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Abstract

This paper reviews the state of research in African economic history in tropical Africa, reaching a more pessimistic conclusion than Green and Nyambara. The subject has seen a renaissance in recent years but relatively few of the publications have come from authors based at universities between the Zambezi and the Sahara (the ‘sub-region’). This discrepancy is not new, except in degree. It is partly attributable to resource constraints. But it also reflects both intellectual priorities and the way disciplines are organized. Economics departments in the sub-region have shown little interest in history, especially recently; while history departments are often wary of both quantitative methods and economic theory, reflecting a frequently strong institutional divide between humanities and social sciences. Further, while it is true that economic historians in tropical Africa have been less enamoured with mainstream theory and cliometrics than many of their colleagues elsewhere, on both sides this partly reflects insufficient awareness of others’ publications. The paper proceeds to suggest ways in which economic historians inside and outside tropical Africa can collaborate to overcome segmentation in intellectual markets, which is desirable anyway and would probably lead to more contributions to international economic history journals from scholars based in the sub-region.

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