African Studies Congo River Basin States
by
John Yoder, J. Jeffrey Hoover
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 February 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0021

Introduction

Throughout the forests and savannas of the great Congo Basin, families and Houses have organized for hunting, gathering, farming, and trading for at least two millennia. Life in the region has always been dynamic as ethnic groups have contracted and expanded; elites have created and borrowed myths of origin, rituals, and symbols; languages have changed; and trade has evolved from capillary transfers to long-distance exchanges. After 1500, nodes of political influence emerged to coordinate growing populations, take advantage of new economic opportunities, provide defense, and satisfy the ambitions of individuals and lineages seeking elite status. Some of these centers became the nuclei of future states. Although external influences such as New World crops, the slave trade, and guns played their part, the more important causes of the growth of states were internal social, economic, and political innovations. Not just reflexive entities that arose in response to regional and international forces, Congo Basin states actively shaped events, by stimulating increased agricultural and artisanal production, for example, and thereby laying the foundation for further political development. Before the 17th century, most political units were decentralized and regional in scope. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, many of the previously separate trade, ritual, and political centers were incorporated into large-scale trade associations, chiefdoms, and imperial domains. On the southern savanna, the Luba and Ruund of Katanga were more dominant than their weaker neighbors, such as the Kete, Kanyok, and Kalundwe. In the area between the savanna and the equatorial forest, the Kuba state grew strong, and north of the forest the Mangbetu, Zande, and Ngbandi polities emerged. Along the Congo River above Malebo Pool, the Teke, Bobangi, and Bangala developed trading networks that shared some characteristics of states. However, other peoples such as the Mongo speakers of the forest and the Lele, Chokwe, Salampasu, Pende, Lega, and the Luba of Kasai did not embrace the notion of large-scale centralized polities, relying instead on lineages, warrior leaders, secret societies, heads of large Houses, and ritual specialists for community guidance. In the 19th century, the intrusion of slave traders and colonial conquerors dramatically changed the Congo Basin’s political landscape. Although many of the interlopers and their agents came from the west (Portuguese, Chokwe, and Belgians), others were from the east. Originally from Zanzibar, the Swahili merchant/conqueror Hamed bin Muhammed (Tippu Tib) established a commercial/administrative domain in eastern Congo, while the Sumbwa adventurer Ngelengwa (taking the Lunda name Msiri) came from what is now Tanzania to settle in Katanga, where he created the Yeke state. Although none of the Congo Basin states were able to resist colonial conquest or control by modern governments, most have managed to survive and retain the support of their people even today. Furthermore, the sites of important markets from precolonial times are now large modern cities. Finally, the patrimonial values and habits of precolonial times continue to shape current political dealings.

General Overviews

Unfortunately, no satisfactory book-length general history of the Congo Basin during the precolonial period is available. Although groundbreaking when it was first published, Vansina 1966 is long out of date, mainly because of advances made by Vansina and by scholars the author influenced. Furthermore, Vansina 1966 deals with only one region of the Congo Basin, the woodlands and grasslands south of the forest. More recent scholarship suggests that the concepts of state, kingdom, and empire are applied too rigidly to societies in the Congo Basin. The most extensive overviews of Congo Basin history are contained in four chapters of the edited work Birmingham and Martin 1983 or in Ndaywel è Nziem 1998. Much shorter accessible treatments are single chapters in encyclopedias or in general histories of the entire continent, such as Miller 2008, Vansina 1995a, and Vansina 1995b.

  • Birmingham, David, and Phyllis Martin, eds. History of Central Africa. Vol. 1. London: Longman, 1983.

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    Chapters by Jan Vansina (forest region), Dennis Cordell (northern savanna), Thomas Reefe (eastern portion of the southern savanna), and Joseph C. Miller (Atlantic zone) deal with the Congo Basin and nearby regions having great influence on the area. Moving beyond the topics of macro-level politics and trade, the studies give attention to the environment, agriculture, and social structure.

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    • Miller, Joseph C. “Congo, Democratic Republic of the: Society and Cultures.” In New Encyclopedia of Africa. Vol. 1. Edited by John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, 496–501. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2008.

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      Accurate summary of the work of Vansina, Harms, and Reefe. In addition, Miller draws from his own work on the Chokwe hunters and traders. Emphasis on voluntary association of peoples rather than forceful integration.

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      • Ndaywel è Nziem, Isidore. Histoire générale du Congo: De l’héritage ancien à la Republique Démocratique. Brussels: Duculet, 1998.

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        A synthesis of his four decades of research, Ndaywel’s work also covers the colonial and modern periods. The section on the Congo Basin, which contains numerous maps, emphasizes the interconnected nature of ethnic families, languages, economies, and political groupings. When discussing trade, Ndaywel looks at north-south linkages between savanna and forest as well as east-west movements across the savanna.

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        • Vansina, Jan. Kingdoms of the Savanna. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966.

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          A pioneering work by the foremost historian of Central Africa, the book identifies the major states of the savanna region. Reflecting the state of knowledge in the 1960s, the study offers a somewhat literalistic reading of oral histories. Except when he draws on his own field research about the Kuba, Vansina uses travelers’ accounts as well as oral histories collected during the colonial period. Migrations, state-building, and trade receive much attention.

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          • Vansina, Jan. “Equatorial Africa before the Nineteenth Century.” In African History: From Earliest Times to Independence. 2d ed. By Philip Curtin, Steven Feierman, Leonard Thompson, and Jan Vansina, 213–240. New York: Longman, 1995a.

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            In an updated version of the original, written in 1978, Vansina traces the political, economic, and social history of the Congo Basin from the start of the Common Era. He argues that political development was not state-centric only but involved a variety of political units such as Houses, villages, and districts.

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            • Vansina, Jan. “Upstarts and Newcomers in Equatorial Africa (c. 1815–1875).” In African History: From Earliest Times to Independence. Edited by Philip Curtin, Steven Feierman, Leonard Thompson, and Jan Vansina, 377–397. New York: Longman, 1995b.

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              Using trade as a unifying theme, Vansina examines the changes brought by the penetration of outsiders into every corner of the Congo Basin. However, as with the earlier chapter in the same book (Vansina 1995a), the study emphasizes continuities as it chronicles the influence of individuals and institutions that persisted from one period to another.

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              Bibliographies

              Two online bibliographies are most useful. African Book Bank Online gives readers access to a wide range of books on Africa as a whole, while the outstanding Muyumba 2004 deals with a limited geographical region.

              Reference Works

              Two useful historical atlases are Ajayi and Crowder 1985 and Freeman-Grenville 1991. Shillington 2004 has a number of articles on the Congo region’s history. Ofosu-Appiah 1979 contains an introductory overview of the region and a number of essays on individual precolonial leaders. Brief overviews in French are contained in Tamisier 1998.

              • Ajayi, J. F. Ade, and Michael Crowder, eds. Historical Atlas of Africa. Harlow, UK: Longman, 1985.

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                Prepared by two highly respected scholars, the book of maps also contains short commentaries and quantitative data.

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                • Freeman-Grenville, Grenville S. P., ed. The New Atlas of African History. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1991.

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                  Maps and short historical sketches offer the non-specialist a cartographical introduction to the Congo Basin.

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                  • Ofosu-Appiah, L. H., ed. Dictionary of African Biography. Vol. 2, Sierra Leone-Zaire. Encyclopaedia Africana. New York: Reference Publications, 1979.

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                    The book is part of an incomplete project originally envisioned by W. E. B. DuBois. Articles about the Congo Basin are written by professors and students from universities in what was then Zaire. The introductory overview is by the noted historian Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem.

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                    • Shillington, Kevin, ed. Encyclopedia of African History. 3 vols. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004.

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                      Contains articles on the Congo Basin that deal with the Luba in the 17th and 18th centuries (Pierre Petit), Luba origins (incorrectly attributed to John Yoder), Kasai and Kuba peoples (John Yoder), Lunda (Jeffrey Hoover), and Msiri’s Yeke kingdom (Pierre Petit), all in Volume 2.

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                      • Tamisier, Jean-Pierre, ed. Dictionnaire des peuples: Sociétés d’Afrique, d’Amérique, d’Asie et d’Océanie. Paris: Larousse, 1998.

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                        Short ethnographic/historical descriptions of some Congo Basin peoples. See entries by Pierre Petit on the Bemba (p. 49), Kaonde (p. 150), Luba du Kasaï (p. 182), Luba du Katanga (p. 183), Mongo (p. 219), Ndembu (pp. 230–231), Ruund (p. 276), Suku (p. 298), Yaka (pp. 345–346), and Yeke (pp. 349–350). Although very brief, the essays are written by an accomplished scholar who conducted field research in southeastern Congo in the 1990s. Petit emphasizes the interconnections among groups in the Congo.

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                        Journals

                        The journal giving most attention to topics in the Congo is Mémoires de la Classe des Sciences Humaines, published by the Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-mer. Originally begun to document and assist colonial activities, the Académie has produced a massive amount of material on many aspects of the Congo. As evidence of the difficulty of offering a publication that originates in the Congo, it is useful to note that the excellent Études d’histoire africaine survived less than a decade, while the less scholarly Likundoli has managed to exist since 1973. The other journals, International Journal of African Historical Studies, History in Africa, and Journal of African History, publish peer-reviewed current scholarship; unfortunately, too little deals with the Congo, and still less with the Congo Basin.

                        • Études d’histoire africaine (1970–1978).

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                          The flagship Congolese journal, publishing articles of international quality, did not long survive the nationalization and politicization of the university system.

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                          • History in Africa (1974–).

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                            Focusing on methodology, History in Africa evaluates the use of oral tradition, archaeology, linguistics, and ethnography as tools for reconstructing the past. Published by the African Studies Association.

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                            • International Journal of African Historical Studies (1971–).

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                              Covering all time periods, regions, and aspects of African history, the journal is especially useful for its extensive book review section.

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                              • Journal of African History (1960–).

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                                The oldest and most prestigious journal in the field, the Journal of African History deals with the entire continent. A survey of the journal’s content provides a good overview of the evolution of the field of African history. Because of the challenges of conducting research in the Congo Basin, the journal contains few recent articles on the region.

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                                • Likundoli (1973–).

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                                  The secondary journal continues in Lubumbashi, somewhat irregularly but generally at least one issue per year, divided in three subseries: Enquêtes d’Histoire Congolaise, Archives et Documents, and Histoire et Devenir. Most issues are in the collections of Northwestern and Yale Universities and the Library of Congress. Subject matter and quality vary considerably.

