CfP: 1956-1958: A Revolutionary Period that Changed Africa (and the World)

Call for papers, deadline 31 October 2020

The years 1956-1958 were a pivotal period in the history of Africa and its social movements. In Morocco and Tunisia, the end of the Protectorates (March 1956) was the logical consequence of two decades of struggle for independence led by local nationalist movements. The same is true for the independence of Sudan, which came into effect on 1 January 1956. Further south, Ghana, with Kwame Nkrumah, refused in 1957 any agreement with the colonial metropolis, obtaining full sovereignty on 6 March, followed a year later by Guinea (2 October 1958). This paved the way for the liberation from the colonial yoke of many other countries in the continent. Where the European colonial presence was reluctant to give way, nationalist movements tried to strengthen their positions. This is the case of the Algerian National Liberation Front which set up its Provisional Government in Cairo in September 1958, aiming to play a fundamental role both in the continuation of the armed struggle and in the negotiations with France which would eventually lead the country to independence in 1962. Likewise, the Liberation Army which fought against the French in Morocco, at the end of 1956 decided to continue the struggle for emancipation from colonial rule in Mauritania and the Spanish Sahara.

In all the cases cited, the success of the anti-colonial struggle did not mean the end of the political struggle. The objective of the social movements changed, and mobilisations were no longer against an external enemy but with a view to obtaining space within the new states and consolidating their societal foundations. Moreover, this was already happening in other countries, such as Egypt, where a powerful workers’ movement had already discovered the authoritarian face of the July 1952 ‘revolutionary’ military regime, and still had been able to mobilise at the time of the Tripartite Aggression of Suez 1956, and after.

It is important to stress that the international context had a huge impact on social mobilizations in the African continent. One only needs to think of the new Soviet course which was inaugurated at the beginning of 1956 with the opening of the 20th CPSU Congress in Moscow, and the hopes of openness that it raised in the countries of the communist bloc, provoking, for example, the Hungarian revolution of October/November 1956.

The objective of this panel is to compare the various social mobilizations that took place in Africa during the years 1956-1958 and which arguably constitute a historical watershed. The main aim of the panel is not the making of an abstract comparative analysis, but the analysis, based on the testimonial material collected, of how the memory of these events has been structured over time. Moreover, we are interested in understanding what the impacts of these social movements were on the structuring of states and what continuities can be found between the mobilizations of that period and the ary social mobilizations that have shaken the continent in the last ten years, from the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011 onwards.

The proposals must be submitted in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish. For those who are not in English, a translation of the tittle must be provided (for advising in the conference’s website). All the proposals shall be submitted through the form:

The call for papers is open form 1 August 2020 until 31 October 2020.


Gennaro Gervasio

Francesco Correale