FINALIST FOR THE BETHWELL A. OGOT BOOK PRIZE, 2018. The Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize of the African Studies Association is awarded annually at the ASA Annual Meeting to the author of the best book on East African Studies published in the previous calendar year.
The first global intellectual history of colonial Buganda, giving readers an alternative perspective of the region's history
Uses previously-unseen private and institutional archive material on colonial literacy to offer readers a new understanding of the end of empire in East Africa
Tackles three separate subjects within colonial Buganda: colonial literacy, the end of empire, and nationalist historiography, appealing to a wide range of readers
Reviews & endorsements
‘This carefully constructed and exhaustively researched account about the formation of the conflicting political beliefs held by four well-known influential colonial figures in the Buganda Kingdom of Uganda deepens our understanding of tensions within Ganda tradition—a culture that has often been misunderstood as homogeneous. […] The fundamental contribution of this fine book lies in its demonstration of the different cosmopolitan political visions of these Ganda intellectuals in colonial Buganda. It encourages further investigation into contingent paths that neither Buganda nor Uganda took.’
‘With Jonathon L. Earle’s Colonial Buganda and the End of Empire: Political Thought and Historical Imagination in Africa, we can see the potential of African intellectual history. […] His utterly persuasive argument is that our abundant knowledge of personalities and processes has failed to capture the density and vitality of the intellectual life that was the Buganda political community. […] Because African historians are frequently tasked with teaching the whole sweep of the continent’s history, we might be forgiven for evaluating all texts in terms of how they can be lifted from their specific context and made to speak to other places and times. Earle’s book resists that practice. This volume is an important chapter in the history of Buganda, full stop. […] This itself is a significant contribution. Whereas African history and historians have made up for lost ground in social, environmental, and so many other historical fields, as a discipline African history still lags in the history of the production and circulation of texts. With his book, Earle joins scholars like Karin Barber, Stephanie Newell, Isabel Hofmeyr, and Wendy Laura Belcher who are making up this gap. It is no longer possible to think about Buganda without imagining the ideas that were formulated there and the forms they took. As tightly focused as it is—and in many ways because of Earle’s laser-like attention—Colonial Buganda and the End of Empire is an invitation to other historians to quest for texts, note annotations, and read along with the continent’s other lettered communities.
Daniel Magaziner, Yale University, The American Historical Review, 124.1 (February 2019), 387–88
‘Jonathon Earle weaves together an exceptional and meticulous intellectual history of colonial Buganda. […] This is a remarkable book for graduate seminars in African history, particularly those relating to colonial literacy, nationalism, and methodology. Scholars of Uganda and Buganda will find it valuable.’
'Much of the historical scholarship on decolonization argues that the emergence of independent, multicultural, ostensibly democratic secular nation-states was not an inevitable outcome of anti-colonial nationalist activism. This book effectively demonstrates the multiplicity of conceptualizations of political futures in the late colonial Buganda kingdom, emphasizing especially the roles of religious and historical interpretation in defining political preferences. Each chapter focuses on a particular anticolonial activist of different religious background and unique perspective on the meaning of the colonial collaboration between the British Empire and the Buganda monarchy from the 1890s to the 1960s. The most incredible feature of this book is the source material used to sustain it. Earle (Centre College) is able to engage in deep intellectual history of his subjects because of his access to remarkable archival collections ranging from personal libraries to the contents of buried trunks of personal papers. The result is a book that aptly demonstrates the complexity of the political imaginary for these activists, as well as the range of possibilities they envisioned for a postcolonial Buganda. Of interest to scholars of African studies, intellectual history, and religious studies.' Summing Up: ★ ★ ★ (/★ ★ ★) Highly recommended.
Matthew M. Heaton, Virginia Tech — Choice, Association of College and Research Libraries of the American Library Association
'Earle’s work in elaborating the intellectual journeys of these individuals is vivid and methodologically innovative. It reclaims fragmentary sources and interprets intellectual leaps to emphasize a contingent and creative literary culture connecting diverse narratives of Uganda’s history, religious ideas, and secular visions of progress, development, and (sometimes) democracy.’
‘Buganda is one of the most studied societies in sub-Saharan Africa, but in this thoughtful and innovative book Jonathon L. Earle shows us how much more there is to explore. Using a series of illuminating case studies, based on pioneering research in private archives, Earle demonstrates how vivid, and how complex, were the political and historical imaginations of the kingdom's leading intellectuals in the late colonial moment. This book represents a thrilling new strand in Ganda historiography, and scholars of Uganda, and intellectual historians more broadly, owe Jonathon L. Earle a debt of gratitude.'
Richard Reid, University of Oxford
'With this book Earle becomes a leader in re-thinking the history of African nationalisms. His scrutiny of private papers undiscovered by previous historians allows us to eavesdrop on the political thought of late-colonial activists as never before. Widely read in comparative politics, they thought deeply, from different religious viewpoints, Christian, Muslim, and ‘popular', about political responsibility and obligation – with a view to the right governance of their kingdom.'
John Lonsdale, Emeritus Professor, Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge
‘Essentially, this is an important examination of the end of empire in Uganda during the 1950s and 1960s. Many interviews with survivors from this period as well as careful analysis of a cornucopia of written sources make this a major study of a vital period in mid-twentieth century African history.'
Michael Twaddle, University of London
‘This unique book offers carefully constructed intellectual biographies of four critical patriots of Uganda's independence era: Musazi, Mulira, Abu Mayanja and Kiwanuka. Their historical imaginations and deep political commitments come alive through Earle's meticulous research. No other historian of Buganda has used these sources.'
Holly Hanson, Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts
‘The most exciting thing about this valuable new book is the insight that it sheds into the mechanics of political innovation. The Ganda intellectuals who are the book's subjects mined their libraries, looking for snippets of text that could expand old ideas and launch new ways of thinking about public life. Earle's meticulous book helps us see how an African people defined and debated the principles that held them together.'
Derek R. Peterson, University of Michigan
‘I strongly recommend you read this book. Jonathon L. Earle uses evidence from some one hundred authoritative individuals, thirty-three official and private archives as well as from hundreds of secondary sources to show that multiple literacies conditioned the political behavior and actions of Buganda's political activists towards the end of British rule in Buganda. Sources of their inspiration for imagining the kingdom they wanted were Buganda's past, Christian and Islamic literacies as well as European political and intellectual thought. Multiplicity of literacies created ambiguity and plurality of the vision of the state for both the activists and departing administrators with the British Empire.'
A. B. K. Kasozi, Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University Kampala, Uganda