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                                  • Mémoires de la Classe des Sciences Humaines (1928–).

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                                    Published by the Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-mer, which was founded in 1928 and has gone through several name changes. The Académie publishes works in French, English, and Dutch, mainly focused on the Congo. The Section of Moral and Political Sciences is most relevant for historians. The entries are very often book length.

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                                    Primary Sources

                                    The listing of primary sources is divided into four categories: Accounts by Traditional Experts, Accounts by Explorers, Accounts by Colonial Agents, and Accounts by Missionaries.

                                    Accounts by Traditional Experts

                                    The first experts recording the histories of the Congo Basin states were African elders associated with the centers of political power. Unable to commit their accounts to writing, they relied on repetition; in the case of the Kuba, Luba, and Kanyok, royal statues and other artifacts served as mnemonic devices. Not sharply distinguishing among myth, legend, and history, the goal of these experts was to affirm both the fundamental values of society and the legitimacy of the ruling elite, whether local, regional, or at a central capital. In addition, the oral histories sought to discredit competing claims to political power by suggesting the ancestors of rivals were unfit or nonexistent. Although traditional experts have long recounted the histories of various Congo Basin peoples, the records are not easily accessible. Researchers completing doctoral dissertations from Western universities collected oral histories, but often their interview notes can be consulted only in their respective university libraries. Some records, such as Casteleyn 1952, are held in private collections. Other records, such as Womersley 1975, Womersley 1984, and d’Orjo de Marchovellette 1950, have been published.

                                    • Casteleyn, André. Uit de Geschiedenis van de Bena Kanyoka. Tielen Saint-Jacques, Belgian Congo, 1952.

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                                      Father Casteleyn recorded the political history of the Kanyok as told by groups of elders and political leaders. The tales are merged together in an attempt to rationalize and harmonize the different bits of information. Held in the private collection of R. P. Marcel Storme, Louvain, Belgium.

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                                      • d’Orjo de Marchovellette, E. “Notes sur les funérailles des chefs Ilunga Kabale et Kabongo Kumwimba: Historique de la chefferie Kabongo.” Bulletin des juridictions indigènes du droit coutumier congolais 18.12 (1950): 350–368.

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                                        A colonial agent from 1925 until 1951, d’Orjo de Marchovellette conducted field research in the Luba heartland. He translated the testimony of Inabanza Kataba, who recounted Luba history and royal funeral protocol. Continued in Bulletin des juridictions indigènes du droit coutumier congolais 19.1 (1951): 1–13.

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                                        • Womersley, Harold. In the Glow of the Log Fire. London: Peniel, 1975.

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                                          A missionary among the Luba from 1924 to 1971, Womersley recorded Luba histories and legends, which are presented here as stories for American children.

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                                          • Womersley, Harold. Legends and History of the Luba. Edited by Thomas Q. Reefe. African Primary Texts. Los Angeles: Crossroads, 1984.

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                                            Luba traditional history as collected by Womersley. Because of Womersley’s long tenure in the Luba area and his fluency in the language, his renditions of accounts he learned from Luba elders are especially valuable.

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                                            Accounts by Explorers

                                            The writings of European and American explorers, whether traders, private adventurers, or agents of Leopold II, provide important details about life in the Congo Basin. In general, these writers focused on differences between their own culture and the cultures they observed in Africa, and they routinely exaggerated the dissimilarities in ways that justified their own presence and interference in African societies. Because Europeans first came to the Congo region in the mid- and late 19th century, they encountered societies in conflict and leaders preoccupied with defense, predation, and slave trading. Their picture of the Congo political situation reflects a time of exceptional violence and instability. Colonial agents, hoping to find ways to institute control over African societies, were far more attentive to local political institutions and histories (see Accounts by Colonial Agents). Western explorers, following long-established trade routes, reached the Lunda heartland in the 1830s and the Luba area by the 1870s. The first Westerner, a missionary, to reach the Kuba capital did not arrive there until the 1890s. Travelling south from Egypt and Sudan, European explorers entered the land of the Mangbetu and Azande in the 1870s. The following representative list of works by explorers contains some of the most important accounts. Explorers’ records provide good information about commercial activities—standard trade routes, types and amounts of trade items, logistical arrangements, important agents, risks and rewards—in the 19th century. Their accounts also give the modern reader clues about the extent of political and economic control exercised by African leaders in the Congo Basin. Most explorers’ accounts are accessible online at no cost.

                                            Modern Perspectives on Explorers

                                            Sifting the relevant historical and cultural data from the dross of details about the travelers’ concerns regarding logistics, “savages,” and health is a challenge for the modern scholar. As both Fabian 2000 and Jeal 2007 note, the accounts of Western explorers and colonial agents were shaped almost as much by the perspectives of the writers as by the historical realities they claimed to observe.

                                            • Fabian, Johannes. Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

                                              DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520221222.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              A modern anthropological analysis of how explorers and early colonial state agents gathered information about the peoples of central Africa. Fabian emphasizes the subjective nature of their efforts.

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                                              • Jeal, Tim. Stanley, The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.

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                                                Using previously unavailable correspondence held at the Museé Royale de l’Afrique Centrale, Jeal challenges prevailing ideas that Stanley was unusually racist or brutal or that Stanley should be blamed for disenfranchising Congolese chiefs from their lands. Jeal suggests that Stanley was no harsher than other explorers, even Livingstone, and that he was a strong critic of King Leopold once he recognized the devious nature of Leopold’s designs.

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                                                World of the Luba

                                                Although one of the oldest and most prestigious polities of the Congo Basin, the Luba kingdom was not visited by European travelers until late in the 19th century. The explorer Verney Cameron had the most direct contact with the Luba (see Cameron 1877); most other explorers traveled through more peripheral parts of the Luba world. Livingstone 1874, which describes southeastern Luba regions, details encounters with the Luba and Tippu Tib. The authors of Pogge 1880 (cited under World of the Lunda) and Wissmann 1991 visited Kasai, west of the Luba empire. Edgar Verdick, who accompanied the LeMarinel expedition, kept a daily journal of the group’s plundering incursions through various regions in south central and southeastern Congo (Verdick 1952).

                                                • Cameron, Verney L. Across Africa. 2 vols. London: Daldy, Isbister, 1877.

                                                  DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.57934Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Crossing the continent from Zanzibar to Bihe on the Atlantic in the mid-1870s, Cameron visited the Swahili town of Nyamgwe on the Lualaba. He encountered the Luba and Lunda directly and made references to Msiri and the Kanyok. Cameron spent five months at the Luba capital.

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                                                  • Livingstone, David. The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa. 2 vols. London: J. Murray, 1874.

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                                                    From 1867 to 1871, Livingstone traveled into the eastern part of the Congo River basin. He reached Lake Mweru and Lake Bangwelu. His records of the Luba and Tippu Tib are especially valuable.

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                                                    • Verdick, Edgard. Les premieres jours au Katanga (1890–1903). Brussels: Comité spécial du Katanga, 1952.

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                                                      A member of the 1890–1891 Le Marinel expedition to Katanga, Verdick kept a detailed journal of encounters with the Kanyok, Yeke, and Lunda.

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                                                      • Wissmann, Hermann von. My Second Journey through Equatorial Africa from the Congo to the Zambezi, in the Years 1886 and 1887. London: Chatto & Windus, 1991.

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                                                        As an agent of Leopold II, Wissmann explored the Kasai River and its tributaries, the Lulua and Kwango. In his 1883 and 1886–1887 visits to the Kasai region he encountered the Luba of Kasai and the Chokwe traders. Wissmann was especially active in the Kananga area. First published as Meine zweite Durchquerung Aequatorial-Afrikas vom Kongo zum Zambesi während der Jahre 1886 und 1887 (Frankfurt: Trowitzsch & Sohn, 1890).

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                                                        World of the Lunda

                                                        Carvalho 1890 is by far the outstanding source, but it dates from the period of the state’s decline; Carvalho’s mission was to obtain a treaty recognizing Portuguese sovereignty; hence, he may have exaggerated Portuguese influence in the Lunda capital. Capello and Ivens 1886, Gamitto 1960, Johns 1975, Serpa Pinto 1881, and Livingstone 1857 provide comments about the Lunda world. With the exception of Gamitto 1960, these works offer scattered information, usually from peripheral western areas and often secondhand, on the Lunda. Gamitto 1960 is the well-organized journal of an official Portuguese mission to the Eastern Lunda regional capital of the Mwata Kazembe on the Luapula River in the early 19th century. Paul Pogge and Henrique Dias de Carvalho actually visited the Lunda capital during the late 19th century. The former came to Africa with a German expedition as an excuse for big-game hunting and, when forced to assume leadership of the expedition, was ill-prepared intellectually to observe and record information (Pogge 1880). Carvalho, a Portuguese military officer, gives detailed ethnographic and oral history data, with many illustrations, and shows careful study of other explorer’s reports; however, his expedition and publications have an overt political orientation to support Portuguese claims to sovereignty over Lunda, as opposed to Leopold II’s pretensions to this part of the Congo Basin (Carvalho 1890).

                                                        • Capello, Hermenegildo, and Roberto Ivens. De Angola á contracosta. 2 vols. Lisbon, Portugal: Imprensa Nacional, 1886.

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                                                          On their second journey into the southern savanna (1884–1885), the Portuguese explorers/military officers crossed the continent from Angola to Mozambique. Although especially interested in hydrography for the purpose of establishing colonial borders, they also made important observations about ethnography and languages.

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                                                          • Carvalho, Henrique A. Dias de. Ethnographie e história tracicional dos povos da Lunda. Lisbon, Portugal: Imprensa Nacional, 1890.

                                                            DOI: 10.5479/sil.193951.39088003490430Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            An analytical volume on history and ethnology, published along with a four-volume travel journal and a summary grammar of uRuund (although with a Portuguese orthography not used in the 20th century).

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                                                            • Gamitto, A. C. P. King Kazembe and the Marave, Cheva, Bisa, Bemba, Lunda and Other Peoples of Southern Africa, Being the Diary of the Portuguese Expedition to the Potentate in the Years 1831 and 1832. 2 vols. Translated by Ian Cunnison. Lisbon, Portugal: Junta de investigações do Ultramar, 1960.

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                                                              Annotated translation by the preeminent anthropologist of the Eastern Lunda region. Rich account of an early-19th-century official delegation to the Mwata Kazembe on the Luapula.

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                                                              • Johns, Christa, trans. Emil Holub’s Travels North of the Zambezi, 1885–6. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1975.

