Fighting and Writing

The Rhodesian Army at War and Postwar

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 8 illustrations Published: March 2021

Author: Luise White

African Studies, History > African History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In Fighting and Writing Luise White brings the force of her historical insight to bear on the many war memoirs published by white soldiers who fought for Rhodesia during the 1964–1979 Zimbabwean liberation struggle. In the memoirs of white soldiers fighting to defend white minority rule in Africa long after other countries were independent, White finds a robust and contentious conversation about race, difference, and the war itself. These are writings by men who were ambivalent conscripts, generally aware of the futility of their fight—not brutal pawns flawlessly executing the orders and parroting the rhetoric of a racist regime. Moreover, most of these men insisted that the most important aspects of fighting a guerrilla war—tracking and hunting, knowledge of the land and of the ways of African society—were learned from black playmates in idealized rural childhoods. In these memoirs, African guerrillas never lost their association with the wild, even as white soldiers boasted of bringing Africans into the intimate spaces of regiment and regime.


Fighting and Writing offers an often-harrowing look into the hearts and minds of the men who fought in the struggle for Rhodesia. With her unique combination of fearlessness and provocation, Luise White asks whether war is always about killing and whether killing is the most significant thing about war. She asks us to stare hard at these discomfiting questions, giving a whole new meaning to the history of war stories.” — Antoinette Burton, author of The Trouble with Empire: Challenges to Modern British Imperialism

“Luise White is that scholar of rare analytic and literary ability who can tell history's most sensational stories differently: prostitution, vampire rumors, and now, in Fighting and Writing, the memoirs of white soldiers in a racist war. These are the unlikely starting points from which White leads her readers through histories that become more rich and more relevant with every page.” — Danny Hoffman, author of The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Luise White is Professor Emerita of History at the University of Florida and the author of several books, most recently Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Place-Names, Currency, and Acronyms  xi
1. Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle and Rhodesia's Bush War: Locating Its History  1
2. "Blood and Ink": Memoirs, Authors, Histories  31
3. "Your Shona Is Better Than Mine!" Pseudo Gangs, Blacking Up, and the Pleasures of Counterinsurgency  59
4. "Each Footprint Tells a Story": Tracking and Poaching in the Rhodesian Army  83
5. "There Is No Copyright on Facts": Ron Reid-Daly, Authorship, and the Transkei Defence Force  109
6. "Every Self-Respecting Terrorist Has an AK-47": Guerrilla Weapons and Rhodesian Imaginations  121
7. "A Plastic Bag full of Cholera": Rhodesia and Chemical and Biological Weapons  141
8. "Will Travel Worldwide. You Pay Expenses": Foreign Soldiers in the Rhodesian Army  167
9. "What Interests Do You Have?": Security Force Auxiliaries and the Limits of Counterinsurgency  197
Conclusions  222
Notes  227
Bibliography  261
Index  281
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1172-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1062-3