The Zamani Reader

On West Africa, Britain, and the West Indies in the Eighteenth Century


News and Reflections

Draft Program Released for the 2019 ACH Conference in Curaçao

Dear readers,

This weekend the conference committee for the Association of Caribbean Historians (ACH) released a draft of their program for the 51st Annual Conference. The conference will take place in Curaçao from Sunday, May 26, to Thursday, May 30. The theme is “Resistance: A View from the Margins.” I will be presenting a paper on Thursday, May 30, as part of “Panel #13: Documenting Caribbean Cultures.” This panel will also feature presentations by Drs. Emiel Martens, Orpheo Donk, and Rose Mary Allen. My paper will introduce a primary source that I discovered in the archives of the British Library in the summer of 2017. The core of this primary source is the lengthiest set of musical notations that have survived from the early-modern period and that were composed by enslaved people. I am currently collaborating with the Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA) to create an online exhibit for sharing these notations with the public. That exhibit should be completed by the time of the conference, so that I can use it during my presentation. I posted a link to the current draft of the ACH conference program below, as well as a link to the ECDA. Enjoy!

2019 ACH Conference Program

Early Caribbean Digital Archive

Seeking Presenters for a Panel at the 2019 African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Conference

Dear readers,

The African Studies Association (ASA) has released their call for papers for this year’s annual conference. The conference theme is “Being, Belonging, and Becoming in Africa,” and it will take place in Boston from Wednesday, 20 November to Sunday, 24 November. See the link below for information about the meeting on the ASA’s website. This year, I am interested in proposing a panel that interrogates how and why people have chosen to write African History throughout time. I will present a paper on the writing of African History in the precolonial period, and I am looking for presenters who are interested in talking about the colonial and precolonial periods. The papers may offer general context on the writing of African History during these periods, or they might offer a specific case study that shows how and why people turned to writing African History. If you are interested in being a part of this panel, and you think that your work fits nicely with the panel’s goals, please send me a message and let me know. I would love to talk with you about whether we can make this happen. The deadline for panel submissions is March 15. All other information related to the conference can be found on the ASA’s website.


Link to the ASA Website’s Information on Annual Meetings

Article on the Coromantee and Edward Long Published in Slavery & Abolition

Dear readers,

Today, I was fortunate to have my article published in the academic journal, Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies. The article is called “The origins of a source: Edward Long, Coromantee slave revolts, and The History of Jamaica.” It explores how an eighteenth-century planter and historian, named Edward Long, developed some knowledge of Africans in Jamaica, and then re-purposed and deployed that knowledge in the British abolitionist debates. Broadly speaking, the article has relevance for anyone who is interested in Jamaica, African Studies, and the British anti-slavery movement in the eighteenth century. More specifically, the article has relevance for anyone who is interested in the Gold Coast Diaspora, Tacky’s Revolt, and Edward Long. This essay began two years ago, in the fall of 2016, as a research paper for an article-writing seminar at UC Davis. After two years of intensive researching, re-thinking, writing, and editing, I am pleased to be able to share it with you. I want to thank everyone who helped me make the essay possible, including numerous readers, editors, and colleagues.  Finally, I would also like to thank all of the scholars whose work I built upon.

Thanks. If the article interests you, please reach out and let me know.


Link to “The origins of a source” in Slavery & Abolition

Download a PDF version of “The origins of a source” here

Research at the West Indiana and Special Collections Division of UWI’s Alma Jordan Library in Trinidad

Dear readers,

After attending the 50th Association of Caribbean Historians conference in Barbados last June, I flew to Trinidad to conduct some research for my dissertation. I studied at the West Indiana and Special Collections Division of the Alma Jordan Library (AJL) at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). I had such an incredible time working with the AJL staff, and they were kind enough to write up a profile on my research for their Facebook page. I posted the link to their page below, and I also posted the profile in both PDF and PPT. Overall, researching at the AJL was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend doing work there if you have the opportunity. In addition to housing great archival material on the early-modern era, the AJL is a premier location for the study of twentieth-century West Indian history. They have, for example, the private papers of such luminaries as Samuel Selvon, C.L.R. James, and Derek Walcott. In addition to housing the papers of Eric Williams, the library maintains an exceptional museum dedicated to his work and legacy on the second floor.

