James Currey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

James Currey
Parent companyBoydell & Brewer
Founded1984; 38 years ago (1984)
FounderJames Currey
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationMelton, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Publication typesBooks
Official websitejamescurrey.com

James Currey is a former academic publisher specialising in African Studies which since 2008 has been an imprint of Boydell & Brewer. It is named after its founder who established the company in 1984.[1] It publishes on a full spectrum of topics—including anthropology, archaeology, history, politics, economics, development studies, gender studies, literature, theatre, film studies, and the humanities and social sciences generally—and its authors include leading names such as Bethwell Ogot and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.


Named after its founder, the company was established in 1984 when James Currey, originally from South Africa, left his position at Heinemann Educational Books to set up an Africa-focused publisher.[2] At Heinemann, working with Chinua Achebe, Currey had spent more than a decade pioneering Heinemann's African Writers Series (AWS), the set of volumes that was a crucial factor in expanding the reach of African literature after World War II, particularly in English.[3][4][5][6]

Currey cut his publishing teeth at the Cape Town outpost of Oxford University Press, as well as by spending time moonlighting for The New African, a liberal publication he followed into exile in London when it was stamped on by the Apartheid authorities in 1964.[7][8]

We revived The New African in 1965 in London and, in all, published a total of over 50 issues. Thanks to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, we mailed each issue free to the original subscribers in South Africa. In the end, as Pretoria banned each issue, we had every month to invent a new name such as Inkululeko for the South African edition. Each "New African weekend," I would paste up work by writers with names such as James Ngugi, Bessie Head, Wole Soyinka, Zeke Mphahlele, Dennis Brutus and Chinua Achebe. It was this literary apprenticeship that enabled me to take over running the African Writers Series, with Keith Sambrook, at Heinemann in 1967.[9]

In 1986, speaking at a Royal African Society symposium on the state of publishing in Africa, Currey described what he called "an academic book famine", down in part to the profit-driven reaction of the head offices of the big publishing houses, such as Heinemann and Longman, to negative economic developments on the continent during previous years. Currey spoke with pride of how small publishers like the James Currey imprint were the ones who picked up the slack as best they were able.[10] To ensure high quality and global reach, while maintaining accessibility for African students, he said:

The aim should be to build up a sufficient international print run in three continents so that the book can be available at the correct price for the African market in paper covers and, if possible, in a paper covered edition in Britain and the US so that it can get on the reading lists of students in the rich countries as well. […] Second, publishers can share the printing costs, split the print runs, use local paper, and save foreign exchange. This means that the international print total can be substantial for an academic text.[11]

As will be familiar to readers of its East African Studies series, for example, that James Currey has had just such a long-running three-continent effort shared between itself, Heinemann Kenya, and Ohio University Press. This co-publishing approach has continued since 2008, when James Currey became an imprint of Boydell & Brewer.[12]


The James Currey Collection at the University of Oxford's St Cross College was formally opened on 2 March 2019 at an event featuring the launch of Tsehai Berhane-Selassie's new book on Ethiopian Warriorhood, a lecture by author and Fellow of St Cross, Richard Reid, and a discussion by panellists including key African women publishers Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Margaret Busby, Nana Ayebia Clarke and Zaahida Nabagereka.[13]

The James Currey Prize for African Literature was announced in 2020, established by Nigerian writer, filmmaker and publisher Onyeka Nwelue,[14] to be awarded annually for the best-unpublished work of fiction written in English, set in Africa, or about Africans in the African continent or diaspora.[15][16] The winner of the inaugural prize was Ani Kayode Somtochukwu.[17][18][19] James Currey Society,[20] also established by Nwelue, administers the James Currey Prize for African Literature and the James Currey Fellowship in cooperation with African Studies Centre, at the University of Oxford.[21][22][23]

