Scholarly Analysis of Andrew Zimmerman’s Alabama in Africa, a Major Work in Transnational History: How Ideological Commitments Corrupt Understanding

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This multi-sited, transnational dissent from the widely acclaimed book, Alabama in Africa by Andrew Zimmerman challenges Zimmerman’s argument, evidence, and conclusions about the details and import of the Tuskegee Institute’s impact on the history of West Africa.

No study of transnational work has gained more attention than Andrew Zimmerman’s Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South. It instantly rose to broad influence in 2011, but Robert J. Norrell contends that Zimmerman is wrong on virtually all his major claims. Norrell insists that Alabama in Africa often relies on shallow or tendentious argument. An American black man, Zimmerman claims, is in large part responsible for the maltreatment of Africans in a German colony and therefore bears guilt for the brutality that Germans showed throughout Africa and that carried over to all their international relations afterward. The leading social scientists brought into Zimmerman’s story – Gustav von Schmoller, Max Weber, and Robert Park – are also extracted from their real circumstances and cast into contexts more of Zimmerman’s making than reflections of reality.


"Norrell’s systematic critique of Zimmerman’s Alabama in Africa follows in a rich tradition of critical exegesis that extends back far before the advent of professional historical scholarship. With both this book and Zimmerman’s in hand, readers can see how two learned scholars marshal their evidence, tease out its implications, and calibrate their conclusions…spending time with this book…will be time well spent.”
-Dr. W. Fitzhugh Brundage,
Professor of History,
University of North Carolina

Table of Contents

Foreword: W. Fitzhugh Brundage, University of North Carolina
Chapter 1: The Kurtz of Tuskegee and Togo
Chapter 2: Tuskegee and Baumwollkulturekampf in Africa
Chapter 3: Kathedersozialisten and the Polemical Uses of German Social Science
Chapter 4: DuBois and Volkgemeinschaft in America
Conclusion: Let the Scholar Ever Tremble

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