Samori Tour̩ Рa quick reading list

I have long been fascinated with this figure, both in terms of the substance of the man’s life and in the way he has been treated or mistreated by history, and in popular culture. He easily ranks as one of the most interesting and important African figures of the second half of the nineteenth century, and yet substantive writing on him has always been scarce, especially in terms of what’s been written for general audiences. (What a great topic for a graphic novel, a comic book series, especially  for African audiences, for film.) I have written about him myself, briefly, in a piece of historically inspired fiction that I hope to soon publish (he is not a central figure, but rather an inspiration for more modern characters). What brought me back to the subject late in the evening, during my ongoing visit to Côte d’Ivoire, was the stumbling upon this archival piece from the New York Times, which dates to 1898 – extraordinary in its own right, for what it says, and what it doesn’t. Calling Touré an “African chieftain” exemplifies the casual and ever-present ways that African history and African agency have always been downplayed. The message is, the details don’t much matter. Move right along.

Anyway, with no further ado, the readings. The first two items are particularly essential. The others are listed in no particular order:


  • Person, Yves (1968–1975). Samori, Une révolution Dyula. 3 volumes,. Dakar: IFAN. p. 2377 pages. (review attached. This seems to be the most ambitious account of his life and era.)
  • Firearms, Horses and Samorian Army Organization 1870-1898
  • Martin Legassick
  • The Journal of African History
  • Vol. 7, No. 1 (1966), pp. 95-115 (Excellent and comprehensive on the military, including weapons supply and tactics.)

The French Conquest of Northwest Ivory Coast: The Attempt of the Rulers of Kabadugu to Control the Situation (La conquête française dans le nord-ouest de la Côte d’Ivoire. Tentatives des chefs de Kabadugu pour tirer parti de la situation)


O’Sullivan, John M


Cahiers d’Études Africaines, 1/1/1983, ISSN: 0008-0055, Volume 23, Issue 89/90, p. 121

OCLC No. 35026587
Title L’Empereur Almamy Samori Touré [microform] : grand administrateur et grand stratège
Imprint [Conakry, Guinea : Imprimerie nationale, 1971]
Series Révolution démocratique africaine ; no 48
Physical description 243 p. : port. ; 24 cm


L’Almami Samori Touré Empereur : récit historique


Fofana, Khalil I.


Paris, France : Présence Africaine, 1998.


Kuma Malinke historiography : Sundiata Keita to Almamy Samori Toure


Kai, Nubia


Lanham ; Boulder ; New York ; London : Lexington Books, [2014]


  • Boahen, A. Adu (1990). Africa Under Colonial Domination, 1880-1935. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 357 pages. ISBN 0-520-06702-9.

Déportés politiques au bagne de Ndjolé, Gabon, 1898-1913 : l’Almamy Samory Touré, Cheikh Amadou, Bamba Mbacké, Dossou Idéou, Aja Kpoyizoun, et les autres


Mouckaga, Hugues, 1959-


Paris : Harmattan, c2013.

  • Ajayi, J.F. Ade, ed. UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol. VI: Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).
  • Boahen, A. Adu, ed. UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol. VII: Africa Under Colonial Domination, 1880-1935. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).
  • Gann, L.H. and Duigan, Peter, ed. Colonialism in Africa, 1870–1960, Vol. 1: The History and Politics of Colonialism 1870-1914, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1969).

Centenaire du souvenir : Almami Samori Touré, 1898-1998 : symposium international de Conakry, du 29 septembre au 1er octobre 1998 : les actes du symposium


Symposium international “Centenaire du souvenir, Almami Samori Touré, 1898-1998” (1998 : Conakry, Guinea)


Conakry : Éditions Universitaires, 2000.


Reading List 2013 (definitive)

I’m going to start building out my annual reading list a bit early this year, which serves two purposes. Firstly, I don’t have to remember all of the titles all of the sudden that way, as I would if I waited until late December. Secondly, I want to break out a sublist of books that I am reading for my own current and ongoing book project. This is as good a place as any to keep a running bibliography for that purpose. That list will keep growing beyond 12/31, and I’ll need to refer to it as I get deeper into my project, and specifically as I start writing. I start with the General List. Please scroll down for the “Project List.”

Any book listed as “Reviewed” can be searched for on this site to find my review.

