History of the Basuto, Ancient and Modern


David Frédéric Ellenberger (1835–1919) was a Swiss French Protestant missionary who left for Basutoland (present-day Lesotho) in 1860 as a member of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. Ellenberger spent more than 45 years collecting the oral traditions of the Basotho (also known as Sotho) people. His method was to gather “all the information which it was still possible to obtain from intelligent old men concerning the tribes, their origin, their manners, their form of government, their beliefs, the genealogy of the chiefs, etc.” His objective was to preserve, for the Basotho, their historical memory, which he saw as being lost through contact with Westerners and other Africans. Ellenberger kept his notes in French, and this English edition of his work, published in 1912, was written by his son-in-law, J.C. MacGregor, a British colonial administrator. The book includes genealogies going back to 1450, a history of the Basotho people from their origins to 1833 (when the missionaries arrived), and an account of the rise of Moshoeshoe I (circa 1786–1870), the founder and first paramount chief of the Sotho people. The appendix includes chapters on religion, hunting, witchcraft, law and social order, and Basotho character and manners. A Sesotho version of Ellenberger’s history, Histori ea Basotho, was published in 1917.

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Caxton Publishing Company, Limited, London



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xxii, 396 pages : including genealogy tables, frontispiece (portrait), folded map, folded tables ; 23 centimeters

Last updated: September 18, 2015