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World’s War


In my last book, Natives – “Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire”, I make important connections between the imperial histories that have shaped the lived experience of a black man from a working-class family living in London today. My immersion in these histories informed my decision to engage with this project and the themes I chose to tackle.

The First World War presented the global ruling powers of Europe and the USA with a serious dilemma. They had an unwritten consensus about the order of things, one that was rooted in the construct of race and notions of superiority of one ethnic grouping over another. The dismantling of these conventions could threaten their rule over lucrative colonial territories. But in 1914 they found themselves in bloody conflict over their slices of imperial cake, a conflict that, in order to win, each side needed the enlisted participation of their “inferior” subjects.

With the conflict beginning in Africa – no, not in the (in)famous trenches of the Western Front – would it be possible for the war to be fought “with a gentleman’s agreement not to kill off their own”?

It turned out not to be the case and today the historical role of millions of colonial troops used in the bloodiest of conflicts lies buried as deeply as the motives of the war itself. A war over territorial control that has shaped the world in which we live today.

History is written by the winners

Sometimes though heroes are of another hue

Are they remembered at all?

By who?

– Akala


Akala is a BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. 

With an extensive global touring history, Akala has appeared at numerous festivals both in the UK and internationally and has led innovative projects in the arts, education and music across South East Asia, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Akala has also appeared on Channel 4, ITV, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music and poetry and speaking on wide-ranging subjects from music, race, youth engagement, British/African-Caribbean culture and the arts, with numerous online lectures and performances that have millions of views on YouTube. More recently known for his compelling lectures and journalism – he has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent and spoken for the Oxford Union and TEDx. 

NATIVES his recently published memoir is already a Sunday Times best-seller.  

Having been awarded an honorary Doctorate by Oxford Brookes University, Akala has gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and articulate talents in the UK.