Defeat Is the Only Bad News: Rwanda under Musinga, 1896–1931 (Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture)

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9780299281441: Defeat Is the Only Bad News: Rwanda under Musinga, 1896–1931 (Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture)

A Rwandan proverb says “Defeat is the only bad news.” For Rwandans living under colonial rule, winning called not only for armed confrontation, but also for a battle of wits—and not only with foreigners, but also with each other. In Defeat Is the Only Bad News Alison Des Forges recounts the ambitions, strategies, and intrigues of an African royal court under Yuhi Musinga, the Rwandan ruler from 1896 to 1931. These were turbulent years for Rwanda, when first Germany and then Belgium pursued an aggressive plan of colonization there. At the time of the Europeans’ arrival, Rwanda was also engaged in a succession dispute after the death of one of its most famous kings. Against this backdrop, the Rwandan court became the stage for a drama of Shakespearean proportions, filled with deceit, shrewd calculation, ruthless betrayal, and sometimes murder.

            Historians who study European expansion typically focus on interactions between colonizers and colonized; they rarely attend to relations among the different factions inhabiting occupied lands. Des Forges, drawing on oral histories and extensive archival research, reveals how divisions among different groups in Rwanda shaped their responses to colonial governments, missionaries, and traders. Rwandans, she shows, used European resources to extend their power, even as they sought to preserve the autonomy of the royal court. Europeans, for their part, seized on internal divisions to advance their own goals. Des Forges’s vividly narrated history, meticulously edited and introduced by David Newbury, provides a deep context for understanding the Rwandan civil war a century later. 

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About the Author:

Alison Liebhafsky Des Forges (1942–2009) was a Yale-trained historian, a leading activist with Human Rights Watch, and the author of Leave None to Tell the Story. David Newbury is the Gwendolen Carter Professor of African Studies at Smith College and author of Kings and Clans: A Social History of the Lake Kivu Rift Valley.

 

Review:

“A brilliant, lively, and daring interpretation of Musinga’s governance of Rwanda under foreign control. Documenting the colonial situation that gave rise to a precarious future, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the tragedy of Rwanda’s recent history.”—Jan Vansina, author of Oral Tradition as History and Antecedents to Modern Rwanda



“This carefully researched, highly readable, and detailed exploration of a critical period in Rwanda’s history stands as a major contribution to our understanding of court politics before and after the advent of colonial rule. There is nothing in print in French or in English comparable to this painstaking investigation.”—René Lemarchand, University of Florida



 “The richness of the tale, and the divisions that enliven the narrative, are evidence of Des Forges’s skills as a narrator. In the end, this Shakespearean drama (complete with deceit and murder) is made all the more tragic because of the implications of these events on Rwanda’s recent history are made painfully clear. This is a fantastic work and the loss of such a skilled historian and author Alison Des Forges just compounds the tragedy for this reader even further.”—Kevin Dunn, The International Journal of African Historical Studies



“Any fan of historical literature will eagerly read this book as it gives flesh and blood to actors of a not-so-distant past. Academics will rejoice in the palpable information gathered from more than a hundred Rwandan interviewees, direct witnesses of the events or sons of the protagonists.” —Danielle De Lame, African Affairs



“The posthumous publication of her dissertation is fitting testimony to Des Forges’s life work. It not only stands as an important contribution to the historiography of the region, but also serves as a model for understanding the complexities of present-day politics in Rwanda, which, as before, do not lend themselves to static or simplistic analysis. Readers, in sum, will find much to learn and admire in these pages.”—Lee Ann Fujii, The American Historical Review

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Book Description University of Wisconsin Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A Rwandan proverb says Defeat is the only bad news. For Rwandans living under colonial rule, winning called not only for armed confrontation, but also for a battle of wits--and not only with foreigners, but also with each other. In Defeat Is the Only Bad News Alison Des Forges recounts the ambitions, strategies, and intrigues of an African royal court under Yuhi Musinga, the Rwandan ruler from 1896 to 1931. These were turbulent years for Rwanda, when first Germany and then Belgium pursued an aggressive plan of colonization there. At the time of the Europeans arrival, Rwanda was also engaged in a succession dispute after the death of one of its most famous kings. Against this backdrop, the Rwandan court became the stage for a drama of Shakespearean proportions, filled with deceit, shrewd calculation, ruthless betrayal, and sometimes murder. Historians who study European expansion typically focus on interactions between colonizers and colonized; they rarely attend to relations among the different factions inhabiting occupied lands. Des Forges, drawing on oral histories and extensive archival research, reveals how divisions among different groups in Rwanda shaped their responses to colonial governments, missionaries, and traders. Rwandans, she shows, used European resources to extend their power, even as they sought to preserve the autonomy of the royal court. Europeans, for their part, seized on internal divisions to advance their own goals. Des Forges s vividly narrated history, meticulously edited and introduced by David Newbury, provides a deep context for understanding the Rwandan civil war a century later. Bookseller Inventory # AAN9780299281441

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Book Description University of Wisconsin Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New.. Language: English . Brand New Book. A Rwandan proverb says Defeat is the only bad news. For Rwandans living under colonial rule, winning called not only for armed confrontation, but also for a battle of wits--and not only with foreigners, but also with each other. In Defeat Is the Only Bad News Alison Des Forges recounts the ambitions, strategies, and intrigues of an African royal court under Yuhi Musinga, the Rwandan ruler from 1896 to 1931. These were turbulent years for Rwanda, when first Germany and then Belgium pursued an aggressive plan of colonization there. At the time of the Europeans arrival, Rwanda was also engaged in a succession dispute after the death of one of its most famous kings. Against this backdrop, the Rwandan court became the stage for a drama of Shakespearean proportions, filled with deceit, shrewd calculation, ruthless betrayal, and sometimes murder. Historians who study European expansion typically focus on interactions between colonizers and colonized; they rarely attend to relations among the different factions inhabiting occupied lands. Des Forges, drawing on oral histories and extensive archival research, reveals how divisions among different groups in Rwanda shaped their responses to colonial governments, missionaries, and traders. Rwandans, she shows, used European resources to extend their power, even as they sought to preserve the autonomy of the royal court. Europeans, for their part, seized on internal divisions to advance their own goals. Des Forges s vividly narrated history, meticulously edited and introduced by David Newbury, provides a deep context for understanding the Rwandan civil war a century later. Bookseller Inventory # AAN9780299281441

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