General List:

Africa Emerges, by Robert I. Rotberg

Bright Continent, Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa, by Dayo Olopade

The Age of Empire: 1875-1914, by Eric Hobsbawm

Palestinian Identity, by Rashid Khalidi

The Enigma of China, by Qiu Xiaolong

The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty (reviewed), by Nina Munk

Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II – 1937-1945, by Rana Mitter (reviewed)

Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Stumbling Giant: The Threats to China’s Future, by Timothy Beardson (reviewed)

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, by Stanley Crouch

Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, by Anatole Broyard

Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook, by Jonathan Solomon

For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey Through a Chinese Prison, by Liao Yiwu (reviewed)

The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays, by Simon Leys

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair, by Michael Deibert

States and Power in Africa, by Jeffrey Herbst

India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power, edited by Emma Mawdsley and Gerard McCann

Coercion, Capital and European States, A.D. 990-1992, by Charles Tilly

The Hero and the Blues, by Albert Murray

Runaway Horses: The Sea of Fertility, by Yukio Mishima

Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi

Year Zero: The History of 1945, by Ian Buruma

Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy, by Eri Hotta

Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, by John Szarkowsi

Tenth of December: Stories, by George Saunders

China’s Urban Billion: The Story Behind the Biggest Migration in Human History, by Tom Miller

The Enigma of Arrival, by V.S. Naipaul

China Airborne, by James Fallows

My Education, by Susan Choi

Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity and Meaningful Work and Play, by James C. Scott

The Shanghai Factor (fiction), by Charles McCarry

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel, by Anthony Marra

Louder than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning, by Benjamin K. Bergen

A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires – 1400-1900, by Laura A. Benton

The Contest of the Century The New Era of Competition with China — and How American Can Win, by Geoff Dyer

A Sport and a Pastime, by James Salter

Sea of Poppies: A Novel, by Amitav Ghosh

Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs

China Goes Global: The Partial Power, by David Shambaugh

The Rise of China versus The Logic of Strategy, by Edward N. Luttwak

That Smell, and Notes from Prison, by Sonallah Ibrahim

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to Sept. 10, 2001, by Steve Coll

The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo: How a Murder Exposed the Cracks in China’s Leadership, by John Garnaut

A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel: Murder, Money and an Epic Power Struggle in China, by Pin Ho and Wenguang Huang

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, by James C. Scott

Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence, by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf

Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents, by Ian Buruma.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Hunters, by James Salter

The Unwinding, by George Packer

Project List:

China and the International System, Edited by Xiaoming Huang and Robert G. Patman

Negotiating Asymmetry: China’s Place in Asia, edited by Anthony Reid and Zhen Yangwen

The Mind of Empire: China’s History and Modern Foreign Relations, by Christopher A. Ford

Borders of Chinese Civilization, by D.R. Howland

Articulating the Sinosphere, by Joshua Fogel

The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe, by Daniel H. Nexon

The Chinese World Order, by John King Fairbank

Asia’s Middle Powers: The Identity and Regional Policy of South Korea and Vietnam, edited by Joon-Woo Park, Gi-Wook Shin and Donald W. Keyser

Brother Enemy, The War After the War: A History of Indochina Since the Fall of Saigon, by Nayan Chanda

Okinawa: The History of an Island People, by George H. Kerr

The Inner Frontiers of Asia, by Owen Lattimore

Japan-China Joint History Research Project, Vol. 1

Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism, by Azar Gat

Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis and Transformation of the American World Order, by G. John Ikenberry

The Walled Kingdom, by Witold Rodzinski

Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History, by Alastair Iain Johnston

The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress: China’s Search for Security, by Andrew Nathan

The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han, by Mark Edward Lewis

Wealth and Power: China’s Long March into the 21st Century, by Orville Schell and John Delury

Cherishing Men From Afar: Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy, by James L. Hevia

The Birth of Vietnam, by Keith Weller Taylor

State and Society in the Philippines, by Patricio N. Abinales and Donna J. Amoroso

Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines and the Rise of the Surveillance State, by Alfred W. Mc.Coy.

The Influence of Sea Power on History – 1660-1783, by A.T. Mahan

In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines, by Stanley Karnow

Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power, by David G. Marr

Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the 20th Century, by Rebecca E. Karl

The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States & the Philippines, by Paul A. Kramer

The Fall of Srivijaya in Malay History, by O.T. Wolters

Forgotten Armies: Britain’s Asian Empire & The War With Japan, by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper (reading now).

Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350, by Janet L. Abu-Lughod (just started. h/t Jeff Wasserstrom)



Reference Points

One must simply call things by their name sometimes.
In this day and time, is unacceptable to have newspaper coverage of an African election in which there are few to no substantive comments from Africans of the country in question.
No foreign commentator, no matter how seemingly insightful or well-placed, can make up for this. Foreign-based Africans, even when they are from that country, are scarcely better as substitutes. Nor, for that matter, do random interviews with street vendors stand the test.
One presumably goes to a country to take the time and effort to understand the range of views on a topical situation of the people of that country. This is how reporters work all over the world – except too often, I regret to say, in Africa, where we forget the most basic rules of enterprise and balance.
The point of view of a foreign embassy should not be given pride of place in a political analysis, particularly absent a bilateral crisis with that embassy’s nation.
If a political figure from a nation is treated in a critical fashion by outsiders, we should also have the point of view of locals, both high (civil society, politicians, and in the obvious interest of balance, a response from members of the criticized party) and low (meaning what are often termed ordinary people)

Remembering Dr. David M. French

My father, Dr. David M. French, is in the final hours of his life, at University of Virginia Hospital, in Charlottesville. Dad was a founder of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which played an instrumental role in the U.S. Civil Rights movement, dealing with the LBJ White House to gain Federal protection for marchers in the South, and with my mother, the late Carolyn H. French, providing medical care for participants during the great marches. He worked for Edward Kennedy and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to investigate American bombing of civilian targets in Vietnam during the war. He was a pioneer in developing public health policies and primary care services in 20 African countries, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Earlier in his career, as a pediatric cardiac surgeon he did a lot of the basic early research in open heart surgery and heart transplantation. He never stopped growing, and this has always been a source of great pride and inspiration. For all who knew him, please spare a thought or a prayer.

Back at last with a news flash

This website has been paralyzed, very frustratingly, for the last few months, which have been a period of unusual richness for me in terms of projects, personal experiences, and new adventures.
The first month of the summer was spent in Myanmar (Burma), where I taught a series of workshops for local photojournalists. It was my first trip to Burma, and the experience of photographing there intensively, day after day, was extraordinarily fulfilling.
I’ve put some of my color work from the trip on Glimpse Click to see images, my companion website, but my most serious work was done in medium format using black and white film, and although I’ve recently developed that material and eyeballed the negatives, I won’t be able to show it until I get back to New York in a few weeks, and scan it all properly. Stay tuned. The Mamiya 7 that I bought expressly for this project was a real dream to work with.
Since mid-June, I’ve been back in Shanghai busying myself in a number of other ways: teaching a summer course on China (with CIEE) at East China Normall University that’s derived from my Columbia J-School China Seminar; photographing the city in snatches toward a variety of ends, one of which is a collaborative book project with a well-known Chinese author, about which I’ll hopefully have a lot more to say soon. Another mini-project has consisted of portrait a single city block in one Shanghai’s few surviving old neighborhoods. Throughout the summer, I’ve returned to this particular place , which I had somehow never photographed seriously before, dozens of times. I’m excited about making prints in the fall.
I’ve also photographed more nudes in studio in Shanghai this summer, continuing the work in this vein that I began here a couple of years ago Click to see the images , and pushing hard to developing my style further. I’ll be updating the gallery seen at the link above of this work in September
As I write, I am visiting Dali, in southern Yunnan Province, as a solo exhibitor at the Second Annual Dali International Photography Festival Click to read more. For this event, I was asked to exhibit some of my personal work to date, images that represent a real departure from what I usually do: pastoral landscapes from the Virginia Piedmont area where my family is from Click to see Echo Valley. This is the second big Chinese photography festival my work has been featured in, the first being a solo exhibition of Disappearing Shanghai at the Lianzhou International Photography Festival in 2008. Click to see NYT’s Lens Blog on Disappearing Shanghai
This summer, I’ve also been reporting three magazine articles, all due soon, on Burma, on Japan and on China.
After a very productive two years of magazine writing and other journalism, I expect this to be my last big fling with freelance work for a while, because of what is perhaps the biggest news of the summer, the receipt of a generous fellowship from the Open Society Institute Click to read more to research a book on Chinese migration to Africa, which I will begin working on in earnest in September 2010.