The inaugural James Currey Literary Festival took place from 1 September to 3 September at the Weston Library in Oxford, under the auspices of the James Currey Society,[24][25] with support from the British Council and other organizations.[26][27][28] At the festival, the Pan African Writers \association (PAWA) bestowed the award of Grand Patron of the Arts on James Currey for his contribution to African Literature.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "An Interview with James Currey", The Africa Oxford Initiative, University of Oxford, 22 March 2018.
  2. ^ Nourdin Bejjit, "James Currey interview: AWS, Chinua Achebe, & all those Books", African Writing Online, No. 4, August 2005.
  3. ^ Gray 2009, p. 177.
  4. ^ Joseph 2010, p. 359: "Heinemann Press […] entered Africa's literary sphere in 1958, when it published Chinua Achebe's classic and best-selling Things Fall Apart, the book that gave birth to modern African literature. This publication not only set the foundation for the African literary canon but also provided the impetus for the foundation of the African Writers Series, which started in 1962, with Achebe as its editorial advisor."
  5. ^ Vierra 2010, p. 114.
  6. ^ Saeed Husaini, "James Currey: The Godfather Of The African Novel", Daily Nation (Kenya), 22 August 2015.
  7. ^ Currey 2007, p. 6: "The New African was published in Cape Town from 1961 to 1964 and, in exile in London, from 1965 to 1967. I suggested the name in reflection of the left-wing London journal The New Statesman, which influenced our group of young members of the South African Liberal Party. Our editorial policy was that we were interested in work on Africa in general and in South Africa in particular. Exciting things were happening to the north which were an antidote to the frustrations of South Africa."
  8. ^ Gray 2009, p. 178–9.
  9. ^ Currey 2007, p. 6.
  10. ^ Currey 1986, p. 609–11.
  11. ^ Currey 1986, p. 611.
  12. ^ "About Us". jamescurrey.com. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  13. ^ Taylor, Lynn (12 March 2019). "Formal opening of the James Currey Collection at St. Cross College". Boydell & Brewer.
  14. ^ Oluokun, Ayorinde (6 February 2022). "How Soyinka influenced my writing career – Onyeka Nwelue". PM News. Nigeria. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  15. ^ "James Currey Prize for African Literature debuts". The Nation. Nigeria. 12 November 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  16. ^ The James Currey Prize website.
  17. ^ Murua, James (6 September 2021). "Ani Kayode Somtochukwu is first James Currey Prize for African Literature winner". James Murua's Literature Blog. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  18. ^ Adeniyi, Taiwo (12 September 2021). "Nigerian Wins Inaugural James Currey Prize For African Literature". Daily Trust. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  19. ^ Ibeh, Chukwuebuka (14 September 2021). "Ani Kayode Somtochukwu Wins the James Currey Prize for African Literature". Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  20. ^ James Currey society website.
  21. ^ "Amazing story of Onyeka Nwelue, Nigerian youth who founded James Curreý Society in UK". Vanguard. Nigeria. 1 January 2022. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  22. ^ "Stephen Embleton named inaugural James Currey Fellow". African Studies Centre. 19 October 2021. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  23. ^ Adeniji, Funmilayo (23 October 2021). "Stephen Embleton named inaugural James Currey Fellow". Naija Times. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  24. ^ "Oxford University: Black publishers to headline literary festival". Punch Nigeria. 13 July 2022. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  25. ^ "James Currey Literary Festival". Bodleian Libraries. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  26. ^ Akubuiro, Henry (15 August 2022). "British Council backs inaugural James Currey Literary Festival". The Sun. Lagos. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  27. ^ "James Currey Literary Festival | 2022 Programme of Events". Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  28. ^ "James Currey Literary Festival | Thursday 1 - Saturday 3 September | Weston Library". African Studies Centre, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. University of Oxford. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  29. ^ "PAWA bestows Award of Grand Patron of Arts on Prof. Currey". The Migrant Online. 8 September 2022. Retrieved 15 September 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]