Somo ML Seimu appreciation

Somo ML Seimu

Seimu joined TSL as an author following his submission to There Came A Time 2 of two articles on the legacy of the First World War in Tanzania in relation to coffee and cotton production.

Having studied in the UK, Seimu is based in Moshi, Tanzania, where he is now a professor at the local agriculture college/university.

His monograph published by TSL on the history of co-operatives in Tanzania gives an insight into the trade of coffee and cotton in East Africa from the time of the German occupation of what is mainland Tanzania (Tanganyika) in the late 1890s through to 2013. Having spent many a week in Tanzania over a nine year period, and having a very fond spot for Moshi and Kilimanjaro in particular, as well as being a coffee drinker, the topic of this book really appealed to me. Reading the text was treading familiar ground with many of the places mentioned.

With a great interest in the Great War in Africa I also enjoyed discovering what men who had been involved in the First World War in East Africa did after the conflict – such as Charles Dundas; and to see how the local chiefs worked with and against the colonial and, later, the national government infrastructures.

This book should appeal to mainly readers interested in African economics and politics, although social historians should also find something of interest in it. And for coffee lovers – well, discovering what happens behind the scenes might make you appreciate that cuppa a little more… although we shouldn’t forget the role of cotton in the manufacture of clothing and other commodities.

Seimu has also co-authored with Marco Zoppi: “The Influence of Settlers’ Community in Shaping the Colonial Agricultural Marketing Policies in Tanzania”. African Economic History.


Author Appreciations

As a publisher, reviewing one’s authors’ books prompts alarm bells of bias and having to say nice things about the book to encourage sales. Instead of reviewing TSL’s books in the traditional sense, I thought I’d write some appreciations of our authors – which invariably will include a review or reflections on that author’s writing.
Taking this approach allows, I think, an opportunity to stand back from genres and themes I would not usually engage with and therefore struggle to review, whilst sharing with you, the reader, something about our publishing house and authors.

As a publishing house, TSL works in partnership with its authors. This means we publish for a wide variety of reasons and across a range of topics, the content beinng secondary to the author-publisher relationship. The result is a network of authors all with a similar ethos or approach to writing and publishing: independent voice and not following the crowd.

While all are keen on sales, it’s not the main driver, some going as far to limit sale outlets as a stand against monopolies and conglomerations. All our authors want their books read – by as many people as possible. They believe their story is worth sharing, and so does TSL.

There are a few things TSL stands by:
* Avoiding labels in its endeavour to be inclusive. Some of our authors use labels and a few have left the fold as a result of TSL not doing so. The use of a label a double-edged sword but I believe that in every book TSL has published where a label could be applied, there is something in that publication for a reader who might not have engaged with it had it carried a label. Be bold, try something different – you could be pleasantly surprised.

* Getting the best deal for the author, reader and publisher. This means we do not push to have TSL books in bookshops as the retail price we have to set to give an author some return on a sale prices the book out of most readers’ reach. To overcome this, all TSL published books are sold directly through TSL at a reduced price and where our authors have their own sales outlets, we encourage readers to buy direct from the author to give them the best return for their creative work.

* Belief in slow burners. TSL doesn’t do the traditional marketing thing of pre-promotion. When a book is ready to meet the world, it is launched. Trying to anticipate when this will be has generally led to frustrations and unnecessary pressures all round. There is no expectation that a book will have a short life span – our first authors are promoted as much as our most recent. With technology and social media as it is, the challenge is trying to get information on a book to collide with a potential reader’s inbox for a spur of the moment sale – those seem to be the best after word of mouth sales. With so many books being published each year, this seems to me to be a sensible approach. Tastes and interests change over time and there’s no guarantee when something ‘old’ will be in fashion again or if something in the pipeline will hit the right buttons on its release. Providing the author-publisher relationship continues, the book remains available and promoted.

Hopefully having an understanding of how TSL works and sharing what I appreciate about our TSL authors and their writing will help you find a new author or book to read.

TSL has three imprints: TSL Publications, TSL Drama for scripts and GWAA for books concerning the Great War or First World War in Africa.


Kat François

About Kat François

Kat François is a performance artist, educator, director, writer and creative arts coach. She was the first person to win a televised poetry slam in the UK, on BBC3 in 2004, and a year later went on to win the World Slam Poetry Championships in Rotterdam. Kat continues to teach and perform globally.

Find out more about Kat on her website

Books by Kat


#Review Fate of the Prisoners – trans Timothy Hoffelder #History #Africa

The Fate of the Prisoners during the East Africa Campaign: The treatment of the Allied Prisoners by the Germans; The Treatment of the German Prisoners by the Belgians, was initially published in French in 1919 by the Belgian Ministry of Colonies. Nearly 100 years later, Timothy Hoffelder translated the text into English as part of a Masters course he was undertaking.

In undertaking the translation, the format of the text has been maintained as far as possible as it was in the original to allow researchers a ‘feel’ for the document.

As with all documents of this nature, there is an element of propaganda involved – Belgium was needing to make a point at the end of the First World War. It’s being had been violated when Germany invaded in 1914 and although Belgium took the military initiative in Africa without officially declaring war on Germany, there was a need and desire to prove Belgium held the moral upper hand. Taking this into account, the reports provide a very useful insight into the experiences of prisoners (both civilian and military) in Africa. There are a few memoirs by British doctors and others who were captured during the campaign but little from the Belgian side.

The camp at Tabora provides an additional flavour to life during the war as it had initially been the local German headquarters until captured by the Belgians in September 1916. The German women resident in the town, including the Governor’s wife – Ada Schnee, New Zealand born – purposefully allowed themselves to be taken prisoner to drain Belgian/Allied resources. The capture of Tabora therefore sees the liberation of prisoners from German control and the incarceration of those who had been involved in holding the prisoners as prisoners themselves. The reports contain mention of this with potential revenge and retaliation being dealt with.

How prisoners were dealt with at the end of the war is further covered in the Fate of the Prisoners, the most insightful account being that of Ada Schnee. Despite being English, Ada wrote her memoirs of the war in German, and although her memoir was later translated as Bibi Mkubwa, copies are incredibly scarce. So, the account in Fate of the Prisoners is the most accessible English version of her experiences (at least for the present).

Fate of the Prisoners will be of interest to those who are interested in subsidiary aspects of the Great War both in Africa and Europe. It contains a wealth of information disproportionate to a publication of its size.

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Have you seen?