Harold Marcus Obiturary

Harold G. Marcus, founding editor of H-Africa, died Wednesday, January 15, of cardiac arrest following complications from an ongoing heart condition. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Cressida Marcus, and a daughter, Emma Rose Marcus (from a previous marriage). Still a relatively young man at 66, Harold remained an inspiration for this network of scholars which he was instrumental in founding.

During the 1994 African Studies Association meeting in Toronto, Harold was touting both the possibility and the potential of an internet discussion forum for the scholarly discussions about Africa. There he recruited the first of his co-editors, and set in motion a process which led to H-Africa coming online in March 1995. He took a very active part in guiding our initial deliberations, seeking to involve a growing community of Africanists and others committed to the serious discussion of the continent. He remained convinced of the unparalleled value of H-Africa to contribute to the scholarly discourse. As recently as ten days before his death, Harold introduced a panel discussion of "Electronic Scholarship" at the American Historical Association annual meeting by speaking fondly of H-Africa's place in that increasing universe of academe. He specifically recalled his vision of this forum as ushering in unique possibilities for "collective scholarship" about the continent. Such imagining was one of his greatest gifts, and it led him to take the lead in encouraging other, similar networks of scholars with more specific interests. It also led to his election to the governing Council of H-Net, Humanities and Social Sciences Online, the sponsoring organization of H-Africa.

At the same time, Harold was an accomplished scholar of a more traditional stripe. A graduate of Clark University, he received his PhD from Boston University in 1964 after studies with the anthropologist and historian, Daniel McCall. His dissertation research took him for the first time to Ethiopia, which became the focus of his academic interests for the rest of his life. He also studied and wrote more widely on African history, and on the development and decline of colonialism in Africa and worldwide. He was the author of many articles, editor of several books and collections of essays, and also editor of _Northeast Africa Studies_. His biographies of Ethiopian Emperors Menilek II and Haile Selassie were not only well received in scholarly circles, but are also widely read and reprinted. And his _History of Ethiopia_ is widely regarded as perhaps the best short history of the country. Many journalists and government officials turned to him for understanding and guidance about a wide variety of matters concerning the horn of Africa.

Moreover, Harold believed that scholarship was nothing without commitment. He was active in what he believed were causes which served the people of northeastern Africa and their desire for better lives. He was an advocate for human rights, not just in that region, but in the whole of Africa and beyond. And he was, despite a sometimes gruff exterior, truly a man of compassion and caring, as many of his students and colleagues can testify. He was deeply committed to teaching, first at Addis Ababa and Howard Universities, and then for 35 years at Michigan State University where he was Distinguished Professor of History. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Khartoum and Osaka Gaidai University and lectured at scores of colleges and universities around the world. Harold believed that his scholarly efforts also demanded that he share his knowledge directly with students. Thus, he leaves a legacy of many former students around the world who owe him both intellectual and very often personal debts and who are carrying on his vision of an ever- widening circle of scholarship about Africa. The editors of H- Africa, all of whom were inspired by his plans and dreams for this network, share in those debts. We fondly hope that our efforts will stand as a fitting tribute to his commitment-to Africa and Africans, to the scholarly discussion of the continent, and to the promotion of this medium as a means of increasing the value of that scholarship.

Also see In Memory of Harold Golden Marcus.