Western Biases in Study of African History Examined in Lawrence University Address

Xavier University historian Kathleen Smythe will discuss a pair of long-term historical processes of significance in African history before 1000 CE (Common Era), explore their connections to history in other parts of the world and how they illuminate world history in general in a Lawrence University Main Hall Forum.

Smythe presents “African Lessons for World History” Thursday, March 4 at 4:30 p.m. in Main Hall, room 201. The event is free and open to the public.

Because African historians have traditionally not situated their works and discoveries within a wider frame of world historical developments, African history tends to be integrated less consistently into world history than other geographical regions. Smythe will examine some of the methods African historians have pioneered to uncover history beyond the use of written sources, including the techniques of historical linguistics.

She also will discuss how current historical research on Africa often has been hindered by an overreliance on Western history and concepts constructed by 19th- and 20th-century Western historians who typically
relied on written evidence and paradigms based on centralized states, development, progress and technology which tend to neglect most regions of the world.

A specialist in African and colonial history, Smythe joined the Xavier history department in 1997 after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. She is the author of the forthcoming articles “Literacy: A Vehicle for Cultural Change” and “Religion in Colonial Africa: Indigenous Religion” for the Encyclopedia of African History.