Who writes history?
For my blog post I decided to do some research on the country of Sierra Leone, because I feel that the novel, “Memory of Love”, talks about a country very different to those we have read about. This is particular to the religious and cultural aspects. When I was researching the country, though, I came across a person of interest, Bai Bureh and decided to focus on him for my post.
Bali Bureh was one ruler of Sierra Leon and was a military strategist on an uprising against British rule. An article, “Bai Bureh, The British, and the Hut Tax War” by Arthur Abraham, described the response to the Hut Tax War as a reflection of colonial literature. In 1893, the British colonizers in Sierra Leon implicated a hut tax on the natives, and Bai Bureh refused to recognize this tax. Many of the natives had to provide labor to pay off these taxes, since they could not pay with money or other items. In 1898, Bureh declared war on the British in Sierra Leon (which was known as the Hut Tax War) yet he ended up surrounding in less than a year and he was exiled.
In the BBC’s historical timeline of Sierra Leone, it fails to mention the crucial events that happened during colonial rule. In the 19th century, the timeline only lists the year 1808 as “Freetown settlement becomes crown colony” (BBC) and then the year 1896 as the year “Britain sets up a protectorate over the Freetown hinterland” (BBC). By the 20th and 21st century, the timeline focuses on the civil war and corruption of the country. It made me wonder if the British were failing to look at their own wrongdoings on this nation during colonialism, as Bureh and the Hut Tax War was a huge part of their history.
Arthur Abraham, in his article, highlights an issue that we have discussed multiple times in this course, as well in “Memory of Love”. This issue is colonial literature (“Things Fall Apart”) and post colonial literature (“Memory of Love”, etc) and their portrayals of the relationship between the colonizers and the natives. My question is, who will give an accurate portrayal of colonialism without bias? How can we understand this time period without talking about the huge issues brought forth afterwards? Who writes history?
Bai Bureh, The British, and the Hut Tax War
The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1974), pp. 99-106