The Journal of African Military History in partnership with H-West Africa are proud to present a Virtual Symposium:
The West African Experience in World War II
October 17 2020
This symposium accompanies the upcoming publication of the Journal of African Military History's first special issue, guest edited by Oliver Coates.
World War Two had a transformative impact on Anglophone West Africa. It mobilised Africans to fight in East Africa, the Middle East, and South-East Asia, while many others served in the military as drivers, engineers, and office workers. Although some Africans volunteered, others were conscripted or coerced into military employment. Inside West Africa, a complex network of civil defence installations emerged, while Africans participated in intelligence gathering efforts, infrastructure development, and anti-submarine measures. The Allied war effort was promoted and challenged in the West African press, as well as in pamphlets and plays; Hitler and Nazism became subjects of popular interest and ridicule. On the ‘home front’ inflation, the spiralling cost of living, and the growing popularity of anti-colonial nationalism drove a wave of labour unionisation and strikes; meanwhile, defence regulations enabled press censorship and draconian restrictions on movement and political expression. Although Africans raised money to help the victims of aerial bombing in England, and purchase spitfires to help protect Britain, those who entered military service often encountered racism and discrimination in terms of pay, discipline, clothing, and promotion opportunities. The war years also cemented African intellectuals’ links to African communities in the USA and Europe, as well as fostering renewed interest in Asian societies and cultures. This complex legacy is not simply of historical interest, it is also the subject of increasing attention in the media and popular culture in West Africa and beyond.
Accompanying the Journal of African Military History’s special issue ‘West Africa and World War Two,’ this online symposium seeks to examine the impact of World War Two in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. It will explore the war effort in West Africa, and seek to place the region in a comparative frame with Francophone West Africa and the Maghreb. It will consider topics such as recruitment, military labour, combat, civil defence, maritime warfare, African cities at war, ex-servicemen, as well as historical memory and commemoration. The speakers’ contributions will be followed by an open discussion.
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.