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Vaughan, Megan 1954-

Vaughan, Megan 1954-

PERSONAL:

Born May 1, 1954. Education: University of London, graduated.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Kings' College, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB2 1ST, England.

CAREER:

Cambridge University, Kings' College, Cambridge, England, Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History; Chancellor College, University of Malawi, professor of history; has also taught at Oxford University.

WRITINGS:

Kinship and Class: Stratification in the Zomba-Chilwa Area of Southern Malawi, c. 1800-1914, University of Malawi (Zomba, Malawi), 1978.

(With David Hirschmann) Women Farmers of Malawi: Food Production in the Zomba District, Institute of International Studies (Berkeley, CA), 1984.

(With Graham H.R. Chipande) Women in the Estate Sector of Malawi: The Tea and Tobacco Industries, International Labor Office (Geneva, Switzerland), 1986.

The Story of an African Famine: Gender and Famine in Twentieth-Century Malawi, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1991.

(With Henrietta L. Moore) Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1890-1990, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1994.

Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

Megan Vaughan is a writer, scholar, educator, and academic. She studied African history at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Before accepting a position at Cambridge University, Vaughan taught at both the University of Malawi and at Oxford University. As a researcher and educator, Vaughan concentrates on issues related to African social, economic, and cultural history. She studies and teaches the history of medicine and psychiatry in Africa as well as the history of slavery in the Indian Ocean, and covers other topics such as European expansion, British Empire and Commonwealth history, and the history and effects of epidemics in colonial settlements. Vaughan maintains a scholarly interest in a range of general topics in history and archaeology.

In Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness, Vaughan considers how biomedical discourse in Africa helped to define concepts of what constitutes "the African." In this way, the book "contributes to the growing body of writing in medical history and anthropology on the culture of biomedicine," commented John M. Janzen in the Journal of African History. Vaughan explores a number of theoretical issues involved in colonial biomedicine and how it was practiced on Nyasaland, which is known today as Malawi. She provides a number of vignettes and anecdotes that illuminate the history of medicine on the island and some other areas in Africa. She traces the development of medicine as practiced by mis- sionaries in Africa, and how this type of "mission medicine" added an element of Christianity to the definition and identity of the African. Specific medical issues are also discussed, including leprosy, sexually transmitted diseases, and psychological impairments. The book stands as an "analysis of the culture within colonial biomedicine, from within. As such, it is a welcome addition to the Africanist health library, filled as it is with many works on African and pluralistic medical studies," Janzen concluded.

Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1890-1990, written with Henriette L. Moore, reexamines issues from a pioneering study of the African Bemba tribe, Audrey Richards's 1939 Land Labour and Diet: An Economic Study of the Bemba Tribe. Vaughan and Moore go back to the place of Richards's ethnography in the history and culture of the area. They seek to "understand how anthropological accounts of place and people fit into prevailing colonial or development agencies' politico-cultural discourses and to analyze the patterns of social construction of realities, of resistance and change, amongst people themselves," commented Barrie Sharpe in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. They further explore the benefits of combining research methods from both anthropology and history as they delve into ethnographic studies of a geographical area. The authors reconsider the role and effect of agriculture in Bemba society, particularly the nature and impact of citimene, the burning of trees and wood in order to create a layer of soil-enriching ash upon which crops could be grown. They also look at issues such as gender relations, food production, domestic economy, religious practice, medical issues, political characteristics, and other areas that changed, grew, and evolved within this agricultural society. Among their conclusions, the authors show that "colonial typologies of citimene were much too rigid, and that Africans practiced it as only one element in a complex and dynamic set of economic practices. This set involved many different crops and agricultural techniques, so that local people had a varied repertoire on which to draw as agricultural conditions changed," reported Steven Feierman in the Journal of African History. Feierman called the book an "excellent project," and concluded that it is a "subtle and sharply realized history of social practices and forms of organization created by people for themselves, so that they could farm successfully and distribute the products of their labors."

Vaughan is also the author of Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius, which was published in 2007. "In this finely produced book, Megan Vaughan sets out to examine the development of this slave society from its beginnings until the island's transition into a West Indian style slave plantation society in the first decades of the nineteenth century," commented Gwyn Campbell in the International Journal of African Historical Studies. Throughout the volume, Vaughan "analyzes the complicated interrelationship between the slave and free, slavery and race, race and sexuality, and colonial and metropolitan" during slavery's years on Mauritius, noted Canadian Journal of History critic Femi J. Kolapo. Nigel Worden, writing in the Journal of African History, observed that Mauritius's slaveholding past has become a significant issue in the island's modern identity. The island's history of slavery is largely responsible for Maritius's widespread social inequality, Worden reported. Vaughan explores in depth the island's history and the means by which its Creole society was formed. She places the slavery debate into a new context by examining "what it meant to create a Creole society founded on slavery not in predetermined racial terms, but in relation to the gendered, social and psychological realities of lived experience," Worden stated.

