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The Arabs and the Scramble for Africa

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This book examines the history of the European Scramble for Africa from the perspective of the Omanis and other Arabs in East Africa. It will be of interest not only to African specialists, but also those working on the Middle East, where awareness is now emerging that the history of those settled on the southern peripheries of Arabia has been intimately entwined with Indian Ocean maritime activities since pre-Islamic times. The nineteenth century, however, saw these maritime borderlands being increasingly drawn into a new world economy, one of whose effects was the development of an ivory front in the interior of the continent that, by the 1850s, led the Omanis and Swahili to establish themselves on the Upper Congo. A reconstruction of their history and their interaction with Europeans is a major theme of this book.

European colonial rivalries in Africa is not a subject in vogue today, while the Arabs are still largely viewed as invaders and slavers. The fact that the British separated the Sultanates of Muscat and Zanzibar is reflected in European research so that historians have little grasp of the geographic, tribal and religious continuum that persisted between overseas empire and the Omani homeland. Ibadism is regarded as irrelevant to the mainstream of Islamic religious protest whereas, during the lead up to establishing direct colonial rule, its ideology played a significant role; even the final rally against the Belgians in the Congo was conducted in the name of an Imam al-Muslimîn. Back home, the fall out from the British massacre that crushed the last Arab attempt to reassert independence in Zanzibar was an important contributory cause towards the re-founding of an Imamate that survived until the mid-1950s.

Published: Jan 1, 2015


Section Chapter Authors
List of Maps John C. Wilkinson
Abbreviations and conventions John C. Wilkinson
Foreword John C. Wilkinson
1. The Omani perspective: part 1 John C. Wilkinson
2. The Omani perspective part II: growing British influence John C. Wilkinson
3. The early Arab penetration into the African mainland John C. Wilkinson
4. Oman and Zanzibar: Britain and France John C. Wilkinson
5. Barghash’s reign: the first dozen years John C. Wilkinson
6. The mainland John C. Wilkinson
7. AIC phase I John C. Wilkinson
8. German colonization in East Africa John C. Wilkinson
9. Confrontation John C. Wilkinson
10. The Swahili uprising John C. Wilkinson
11. The Emin Pasha Relief Expedition (EPRE): part 1 John C. Wilkinson
12. The Emin Pasha Relief Expedition: part II John C. Wilkinson
13. EIC: consolidation of state: the Arab Zone John C. Wilkinson
14. The Arab Zone John C. Wilkinson
15. First clashes John C. Wilkinson
16.War John C. Wilkinson
17. ENVOI: Zanzibar 1896 John C. Wilkinson
End Matter
Appendix: Arab Materials in Belgian Archives John C. Wilkinson
Maps John C. Wilkinson
References Including Select Bibliography John C. Wilkinson
Indexes John C. Wilkinson

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A dense and richly detailed investigation... operates incredibly well on the historical and sociological level for all those interested in this time period, this geographic region, this aspect of international dispute and engagement, and finally, this particular people. is hard to find fault with this book. A work such as this begs for others to utilize it as a foundation for future work .. and it is clearly crucial for international affairs, politics, intelligence, and diplomacy. Summing up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.
CHOICE August 2015, Vol. 52 No.

[An] excellent, brilliantly researched, and highly erudite text. Those who are familiar with the history of Oman and East Africa will rejoice in the minute details that Wilkinson provides, while fans of Wilkinson’s earlier work will see how it fits within the overall intellectual trajectory of one of the great historians of Oman.
The Journal of Arabian Studies

John Wilkinson [is] one of the leading scholars of Oman and the Gulf... Where [this book] parts company with the usual imperial histories of these events is that it gives the Omanis real agency in the process rather than treating them as sort of hapless placeholders waiting for the Europeans to show up and brush them aside. This too is a positive step and will give non-Arab readers a window on Omani maneuvering and motives during this period that would not otherwise be available to them.
International Journal of African Historical Studies

Wilkinson’s work is a compulsory read for anyone who is interested in African/Islamic History or anyone who wishes to have good historical insight into Arab/Omani activities in Africa.
African Historical Review

Overall this is a comprehensive narration of “forgotten histories” of imperialism in Africa and will be indispensable for specialists in the field of nineteenth century East Africa. It is an invaluable companion to classic work on the subject from Abdul Sheriff, Fred Cooper and Jon Glassman.
Journal of World History