The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / History


Power in Colonial Africa
Conflict and Discourse in Lesotho, 1870–1960
Elizabeth A. Eldredge

Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture
Thomas Spear, David Henige, and Michael Schatzberg, Series Editors

How the BaSotho matched wits against the British to resist and circumvent colonial rule

Even in its heyday European rule of Africa had limits. Whether through complacency or denial, many colonial officials ignored the signs of African dissent. Displays of opposition by Africans, too indirect to counter or quash, percolated throughout the colonial era and kept alive a spirit of sovereignty that would find full expression only decades later.

In Power in Colonial Africa: Conflict and Discourse in Lesotho, 1870–1960, Elizabeth A. Eldredge analyzes a panoply of archival and oral resources, visual signs and symbols, and public and private actions to show how power may be exercised not only by rulers but also by the ruled. The BaSotho—best known for their consolidation of a kingdom from the 1820s to 1850s through primarily peaceful means, and for bringing colonial forces to a standstill in the Gun War of 1880–1881—struggled to maintain sovereignty over their internal affairs during their years under the colonial rule of the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa) and Britain from 1868 to 1966. Eldredge explores instances of BaSotho resistance, resilience, and resourcefulness in forms of expression both verbal and nonverbal. Skillfully navigating episodes of conflict, the BaSotho matched wits with the British in diplomatic brinksmanship, negotiation, compromise, circumvention, and persuasion, revealing the capacity of a subordinate population to influence the course of events as it selectively absorbs, employs, and subverts elements of the colonial culture.

"An imaginative and innovative approach to the problems of power, hegemony, and discourse. Eldredge demonstrates the different ways that the British and BaSotho each understood power, as well as the struggles they engaged in to deploy it to their own advantage."–Thomas Spear, University of Wisconsin–Madison, series editor

Elizabeth A. Eldredge is the author of A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-Century Lesotho and other works on southern Africa.

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Of Related Interest
Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks
African Employees in the Making of Colonial Africa
Edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance, Emily Lynn Osborn, and Richard L. Roberts

cover has African landscape

November 2007
264 p
p.   6 x 9  
1 map

Book icon
Cloth $65.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22370-0
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