Vaughan looks at a number of subjects involving Mauritius's colonization and slave-based past. Mauritius had no native population, and in the beginning was a very desolate and undesirable location. Vaughan relates stories of the troubles experienced during the first three years of the island's colonization. Slave labor was brought in from Madagascar and Africa in order to help transform the island, and island identities developed as the need for slave labor grew. "A fascinating chapter on language emphasizes that creolity resulted from a brutal process involving the involuntary loss of a mother tongue," commented Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall in the American Historical Review. She "offers a fascinating analysis of the names assigned to slaves to illustrate their increasingly dehumanizing treatment," Sepinwall stated. Vaughan notes the development of Mauritius's bad reputation with the British, and how abolition failed to properly free the island's slaves, who promptly went from being slaves to being "apprentices" forced to work for their former masters. She examines a number of court cases from the eighteenth century and assesses what they meant in the context of the time. These historical records "offer glimpses into the reality of slaves' lives, and bring a few acutely, if momentarily, to life," Campbell remarked. Vaughan also considers the effects of the arrival of numerous indentured servants from India, and how these servants managed to gain an economic foothold on Mauritius before any of the other slave populations, thus allowing them to rise to a position of economic prominence.

In assessing the book, Kolapo remarked: "This is a sophisticated and fascinating portrait of slavery in Mauritius." Vaughan's work is an "an intriguing treatment of the complexity of human agency within the context of a colonial slave society," Kolapo added. "The book is written in simple but beautiful prose. Its subjects are allowed to act and speak, Vaughan providing sophisticated but delightful and revealing commentaries. It contains riveting biographical tidbits on slaves (including their real words), colonial officials, and settlers." Worden enthusiastically commented: "This magnificent book makes a major contribution to historical writing both on Mauritius and on comparative slavery in the Indian Ocean region." Worden called it "a model of how historians should use theory without sacrificing clarity."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

African Studies Review, September, 1993, Robert A. Myers, review of Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness, p. 147.

American Anthropologist, December, 1995, Carolyn Martin Shaw, review of Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1890-1990, p. 801.

American Ethnologist, November, 1994, Brad Weiss, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 952; May, 1997, Gracia Clark, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 494.

American Historical Review, April, 1989, Margaret Strobel, review of The Story of an African Famine: Gender and Famine in Twentieth-Century Malawi, p. 498; April, 1995, Sara Berry, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 563; April, 2006, Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, review of Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius, p. 601.

Canadian Journal of History, spring-summer, 2006, Femi J. Kolapo, review of Creating the Creole Island.

Choice, May, 1992, B.M. du Toit, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 1437; June, 1994, D.M. Warren, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 1635; July, 1995, review of The Story of an African Famine, p. 1695; December, 2005, R.T. Brown, review of Creating the Creole Island, p. 715.

Economic Development & Cultural Change, October, 1996, Edith Turner, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 227.

English Historical Review, January, 1991, A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, review of The Story of an African Famine, p. 268.

Ethnohistory, fall, 1993, John Lamphear, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 681.

Geographical Journal, March, 1988, review of The Story of an African Famine, p. 127.

History Today, September, 1992, John Iliffe, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 49.

International History Review, March, 2007, Anthony J. Barker, review of Creating the Creole Island, p. 134.

International Journal of African Historical Studies, winter, 1992, Randall M. Packard, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 216; spring, 1995, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 404; spring, 2006, Gwyn Campbell, review of Creating the Creole Island, p. 304.

International Review of Social History, April, 2007, review of Creating the Creole Island, p. 174.

Journal of African History, May, 1988, C.C. Wrigley, review of The Story of an African Famine, p. 355; August, 1993, John M. Janzen, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 502; August, 1995, Steven Feierman, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 516; July, 2006, Nigel Worden, review of Creating the Creole Island, p. 332.

Journal of Developing Areas, April, 1986, Edna G. Bay, review of Women Farmers of Malawi: Food Production in the Zomba District, p. 386.

Journal of Development Studies, January, 1988, Penelope Roberts, review of The Story of an African Famine, p. 258.

Journal of Historical Geography, January, 1993, Morag Bell, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 118.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, autumn, 1989, Randall M. Packard, review of The Story of an African Famine, p. 343; summer, 2007, Richard Blair Allen, review of Creating the Creole Island, p. 167.

Journal of Modern African Studies, December, 1996, James Pletcher, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 728.

Journal of Modern History, September, 1994, William B. Cohen, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 591.

Journal of the History of Ideas, January, 1992, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 175.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, December, 1995, Barrie Sharpe, review of Cutting Down Trees, p. 871.

Social Science Quarterly, September, 1992, Bruce Fetter, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 713.

Times Higher Education Supplement, March 13, 1992, Brian Morris, review of Curing Their Ills, p. 25.

ONLINE

Cambridge University Department of History Web site,http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/ (April 22, 2008), author profile.

Palgrave Macmillan Web site,http://www.palgrave.com/ (April 22, 2008), author profile.

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