This book is one of few that tells the complete history of Liberia, a state founded by America as a homeland for former slaves. Although only 3000 slaves immigrated and Americo-Liberians make up only 2.5% of the population of the country today nevertheless the state has been seen as unique in its origins. This book tries tot ell the tale of this `failed state' mostly by exploring the contemporary Doe/Taylor crises. Samuel Doe was the man who assassinated Tolbert's cabinet in 1980 and took power, becoming the countries first indigenous African leader. Charles Taylor was the Americo-Liberian who led a Libyan trained and Leone backed rebel offensive which took the capital in 1990. Liberia had been known as a safe, democratic country worthy of foreign investment, not resembling its neighbors which had a long history of corruption and coups. But today Liberia mirrors the rest of its neighbors and has descended into bloodshed. This book tries to explore the complicated topic of `why?'.
There are several fundamental flaws in this dry read. First and foremost is a total lack of maps or figures. The early history of Liberia was one of its relations with the tribes that occupied the land, the Grebu, Kru and others. This is a history that requires maps to explain. Besides the dearth of maps, there is also no reliable figures showing population, economic or political statistic breakdowns. These types of diagrams would have helped the reader understand the quickly glossed over history of this complicated nation. Nevertheless this remains one of the few studies of this interesting nation.
Seth J. Frantzman