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                                                                A doctor from Bohemia, Holub mounted several expeditions from his base in South Africa. He reached peoples to the south and east of the Lunda. Holub’s focus was ethnography.

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                                                                • Livingstone, David. Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. London: J. Murray, 1857.

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                                                                  In the years 1853 to 1855, Livingstone crisscrossed the southern savanna area, passing well to the southwest of the Mwant Yav’s capital. He recorded his observations about the world of the Lunda, with special emphasis on trade relations.

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                                                                  • Pogge, Paul. Im Reich des Muanta Jamwo. Berlin: Verlag von Dietrich Reimer, 1880.

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                                                                    Originally accompanying the expedition as a hunter-adventurer, Pogge was unprepared to shoulder the burden of ethnographic and scientific observation. The book is not of the quality of Carvalho’s works from a half-decade later.

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                                                                    • Serpa Pinto, A. A. de. How I Crossed Africa. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1881.

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                                                                      Part of the first Capello and Ivens expedition, Serpa Pinto separated from the group to explore the watershed of the Congo and Zambezi Rivers.

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                                                                      • Verbeken, Auguste, and M. Walreat. La première traverse du Katanga en 1806. Brussels: Institut Royal Colonial Belge, 1953.

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                                                                        Account of the Portuguese-sponsored expedition by two Angolan African traders to Mozambique and back across the continent. Useful information such as observations about the association between Lunda political establishments and manioc cultivation.

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                                                                        Forest Region and Eastern Congo

                                                                        Stanley 1878 provides the first written records of the northeastern Congo Basin, while Stanley 1885 and Stanley 1890 describe Stanley’s role as an agent of Leopold II. Although self-serving in his descriptions, Stanley must be consulted by any scholar studying this period. Wissmann 1889 records the author’s travels into the Kasai region. Written decades after the author’s travels, the memoires in Delcommune 1922 offer fewer reliable details. These works help document the states oriented toward the world economy created by East African traders before the transition to European colonialism.

                                                                        • Delcommune, Alexandre. Vingt années de vie africaine: Récits de voyages, d’aventures et d’exploration au Congo Belge, 1874–1893. 2 vols. Brussels: Ferdinand Larcien, 1922.

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                                                                          An agent of Leopold II since the early 1870s, Delcommune led an expedition to Katanga in 1891. Traveling up the Congo River and then south from Stanley Falls, he encountered Tippu Tib, Msiri, and Ngongo Lutetete.

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                                                                          • Stanley, Henry Morton. Through the Dark Continent. 2 vols. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1878.

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                                                                            Stanley’s expeditions in the Congo, which began in the 1870s, focused on the region from Maniema to the Malebo Pool (at Kinshasa). Stanley’s books describe his relations with Tippu Tib as well as his encounters with the people in eastern Congo and groups living along the Congo River. From 1874 to 1877 he traveled from Zanzibar to Boma, establishing that the Lualaba was the source of the Congo rather than of the Nile.

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                                                                            • Stanley, Henry Morton. The Congo and the Founding of Its Free State: A Story of Work and Exploration. New York: Harper, 1885.

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                                                                              Especially important as a record of Stanley’s political and military interaction with the Zanzibari merchant-chiefs of eastern Congo.

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                                                                              • Stanley, Henry Morton. In Darkest Africa. 2 vols. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890.

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                                                                                Record of the time Stanley worked as an agent for King Leopold II, especially in the northern part of the Congo Basin.

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                                                                                • Wissmann, Hermann von. Unter deutscher Flagge quer durch Afrika: Von 1880 bis 1883 ausgeführt von Paul Pogge und Hermann Wissmann. Berlin: Walter & Apolant, 1889.

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                                                                                  Account of Wissman’s first trip to the Congo Basin with fellow German Paul Pogge. Describes visit to Tippu Tib’s Nyangwe.

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                                                                                  World of the Mangbetu and Azande

                                                                                  Travelers in the 19th century, who visited both the Azande and the Mangbetu at their political and economic apogee, regarded both groups as superior to their less centralized neighbors. German botanist George August Schweinfurth spent time at the Mangbetu court in 1870 (Schweinfurth 1874), while the Russian physician Wilhelm Junker is best known for his descriptions of the Azande (Junker 1890–1892). Like other explorers, Schweinfurth and Junker emphasized the exotic nature of African society. In the early 20th century, the Polish-German anthropologist Jan Czekanowski (Czekanowski 1958, Czekanowski 1911–1927) prepared high-quality studies of both the Azande and the Mangbetu.

                                                                                  • Czekanowski, Jan. Forschungen im Nil-Kongo- Zwischengebeit. Leipzig: Klinkhart & Biermann, 1911–1927.

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                                                                                    Record of Czekanowski’s anthropological observations. A highly trained researcher, Czekanowski’s work has been relatively unknown and greatly underappreciated. Czekanowski spent more than a year in northeastern Congo where he studied the Azande, the Mangbetu, and the smaller Badu group. After returning to Europe, he published his anthropological observations over the course of the next two decades. Translated as “Research on the region between the Nile and Congo.”

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                                                                                    • Czekanowski, Jan. Carnets de route au coeur de l’Afrique: Des sources du Nil au Congo. Translated by Lidia Meschy. Montricher, France: Éditions Noir sur Blanc, 2001.

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                                                                                      In addition to serving as the anthropologist and ethnographer of the liberally funded German Mecklembourg Expedition to central Africa of 1907–1909, Czekanowski kept a diary of the mission. Interrupted by two world wars and by other research interests, Czekanowski published portions of his journal only a few years before he died in 1965. Some sections discuss his time among the Azande and Mangbetu. Much of Czekanowski’s diary, written in Polish, remains unpublished. First published as W glab lasow Aruwimi: Dziennik Wyprawy do Afryki Srodkowe (Wroclaw, Poland: Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze, 1958).

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                                                                                      • Junker, Wilhelm. Travels in Africa during the Years, 1875–1886. Translated by A. H. Keane. London: Chapman and Hall, 1890–1892.

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                                                                                        An associate of Emin Pasha, Junker was a careful observer of the Azande, a group he called the Niam-Niam. He also spent time with the more highly centralized Mangbetu. Junker’s descriptions are especially valuable because, unlike most other explorers, he lived for several years with the people he described. First published as Reisen in Afrika, 1875–1886: Nach seinen Tagebüchern unter der Mitwirkung, 3 vols. (Vienna: E. Hölzel, 1889–1891).

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                                                                                        • Schweinfurth, Georg. The Heart of Africa: Three Years’ Travels and Adventures in the Unexplored Regions of Central Africa from 1868 to 1871. 2 vols. Translated by Ellen E. Frewer. New York: Harper and Bros, 1874.

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                                                                                          Schweinfurth’s detailed reports described the Mangbetu’s artistic and political accomplishments. His writings exaggerated the power of the Mangbetu governmental system, the extent of its domain, and the savagery of its rulers. First published as Im Herzen von Afrika: Reisen und Entdeckungen im centralen äquatorial-Afrika während der Jahre 1868 bis 1871, 2 vols. (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhous, 1874).

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                                                                                          Accounts by Colonial Agents

                                                                                          Colonial administrators and anthropologists, interested in how they might control African societies, penned accounts describing central African states. Taking oral histories as literally true, they collected political tales and attempted to reconcile differences among competing accounts. Such reconstructions focused almost exclusively on material collected at state capitals, thus overlooking the importance of regional variations or the fact that regional centers often had completely separate records. D’Orjo de Marchovellette 1950, van der Noot 1936, and Verhulpen 1936 are included here because these accounts by individuals in Luba regions have been published.

                                                                                          • d’Orjo de Marchovellette, E. “Notes sur les funérailles des chefs Ilunga Kabale et Kabongo Kumwimba: Historique de la chefferie Kabongo.” Bulletin des juridictions indigènes du droit coutumier congolais 18.12 (1950): 350–368.

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                                                                                            A colonial agent from 1925 until 1951, d’Orjo de Marchovellette acquired a good knowledge of Luba history and ethnography. Continued in Bulletin des juridictions indigènes du droit coutumier congolais 19.1 (1951): 1–13.

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                                                                                            • van der Noot, Adrien. “Quelques éléments historiques sur l’empire luba, son organisation et sa direction.” Bulletin des juridictions indigènes du droit coutumier congolais 4.7 (1936): 141–149.

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                                                                                              Short account of the Luba royal court and record of royal genealogy.

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                                                                                              • Verhulpen, Edmond. Baluba et balubaïsés. Antwerp, Belgium: L’Avénir Belge, 1936.

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                                                                                                Because Vehulpen often relied on records of earlier colonial administrators, it is difficult to determine what he learned directly and what information he gleaned from others. His descriptions of the Kalundwe, where he lived for a number of years, are the most reliable.

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                                                                                                Accounts by Missionaries

                                                                                                Because they often remained in the Congo for longer periods of time, and because they had a great interest in African culture (if only because they hoped to change it), missionaries produced a number of excellent descriptions of African political entities. Arnot 1969, Sheppard 1917, and Burton 1961, written by Protestants who lived for years in important states—Yeke, Kuba, and Luba—are important sources. Springer 1916 records the author’s experiences with the Lunda. Roman Catholic fathers living in Kasai produced useful accounts about peoples living in smaller political units. De Deken 1900 is an example of Catholic writings.

                                                                                                • Arnot, Frederick S. Garenganze, or Seven Years’ Pioneer Mission Work in Central Africa. Reprinted with an introduction by Robert Rotberg. London: Frank Cass, 1969.

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                                                                                                  The missionary Arnot, who lived at Msiri’s capital for two years (1886–1888), provided a detailed and sympathetic description of the Yeke kingdom’s ruler, system of government, and trade relations. Arnot’s account of Msiri’s Yeke kingdom is noteworthy because Arnot attempted to live inside the local culture, a culture he describes accurately and emphatically. First published in 1889 (London: James E. Hawkins).

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                                                                                                  • Burton, W. F. P. Luba Religion and Magic in Custom and Belief. Menselijke Wetenschappen 35. Tervuren, Belgium: Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, 1961.

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                                                                                                    Burton’s book is based on his own observations and conversations with Luba political leaders and religious experts. Burton’s work is noteworthy for its scholarly sophistication.

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                                                                                                    • de Deken, Constant. Deux ans au Congo. Antwerp, Belgium: Clément Thibaut, 1900.

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                                                                                                      De Deken, a Scheut Father, lived in the Kananga region from 1892 until 1894. He references the Luba, Luba of Kasai (Bashilange), and Kuba. He devotes a good deal of attention to descriptions of nature and Catholic missionaries.

