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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The idle and the industrious: European ideas about the African work ethic in precolonoal West Africa
Author:Rönnbäck, KlasISNI
Periodical:History in Africa (ISSN 1558-2744)
Geographic term:West Africa
Subjects:professional ethics
intellectual history
External link:https://doi.org/10.1017/hia.2014.4
Abstract:There is a growing interest in the historical attitudes to work globally. This paper studies the stereotype of the 'lazy African' in European travel accounts from precolonial West Africa. This was one of the central aspects in the European construction of an African 'other' during this period, and came to be used as a justification for much European oppression in Africa in both precolonial and colonial times. It is argued in the paper that the stereotype has existed for much longer than suggested in previous literature in the field. Previous studies have also made over-simplified statements about the stereotype, since it overlooks a most significant trend among European writers, who described not only idleness, but also industriousness, among the Africans they wrote about. By the late eighteenth century, finally, the development of an anti-slavery ideology was followed by a challenge to the whole stereotype. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]