Samuel Fury Childs Daly (Duke University) specializes in the history of twentieth-century Africa. His research bridges West and East Africa, and it combines legal, military, and social historical approaches to the study of the past. His current project considers the history of the Biafra War (1967-1970). This book manuscript, entitled Sworn on the Gun: Law and Crime in the Nigerian Civil War, draws a connection between the crisis conditions of the war and the forms of crime that came to be associated with Nigeria in its wake. Using an original body of legal records from the secessionist Republic of Biafra, it traces how technologies, survival practices, and moral ideologies that emerged in the context of the fighting shaped the practice and perception of crime after Biafra’s defeat. Connecting the violence of the battlefield to violent crime, it provides a new perspective on the discursive relationship between law and disorder in the African postcolony. His other areas of interest include customary law in the British Empire, the history of vigilantism in Tanzania, and the methodologies of postcolonial African history.
Daly’s next project is a transnational history of military desertion in Africa over the longue durée. Moving from acts of desertion in the Kongo armies of the 17th century, to the 19th century militaries of German East Africa, to the African experience in the world wars, it develops a comparative account of this under-appreciated current in African history. Studying desertion reveals that leaving the battlefield is often a socially productive act. At many points in African history (and in the African diaspora), deserters founded communities, created social orders, and generated new ideas about honor and obligation. Understanding desertion as a social and political decision, rather than an act of individual cowardice, has larger implications for the study of warfare in Africa.