New Thematic Directions in History at the University of Dar es Salaam, 1990s to 2017

Oswald Masebo


This article makes a modest attempt to analyze scholarly themes that have evolved in the Department of History of the University of Dar es Salaam in the recent past. Production of historical knowledge has been one of the most dynamic undertakings at the University of Dar es Salaam from its inception in the 1960s to the present. Political, economic, and labour histories were the main themes that defined the essential contents of historical scholarship from the 1960s to the 1980s. A cursory look at history publications, postgraduate dissertations and theses, curricular reviews, and new degree programmes produced in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s sheds light on new thematic directions that have recently evolved to complement the pre-existing ones. They include histories of environments, medicine, social identities, diplomacy, war, cultural heritage and tourism. Historians and postgraduate students have articulated these themes through creative and critical reading of archival and oral sources to uncover thoughts, actions, and lived experiences of Tanzanian in their homes, communities, and workplaces. These themes have enabled the University of Dar es Salaam to continue with its historic agenda of rendering visible the ideas and practices of Tanzanians, and Africans more generally, as they interacted with their changing physical and cultural environments and as they engaged with the external world. The article has six sections. The first and second sections introduce the recent thematic directions and situate them in the historical contexts in which they evolved. The third and fourth sections analyse the content of the themes in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, and their methodological and theoretical bases respectively. The fifth section considers changing curricular reviews and innovations that have signified new thematic directions in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. The sixth section concludes the article.

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