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The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and…

The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African…

by Derek Nurse

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Though a little dated now by recent archaeological discoveries which contradict some of their statements on chronology, Nurse and Spear's The Swahili is still the best introduction to the history of that people and their culture. Brief but readable, it pushes back against the belief, first promulgated by white historians in the nineteenth century, that the Swahili were not 'truly' African, that they and their language were the result of Arab and Persian influences. Nurse and Spear convincingly demonstrate that both had a dynamic, creative origin on the African continent.

My one quibble with a major portion of the book—though I am by no means a historical linguist, so take my opinion as you will—is that it may rely a little too heavily on the links between where a language was spoken and which people were therefore speaking it. I think the history of my own country demonstrates quite neatly that a change in the predominant language spoken in an area doesn't necessarily correlate with a change in the group of people living in that area. Historical linguistics is certainly a useful tool, though, and one of the few ways we can get at the history of the early Swahili peoples. All in all, a quick and interesting read. ( )
  siriaeve | Oct 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081221207X, Paperback)

"As an introduction to how the history of an African society can be reconstructed from largely nonliterate sources, and to the Swahili in particular, . . . a model work."—International Journal of African Historical Studies

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:47 -0400)

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