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                                                                                                      • Sheppard, William H. Presbyterian Pioneers in Congo. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1917.

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                                                                                                        An African American missionary, Sheppard spent most of his twenty-year career among the Kuba. His writings reflect a keen and sympathetic observer and describe the Kuba state and culture of the 1890s. Sheppard was also an important collector of Kuba art. He became a harsh and effective critic of Free State atrocities.

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                                                                                                        • Springer, John McKendree. Christian Conquests in the Congo. New York: Methodist Book Concern, 1916.

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                                                                                                          In this book, Springer tells of the 1912 visit to Musumb before the Belgians had consolidated colonial rule. At this time, the Springers met four men, each claiming to be the Mwant Yav.

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                                                                                                          Methodology

                                                                                                          Because of the paucity of written records, scholars studying Central Africa have developed innovative ways of reconstructing the past. Jan Vansina pioneered a variety of fruitful methodological strategies as he researched and wrote about kingdoms in the region. Vansina’s work using oral traditions and historical linguistics provided the tools for greatly expanding the database upon which our understanding of the past was built. Anthropologists, more interested in the study of symbols and political clichés, laid the groundwork for analyzing the intellectual history of the region. Although not treated in this section, archaeology, a more conventional methodology for historians, has been very important for recovering the Congo Basin’s past. Unfortunately, political turmoil and the high cost of excavating have limited the extent of archaeological activity in Congo. Looking at the deep roots of Congo Basin societies, the archaeologists Pierre de Maret and Jacques Nenquin excavated proto-Luba (and perhaps proto-Bemba) settlements around the Upemba Basin. For archaeology, see Early Peoples in the Congo Basin before 1500.

                                                                                                          Oral Tradition

                                                                                                          Vansina 1985, first published in 1961, argued that oral accounts contained reliable depictions of the past. A later work, Vansina 1966, drew on oral recollections, travelers’ accounts, and colonial records to profile some of the major states of the southern savanna. Dozens of graduate students used these books as guides to fill in the gaps and to find kingdoms of their own. The introduction to Miller 1980 points out that scholars searching for the historically plausible, but easily fabricated, “kernel” in myths and legends overlooked symbolic clichés that provided the most accurate window into the past.

                                                                                                          • Miller, Joseph C. The African Past Speaks: Essays on Oral Tradition and History. Folkestone, UK: Dawson, 1980.

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                                                                                                            The sophisticated opening essay by Miller describes the use of oral history. Chapters covering a number of Congo Basin societies are based on field research by doctoral students collecting oral histories. Miller argued that, like a sturdy teepee constructed from poles that could not stand on their own, African histories rested on a variety of data that were inconclusive when viewed separately but reliable when aggregated.

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                                                                                                            • Vansina, Jan. Kingdoms of the Savanna. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966.

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                                                                                                              An initial attempt to establish periodization and to identify the major actors and topics of Central African history, Kingdoms focused on migrations, wars, trade, and the foundation and organization of states. Compared with Vansina’s own later studies of the region, the one-dimensional nature of Kingdoms demonstrates how far methodology has advanced.

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                                                                                                              • Vansina, Jan. Oral Tradition as History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                First published as De la tradition orale: Essai de méthode historique (Tervuren, Belgium: Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, 1961), the book appeared in English in 1961 as Oral Tradition: A Study in Historical Methodology (Chicago: Aldine). One of the earliest works to argue for the validity of oral traditions as historical sources, it was used as a methodological handbook by a generation of doctoral researchers. The book became outdated, however, in part by Vansina’s own work. The 1985 edition represents a thorough reconceptualization.

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                                                                                                                Linguistics and the Logic of Sequential Change to Reconstruct History

                                                                                                                Vansina 1994 recounts the general evolution of the author’s thought. As specific examples, Vansina’s works on the Kuba (Vansina 1978) and the Mongo (Vansina 1990) developed a complex methodology relying on comparative ethnography, historical linguistics, geography, and archaeology, as well as on travelers’ accounts and oral histories. Hoover 1978 and Ehret 2011 also argue for the importance of linguistics. Vansina’s linguistic extrapolations are challenged in Bostoen 2007. Looking at riparian political systems, Harms 1983 proposes ways of developing chronological sequences without relying on written records or speculative king lists.

                                                                                                                • Bostoen, Koen. “Pots, Words and the Bantu Problem: On Lexical Reconstruction and Early African History.” Journal of African History 48.2 (2007): 173–199.

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                                                                                                                  Although accepting the validity of historical linguistics for reconstructing the past, Bostoen challenges the somewhat sweeping generalizations Vansina draws from what Bostoen regarded as less than rigorous methodology.

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                                                                                                                  • Ehret, Christopher. History and the Testimony of Language. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                    An eloquent and readable summary of the historical linguistic approach to early African history.

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                                                                                                                    • Harms, Robert W. “The Wars of August: Diagonal Narrative in African History.” American Historical Review 88.4 (1983): 809–834.

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                                                                                                                      Looking at the causal relationships (social, economic, cultural, political), Harms argues that it is possible to reconstruct the broad chronological outlines of societies without written records.

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                                                                                                                      • Hoover, James Jeffrey. “The Seduction of Ruwej: Reconstructing Ruund History (The Nuclear Lunda: Zaire, Angola, Zambia).” PhD diss., Yale University, 1978.

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                                                                                                                        Using linguistic analysis, Hoover confirms Vansina’s hypothesis of political and cultural synthesis on the border of Lunda and Luba populations speaking divergent Bantu languages.

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                                                                                                                        • Vansina, Jan. Children of Woot: A History of the Kuba Peoples. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.

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                                                                                                                          The methodology in this book offers a way to exponentially increase the amount of data available to researchers and to acquire streams of independent corroborating information through the use of historical linguistics.

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                                                                                                                          • Vansina, Jan. Paths in the Rainforest: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa. London: James Currey, 1990.

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                                                                                                                            In addition to other methods of gathering data, Vansina uses linguistics to reconstruct the history of peoples living in an area where the conscious memory of the past is very limited.

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                                                                                                                            • Vansina, Jan. Living with Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                              A memoir explaining how Vansina’s thought and methodology evolved throughout his life.

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                                                                                                                              • Vansina, Jan. “New Linguistic Evidence and ‘the Bantu Expansion.’” Journal of African History 36.2 (1995): 173–195.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/S0021853700034101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                A vigorous defense of the use of historical linguistics to uncover change and sharing in the distant past. Vansina gives more attention to shared vocabulary than to lexicostatistics. This approach has been labeled “Words and Things.”

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                                                                                                                                Ideology

                                                                                                                                More interested in ideology than political structures and trade, the anthropologists Luc de Heusch and Victor Turner outlined strategies to make sense of the ideas embedded in the legends, myths, and symbols used to explain and justify social and political structures and transitions; see de Heusch 1982 and Turner 1967. Regarding oral tradition as ideological commentary, Yoder 1992 uses the contradictions in that commentary to reconstruct the history of political change.

                                                                                                                                • de Heusch, Luc. The Drunken King, or, the Origin of the State. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                  French structuralist analysis of the common themes embedded in the political myths and legends used to justify and explain the exercise of political power on the southern savanna. Foundational synthesis of Lunda and Luba political and social thought.

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                                                                                                                                  • Turner, Victor. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967.

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                                                                                                                                    Study of how symbols and rituals are used to resolve conflicts and influence the supernatural. Turner draws heavily on van Gennep’s work on rites of passage.

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                                                                                                                                    • Yoder, John C. The Kanyok of Zaire: An Institutional and Ideological History to 1895. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511529177Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      The book argues that the myths and legends of oral tradition contain ideological clichés that, however fanciful, reliably reflect competing political claims and ideologies. Thus, ideology and intellectual history can become the starting point for reconstructing political and social history.

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                                                                                                                                      Early Peoples in the Congo Basin before 1500

                                                                                                                                      Almost every group living in the region believes they came into either an empty land or a land inhabited by a people inferior in size, political organization, or cultural acumen. Those peoples are commonly remembered as Batwa (a Bantu root appearing throughout the subcontinent as an ethnic term for hunter-gatherers). Although frequently serving as imaginary foils justifying later polities and social systems, tales of early people may reflect faint and residual records of much earlier hunters and gatherers. Covering the entire world and for a third of the book focusing on the period before 10,000 BCE, Christian 2015 offers nuanced ideas of how Bantu peoples replaced the older populations in western Africa after the last glacial maximum, their relationships with other currents of anatomically fully modern humans coming out of East Africa, and their expansion into central, southern, and back into eastern Africa in more recent times. Klieman 2003 argues that Pygmies were not defeated bystanders but were actors at the epicenter of the great transformations of central African history, including Bantu expansion, the spread of iron technology, the evolution of chiefship, the rise of territorial politics and great kingdoms, and—after 1400—the vital suppliers in the Atlantic trade complex. Almost all scholarly investigation of Congo Basin hunters and gatherers has been the work of anthropologists looking at modern Pygmies living in the forest region north of the equator, but such groups also exist as far south as Katanga. Linguists working from the foundation laid by Malcolm Guthrie (b. 1903–d. 1972) have attempted to reconstruct the time not illuminated by the claims of oral history or the observations of written records. Vansina’s work on the Kuba (Vansina 1978) and Mongo forest peoples (Vansina 1990) are the most important. Ehret 2002, a linguistic study, is relevant for the Congo Basin, though far less detailed than some of Ehret’s earlier publications on East Africa. Ehret’s student Christine Saidi has researched an East African region reaching from the borders of Katanga (see Saidi 2010). Although not enough archeological work has been conducted in the Congo Basin, Nenquin 1963, Maret 1982, and Maret 1971–1985 cast light on the early peoples living on the shores of Upemba Basin lakes through which the Lualaba (upper Congo) River flows. These farming and fishing peoples developed a rich material culture that provided the base for increasingly complex social and political systems. Pottery and grave goods suggest the Upemba region had a substantial population by the 700s that by the early part of the second millennium exerted significant influence over neighboring regions. People living in the Kabambian period (c. 1400–1650) were precursors of the modern Luba.

                                                                                                                                      • Christian, David, ed. The Cambridge World History. Vol. 1, Introducing World History to 10,000 BCE. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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                                                                                                                                        Patrick Manning’s essay “Migration in Human History” (pp. 262–276) and Christopher Ehret’s contributions “Early Humans: Tools, Language and Culture” (pp. 313–338), and “Africa from 48,000 to 9500 BCE” (pp. 339–361), provide essential background for those accustomed to more traditional state-centric “national” conceptions of more recent history in the area.

