Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

4/1/2005 - 12/31/2005

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Currents of Power: A History of Three Southern African River Basins

FAIN: FA-50482-04

Meredith K. McKittrick
Georgetown University (Washington, DC 20057-0001)

This project explores the history of three river basins in Angola, Namibia, and Botswana, and argues that the struggle to control the rivers has been central to this region's history. Because these rivers run through semiarid areas and end in deserts, they have made possible human lifestyles which otherwise would be inconceivable. The manuscript I will draft during my fellowship will bring new perspectives to African and environmental history by extending the boundaries of what has traditionally been considered environmental history to include the roles of human culture and belief systems, by expanding the prevailing understanding of how water has shaped history, and by demonstrating the usefulness of a regional framework for understanding African history over the long term. The book is organized into three parts: 1000-1850, the colonial period, and the post-colonial period. While the borders of the region changed and political hierarchies were drastically altered during this time, rivers have remained central to the construction of political authority. The sources for this project are many and far-flung, and include colonial archives in Portugal, the UK, South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, the archives of multiple mission denominations, oral histories I collected within the river basins, and scientific, linguistic and archeological studies by others.