Terence Ranger
Picture of Terence Ranger
Terence Ranger (Photo Credit: Zimbojam)
BornTerence Osborne Ranger
(1929-01-02)January 2, 1929
Harare, Zimbabwe
DiedJanuary 3, 2015(2015-01-03) (aged 86)
Oxford, United Kingdom
Cause of deathNatural (in his sleep)
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
  • Historian
  • Writer
  • Politician

Terence Osborne Ranger was a famous historian/academic and nationalist who contributed immensely to the writing of Zimbabwean history in particular and African history in general. He was also an active member of the nationalists movements of Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in the early 1960s. He rose to fame through his seminal book publications from the 1960s and key among them include "Revolt in Southern Africa". He taught as a professor at various Universities in Europe and Africa including the University of Zimbabwe where he served for the bigger part of his career.


Ranger was born on 2 January 1929 in Britain. He grew up in the United Kingdom with his family. He was married to his wife Shelagh a fellow political activist but not much of an academic.

Academic career

He did his early education at Highgate School in London in the United Kingdom. He also attended St Antony's College where he attained a distinction for his Honors degree. Ranger attained his doctorate at the University of Oxford. He went to the University College of Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (later Malawi) in 1957 as Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern History.[1] Ranger started the other part of his long academic career at St Anthony's College where he worked as a research fellow. It was at the institution where he developed a determined interest for African history /African studies. He left for Rhodesia in 1957 at the age of 28.[2]

After settling in Salisbury, Ranger was caught up in a political environment at a time when the nationalists were beginning to fight the white settler regime for political independence. He also became a fellow at Rhodes Institute and eventually became the chair of the institute at the St Anthony's College. It is believed that during his childhood, Ranger read from a teenage literary inventory featuring Rudyard Kipling, Rider Haggard and Joseph Conrad.

Notable Publications

Ranger and Nationalist Politics

Ranger with Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo at his fareware before his deportation to Tanzania in 1962

After his arrival at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (UCRN), Ranger was also given the responsibility of administering the student hostels as Warden. He became unpopular among white students for his disegregationist policies which advocated for the equal treatment of students despite their races.

Ranger's entrance into nationalist politics attracted attention from various circles due to his somewhat antogising of the popular trends in which most whites supported the racists Rhodesian white settler regime. Ranger opted to join ZAPU which was under the the leadership of the likes of Joshua Nkomo and James Chikerema. He served in ZAPU and showed his love for Africanism and African Nationalism through his nationalist writings which agitated the Africans to continue with the fight for Independence.

It was between 1959 and 1960 when Ranger was elected ZAPU District Deputy Chairman Ranger was ejected from the country in February 1963 for political subversion, precisely his participation with the outlawed ZAPU in which he was a district vice-chair. Before his deportation in 1963, Ranger was placed under a three month house arrest at his Borrowdale home in Salisbury and could only move from his house to the National Archives of Rhodesia and to the University College of Rhodesian and Nyasaland. In these two areas, he was given the opportunity to read the archival material as a well as published books on the history of Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular. The restriction was levelled as a death-knell against his political activity and research interests.

Ranger then went to Tanzania which was already independent for his exile. He was sent off at the Salisbury Airport between March and April in 1963 by his nationalist politicians Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe and James Chikerema. He went to Dar es Salam where he was eventually employed at the University of Ibadan in the history department. He worked there as a lecturer and continued to produced revolutionary works including his famous "Connexions Theory" which sought to elaborated the connections and continuity between the First Chimurenga of the 1890s and Second Chimurenga of the 1960s.


Zimbabwe Achievers Award - Friends of Zimbabwe Award


In the period after 2000, Ranger shifted from his earlier nationalist ideology and became a critic of the Robert Mugabe 's government. In one of his controversial publications titled "Nationalist Historiography, Patriotic History and the History of the Nation, The Struggle Over the Past in Zimbabwe" published in 2004, Ranger criticised Mugabe's politicisation of history especialy through the land reform programs and the indigenisation initiative which resulted in the division of the citizens between "patriots and traitors".[3]


At the age 86, Ranger died in his sleep at his home in Oxford, United Kingdom.


  1. , Historian Ranger Dies,ZBC News, published:4 Jan 2015,retrieved:5 Jan 2015"
  2. S. Mushava, Terence Ranger and Zimbabwe's Nationalist Politics,The Herald, published:5 Jan 2015,retrieved:5 Jan 2015"
  3. T. Ranger, Nationalist Historiography, Patriotic History and the History of the Nation, The Struggle Over the Past in Zimbabwe,Jstor, published:2004,retrieved:5 Jan 2015"