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                                                                                                                                        • Ehret, Christopher. The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                          A broad synthesis, with conjectures on the peopling of the Congo Basin that cannot be ignored, though it represents an unconventional view. As a first attempt at a continent-wide scale, it is not as detailed as Ehret’s reconstruction of the East Africa past.

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                                                                                                                                          • Klieman, Kairn A. “The Pygmies Were Our Compass”: Bantu and Batwa in the History of West Central Africa, Early Times to c. 1900 C.E. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                            A resourceful reconstruction of the contribution of the Batwa to very early Bantu life and thought. Although Klieman’s work deals with Cameroon, Gabon, and Congo-Brazzaville, her ideas are relevant for the southern savanna.

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                                                                                                                                            • Maret, Pierre de. Fouilles archéologiques dans la vallée du Haut-Lualaba, Zaire. 3 vols. Tervuren, Belgium: Museé Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, 1971–1985.

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                                                                                                                                              Continuing the work of Jacques Nenquin, Maret documents the earlier material culture of the Lualaba, fishers and farmers who are likely ancestors of later Luba or (possibly) Bemba. Vast cemeteries near the Lualaba River suggest an increasing population, more stratification (possibly the emergence of a political elite by c. 1000 CE), and an acceleration of long-distance trade (copper items from areas far to the south).

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                                                                                                                                              • Maret, Pierre de. “The Iron Age in the West and South.” In The Archaeology of Central Africa. Edited by Francis van Noten, 77–96. Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck und Verlagsanstalt, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                Accessible provisional summary of Maret’s work.

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                                                                                                                                                • Nenquin, Jacques. Excavations at Sanga: The Protohistoric Necropolis. Tervuren, Belgium: Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, 1963.

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                                                                                                                                                  First excavated in 1957, the extremely large cemetery near Lake Kisale in the Upemba depression yielded information about pottery, metalworking, social hierarchy, and trade. Nequin focused on the Kisalian period, which lasted from the 8th to the 14th centuries.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Saidi, Christine. Women’s Authority and Society in Early East-Central Africa. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                    Study of an area geographically marginal to the Congo basin but with important implications for the reconstruction of early history in Katanga.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Vansina, Jan. The Children of Woot: A History of the Kuba Peoples. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                      Vansina uses historical linguistics to show how societies borrowed or invented material and cultural items, experienced economic and political transformations, and were influenced by or projected their influence onto other societies.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Vansina, Jan. Paths in the Rainforest: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                        Vansina uses historical linguistics to uncover the connections among early Congo Basin peoples—groups without extensive oral records—and chronicle the development of their technologies, farming practices, foods, social organization, and political systems.

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                                                                                                                                                        Rise of Houses and States from 1500 to 1700

                                                                                                                                                        The years 1500 and 1700 should be regarded as very imprecise approximations of the endpoints of this period. Not only is too little known about this period to claim greater accuracy, but also there is no sharp line separating the period before states existed from the time of centralized polities. In fact, no clear distinction exists between states and non-states. Although no states existed before 1500, even for several centuries afterward states were anomalies in the Congo Basin. Most peoples lived in social and political units of relatively equal power and limited geographical extent. Low population density, the challenges of transportation, the lack of economic differentiation, and the absence of prestigious models meant there was little incentive for societies to consolidate political power over an extensive area. When states did emerge, they often used the metaphors and images of family to describe political offices. The head of a state was regarded as the head of a family; subordinate officials were thought of as kin, distant or near. The paucity of states did not mean that society was static. Competition within and among Houses was intense as leaders sought to expand the number of people under their “paternal” authority. Pruitt 1973 provides an anthropological study of recent times, which he projects onto the past, while Vansina 2004 offers a more generalized hypothesis about how polities evolved in ways that were both varied and somewhat similar.

                                                                                                                                                        • Pruitt, William F., Jr. “An Independent People: A History of the Salampasu of Zaire and Their Neighbors.” PhD diss., Northwestern University, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                          Pruitt, who grew up among the Salampasu, describes the inner dynamics of a “stateless” society. The competition of Salampasu Big Men for followers was typical of other parts of the Congo Basin.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Vansina, Jan. How Societies Are Born: Governance in West Central Africa before 1600. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                            Focusing on societies from western Congo south through Namibia, Vansina uses archaeology, historical linguistics, and ethnography to describe how material advances before 1500 influenced later political development. Vansina also credits the role of human imagination in finding novel ways to foster cooperation, the essence of governance.

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                                                                                                                                                            Political Units in the 18th and 19th Centuries

                                                                                                                                                            Kingdoms of the Savanna (Vansina 1966, cited under General Overviews) is typical of early studies of the African past in that it posited the existence of states with centralized governments, discrete borders, and a self-conscious citizenry. In fact, except perhaps for the Kuba/Bushoong kingdom, the so-called central African states were remarkably fluid in terms of social mobility, structure, population, and territory. Building on the legacy of successful Big Men from previous centuries, nodes of political power emerged at the intersection of major trade routes, in the more fertile valleys or floodplains, or where prized natural resources were more abundant. Ironically, even as they dismissed African culture as inferior, the explorers and commercial travelers, European administrators, and the first anthropologists and historians exaggerated the commonalities between what they saw in Africa politics and what they had experienced at home. However, these entities should not be equated with kingdoms, states, and empires in Europe or West Africa. Often, these “states” were simply expanded Houses led by Big Men, religious officials, merchants, or warlords. Even though they boasted of acting as the ruling elite, the authority of the king or chief depended very much on the voluntary acquiescence of the subordinates. Although they may have had impressive capital villages, they had no standing army and no bureaucracy that extended its reach much beyond the confines of the capital and nearby territories. These central African “states” were at best primus inter pares. Nearby regional capitals functioned relatively independently; faraway territories sent tribute intermittently. More important, the influence of the states was based as much on the fact that surrounding peoples and their leaders sought to borrow the prestige of the states as on the ability of the states to rule by coercion.

                                                                                                                                                            Peoples of the Southern Savanna

                                                                                                                                                            Although this section is divided into the Luba realm and its sphere of influence and the Lunda realm and its sphere of influence, that somewhat arbitrary and inaccurate distinction is the unfortunate result of administrative and research perspectives. Administrators concerned about establishing control and a semblance of legitimacy and researchers accustomed to states with clear borders cooperated in their efforts to balkanize the savanna. As noted in Vellut 1972 (cited under the Ruund/Lunda), Reefe 1981, and Ndaywel è Nziem 1999 (both cited under Luba of Katanga), people in the southern savanna constantly traded ideas, commercial goods, political office, and linguistic elements. Linguistically, the Luba subfamily of Bantu languages has been a recognized grouping since Guthrie’s work, but there are striking political and cultural differences between the lineage-based Luba-Kasai and the state-centered core of the Luba-Katanga, with the Kanyok having a long state tradition on a smaller scale and the Lulua developing a state in the 19th century. Colonial historiography and contemporary Luba ethnic chauvinism agree on common Luba origins at a marked tree, Nsangu Lubangu, located vaguely in northern Katanga. Ehret 2002 (cited under Early Peoples in the Congo Basin before 1500) sees the proto-Luba as the most eastern, but as one of a series of Bantu groups expanding eastward up the Kwa, Kasai, and Sankuru Rivers from the Congo confluence, reached earlier by Bantu groups descending the Sanaga and Congo Rivers from the area of Cameroon. In this view, the Luba-Katanga developed their centralized state when they reached northern Katanga, helping push the Bemba, Tabwa, and other groups of Guthrie’s “Zone M” farther south and east into Zambia. Because most Southern Kete speak dialects of Ruund, they seem to represent the precentralization Lunda culture. The nearby Salampasu are a “refuge population,” as noted in Pruitt 1973 (cited under Ruund/Lunda-Related Groups). Although as recently as colonial times the Salampasu used a Ruund dialect, some modern Salampasu speak an entirely different language, which might be closer to Lwalwa, Mbagani, and what Vansina calls the indigenous Lueta languages of the area before the arrival of Luba and Lunda groups.

                                                                                                                                                            Luba of Katanga

                                                                                                                                                            The Luba heartland located near the Upemba Basin of the Lulalaba River is described by the long-term missionary William F. P. Burton, who recorded many Luba oral histories and legends (see Burton 1961). Thomas Reefe, who conducted field research at the Luba capital, relied on Burton as well as his own oral interviews (Reefe 1981). Both Burton and Reefe note that the concept of bulopwe (sacred blood, giving the ruling elite the right to rule) was a central pillar in Luba political ideology. With contributions by art historians and anthropologists, Roberts and Roberts 1996 looks at the politically related art of the Luba court. Petit 1993, by an anthropologist, documents the relationship between rituals of common people and rituals of the court. Ndaywel è Nziem 1999 contextualizes the Luba within the larger framework of southeastern Congo’s politics and economics.

                                                                                                                                                            • Burton, W. F. P. Luba Religion and Magic in Custom and Belief. Menselijke wetenschappen 35. Tervuren, Belgium: Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, 1961.

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                                                                                                                                                              Burton, a missionary, based his book on his own observations and conversations with Luba political leaders and religious experts in the first half of the 20th century. A standard and reliable source.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Ndaywel è Nziem, Isidore. “The Political System of the Luba and Lunda: Its Emergence and Expansion.” In General History of Africa. Vol. 5, Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Edited by Bethwell A. Ogot, 290–299. Abridged ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                Good description of the Luba and Lunda polities from their inception until about 1800. The essay also looks at many related ethnic groups and polities. Ndaywel discusses ways the environment—poor soils, long dry season, abundant minerals (in south), and more fertile river valleys—influenced settlement and trade patterns. Good survey of founding mythologies, political symbols, and state institutions. Emphasis on the attractiveness of Luba and Lunda political ideologies and structures.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Petit, Pierre. “Rites familiaux, rites royaux: Étude du système cérémoniel des Luba du Shaba (Zaïre).” PhD diss., Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Anthropological study based on field research in Kinkondja, Ngoi Mani, and Kabongo (1988–1991). Compares the life cycle rituals (birth, male and female initiation, marriage, funerals) of the common people and the enthronement and funeral rituals of kingship. Petit argues that the two sets of rituals are more in a relation of continuity than of rupture (as sometimes argued in the literature on sacred kingship). An excellent complement to Rainbow and the Kings (Reefe 1981).

