James Currey

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James Currey
Parent company Boydell & Brewer
Founded 1984
Country of origin United Kingdom
Headquarters location Melton, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Publication types Books
Official website jamescurrey.com

James Currey is the leading imprint of academic books on Africa. 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. At Heinemann, working with Chinua Achebe, Currey had spent more than a decade pioneering Heinemann's African Writers Series, the set of volumes that was a crucial factor in expanding the reach of African literature after World War II, particularly in English.[1][2][3]

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.[4][5]

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.[6]

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, like Heinemann and Longman, to negative economic developments on the continent during previous years. Currey spoke with pride of how small publishers like James Currey were the ones who picked up the slack as best they were able.[7] To ensure high quality and global reach, while maintaining accessibility for African students, he said that

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.[8]

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.[9]



  1. ^ Gray 2009, p. 177.
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^ Vierra 2010, p. 114.
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ Gray 2009, p. 178–9.
  6. ^ Currey 2007, p. 6.
  7. ^ Currey 1986, p. 609–11.
  8. ^ Currey 1986, p. 611.
  9. ^ "About Us". jamescurrey.com. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 


Currey, James (1986). "The State of African Studies". African Affairs 85 (341): 609–612. JSTOR 722302. 
Currey, James (2007). "Representing South Africa in the African Writers". English in Africa 34 (1): 5–20. doi:10.4314/eia.v34i1.41371. JSTOR 40239062. 
Gray, Stephen (2009). "Book Reviews: Africa Writes Back by James Currey". Research in African Literatures 40 (1): 177–180. doi:10.2979/ral.2009.40.1.177. JSTOR 30131199. 
Joseph, Celucien L. (2010). "Reviews: Africa Writes Back by James Currey". Callaloo 33 (1): 359–361. doi:10.1353/cal.0.0605. JSTOR 40732832. 
Vierra, Monty (2010). "Reviews: Africa Writes Back by James Currey". Rocky Mountain Review 64 (1): 114–117. JSTOR 25677069. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Currey, James (2008). Africa Writes Back: The African Writers Series and the Launch of African Literature. Oxford: James Currey. ISBN 978-1-847-01502-0. 

External links[edit]