© 2018

The Impoverishment of the African Red Sea Littoral, 1640–1945


  • Recovers the pre-colonial history of pastoralism in the African Red Sea Littoral, tracing links between this history and present-day poverty in the region

  • Offers a novel regional approach to the study of pastoralist history, focusing on a set of communities with shared patterns of human-environment interaction

  • Examines the factors which led to the decline of pastoralism in northeastern Africa, including environmental disaster, the decline of social relations, colonial rule, and changing global economic conditions


Part of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies book series (IOWS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Steven Serels
    Pages 1-29
  3. Steven Serels
    Pages 31-53
  4. Steven Serels
    Pages 55-73
  5. Steven Serels
    Pages 101-129
  6. Steven Serels
    Pages 165-177
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 179-204

About this book


The African Red Sea Littoral, currently divided between Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, is one of the poorest regions in the world. But the pastoralist communities indigenous to this region were not always poor—historically, they had access to a variety of resources that allowed them to prosper in the harsh, arid environment. This access was mediated by a robust moral economy of pastoralism that acted as a social safety net. Steven Serels charts the erosion of this moral economy, a slow-moving process that began during the Little Ice Age mega-drought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and continued through the devastating famines of the twentieth century. By examining mass sedentarization after the Second World War as merely the latest manifestation of an inter-generational environmental and economic crisis, this book offers an innovative lens for understanding poverty in northeastern Africa.


Horn of Africa Sudan Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Indian Ocean World The Red Sea poverty in Africa pastoralism in the ARSL Little Ice Age mega-drought in Africa Scramble for Africa Poverty causation climate change history of pastoralism sedentarization pastoralist economics famine in Africa

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre RegionalstudienMartin Luther Universität Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany

About the authors

Steven Serels holds a joint appointment as Research Fellow at the Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Regionalstudien at Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, and as Visiting Scholar at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, USA. His first monograph is titled Starvation and the State: Famine, Slavery, and Power in Sudan, 1883–1956 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Impoverishment of the African Red Sea Littoral, 1640–1945
  • Authors Steven Serels
  • Series Title Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-94164-6
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-06807-3
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-94165-3
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XV, 204
  • Number of Illustrations 3 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics African History
    Imperialism and Colonialism
    World History, Global and Transnational History
    Economic History
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“The geographical expanse and ethnic diversity of northeastern Africa and the adjoining Red Sea Littoral defy most scholarly efforts to produce a balanced historical account of the region’s pastoralist communities. This book overcomes these barriers to offer a masterful history of the development of poverty in these communities against the backdrop of environmental and socio-cultural change. For historians, anthropologists, and scholars of development studies and ethnic studies, this book will prove an invaluable resource.” (Martin S. Shanguhyia, Associate Professor of African History, Syracuse University, USA)