Profile on the AJL Facebook page

Distinguished Visitors Profile in PDF

Distinguished Visitors Profile in PowerPoint


Introducing “HIS 115A: West African History. The History and Memory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade”

Dear readers,

I am thrilled to announce that over the summer I was approved to teach my new course at UC Davis this coming Winter Quarter. The course is officially designated as “HIS 115A: West African History.” It is a special topics course about “The History and Memory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.” I could not be more excited to teach this course. This was the class that I designed during Fall Quarter, 2017, to satisfy requirements for my minor field in the PhD program here at Davis. I have amended the syllabus a bit because the original design was for a semester-long course and Davis only teaches in quarters. However, as of yesterday, the syllabus for the course is complete. I am sure that I will be making changes over the next couple of months but, nonetheless, I wanted to share the syllabus with you today. I have attached it below in PDF, along with a separate “Lab Schedule.” This shows the primary sources that I am considering assigning for our weekly lab exercises. If you or anyone you know are a UC Davis student and might be interested in taking the course, please sign up! Or if you are a student of African History who wants to offer some advice or criticism, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am always looking for ways to improve my classes and give my students the best experience possible. Finally, I have also used a copy of the course flier as the image for this post. I hope you like it. Enjoy!

HIS 115A Syllabus

HIS 115A Lab Schedule

HIS 115A Flier

Syllabus for Independent Study — “West African Ethnographies and Histories of the Eighteenth Century”

Dear readers,

The 2017-2018 school year is starting this Wednesday, September 27. Even though I completed all of my graduate seminar work last spring, I will be taking one more class this fall. This class is an independent-study course (also known as a directed-readings course) in order to fulfill the requirements for my minor in African History. Getting a minor is one of the three main benchmarks for third-year students in the PhD program at Davis. (The other two benchmarks are passing the comprehensive examinations and proposing the dissertation prospectus.)

Every student in the UC Davis doctoral History program must complete a minor. To do this, students select a field of History that is different from their major field. Then, they find a professor who is willing to supervise their minor project. The student meets with that professor for a designated period of time–usually a quarter or so–and they discuss the contours of the field while they read some of its major works. Afterward, the student conceives of and writes up a syllabus for a hypothetical undergraduate course in that field, as well as a “justification paper” that explains the choices they made in creating the syllabus. He or she then submits both of these materials to their minor professor and, hopefully, the professor approves of them and grants the student their minor. (By the way, a student cannot move on to their dissertation prospectus unless he or she has successfully completed the minor, so this part of the process is kind of crucial.)

Overall, the purpose of the minor field is to make students more versatile, both in their knowledge of History as a discipline and in their prospects for a job after graduation. Studying a second field in detail gives students greater perspective on their own field of research. Also, having a syllabus in a secondary field ensures that graduating students will have another option about what they can teach once they are placed in a new job. As I am told, the syllabus is a helpful tool to have when job hunting. Obviously, universities hire new faculty with the intention of having them teach in their major-field areas; yet, a graduate might come off as a more-competitive candidate in the interview room if he or she can present and explain a syllabus of their own creation for another field of History entirely. Ideally, the university would see an added benefit in hiring a professor who feels comfortable teaching in more than one field of History.

