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James Allan Evans

Byzantine general, was born in what is now western Bulgaria. He was the military commander during Emperor Justinian’s reign (527–565 CE), whom we know best thanks to Procopius of Caesarea, the most notable historian of the period, who joined his staff as legal secretary (assessor) in 527 and remained with him during his campaigns in North Africa and, up until 540, in Italy. Hence Belisarius is the central figure in Procopius’ History of Justinian’s Wars, published in 551, where he appears full of promise early in his career, but as time wore on, there is an insistent undertone of criticism. In the same year in which Procopius completed Justinian’s Wars in seven books, he also wrote a coda containing information that he did not dare publish. This closet history is first mentioned in the Suda, a tenth-century lexicon, which refers to it as Procopius’ Anekdota ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

political, military, and religious leader and first Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, was born in the town of Morona, now located in Niger, in 1780 or 1781. His father was the revolutionary Islamic cleric and leader Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), and his mother was Hawwa bint Adam ibn Muhammad Agh. Bello received an advanced education in Islamic theology and law thanks to his father, and supported his father’s call for a strict adherence to orthodox Sunni interpretations of Islamic practices. Bello praised his father as a loving parent: “His face was relaxed and his manner gentle. He never tired of explaining and never became impatient if anyone failed to understand” (Boyd, 1989).

When Uthman Dan Fodio launched a series of holy wars against the nominally Islamic sultans of Hausa cities such as Kano in northern Nigeria and southern Niger Bello became an active lieutenant of his father ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Muhammad Bello was born in Gobir, in what is now Niger. He helped his father, Usuman dan Fodio, overthrow the Hausa states and build the powerful Sokoto Caliphate, which ruled over the northern half of present-day Nigeria. In the early nineteenth century Bello’s father, a Fulani Muslim religious leader, called on the rulers of the Hausa states to abandon their corrupt ways. He organized a popular movement among the Fulani and among Hausa peasants and merchants, advocating a purer form of Islam and the application of the Shari’a, or Islamic law. Usuman first tried peaceful means, but his peaceful movement only provoked repression from the Hausa rulers. In 1804 Usuman and his followers called for a jihad, or holy war, to overthrow resistant rulers. Among those who led the military campaign was Usuman’s 23-year-old son, Muhammad Bello A capable military leader and administrator Bello was crucial ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

, physician and governor of Sierra Leone, was born in 1795 in the West Indies. His father was a Scottish settler and his mother was African American. Fergusson received financial support from his father to advance his education. He enrolled in the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, Scotland, and at only eighteen years of age, Fergusson graduated as a surgeon with his own license in December 1813. He then joined the British army and was certified by the Army Medical Board. Fergusson worked as a hospital assistant at a military hospital for two years. In 1815 Fergusson was assigned to the small British West African colony of Sierra Leone and moved to Freetown The governor of Sierra Leone Charles MacCarthy convinced the army to send him a trained surgeon especially since he needed medical services for Africans rescued by the British navy from slave ships and resettled ...

Article

Guerrero was born in Tixtla, now a part of Guerrero, the state in Mexico named for him after his death. He was of mixed race, probably descended from Africans, Spaniards, and Native Americans. His dark complexion earned him the nickname El Negro. For most of his early life he lived in the region where he was born and worked as a wage laborer and a teamster.

In 1810 Mexico's war of independence erupted. Guerrero sympathized with rebel demands, including an end to the restrictive caste system. In December 1810, when José María Morelos y Pavón called for troops in south central New Spain (present-day Mexico) to join him in the revolt, Guerrero enlisted in the rebel forces. He soon was leading troops in the field and by 1812 had become a lieutenant colonel. During 1812 he attacked port towns on the Pacific coast and helped capture ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Rabih al-Zubayr was born in Sudan, probably near Khartoum, though the details of his early life are uncertain. Some believe that he was originally a slave freed by his master, Zubayr Rahma Mansur, while others think he was born free and joined the Turkic-Egyptian army before working for Zubayr, the largest slave-trader in southern Sudan. He joined Zubayr’s company in 1850 and had become a competent military leader by 1875, when the British declared slavery illegal.

When the British forcibly shut down Zubayr s operations four years later Rabih gathered what was left of Zubayr s slave army and established a raiding stronghold in the Azande region to the west During the 1880s Rabih and his army attacked and pillaged groups such as the Banda and Sara In the early 1890s Rabih defeated a French expedition and conquered the Bagirmi state in present day Chad from which he staged ...

Article

Sudanese warlord and politician, was born to an Arab family in Halfaya Al-Muluk, a village located close to Khartoum. His father came from the Sudanese kingdom of Sennar that the Egyptian forces of Muhammad ʿAli had conquered in 1821 and he served in the Egyptian military before creating his own business manufacturing bricks Rabih served in the Egyptian army like his father after attending qurʾanic school According to some accounts he first met his future patron Al Zubayr Rahma through a game of chess At this point sometime in the mid 1860s Al Zubayr was simply an ordinary merchant who purchased slaves and ivory in the southern Sudanese region of Bahr al Ghazal like so many other Khartoum based traders Al Zubayr later told English friends that the lure of the southern Sudan and points further south drew him like the American West had attracted so many pioneers in ...

Article

Tsegay Berhe Gebrelibanos

Ethiopian regional governor and military figure, was the grandson of Emperor Yohannes IV. He was one of the last powerful regional governors in northern Ethiopia and a military commander during Ethiopia’s trials of power with fascist Italy in the mid-1930s.

Leul Ras Seyum started his political and military career as the governor of the district of Tembien, in Tigray, with the title of “dejazmach.” In 1897 he was appointed to the post by his father, Ras Mengesha Yohannes, then governor of Tigray. In 1898 he rebelled against the central government protesting the arrest of his father and in 1899 1903 his rebellion destabilized the central and eastern Tigray areas Seyum was suspected of possible alliances with the Italians to facilitate control of the whole Tigray However Dejazmach Gebre Selassie Bariagaber of Adwa reconciled Seyum with Emperor Menilek II r 1889 1913 In 1906 1907 Emperor Menilek reappointed Seyum as ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

Roman military commander whose long career included the first Roman expedition into sub-Saharan Africa. Nothing is known about his early life, but given the dates of the stages of his career, he was probably born around CE 10.

In 40, the emperor Gaius Caligula summoned his cousin Ptolemy, king of Mauretania, to Rome to explain certain actions that were considered improper for an allied king. Gaius’s own erratic nature also played a role in the confrontation, and for reasons still uncertain, Ptolemy was executed. In Mauretania—whose inhabitants were not pleased at the removal of their king—a revolt broke out, led by a certain Aedemon, probably a member of Ptolemy’s court. The assassination of Gaius himself in January 41 meant that his successor Claudius inherited the Mauretanian problem.

It took at least three Roman commanders at least three years to pacify Mauretania Suetonius Paulinus seems to have been the second of ...