ABOUT THIS BOOK
Over the last fifty years, Roland Oliver has been both a witness to the post-colonial history of Africa and a preeminent scholar of the continent’s pre-colonial history. Oliver was a young Cambridge graduate in 1947 when he took a newly created position at the University of London to research, and eventually teach, the pre-colonial history of Africa. Seeking from the outset to establish a unified conception of African history free from European frameworks, Oliver and his colleague John Fage went on to write the influential A Short History of Africa, found the Journal of African History, and co-edit the eight-volume Cambridge History of Africa.
In the Realms of Gold is Oliver’s account of his life and work. He writes in a deft and lively style about the circumstances of his early life that shaped his education and outlook: his childhood on a river houseboat in Kashmir, the influential teachers and friends met at Stowe and Cambridge, and his service in World War II as a cryptographer in British intelligence, where he met his first wife, Caroline Linehan. His interest in church history while at Cambridge led him to study the historical effects of Christian missionaries in Africa, and thus his career began.
The core of the book is Oliver’s account of his research travels throughout tropical Africa from the 1940s to the 1980s; his efforts to train and foster African graduate students to teach in African universities; his role in establishing conferences and journals to bring together the work of historians and archaeologists from Europe and Africa; his encounters with political and religious leaders, scholars, soldiers, and storytellers; and the political and economic upheavals of the continent that he witnessed.