So, what am I doing? At the end of last year, I finally came to the conclusion that I would pursue my minor in African History. I approached one of the UC Davis History professors who specializes in African History at the beginning of the summer, and I asked if they would supervise my minor project. Thankfully, they agreed, and they recommended that we take this independent-study course together to prepare. I spent the last month of the summer drafting a syllabus for this course and, after some revisions with the professor, a working version is finally complete. I have attached the syllabus to the bottom of this post for you to see. The course is called “West African Ethnographies and Histories of the Eighteenth Century.” I have removed some of the sensitive information, like the name of the professor as well as the time and dates of our meetings. Nonetheless, you will be able to see all of the good stuff: our overall vision for the course, the themes we have decided to focus on, and the works we have decided to read. I might be providing some week-to-week video updates on the course throughout the fall. We’ll see…

Thanks for reading. Best wishes,

West African Ethnographies and Histories of the Eighteenth Century — An Independent Study Proposal (TZR Version 2017)


Announcement: The Zamani Reader Moves in Some New Directions

My name is Devin Leigh, and  I am a graduate History student and teacher’s assistant at the University of California Davis in Yolo County, California. Occasionally, I also teach classes as an adjunct History instructor at Solano Community College (SCC) in Solano County, California. The Zamani Reader (abbreviated as TZR) is a blog that I created in 2014 to be a free and open forum for sharing my academic work in the field of History.

In the past, TZR has featured posts about History in a variety of formats, including academic book reviews and précis, personal reflections, notable quotes, news and announcements, class lectures, interviews, recommended resources, links to online materials, and feature-length articles. The featured articles have ranged from research prospectuses to bibliographical essays, historiographies, and research papers. Recently, at the start of summer, 2017, I decided to take TZR to a new level. I have explained my decision in the paragraphs below:

I first created TZR on Saturday afternoon, February 1, 2014. It evolved out of my experience writing posts for a different blog, known as The Lakefront Historian, when I was an MA student at Loyola University Chicago. During the first three-and-a-half years of running TZR, I treated the blog as a supplement to, and a release valve for, my more-formal studies in graduate school. As such, I never adhered to a very reliable or consistent posting schedule. Instead, the only way I felt that I could make a blog work with my commitments in school was to partner it with my academic course-work, adapting and posting materials as I completed them for my professors. This strategy meant that, while my posts often aligned closely with my personal research interests, they more-generally reflected the assignments that I was given by my professors at any particular moment.

Recently, I passed over a threshold in my journey towards my doctorate degree. During the 2016-2017 academic year, I started conducting research for my potential dissertation project. Since I plan to publish this research in a more formal venue some day, I chose not to post about it on TZR. Then, in the spring of 2017, I finished with my graduate course-work entirely. As a result, I am no longer being assigned and producing papers for school that I can re-post on TZR. Rather, I am focusing my time on studying for my comprehensive examinations and preparing for my dissertation prospectus, both of which, god willing, are supposed to occur in the fall of 2018 . If I successfully complete these two stages of the PhD process, then I will begin several years of intensive research and writing for my dissertation project. Like much of the work that I undertook in the 2016-2017 academic year, I will be saving these writings for publication in a forum other than TZR. This means that, in order for TZR to survive and even thrive in an organic way, it will have to be adapted to meet these new circumstances.

In order to adjust TZR to this next phase of my career and to ensure that the project is continually moving forward, I have chosen to take the blog in a couple of new directions. For the first time ever, TZR will begin accepting submissions for outside content starting in the fall of 2017. (Please see the “Submissions to the Blog” page for more information.) Hopefully, this new aspect of TZR will help the website continue featuring new material, while also making the site more dynamic by expanding the diversity of its voices and by making its production much more interactive. Second, I am planning to produce material in a couple of new forums. In particular, I am hoping to begin producing video blogs that discuss some of the books I am reading for my comprehensive examinations. For me, these new directions are a fresh reminder that TZR is a continually evolving project.

For more information about TZR, please check out some of the pages cataloged beneath this one, browse older posts in the “Search the Archives” section, or send me a message via the “Contact the Author” page. Thanks for supporting TZR, and best wishes.

