Studying the history of nations worldwide proves as valuable as studying the history of one's home country, according to University of Calgary Professor of History Tim Stapleton, a specialist in African war and society. The prolific author, whose books include a three volume examination of A Military History of Africa (Praeger Security International, 2013) and A History of Genocide in Africa (Praeger, 2017), will talk about this when delivering the 51st Sivert O. and Marjorie Allen Skotheim Lecture in History, "The African Experience of the First World War (1914-1918)," in Olin Hall on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. Stapleton, who earned a bachelor's degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland and master's and doctoral degrees from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, answered a few questions in anticipation of his presentation.
When people think of World War I, they tend to think of its impact on European countries. Yet the continent of Africa was affected, too. What do you make of this?
Up until fairly recently, most of the scholarly and popular literature on the First World War was Eurocentric. A university student could study the First World War for a semester and never hear about how Africa and Africans were involved. Fortunately, this has changed to some extent, and there is now a fairly rich scholarly literature on the African experience of the war, which is now more often seen in a global context. This change has also resulted in television documentaries on the First World War including information on Africa. For example, there is an upcoming episode of the PBS series Finding Your Roots that will discuss a celebrity's connection to the war in East Africa.
How did you first become interested in African history?
The first vague inkling of interest started when I was in junior high school in eastern Canada as my cousin briefly disappeared when Uganda, where he was working as a Catholic priest, was invaded by the Tanzanian military. This eventually led to me taking courses on African history at university, where I was fortunate to have several inspiring African history professors at undergraduate and eventually graduate levels.
What are reasons to study history?
Studying history does not represent job training. Rather, it serves to prepare a person to become an informed citizen of the world. A student of history is likely to become a thinking person who can understand different points of view and communicate ideas.
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