Samuel Fury Childs Daly is a historian of twentieth century Africa. His research bridges East and West Africa, combining the methods of legal, military, and social history to understand the period after independence. His current project considers the history of the Biafra War (1967-1970). This book, entitled A History of the Republic of Biafra: Law, Crime, and the Nigerian Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2020), connects the crisis conditions of the war and the forms of crime that came to be associated with Nigeria in its wake. Using an original body of legal records from the secessionist Republic of Biafra, it traces how technologies, survival practices, and moral ideologies that emerged in the context of the fighting shaped how crime was practiced and perceived after Biafra’s defeat. By connecting the violence of the battlefield to violent crime, it provides a new perspective on law and politics in Africa after colonialism. His other areas of interest include the global history of drug trading, customary law in the British Empire, and the history of policing and prisons.
Daly’s next project is a transnational history of military desertion over the longue durée. Moving from acts of desertion in the Kongo armies of the 17th century to the African experience in the world wars, it develops a comparative account of this under-appreciated current in African history. Studying desertion reveals that leaving the battlefield is often a productive act. At many points in African history (and in the African diaspora), deserters founded communities, created social orders, and generated new ideas about honor and obligation. Understanding desertion as a social and political decision, rather than an act of individual cowardice, has larger implications for the study of warfare in Africa.