Book Review Published in the Florida Historical Quarterly

Dear readers, last fall I had the privilege to publish my first book review in the Florida Historical Quarterly. The review is on Indian River Lagoon: An Environmental History. This is a recent monograph by a South Florida historian and primary/secondary school teacher named Nathaniel Osborn. Osborn received his master’s degree in History from Florida Atlantic University in 2012 and Indian River Lagoon is his first book. In the work, Osborn offers a longue durée natural and human history of what he defines as “the most biologically diverse estuarine ecosystem in the United States.” In doing so, he plots out a nuanced story that defies our stereotypical ideas of “natural environment” and “artificial degradation.” Overall, I was very impressed with the work, and I recommend all of those who are interested in either Florida history or American environmental history to read it. I have copied a PDF version of my review below for you to read at your pleasure. My thanks go out to the editorial staff at the Florida Historical Quarterly. I am particularly grateful to Assistant Editor Daniel S. Murphree, who commissioned this review. Enjoy!

Book Review of Nathaniel Osborn’s Indian River Lagoon in FHQ (2016)


Announcement for the Second Annual UC Davis Graduate History Conference on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 19-21

Dear readers, it is that time again! The second annual UC Davis Graduate History Conference is only eleven days away. I have attached a flier for the event to this post. The flier was created by the two principal organizers for the conference, Lawrence Abrams and Kaleb Knoblauch. These two outstanding graduate students have worked incredibly hard, and at their own expense, to follow up on their success from planning and hosting last year’s inaugural graduate student conference. The History Department at UC Davis is one of the leading institutions for the study of History in the United States, a fact which has been re-affirmed this year through a number of departmental successes, including the awarding of a Bancroft Prize to one of our professors, Andrés Reséndez, for his work on a book called The Other Slavery. The UC Davis History Department deserves to be the home of a graduate conference that will do justice to its place in academia, and we thank Abrams and Knoblauch for their work in making this ambition a reality. Continue reading “Announcement for the Second Annual UC Davis Graduate History Conference on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 19-21”

Call for Papers, Second Annual UC Davis Graduate History Conference

Dear readers, exciting news! The organizers for the Annual UC Davis Graduate History Conference have released this year’s call for papers (or CFP). I have attached that CFP to this post for your perusal. Last year, under the direction of the program’s two tireless organizers, Lawrence Abrams and Kaleb Knoblauch, the UC Davis History Department was able to host their inaugural graduate student conference, called “Historians Without Borders, History Without Limits.” The conference featured participants from across the greater California area, as well as a few people who came from places that were much more distant, like Rutgers, in New Jersey, and Wayne State, in Michigan. This year, the History Department hopes to improve upon last year’s success. This second installment of the graduate conference will keep the same broad and inclusive theme as the first, with its emphasis on interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary work, while adding a “special focus on the integration of digital humanities.” Also, this year’s conference will include a specific day for the presentation of work by undergraduates. That being said, please help us disseminate this CFP to any and all interested scholars. As the document states, the deadline for submissions is Friday, December 30, and the conference will take place over the weekend of May 19-21, 2017. If you are a graduate history student, I hope that you will consider submitting your research, whether it is a polished piece or a work in progress.

Second UCD History Grade Conference — Call for Papers

Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part Two) — Why is Graduate School so Hard, Especially in the First Year?

Well, I have officially finished my first year of the PhD History program at UC Davis. To be more precise, I finished my first year a couple of months ago, when I turned in the last of my final exams for Spring Quarter around the second week of June. I meant to write these reflections immediately after finishing the school year, but then I got caught up with other obligations and I was, frankly, pretty tired of writing. I took a job right after school ended, teaching another course at Solano Community College. The new dean of the college called me up and offered me the opportunity to teach a summer course before Davis had ended. Because Davis is on the quarter system, and SCC is on the semester system, that summer class began only one week after my graduate classes finished. In fact, I was planning the summer course at SCC before I had finished my classes at Davis.

Continue reading “Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part Two) — Why is Graduate School so Hard, Especially in the First Year?”

