Henry O'Neill's narrative of first encounter in 1882 with residents of the plateau south of the Rovuma (in Mozambique) constitutes the earliest contribution to the written record on the area. By his presence among and accounts of these people, O'Neill transformed regional villains into victims awaiting British stewardship. This article portrays those O'Neill met on the plateau as more complex historical subjects who brought to the encounter their own fears, aspirations, and strategic agendas. Whereas the writings of the Subaltern Studies Group provide the author with a useful point of departure,the article critiques Subaltern Studies' excessive focus on textual readings,turning instead to the accounts of contemporary descendants of history's silenced subjects to construct an alternative narrative.

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