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Reefe, Thomas Q. The Rainbow and the Kings: History of the Luba Empire to 1891. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Reefe examines myths and symbols to explain the origins of the Luba state and its evolution from a small polity near the Upemba Basin into an empire. Emphasis on the importance of salt and iron as trade items with political importance. As royal sons became more numerous and as the opportunity for accumulating wealth increased, conflicts among the ruling elite and attacks against neighbors multiplied.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Roberts, Mary Nooter, and Allen F. Roberts, eds. Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History. Munich: Prestel, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Study of Luba intellectual, aesthetic, and social life, with an emphasis on mnemonic devices such as memory boards, beaded emblems, wooden figures, body arts, ornamented staffs and axes, and divination devices. This artistic record of myths and court etiquette is deciphered by “men of memory,” members of the Mbudye society.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Luba of Katanga Related States

                                                                                                                                                                      The Kalundwe, Kanyok, Kalundwe, and Songye Luba-related polities to the west and northwest of the Luba and Lunda not only borrowed from the Luba and Lunda realms, but they also served as important conduits of ideas, trade goods, and political rituals. Looking at the Kanyok east of the Luba capital, Ceyssens 2003 describes the central Kanyok court, while Yoder 1992 gives more attention to regional Kanyok chiefdoms. Van Overbergh 1908 was the first ethnographic study of the Songye, while Fairley 1978, a doctoral dissertation, records political legends. Verhulpen 1936 is one of the only studies of the Kalundwe, who live between the Kanyok and Lunda.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Ceyssens, Rik. Le Roi Kanyok au milieu de quatre coins (Mwin Kányòk, mákóók’ mànàày). Fribourg, Switzerland: Éditions Universitaires, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Displaying an astonishing depth of research, the book describes Kanyok society in the last half of the 1800s. While the Kanyok court exerted a powerful unifying influence over peoples living in the Luilu River valley, the political system facilitated a constant infusion of people from the outlying regions into the capital and into the ranks of the political elite.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Fairley, Nancy J. “Mianda ya Ben’Ekie: A History of the Ben’Ekie.” PhD diss., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Fairley researched the Ben’Ekie, a subgroup of the Songye, a Luba-related people living northwest of the Luba heartland.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • van Overbergh, Cyrille. Sociologie descriptive: Les Basonge (Etat Ind. du Congo). Brussels: A. De Wit, 1908.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Very early study of Songye culture and art.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Verhulpen, Edmond. Baluba et balubaïsés du Katanga. Antwerp, Belgium: L’Avénir Belge, 1936.

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                                                                                                                                                                              A colonial administrator living among the Kalundwe, Verhulpen wrote this as a comprehensive study of Luba and Luba-related peoples. The Kalundwe section of Verhulpen’s book is by far the most useful.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Yoder, John C. The Kanyok of Zaire: An Institutional and Ideological History to 1895. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511529177Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                Kanyok history from its origins until the coming of Belgian rule in the 1890s. Although giving attention to such matters as trade, military affairs, social structures, and the emergence of a centralizing polity, the book’s main contribution is its analysis of political ideology as reflected in myths and legends, widely shared across much of the southern savanna.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Luba of Kasai and Neighboring Groups

                                                                                                                                                                                Although many groups in Kasai claim Luba origins, none established large-scale political units. The missionary Prosper Denolf described many of these peoples (see Denolf 1954–1955). Mpoyi 1966, written by a Luba Kasai cleric, and van Keerberghen 1990 and van Zandijcke 1953, written by Belgians, are general histories of the area. Bracq 1910 offers one of the first glimpses into the Kete, though it is a short glimpse.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Bracq, Robert. “Au pays des Bakete.” Missions en Chine et au Congo et aux Philippines 22 (1910): 108–112; 132–137.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Brief first-person description by an early missionary.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Denolf, Prosper. Aan de Rand van de Dibese. 3 vols. Brussels: Institut Royal Colonial Belge, 1954–1955.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Detailed study of the peoples living in between the Kasai and Mbujimayi Rivers. Literalist understanding of oral traditions, but extensive ethnographic descriptions showing evidence of the prestige of the Luba polity and culture. The Luba, Denolf argues, represented an overlay upon an ethnic mosaic of non-Luba peoples such as the Kete and Salampasu. Excellent French summary by G. van Bulck.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Mpoyi, Frère Lazare M. Histoire wa Baluba. Mbjui Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo: Mgr. Joseph Nkongolo, 1966.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Stucy of the Luba of Kasai by a Luba historian.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • van Keerberghen, J. Origines des populations du Kasai. Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo: Éditions de l’Archidiocèse, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        General overview looking at the numerous small chiefdoms in Kasai north and west of the Luba-related state-centric groups.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • van Zandijcke, A. Pages de l’histoire du Kasayi. Namur, Belgium: Collection Lavigerie, 1953.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          A Catholic missionary with extensive experience in the Luluabourg (modern Kananga) area, van Zandijcke offers a good discussion of the dynamic situation in the late 1800s, when local Big Men and colonial agents competed for control of the region.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          The Ruund/Lunda

                                                                                                                                                                                          In what are now Zambia, Congo, and Angola, the Ruund/Lunda developed political cultures that had power not because they exerted effective control much more than 100 kilometers from the capital, but because they were attractive to others as sources of legitimacy and prestige. The prominent Ruund center of political influence developed an identifiable political culture using the strategy of positional succession in which members of the government took on titles that were the names of the founding hero and his retinue, placing titles in perpetual kinship. Carvalho 1890 offers an early ethnographic portrait of the Lunda, Duysters 1958 looks at Lunda dynastic ideology, Hoover 1978 is the most detailed scholarly analysis of the Lunda heartland, and Palmeirim 2006 looks at Lunda ideology. N’Dua Solol 1978, Ndaywel é Nziem 1999, and Vellut 1972 give more attention to Lunda relations with the larger savanna world.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Carvalho, Henrique A. Dias de. Ethnographie e história tradicional dos povos da Lunda. Lisbon, Portugal: Imprensa Nacional, 1890.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.5479/sil.193951.39088003490430Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            This is the collection of historical reconstruction and ethnographic material distilled by. Carvalho after the major expedition to the Lunda capital in attempts to obtain a treaty and forestall Leopold II’s claim to the southwestern part of the Congo Basin. Carvalho made great efforts to collect traditional histories and synthesize them, although modern historians would wish that his sources were more clearly delineated and the seams in his synthesis less hidden.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Duysters, Léon. “Histoire des Aluunda.” Problémes d’Afrique Centrale 40 (1958): 75–98.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Duysters, a Belgian official, first at Kapanga among the Ruund and later among the Luba at Kamina, is responsible for linking the heroic/mythical Chibind Yirung directly with the Luba state of the balopwe, where earlier recordings of the tradition simply give his origins in the east (toward the rising of the sun) or link him to smaller, closer groups such as the Kalundwe.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Hoover, James Jeffrey. “The Seduction of Ruwej: Reconstructing Ruund History (The Nuclear Lunda: Zaire, Angola, Zambia).” PhD diss., Yale University, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Although confirming Vansina’s hypothesis of synthesis between bordering Lunda and Luba populations, Hoover found little evidence of military conflict between the two major states. The well-known tradition of three exiled brothers was grafted to the Ruund tradition of Ruwej to justify 19th-century commercial cooperation, as later confirmed by an 18th-century Portuguese document recounting the same story of a chiefly line farther west.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Ndaywel è Nziem, Isidore. “The Political System of the Luba and Lunda: Its Emergence and Expansion.” In General History of Africa. Vol. 5, Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Edited by Bethwell A. Ogot, 290–299. Abridged ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  An essential work for understanding the Lunda in the contest of the larger Congo Basin and southern savanna’s economic and political networks.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • N’Dua Solol, Kanampumb. “Histoire ancienne des populations Luba et Lunda du plateau de Haut-Lubilashi (Bena-Nsamba, Inimpimin et Tuwudi).” PhD diss., Université Nationale du Zaïre, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A study of an ethnic border area on the edge of the Luba and Lunda states, showing the strategies of local populations to maintain the maximum autonomy possible while fitting into larger constellations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Palmeirim, Manuela. Of Alien Kings and Perpetual Kin: Contradiction and Ambiguity in Ruund (Lunda) Symbolic Thought. Wantage, UK: Sean Kingston, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      A work by a social anthropologist rather than a historian, a necessary companion when reading Lunda historical traditions as an antidote to excessively literal interpretations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Vellut, Jean-Luc. “Notes sur le Lunda et la frontière luso-africaine, 1700–1900.” Études d’Histoire Africaine 3 (1972): 61–166.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Authoritative study of the relationship between the Lunda and the Portuguese-dominated region to the west.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ruund/Lunda-Related Groups

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Recent linguistic research has suggested that the closest affinities of Ruund and related languages are with uMbundu (of the Ovimbundu of the southern Angolan highlands), suggesting that there is a countercurrent of groups moving northeastward out of southern Angola and overriding earlier Bantu groups in the Lulua-Kasai area with Lueta languages and less complex political institutions, and encountering Luba groups who expanded from the Kasai-Sankuru-Lomami basin toward the southeast into Katanga and northwestern Zambia. The border between Lunda and Luba was thus a contact zone between differing Bantu streams, encouraging mutual borrowing and synthesis. The Bemba, described in Roberts 1973, borrowed bits from their western neighbors, because the originally kiLuba-speaking Mwata Kazembe dynasty (eastern Lunda), described in Macola 2002, set up its capital along the Luapula in the middle of the iciBemba-speaking area and at times was the dominant commercial and political network in Bembaland. Schecter 1976 deals with the southern Lunda, Papstein 1978 with the Luvale, and Prins 1980 with the Lozi. For peoples east of the Lunda, Kodi 1976 is about the Pende, Miller 1969 describes the Chokwe, and Pruitt 1973 examines the Salampasu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kodi, Muzong Wanda. “A Pre-colonial History of the Pende People (Republic of Zaire) from 1620 to 1900.” PhD diss., Northwestern University, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          A matrilineal Mbundu-related group, the Pende regard the Lunda as kin. The Pende moved to the Kwilu region to escape political centralization and efforts by the Portuguese, Imbangala, and Mbundu to impose their authority over matrilineal lineage headmen.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Macola, Giacomo. The Kingdom of Kazembe: History and Politics in North-Eastern Zambia and Katanga to 1950. Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Macola’s narrative traces the continuities from the original Lunda settlement among Bemba-speaking Shila fishermen through the development of a complex network among matrilineal commoners and “patrilineal” nobility to its near elimination by modernizing Yeke and Swahili trade entrepreneurs creating new political formations, and its colonial revival as the “traditional” polity on the Rhodesian side of the border with the Belgian Congo.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Miller, Joseph C. Cokwe Expansion, 1850–1900. African Studies Occasional Paper 1. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Study of the rise of the Chokwe and their eventual domination of the central Lunda state. Miller’s work on Cokwe expansion showed this Lunda-related group’s origin to be in the watershed highlands east of the Ovimbundu at the sources of the Cuanza, Kwango, Kwilu, and Kasai, Angolan tributaries of the Zambezi, the Ovango, and the Cunene.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Papstein, Robert J. “The Upper Zambezi: A History of the Luvale People, 1000–1900.” PhD diss., University of California at Los Angeles, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Study of Lwena/Luvale peoples of the Congo/Angola/Zambia border area.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Prins, Gwyn. The Hidden Hippopotamus, Reappraisal in African History: The Early Colonial Experience in Western Zambia. African Studies Series 28. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Study of the Lozi peoples of western Zambia.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Pruitt, William F., Jr. “An Independent People: A History of the Salampasu of Zaire and Their Neighbors.” PhD diss., Northwestern University, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Study of politics in an acephalous society. Emphasis is on the highly competitive nature of politics as Big Men struggled to attract and retain ambitious subordinates.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Roberts, Andrew D. A History of the Bemba: Political Growth and Change in North-Eastern Zambia before 1900. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Standard account of the Bemba, who developed an extensive state in the mid-1800s. The Bemba were instrumental in the ivory trade and also in halting the northward expansion of the Ngoni groups fleeing from the upheavals in southern Africa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Schecter, Robert Edmond. “History and Historiography on a Frontier of Lunda Expansion: The Origins and Early Development of the Kanongesha.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Study of Kanongesha chiefship among the Ndembu of northwestern Zambia.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Forest, Forest Edge, and Riparian Peoples