Children’s Series that Explores the Legends of the Haitian Pirate Henri “Black” Caesar Releases its Second Volume

Dear readers, over the course of my time researching the legends of the Afro-American pirate Black Caesar, I have come across many fascinating projects and interesting people. One of these projects is the children’s book series Tullybeth, written by two sisters from Miami, Florida, named Rachel and Marissa Cossio and with cover art by Jennifer Leiner. The first installment of the series was named Tullybeth, after the title character. It was published in 2013 in both paperback and as an Ebook through Amazon Digital Services. It was Rachel and Marissa’s debut novel. The following blog post describes the plot of these thrilling novels and then offers up some thoughts on why pirates continue to captivate both readers and writers of children’s fiction after centuries in the genre.  Continue reading “Children’s Series that Explores the Legends of the Haitian Pirate Henri “Black” Caesar Releases its Second Volume”

The Annual UC Davis HIS 203 Presentations are this Thursday

Dear readers, the annual HIS 203 presentations are happening this Thursday from 10:30 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. For those who do not know, HIS 203 is a required class for second-year students in the graduate History Department at UC Davis. HIS 203 is a year-long, article writing workshop. Students in the course work all year long (that is, for fall, winter, and spring quarter) on researching, writing, and then editing an article-length essay on a topic of their choosing. Generally, the essay becomes either a stand-alone article–which the student submits to a peer-reviewed journal for publication–and/or it becomes the basis for the first chapter of their dissertation.

At the end of each year, students in the HIS 203 course show off their finished essays in a conference-style presentation for the rest of the department. This gives other students in the department a chance to see the kind of work that their peers are doing, and it gives the department a chance to celebrate the hard work of its second-year graduate students. The presentation of the 203 paper serves as a milestone for all graduate students. Completion of the class often marks the end of course work and the beginning of preparation for the comprehensive examinations, a series of tests the students will take in their third year.

There is going to be a great group of presentations this Thursday, June 2, in the basement of the Social Sciences and Humanities Building (Room 273). I have attached the conference program to this blog post so that you can see the order of events, the presenters’ names, and each of their paper titles. The second-year students presenting this year are Renzo Aroni, Melanie Peinado, Muhammet Sacmali, Sean Gallagher, Mike Haggerty, Josh Thomas, and Joel Virgen. They will present their papers in a couple of two-hour sessions with lunch scheduled in between. After the presentations are finished, the department will issue an annual award called the Emile G. Scholz Prize for the best HIS 203 paper.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood of UC Davis on Thursday, I hope you will come by the SS&H Building and watch what are certain to be some great presentations.

HIS 203 Conference Program Photo 2

HIS 203 Conference Program (5-31-2016)

Review Essay on the Gulf South Published with the Journal of Florida Studies

Dear readers, last summer I was looking for some more opportunities to publish in the field of Florida History, and so I reached out with a cover letter to a publication that I came across online called Journal of Florida Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Idea and Place that is Florida. In the following weeks, Casey Blanton, the Editor in Chief of the journal, responded with an opportunity for me to publish a book review of the historian F. Todd Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, published in 2014 by Louisiana State University Press. I agreed and, after about eight months time, that review was published in early April in the second part of a two-part issue based on the iconic, early American naturalist William Bartram (1739-1823). The issue is called Travel and Travels, taking its name from the shortened title of Bartram’s most famous work. The full title is Travels through North & South Carolina, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws, Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. The book was originally printed in Philadelphia by James and Johnson in 1791, and it detailed Bartram’s travels among American Indian peoples in the US South between the years 1773 and 1777. Here is an image of the title page to the second edition:

Bartram Image

During my initial correspondence with Casey, she told me that the Journal of Florida Studies favors more lengthy book reviews, in contrast to the 700-word reviews that are the bread-and-butter of hard-copy academic journals. The Journal of Florida Studies is, after all, an online publication; and the online platform is known for giving both editors and writers more freedom to compose longer, in-depth pieces. As a result, I took my time in this book review, and I wrote 12 pages. Of course, I wanted to evaluate Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, but I also wanted to use that work as a sounding board for some discussions of a few larger concepts that he addresses. In particular, these concepts are the theoretical framework of “New Frontier History” and the geographical region of the “Gulf South.” I am curious about both of these terms and how they will be received by historians, teachers, and students going forward. Smith’s new work is both an historical synthesis and a case study. As such, it is an ideal work for examining the implementation of these two ideas. Overall, the book is an attempt to construct a New Frontier History of the Gulf South region–an area that is loosely defined as the region of the present-day US South that border on the Gulf of Mexico–during the early-modern era.

Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier (2014)

I have included a link to my review of Louisiana below, as well as links to the current issue of the Journal of Florida Studies. For those readers who are interested in Florida History, or in getting ideas for how to create their own online journal, FJS is a great resource. Unlike most academic journals today, JFS is truly interdisciplinary. The editors have managed to mix rigorous academic research with poetry, fiction, photography, and other digital arts to create a one-of-a-kind, peer-reviewed journal that explores all aspects of Florida as both an idea and a place. As they say on their website, “JFS is an outgrowth of the Center for Interdisciplinary Writing and Research (CIWR) at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Florida.” The journal is “dedicated to the study and appreciation of Florida.”

In closing, I would like to thank Casey Blanton and everyone else at JFS for allowing me to write a book review for their publication. I would also like to thank the historian F. Todd Smith for his hard work in researching and writing Louisiana. Enjoy!

Extended Book Review of F. Todd Smith’s Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier

The Journal of Florida Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Idea and Place that is Florida, Volume 1, Issue 5, “Travel and Travels, Part 2” (2016)

Educational Yet Uninspired

Third Book Review Published on H-Florida, Forum of H-Net

Dear readers, last week I had the privilege to publish my third academic book review on the H-Florida forum of H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. This review is on Redskins: Insult and Brand, a brand new work by Professor of Ethnic Studies at Washington State University, C. Richard King. As you can probably guess, Redskins is a vociferous and trenchant argument against the name, traditions, and branding of the Washington NFL Football Team known as the Washington Redskins. In the book, King draws on academic theory and the voices of a diverse group of Native American activists to argue the team’s name has “deep roots in genocidal violence,” perpetuates a culture of anti-Indian racism, and denies Native peoples “cultural citizenship” in the United States while simultaneously transforming “them into props and playthings” (p. 167). Throughout the work, King does not shy away from his strong biases against the franchise. The work is nothing short of a sustained attack on both the team name and the colonial legacies that inform its history.

In my opinion, King’s Redskins has quite a few flaws, and I have attempted to touch upon those in my review. Nonetheless, the book is an important one for all Americans to read, no matter what stance they take (if any) on the ongoing controversy surrounding the NFL team and its continued use of the word Redskins and its associated images. While there are many books that discuss the idea of appropriating Native American stereotypes for sports–such as Philip J. Deloria’s Playing Indian and Jennifer Guiliano’s Indian Mascots–King’s is the only one written by an academic that exclusively addresses the Washington Redskins franchise. Seeing as the book just came out at the beginning of last month (March, 2016), it is also likely to be the most recent and most thoughtful publication on the issue for quite some time. For those who do not have the spare time to read the book themselves, I hope that my review will help them stay apprised of the Redskins debate and continue thinking about what this controversy means for the state of our society today, as well as its future.

Many thanks to C. Richard King for all of the hard work that he did in researching and composing Redskins. As always, many thanks to Jeanine Clark Bremer of H-Florida, and the rest of the brilliant staff at H-Net headquarters for their help in editing and publishing the following review.

Links to the Review: 

Review of Redskins: Insult and Brand on the H-Florida List

Review of Redskins: Insult and Brand on the H-Net Website

Printable Version of the Review of Redskins: Insult and Brand

The Book:

Redskins Insult and Brand

C. Richard King. Redskins: Insult and Brand. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. 256 pp. $24.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8032-7864-6.

History Quote of the Week (April 8) — Thinking on Neo-liberalism and Continued Oppression

This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only the power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.

Any attempt to ‘soften’ the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the continued opportunity to express their ‘generosity,’ the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this ‘generosity,’ which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty. That is why the dispensers of false generosity become desperate at the slightest threat to its source.”

— Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed  (1968)


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