Jan Vansina

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Jan Vansina
Born (1929-09-14) 14 September 1929 (age 85)
Antwerp, Belgium
Doctoral students David Newbury

Jan Vansina (born 14 September 1929) is a historian and anthropologist specializing in Africa. He is the foremost authority on the history of the peoples of Central Africa.

Biography[edit]

Vansina was first trained as a medievalist and ethnographer but became known as one of the most prominent Africanist scholars. In his work, he focuses on the history of African societies prior to European contact, and is widely regarded as the foremost authority on the history of the peoples of Central Africa. He has published widely on the subject, including a landmark text on the factual interpretation oral history. On Vansina, historian David Beach writes, "In 1985, Jan Vansina's Oral Tradition as History provided a worldwide theoretical framework on oral tradition that rendered nearly all of its predecessors obsolete." [1]

Vansina obtained his doctorate in history from the Catholic University of Leuven in 1957. He is a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Vansina assisted Alex Haley (the author of the 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family) in deciphering several African words that had been handed down from Haley's ancestors, determining that they were of Mandinka origin.[1]

Publications[edit]

  • Vansina, Jan (1965). Oral Tradition. A Study in Historical Methodology (Translated from the French by H. M. Wright). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Vansina, Jan (1966). Kingdoms of the Savanna. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Vansina, Jan (1985). Oral Tradition as History. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Vansina, Jan (1990). Paths in the Rainforests. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Vansina, Jan (1994). Living With Africa. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Vansina, Jan (2004). Antecedents to Modern Rwanda: The Nyiginya Kingdom (Translated from the French by the author). Africa and the Diaspora series. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Vansina, Jan (2004). How Societies Are Born: Governance in West Central Africa Before 1600. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press.
  • Vansina, Jan (2010). Being Colonized: The Kuba Experience in Rural Congo, 1880-1960. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beach, David (1998). "Cognitive Archaeology and Imaginary History at Great Zimbabwe". Current Anthropology 39: 47. doi:10.1086/204698. 

External links[edit]