This article considers the domestic impact of the First World War upon Africa, a continent pulled into the hostilities of 1914–18 because of its place in the world of European imperialism. Africa experienced some patchy fighting fronts in western parts, and endured the heavy costs of prolonged military campaigning across its eastern and some of its central regions. Equally, the experience of wartime for those at home was highly uneven, depending on locality. While the lives of some inhabitants were hit hard by the violence, brutality and other costs of the war, others were relatively insulated from the direct effects of the conflict by remoteness. Theirs became a war of the mind in which a distant European conflagration inhabited the imagination, stimulating hope, rumour and even millennial aspirations.
This article is a revised version of a plenary lecture delivered at the 83rd Anglo-American Conference of Historians on the theme of ‘The Great War at home’, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 3–4 July 2014