Maurice Delafosse

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Maurice Delafosse (born December 20, 1870 in Sancergues , Département Cher , † November 13, 1926 in Paris ) was a French ethnographer , orientalist and colonial administrator who also worked in the field of African languages and who was one of the first Europeans to deal with the pre-colonial History of Africa dealt with.


In his main work Haut-Sénégal-Niger (1912) Delafosse tried to reconstruct the history of West Africa, especially the area of ​​the ancient empires of Ghana , Mali and Songhai . Together with his father-in-law, Professor of Oriental Language at the Sorbonne, Oscar Houdas, he edited the two most important chronicles of West Africa, Tarikh al-Fettash and Tarikh al-Soudan (15th / 17th century) in a translation that is still valid today . In view of his specialization in oriental languages ​​and Arabic sources such as Ibn Khaldun , he ignored the oral traditions of the West Africans and often overlooked the prejudices and one-sidedness hidden in the sources. As the founder of the Ghana Empire, he believed he had to accept fair-skinned immigrants from the Middle East and constructed large-scale migrations of Jewish tribes across the Sahara to today's Mauritania. In doing so, he created the myth of Jewish settlements across West Africa.

Delafosse also tended to allow speculative conclusions for the sake of the coherence of his system without providing any source evidence. The list of the kings of Mali , which was later adopted by many authors and also on the Internet, should be treated with great caution, as the apparently concrete dates, e.g. T. were made suitable to give a conclusive picture. To make a very dubious anecdote appear credible in his Arabic sources, he added a ruler named Abubakari II to the list of rulers and even provided him with specific reign dates (1310–1312), although there was no reliable evidence historical criticism could have withstood.

In a review of the biography written by his daughter, he is described as “one of the most outstanding French colonial administrators and ethnologists of his time.” Delafosse had a disagreement with the French government over the administration of French Africa , and was subsequently for much of his life "More or less banished from the colonies".


  • Essai de manuel pratique de la langue mandé ou mandingue (1901) Ernest Leroux
  • Les frontières de la Côte d'Ivoire de la Côte d'or et du Soudan (1908) Masson
  • Haut Sénégal-Niger, 3 tomes (1912) (réédition chez Maisonneuve & Larose en 1972)
  • Traditions historiques et légendaires du Soudan occidental (1913)
  • Les langues de l'Afrique (1920)
  • L'âme nègre (1921) Payot
  • Les Noirs de l'Afrique (1922) Payot
  • Terminology religieuse au Soudan (1923)
  • Broussard ou les états d'âme d'un colonial (1923) Emile Larose
  • Les civilizations disparues, les civilizations négro-africaines (1925) Stock
  • Les Nègres (1927) Rieder et Cie (réédition chez l'Harmattan en 2005)


  • Maurice Delafosse: entre orientalisme et ethnographie; l'itinéraire d'un africaniste, 1870-1926. Sous la direction de Jean-Loup Amselle , Emmanuelle Sibeud. Paris, France: Maisonneuve et Larose, [1998]; ISBN 2-7068-1356-3 (Collection "Raisons ethnologiques") (Bibliography of the writings of Maurice Delafosse: p. 307–319 / Includes bibliographical references (p. 273–305)) ( Review )
  • Pekka Masonen: The Negroland Revisited: Discovery and Invention of the Sudanese Middle Ages. Helsinki 2000.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The largely speculative, source-based allegations of Delafosse are reactivated in the presence of Jewish organizations like the American KULANU and used to "prove" the uninterrupted presence of Jewish communities up to today's Ghana and Nigeria. See [1] .
  2. ^ Nehemia Levtzion, "The Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Kings of Mali", Journal of African History 4 (1963), 341-353, spec. P. 345 ff. The apocryphal figure of Abubakari II has meanwhile become an important focal point of black historical consciousness among Afrocentric and Muslim circles in the USA, as this ruler is said to have discovered America 200 years before Columbus.
  3. ^ William B. Cohen: Maurice Delafosse, le Berrichon Conquis par l'Afrique by Louise Delafosse . In: The International Journal of African Historical Studies . Vol. 11, No. 2 (1978), pp. 302-305, doi : 10.2307 / 217447 .
  4. ^ Karel Arnaut: Maurice Delafosse. Entre orientalisme et ethnographie: l'itinéraire d'un africaniste (1870-1926) . In: Cahiers d'études africaines . No. 157 (2000). (Accessed Sept. 23, 2013)