Nearly Native, Barely Civilized

Henri Gaden’s Journey through Colonial French West Africa (1894-1939)


Author: Roy Dilley
Nearly Native, Barely Civilized by Roy Dilley offers the first full-length biography of Henri Gaden, an exceptional French colonial character who lived through some of the most radical transformations in West African history. It provides an in-depth, intimate and rounded portrayal of the man, his place in history, and the contradictions, tensions and ambiguities not only in his personal and professional life but also at the heart of the colonial enterprise.

Soldier, ethnographer and linguist, lover, father, administrator and Governor, Henri Gaden (1867-1939) lived for 45 years in West Africa. Faced with the chaos, insecurity and insanity of colonial existence, Gaden experienced a rich mosaic of human pain and passion, of curiosity and intellectual endeavour, of folly and failure.

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Roy Dilley, D.Phil. (1984), University of Oxford, is Professor of Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews. He has published widely on anthropological theory and West African ethnography, including a monograph, Islamic and Caste Knowledge Practices among Haalpulaar'en, Senegal (EUP/IAI, 2004).
'The book does not aim to simply reconstruct a conventional historical narrative of a life or of event as they unfold. It sheds light on the nature of the colonialism in West Africa. Through Gaden's experience we can see how colonialism imposes order and new types of organization on native affairs. Gaden does not act merely as a military officer and administrator. In Mauritania, he was revered as a man of learning, justice and honesty, and of immense culture stature amongst the Moors. He is a researcher and an ethnographer who seeks information from the indigenous, notices and writes down Africa's world. Overall, Dilley achieves its scope, to present us a rather unknown Africa through the optics of their protagonists.'

Antonios Chaldeos in Journal of Oriental and African Studies, 24 (2015), pp. 482-485
Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Orthography


A Funeral, Thursday, 14th December 1939

Chapter One. Gironde, Paris and Beyond

Chapter Two. Agent of Commerce, African Novice: From Bordeaux to Bandiagara, 1894-1896
Interlude: Furlough in France I

Chapter Three. On the Trail of the Black Napoleon, 1897-1899
Interlude: Furlough in France II

Chapter Four. The Mallam and the Qadis: A Posting to Zinder, 1900-1903
Interlude: Furlough in France III

Chapter Five. Cherchez la Femme: Tchekna, Chad, 1904-1907
Interlude: Furlough in France IV

Chapter Six. Confidential Relations: Boutilimit, Mauritania, 1908-1911
Interlude: Furlough in France V

Chapter Seven. Paperwork and Bullets: The Years of Scholarship and War, 1912-18

Chapter Eight. Governor, Savant, Adopted Son: St Louis, 1919-1927

Chapter Nine. The Monk of St Louis, 1927-1939


General Bibliography

Bibliography of Henri Gaden's Published Works

All readers interested in biography, military conquest and occupation, colonial heroics and human folly, historical ethnography of colonialism in Africa, sexual mores of empire, West African anthropology and modern history.