Campus Life

University Libraries Acquires Professor’s Africana Collection

By Mark Schwartz

John Paden

John Paden

“A traveler who never tires of asking questions will never lose his way.” This old African proverb explains how John Paden, a noted Africanist, has managed to travel so far. It also shows how generous Paden is with the answers he has gathered so that others may find their way.

Paden, Robinson Professor of International Studies at Mason, has donated to the University Libraries approximately 4,000 books, photographs, maps, and other printed and manuscript materials relating to sub-Sahara Africa. The Paden Collection focuses on the region’s history, economics, sociology, language, art, architecture, archeology, and religion.

One of the more valuable books in the collection is A Hausa-English and English-Hausa Vocabulary compiled by Rev. G. P. Bargery nearly 80 years ago for the British-ruled government of Nigeria. The collection also includes rare issues of African newspapers and other fragile materials.

Some of the more widely known books are among the oldest books in the Paden Collection. An early edition of The Exploration of the Niger by Emile Hourst is still read today for its cultural significance and was recently reprinted by University of California Press. Paden gave a 100-year-old edition of Olive Schreiner’s Story from an African Farm, a book that was made into a movie in 2004 and is read today as the work of an early feminist. The collection also includes another 100-year-old imprint, a leather copy of In Darkest Africa written by Henry M. Stanley of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” fame.

The majority of the books, many with a focus on Nigeria and the influence of Islam in the region, are excellent resources for those interested in modern-day Africa.

Robinson Professor John Paden leads a discussion in one of his classes. Photo by Creative Services.

Robinson Professor John Paden leads a discussion in one of his classes. Photo by Creative Services.

A professor at Mason for 25 years, Paden teaches comparative government, international development, and conflict resolution.

“My hopes for Africa have always been for a peaceful and democratic rise into the community of nations,” Paden says. “My concerns at present have focused on the need for conflict resolution as a precondition for rapid development.”

His extensive list of publications includes a series of highly acclaimed textbooks on Africa. He is co-author of Black Africa: A Comparative Handbook, a major reference book on Africa. His book, Muslim Civic Cultures and Conflict Resolution: The Challenge of Democratic Federalism in Nigeria, was published by the Brookings Institution in 2005. Another recent book is Faith and Politics in Nigeria: Nigeria as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World, published by the Institute of Peace in 2008. His most recent book is Postelection Conflict Management in Nigeria, published in 2012.

Paden received a BA in philosophy from Occidental College and an MA in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned a PhD in politics from Harvard University. He currently codirects the Center for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation at Mason and is the former director of the summer ICP China Trade program.

“In the course of his own scholarship and throughout his teaching career, Professor Paden has accumulated a most impressive library of books and other materials on an important region of Africa,” says John Zenelis, university librarian. “This collection provides a most comprehensive resource for the study of sub-Sahara Africa.”

The books in the Paden Collection are being cataloged, and most will soon be available for general use. Plans are under way for archiving manuscript and other nonbook materials in the  Special Collections and Archives.

This article originally appeared on the university’s News site.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

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