In the beginning of 1999 Professor David Beach died in Harare, only about three months after an unexpected illness which proved to be brain cancer had cut short his academic activities. His early death after more than thirty years of intensive research on the precolonial history of Zimbabwe and Mozambique motivated some of his friends and colleagues to plan a panel on his work in the 2000 CAAS conference in Edmonton, Canada. This paper was originally written for this Conference which I did not manage to attend. Not only his figure as historian and friend but also the context he was working in interested me, including the problem of local production of knowledge in Africa in the colonial and postcolonial environment. In this paper I shall present some biographical data on David Beach, outline the sequence of his research and writing, cover his concept and contribution to history, the reception of his work in Mozambique, ending with some comments regarding the problems of local production of scientific knowledge in African countries. The coverage is in places somewhat sketchy and some subjects like the reception of his studies in Zimbabwe have only been referenced briefly, and that in North America omitted.
The sections of the paper which deal with the sequence of his research, method, etc. and focus on sociological aspects of his production are based mainly on indications in Beach's own published work. Additional information came from his correspondence, hints he gave in casual conversation during my four visits to Harare in 1971 and 1982-1995, and during his six visits to Maputo in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1997, as well as some observations.