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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Phrasebooks and the shaping of conduct in colonial Africa ca. 1884-1914
Author:Constantine, Simon
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies (ISSN 0361-7882)
Geographic term:Subsaharan Africa
language instruction
Abstract:In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries phrasebooks and primers for numerous indigenous languages were published to assist European colonists in their dealings with colonial subjects. Most were compiled by missionaries, by men in the colonial civil service, the military, or by linguists with exprience of the colonies. This paper argues that the phrases and dialogues they contain provide valuable insights into daily relations in the colonies. The main focus of the paper is on phrasebooks published for the German colonies in Africa: German South-West Africa (present day's Namibia), Cameroon, Togo, and German East-Africa (present day's mainland Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi). Some further examples are drawn from material produced for other territories in order to illustrate that the mindset they reveal, and the violent nature of much of the instruction, was a shared, European phenomenon. The author provides phrases under the themes 'master and subject', 'corporal punishment', and 'the colonial economy'. He argues that the phrasebooks, which do not disguise the brutality of normal practice, point to the insecurities of the European colonizers, not least their dependency on Africans for their basis human needs. This essentiel vulnerability no doubt informed the insistence on control that permeates the texts. He further argues that, perhaps most significantly, the phrasebooks were an important medium through which colonists might learn the attitudes and modes of behaviour towards subject populations expected from them. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]