African History / Autobiography


In the Realms of Gold
Pioneering in African History
Roland Oliver

The author of the classic Short History of Africa chronicles his fifty years as an Africanist

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 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.

"This autobiography is essential to understanding the historiography of Africa. Oliver vividly evokes facets of life, research, and the effects of rule in tropical Africa from the Second World War onward to the waning days of the first generation after independence."—Jan Vansina, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Roland Oliver is emeritus professor of the history of Africa at the University of London. His most famous book, A Short History of Africa, has been translated into some dozen languages, and among his many other books are The African Experience, Africa since 1800, and The Cambridge History of Africa.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

October 1997
448 pp.  6 x 9
36 b/w photos, 8 maps    

Book icon
Paper $34.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-15654-1
Book icon
Cloth $59.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-15650-3
Shopping cart ADD TO CART

Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated 3/19/2014

© 2012, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System