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To the northwest, on the edge of the forest, the Kuba/Bushoong, described in Vansina 1978, created a state that stimulated the production of food crops, textiles, and art. Living in the forest between the Luluala (upper Congo) and Lake Tanganyika, the decentralized Lega, described in Biebuyck 1973, Yogolelo 1997, and Zuesse 1978, maintained order through rituals, proverbs, and sanctions of a secret society, the Bwami. Along the great bend of the Congo River, the Bobangi and Nunu, described in Harms 1981 and Harms 1987, established economic and political dominance. Vansina 1990 is the best work dealing with decentralized peoples of the forest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Biebuyck, Daniel. Lega Culture: Art, Initiation, and Moral Philosophy among a Central African People. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Living west of the northern part of Lake Tanganyika, the Lega are a forest people who both hunt and farm. Instead of relying on a centralized political structure, the Lega achieve social order through the moral authority of the Bwami secret society. Independent villages, each governed by a council of elders, are united by a common stock of folk wisdom, including proverbs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Harms, Robert. River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade, 1500–1891. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            With their large market towns, the Bobangi dominated trade on the middle stretches of the Congo River. Powerful Houses competed with one another to control the supply of slaves and ivory. Internally, status was linked to performance, enabling capable individuals, even former slaves, to rise to the highest positions of leadership.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Harms, Robert. Games against Nature: An Eco-cultural History of the Nunu of Equatorial Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Uses game theory to explain the exploitation of natural resources by the Nunu peoples, who live in the swampy regions of the Middle Zaire River. Emphasis is on the competitive relationships among households, which pushed them into new ecological areas.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Vansina, Jan. The Children of Woot: A History of the Kuba Peoples. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Using linguistic evidence, Vansina shows that the encounter of northern Mongo people with southern Kete-related groups spawned the Kuba state. As the state became increasingly centralized, the demands of a fiercely competitive elite greatly stimulated agricultural, artisanal, and artistic production. Thus, the Kuba state did not grow as a result of increased trade and economic activity; rather, the economic quickening was a result of pressure from the Bushoong elite.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Vansina, Jan. Paths in the Rainforest: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The most comprehensive study of the Mongo peoples of the equatorial forest region. Extensive use of historical linguistics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Yogolelo Tambwe ya Kisimba. “L’administration coloniale de Bulega, 1902–1948: Déstructuration-restructuration d’un espace politique ancien.” PhD thesis, Université de Lubumbashi, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Although focused on the colonial period, Yongolelo’s work has relevance for understanding the Lega in the 1800s.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Zuesse, Evan M. “Action as the Way of Transcendence: The Religious Significance of the Bwami Cult of the Lega.” Journal of Religion in Africa 9.1 (1978): 62–72.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Zuesse argues that the Bwami proverbs, which are expressed through the music, dance, carvings, and dramas used in initiation and village ceremonies, are deeply spiritual and, therefore, intensely powerful.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Peoples of the Northern Savanna

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In the savannas north of the forest, large states emerged in the 1900s. Bradshaw 2005 and Evans-Pritchard 1937 cover the Azande, and Schildkrout and Keim 1990 deals with the Mangbetu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Bradshaw, Richard. “Central African Republic: Nineteenth Century: Gbaya, Banda, and Zande.” In Encyclopedia of African History. Vol. 1. Edited by Kevin Shillington, 231–232. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Located north of the Congo forest where the Congo, the Central Africa Republic, and Sudan join, the Azande gained prominence as slave raiders in the mid-1800s. Never establishing a centralized polity, the Vongara clan established small states and united the region culturally as people increasingly identified themselves as Azande.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon, 1937.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Although the focus of Evans-Pritchard’s classic work is on ethnography, specifically the use of the supernatural to maintain social control, the book gives some attention to the decentralized political system that rewarded ambition and permitted upward mobility.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Schildkrout, Emod, and Curtis A. Keim. African Reflections: Art from Northeastern Zaire. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Mangbetu trace their roots to immigrant Bantu and Nilo-Saharan peoples. A wealthy semi-centralized Mangbetu state arose in the early 1800s when one of many competing regional Houses gained primacy. Schildkrout and Keim document not only Mangbetu art, but also history, politics, economics, social organization, and religion in a magnificently illustrated book based on a 1909–1910 American Museum of Natural History expedition to northeast Congo. Includes contributions from Didier Demolin, John Mack, Thomas Ross Miller, and Jan Vansina.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Collision and Interaction with Global Forces in the 19th Century

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bookended by the Napoleonic Wars and the appearance of colonial power around 1890, the 19th century was a time of turbulence in central Africa. Some existing states, such as the Luba, Lunda, Kanyok, and Kuba, were able to take advantage of new technologies and commercial opportunities to gain wealth and power. Others were weakened by outside pressures or by internal dissent. New polities and peoples rose to challenge older institutions and leaders. In the south, Chokwe hunters and traders emerged as a powerful ethnic group—but never a state—renowned for slaving, ivory collection, and forestry skills. In the northeast, Bobangi trading houses dominated slave and ivory trading on the Congo River. To the northeast, Azande and Mangbetu groups rose and fell in response to new commercial opportunities and novel military challenges. Along the Lualaba River to the east, the Zanzibari merchant Tippu Tib carved out a new commercial-political domain, while several hundred kilometers to the south the Sumbwa interloper Ngelenwa, having taken the Lunda name Mushid (Msiri), defeated Kazembe to found the Yeke kingdom over much the same area. Northwest of the Luba kingdom, the slave trader Ngongo Lutete built an imposing capital, which served as the base of his trading operations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Role of Trade, Military Operations, and Agriculture

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The mid-to late 19th century presented new economic and military opportunities and challenges to the Congo Basin peoples. Dias 1986 focuses on the way macro-level global forces affected internal political relationships among the Mbundu. Miller 1988, a magisterial study, looks at the links between the southern savanna and the Atlantic world. Harms 1981 and Harms 1987 offer creative and insightful accounts of how the slave trade and rubber trade enabled ambitious entrepreneurs to gain great economic and political power in the northwestern Congo region. Bawele 1981 also describes the Congo-Ubangi region. Oppen 1993, a book on the southeastern savanna region, must be consulted by anyone seeking to understand the chain of supply from production to sales to Atlantic world buyers. Marcola 2016 chronicles the domestication of gun technology from the first exotic imports through the end of precolonial societies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bawele, Mumbanza mwa. “Histoire des people riverains de l’entre-Zaïre-Ubangi: Évaluation sociale et économique, 1780–1930.” PhD diss., Université de Lubumbashi, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Survey of changing economic conditions in the area north of the Congo River.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Dias, Jill R. “Changing Patterns of Power in the Luanda Hinterland: The Impact of Trade and Colonization on the Mbundu, ca. 1845–1920.” Paideuma 32 (1986): 285–318.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Dias looks at the ways in which changing global economic and political relationships affected political power in Mbundu society. The Mbundu were a key link between the southern Congo basin and the Atlantic trade complex.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Harms, Robert. River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade, 1500–1891. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Focusing on the Bobangi region, Harms explains the dynamic nature of precapitalist economies. Both partners and competitors constantly struggled to gain the upper hand in negotiating the terms of trade, finding innovative ways of increasing production and gaining access to broader markets.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Harms, Robert. Games against Nature: An Eco-cultural History of the Nunu of Equatorial Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Harms explains the underlying political and social causes of intense economic/ecological competition characterizing the Nunu peoples of the Zaire River.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Marcola, Giacomo. The Gun in Central Africa: A History of Technology and Politics. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2016.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This study examines the assimilation of firearms in the Upper Zambezi (Lozi, Luvale, and Lunda-Ndembu), eastern Zambia and Malawi (Ngoni), and southeastern Congo (Msiri’s Yeke). Macola suggests that firearms are not simply a technology with obvious military and hunting uses and he suggests that the form of their adoption or marginalization in a given society is a complex interweaving of African cultural and political dynamics. This challenges the notion that African societies acquired or did not acquire guns because some were intrinsically “martial” while others were inherently “peaceful.” This also rejects the idea that economics determined whether a people embraced firearms.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Miller, Joseph C. Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Study of the entire slave trading system that linked the Congo Basin to the Americas. As suggested by the title, Miller emphasizes the social, economic, and political destruction wrought by the slave trade.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Oppen, Achim von. Terms of Trade and Terms of Trust: The History and Contexts of Pre-colonial Market Production around the Upper Zambezi and Kasai. Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In contrast to Miller 1988, Oppen claims the Atlantic trade complex was not forced on African societies, nor did it result in great suffering and dislocation. Unlike structural-functional scholars, who claim that economic exchanges in traditional African societies were morally driven and were designed to solidify social relationships, Oppen argues that traditional African societies were highly compatible with capitalism, which emphasized credit, profit, and money, and that Africans had actively embraced new products and economic opportunities. Careful attention is given to the concrete details of production and trade.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Rise of Merchant-Raider Peoples and States

