Steven Serels

Jan 11, 2021

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

Palgrave Macmillan 2018

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. 

In The Impoverishment of the African Red Sea Littoral, 1640–1945 (Palgrave, 2018), 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 within the Indian Ocean World.

Dr. Steven Serels is a Research Fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient. He holds a Master’s (2007) and a Ph.D. in History (2012), both from McGill University. He previously was a fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg’s Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Regionalstudien. He is the author of Starvation and the State: Famine, Slavery and Power in Sudan 1883-1956 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

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Ahmed Almaazmi

Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law, the occult sciences, and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.

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