Dar es Salaam are now thoroughly run-in, and paying good dividends in terms of opening students eyes to a wide range of important issues and forcing them to think about historical processes at a profound level.14
It were these students who participated in the departmental effort of collecting historical information and it were the same students who, after graduation, participated in the Historical Association activities of establishing history clubs, Association branches, and collecting data for local histories. Some branches even had their own bulletins.
The work of the Historical Association and its relation to the Department need a further elaboration. Its international reputation came from its publications. A number of the books written by members of the Dar es Salaam School were published under its auspices. Its paper series which were published regularly during the period, were also in great demand. Internally these publications were the main life force for the Association. They provided new information relevant to the courses taught at different levels and were therefore of immediate interest to students and teachers. Furthermore, because they provided information relevant to Tanzania, they were also of great interest to general readers. The only limitation was its communication in English. The Association's attempt to initiate Swahili paper series was not successful. New research on information and book reviews were circulated to members through the Association's mimeographed journal entitled Tanzania Zamani. All these scholarly activities were mainly handled by members of the Department of History.
By 1969, therefore, the Department had gained the reputation of a distinct school of historiography, not because it had formulated a new philosophy or methodology, but because its members had shown greater commitment to local issues than many bourgeois nationalist historians of the time. It was this kind of commitment which was to bring a new crisis in the historiography itself because the national situation was not static. We stated that debates went on at two levels. The first one (which we have examined) was at the level of book reviews within the bourgeois nationalist historiography. The second level was deeper and intensive, examining not only the content but also the philosophy and methodology of its production. It is to this second level that we now direct our attention.