Awards and Service
- Editor, Revue canadienne des études africaines, 1996-2002
- National Science Foundation (DFW) 2001-04 and (Paris)
2001-02; Wenner-Gren Foundation (Paris), 1998-2000
Council of Learned Societies, 1973-75, 1992 & 1984: University
Teacher Fellowship, International Rotary Foundation, Bamako,
- Margareta Deschner Teaching Award and Core Curriculum Award (2)
- SMU’s Women’s Studies Council, 1983 & 1991
- Peace Corps, Chad, 1968-70
Books and Essays
The Human Traditon in Modern Africa,
Rowman and Littlefield, 2011.
The Demographics of Empire: The Colonial Order and
the Creation of Knowledge,
coedited with Karl Ittmann and Gregory Maddox.
and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration
System in West Africa, 1900-1975,
with Victor Piché and Joel W. Gregory, Westview/Harper
African Population and Capitalism: Historical
co-edited with Joel W. Gregory, Westview Press, 1987.
Dar al-Kuti and the Last Years of the Trans-Saharan
University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.
Myth of Inevitability and Invincibility: Resistance
to Slavers and the Slave Trade in Central Africa,
Fighting Back: African Strategies against the Slave
University of Ohio Press, 2003.
“Polygamy, disrupted reproduction, and the state:
Malian migrants in Paris, France,” with Carolyn F.
Social Science and Medicine,
The slave trade from Central Africa to North Africa and
the Middle East, and the migration of Africans in the
twentieth century Historian and demographer Dennis
Cordell is one of the few specialists on the history of
Chad and the Central African Republic.
He studies the last years of the slave trade from
Central Africa,1850’s to the 1920’s, and the migration
of Africans during the period of French colonial rule to
the present. His attention has also focused on the roots
of contemporary underpopulation in Central Africa.
Cordell reconstructs the commerce in human beings, from
the violence of capture to their sale to merchants who
took them to the Nile Valley, Egypt, and the Middle
East, from Dar Kuti, one of the last slave-raiding
states. He currently aims at fostering an understanding
of contemporary upheavals in Chad and Sudan, including
the violence in DarFur, and the recent revival of the
Between the French conquest in the 1890’s and the
depression of the 1930’s: European policies of forced
labor, forced military recruitment, forced collection of
natural resources, and obligatory cultivation of
commercial crops led to higher rates of death and the
abandonment of arable land famine and disease followed,
further contributing to depopulation Contemporary social
science surveys, oral histories, help Cordell under-
stand the social and economic history of Africa.
One surprising discovery from his work on migration in
the French colony of Upper Volta in West Africa, now
Burkina Faso, is that African women migrated to
international destinations much earlier, and in
considerably larger numbers, than heretofore thought.
Cordell suggests that earlier colonial administrators
must have “turned” some women into men in their reports,
the documents that historians now consult. Without the
survey of hundreds of women, analyzed in the work of
Cordell and his colleagues, we would never have known of
their role in international migration from the interior
of West Africa in the first three-quarters of the
With colleagues from SMU and UTA, Cordell contributes to
an understanding of how today’s immigrants to DFW become
incorporated into community life. Additionally, Cordell
and SMU anthropologist Carolyn Sargent have studied
immigrants in Paris from the West African country of
Mali, virtually all of whom are Muslims. Life in the
French capital has altered perceptions of men’s and
women’s roles, reproduction, the family, and has taught
them to organize to promote immigrant rights.
The number of immigrants arriving in the U.S. since the
late 1970’s exceeds the number of arrivals during the
last great wave of immigration between 1890 and 1910.
The number of new African immigrants exceeds those who
came here during the slave trade era.
Page updated November 2011.