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the second half of the 19th century, slave and ivory traders from east of Lake Tanganyika pushed into eastern Congo. Establishing peaceful relationships where they could and resorting to violence when needed, they carved out spheres of interest that were, in part, commercial empires and, in part, political domains. Two of the best-known leaders were the Swahili Arab Hamed bin Muhammed (Tippu Tib) and the Sumbwa merchant-warrior Msiri, who established his Yeke political-economic dominion in Katanga. Although many accounts portray the two men as ruthless predators, more careful studies show that both were skilled political operatives who built alliances with local chiefs and, in the case of Msiri, established the foundations of a complex political system. Tippu Tib and Msiri depended on the power of global markets, modern weapons, and sophisticated financial arrangements. They also used preexisting trade routes, storage depots, and local African partners. Oriented to the Atlantic trade system, Chokwe, Songye, and Balungu warrior-merchants gained power and inspired fear (see Balungu and Chokwe).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Tippu Tib

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ceulemans 1959 provides a sweeping overview of Swahili activity, while Maret and Legros 1993 offers a detailed look at a narrow time period of Tippu Tib’s activities. Tippu Tib’s autobiography offers a remarkable first-person account of the most influential Swahili Arab (see the various versions: Brode and Havelock 1907, Bontinck 1974, and Tippu Tib 1958). Hinde 1897 and Swann 1969 give additional first-person accounts, while Smith 1963 presents a negative view of Tippu Tib.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bontinck, François, trans. L’autobiographie de Hamed ben Mohammed el-Murjebi Tippo Tip, ca. 1840–1905. Brussels: Koninklijke Academie voor Overzeese Wetenschappen, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Tippu Tib’s carefully annotated and translated (Arabic to French) autobiography (see Whiteley’s translation, Tippu Tib 1958).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Brode, Heinrich, and H. Havelock Tippoo Tib, the Story of a Career in Central Africa. London: Edward Arnold, 1907.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The German consul in Zanzibar, Brode not only translated Tippu Tib’s autobiography into German, but also wrote a favorable biographical account of Tippu Tib. For a more recent edited version see Brode’s Tippu Tip: The Story of His Career in Zanzibar and Central Africa (Zanzibar: Gallery Press, 2003), edited by Mark Wilson.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ceulemans, P. La question arabe et le Congo, 1883–1892. Brussels: Académie Royale des Sciences Coloniales, 1959.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Excellent general overview of Swahili Arab activities in eastern Congo.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Hinde, Sidney Langford. The Fall of the Congo Arabs. London: Methuen, 1897.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Employed by Leopold II to subdue Arab potentates, Hinde provides a detailed description of Tippu Tib’s base of operations on the Lualaba River. Hinde refers to large buildings, luxurious household items, vast fields and extensive gardens, skilled artisans, and huge quantities of ivory. Hinde’s records also indicate that workers in Tippu Tib’s caravans were treated no more harshly than carriers engaged by European explorers and military leaders.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Maret, Pierre de, and Hugues Legros. “Tippo Tip à Mulongo: Nouvelles données sur le début de la pénétration arabo-swahili au Sahara.” Civilisations, Revue international d’antropologie et de sciences humaines 41.1–2 (1993): 377–401.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Detailed reconstruction of Tippu Tib’s early incursions into Luba territory and of the ensuing political and economic conflicts. The Mulongo were a Luba group who dominated a key market nexus.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Smith, Allison. “The Southern Interior.” In History of East Africa. Vol. 1. Edited by Roland Anthony Oliver and Gervase Mathew. Oxford: Clarendon, 1963.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In this early scholarly study, Smith argues that Hamed Ben Muhammed was a robber baron who sought not just economic gain, but also political dominance over local African chiefdoms.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Swann, Alfred J. Fighting the Slave-Hunters in Central Africa. London: Frank Cass, 1969.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Account of a colonial agent. Good description of Tippu Tib’s headquarters in eastern Congo.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Tippu Tib. “Maisha ya Hammed bin Muhammed el Murjebi yaani Tippu Tip.” Translated by W. H. Whiteley. East African Swahili Committee Journals, Supplement 28.2 (1958).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          First-person account of Tippu Tib’s activities as a merchant-warrior. The autobiography details the complicated financial dealings of Indian and Swahili merchants, the logistics of establishing trade links to the interior (the people in his caravans numbered into the thousands), and Tippu Tib’s relationships with local chiefs in the Manyema region of eastern Congo. Continued in East African Swahili Committee Journals, Supplement 29.1 (1959).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeke

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Two descriptions—Arnot 2014, from a 19th-century missionary, and Legros 1996, from a modern scholar—provide excellent insights into the inner workings of Msiri’s political and economic domain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Arnot, Frederick S. Garenganze, or Seven Years’ Pioneer Mission Work in Central Africa. London: Routledge, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The missionary Arnot, who lived at Msiri’s capital for two years (1886–1888), provided a detailed and sympathetic description of the Yeke kingdom’s ruler, system of government, and trade relations. First published in 1889.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Legros, Hugues. Chasseurs d’ivoire: Une histoire du royaume yeke du Shaba (Zaire). Anthropologie sociale. Brussels: Éditions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Drawing on fieldwork conducted in the 1990s, Legros presents a detailed portrait of Msiri as a shrewd political entrepreneur who carved out a trading domain from territories previously controlled by Kazembe’s Lunda, the Lunda of the Mwant Yav, and the Luba of Katanga. Legros’s description of the Yeke state gives special emphasis to the inner workings of the court, the role of women in government, and the system of taxation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Balungu and Chokwe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The late 19th century saw the rise of a number of new ethnic groups that took advantage of military and economic opportunities associated with the penetration of Western influences. The Balungu and Chokwe are two examples. Ceyssens 1998, a study of the Balungu, sheds light on the turbulent situation in Kasai, while Miller 1970 describes the rise of the Chokwe. Ngongo Lutete, a Songye warlord, is treated in van Zandijcke 1953.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ceyssens, Rik. Balungu: Constructeurs et destructeurs de l’État en Afrique centrale. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Study of the dislocated young men, the so-called Balungu, who attached themselves to merchants and warlords in Kasai during the late 1800s.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Miller, Joseph C. “Cokwe Trade and Conquest in the Nineteenth Century.” In Pre-colonial African Trade: Essays on Trade in Central and Western Africa before 1900. Edited by Richard Gray and David Birmingham, 175–201. London: Oxford University Press, 1970.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Miller describes the waves of violence that accompanied the Chokwe expansion.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • van Zandijcke, Aimé. Pages de l’histoire du Kasayi. Namur, Belgium: Collection Lavigerie, 1953.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Van Zandijcke writes about Kasai in the late 1800s. For example, he describes the activities of the Songye or Tetetela slave trader Ngongo Lutete, who got his start as an ally of Tippu Tib.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Impact of the Past on the Present

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The precolonial past continues to shape debates about current historiography and politics. Illustrative of one such debate is the difference between the perspectives of two prominent historians: Jan Vansina and Jean-Luc Vellut (see Arnaut and Vanhee 2001, an interview with Vansina, and Vellut 2001). Both make comparisons between the violence of Belgian colonialism and the violence of traditional African states. Another question that concerns scholars is the degree to which the civic values of traditional African political systems continue to affect current behavior. Ceyssens 1998 looks at youth culture in Kasai, Legros 1996 describes political continuities in Katanga, Macola 2002 considers the continuing influence of the Lunda in both Congo and Angola, Schatzberg 2001 looks at a number of countries in East and central Africa, Vansina 2010 writes of fundamental political tendencies in the forest region, and Yoder 1998 extrapolates from 19th-century political culture to comment on modern politics. All of these works argue that values and perceptions from precolonial times are reflected in more recent thinking and practices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Arnaut, Karel, and Hein Vanhee. “History Facing the Present: An Interview with Jan Vansina.” H-AFRICA, 1 November 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Vansina is critical of Belgian historians for downplaying or ignoring the violence of Belgian colonialism. This is in contrast to Jean Luc-Vellut, who argues that Vansina’s generally positive view of precolonial African societies causes him to overlook the fact that Belgian scholars have, in fact, documented the problems with the colonial past.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Ceyssens, Rik. Balungu: Constructeurs et destructeurs de l’État en Afrique centrale. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ceyssens draws a parallel between the disenfranchised young men of Kasai who sought adventure and economic gain in the late 1800s and the politically turbulent youth of the 1970s.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Legros, Hugues. Chasseurs d’ivoire: Une histoire du royaume yeke du Shaba (Zaire). Anthropologie sociale. Brussels: Éditions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          At the end of his book, Legros describes how the prestige of Msiri’s state, and even some of his descendants, continues to play a role in modern politics. This is but one example of how scholars point out the links between the distant past and the present.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Macola, Giacomo. The Kingdom of Kazembe: History and Politics in North-Eastern Zambia and Katanga to 1950. Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Details the eastern Lunda polity from its days as the dominant economic/political network to its eclipse at the hands of Msiri and Swahili traders in the 19th century. Also covers the subsequent Lunda recuperation as an important cultural entity due to the fixing of the Belgian-British border at the Luapula, with Lunda influence downplayed by one colonial power to the west and Yeke domination by the other to the east.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Schatzberg, Michael G. Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Although drawing on data from many African regions, Schatzberg gives much attention to Zaire (now Congo). In the final chapter, he argues that current paternalistic political values emphasizing patronage (symbolized by father, food, and family) have evolved through centuries of traditional political practices.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Vansina, Jan. Being Colonized: The Kuba Experience in Rural Congo, 1880–1960. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Based on Vansina’s early research notes and subsequent studies. In this, and in many of his other writings, Vansina notes ways in which the values, institutions, and political and social habits of the past continued to shape political and civil society long after Congo Basin states ceased to be independent.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Vellut, Jean-Luc. “Jan Vansina on the Belgian Historiography of Africa: Around the Agenda of a Bombing Raid.” H-AFRICA, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Was the precolonial past violent or relatively peaceful? In his own interview (Arnaut and Vanhee 2001), Vansina criticized Belgian historiography as too uncritical of the violence of the colonial era. For his part, Vellut says Vansina downplays the violence and oppression of precolonial societies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Yoder, John. “Good Government, Democratization and Traditional African Political Philosophy: The Example of the Kanyok of the Congo.” Journal of Modern African Studies 36.3 (1998): 483–507.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Using the example of one ethnic group, Yoder claims that traditional political values continue to shape present perceptions and behavior.

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