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Mandela: A Biography [Paperback]

Martin Meredith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Mar 2014
Fully revised and updated, in a biography the Sunday Times described as 'a fitting epitaph to an extraordinary career', Martin Meredith details the life of Nelson Mandela, one of the most admired political figures of the twentieth century. It was his leadership and moral courage above all that helped to deliver a peaceful end to apartheid in South Africa after years of racial division and violence and to establish a fledgling democracy there.
Now Meredith has revisited and significantly updated his biography to incorporate the reaction to his death, as well as giving perspective and hindsight on the man and his legacy and to examine how far his hopes for the new South Africa have been realised.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (13 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847399320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847399328
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Martin Meredith is the author of many acclaimed books on Africa including lives of Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela and, most recently, The State of Africa (Free Press, 2005). He lives near Oxford.

Product Description

Review

'A compelling account of the whole of Mandela's life' --Sunday Telegraph

'A fitting epitaph to an extraordinary career' --Sunday Times

'An authoritative biography' --Glasgow Herald

About the Author

Martin Meredith is the author of many acclaimed books on Africa including lives of Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela and the bestselling The State of Africa. He lives near Oxford.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth ordering ... 5 Jan 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Whilst there are many Nelson Mandela books out there, it's hard to see how many could beat this. Meredith's style is easily understandable- though not the most lively. Still, the book remains engaging throughout due to it's fascinating content as it covers all areas- Mr Mandela's childhood, rise in politics, imprisonment, release, negotations and term as presedent. The book highlights the horror of Apartheid, and it's destructive effects on both sides. The author remains objective, often critical of Mandela and the ANC, thus giving greater incite into the whole chapter of South African history. As previously stated, the book would have benefited from more personality in it's style, but don't let this put you off finding out alll the facts of such an important struggle and great man.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Covers much ground, some a bit too lightly. 16 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a pretty good biography, the latest one in a series of politicians I've been reading lately ranging from Stalin to Mrs Thatcher. It's certainly worth reading, and does cover a lot of ground in a very engaging manner.
My reason for not giving it four stars or more is that it doesn't give enough information about the reasons why the South African government kept introducing the extremist rules and regulations in the decades leading up to the late 1950s in particular. These were the very important pre-aparteid and early-aparteid years which saw the most jaw-dropping repression, exclusion and segregationism come into being, but at no stage did the author convey to me what the SA government was responding to. It seems, as I approached page 100, that I was reading one severe law being passed after another as if each draconian rule was plucked out of thin air by an extremist band of largely nameless politicians. I was hoping to find out what the politicians were responding to, what led to the mindset of those in charge for decade after decade, and how such harsh laws and social restrictions were ever justified through their parliamentary process.

Also, I would like to have had some statements expanded upon. For example, in the late 1940s when Mandela was in his formative ANC years I read that the sizeable Indian community had a similar disdain for the African community as the whites did, and there were times when many communities, be they Afrikaner, Black, Coloured and so on, had to be kept seperate. How come? And then it became law in the 1950s to keep them apart. I assume there must be some kind of history of conflict or whatever there, but it's not really expanded upon.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative 4 July 2010
Format:Paperback
A highly informative portrait of one of the most remarkable men of the past century. This is a meticulously researched yet readable biography which presents the man with his aspirations, imprisonments, rise to power and personal disappointments. A 'warts and all' presentation like this - with Mandela's failings as well as his achievements and virtues - always makes the man appear greater as it's rooted in reality. This is a picture of the turbulent years of the particularly viscious apartheid system and a man who was willing to go down the road of reconciliation and nation building rather than conflict and revenge. I found the style easy - in fact I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A current day hero 6 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The writer does an excellent job filling in the background of apartheid and the actions of the South African government in the early 1900's and the 1950's when the most reprehensible government policies were created. The descriptions of the country's jails and Mandela's stay at Robbin Island makes you ill but increase your respect for Mandela and all other political prisoners. Meredith also does a good job describing the sulkiness of De Klerk and his disappointment at not being recognized equally as Mandela for ending apartheid...maybe if he had been in prison for 29 years...
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mandela: A Biography - Martin Meredith (Public Affairs) 30 Jun 2010
By BlogOnBooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With all the attention bestowed upon South Africa in recent weeks due to the global audience for the World Cup, we thought it to be a good time to spotlight the recent and very comprehensive updated reissue of Martin Meredith's "Mandela: A Biography."

Despite an unusually large number of books chronicling the life and struggle of the African continent's most famous 20th Century leader (including his own 1994 autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom"), Meredith's work covers perhaps the widest berth of information available on the lawyer turned revolutionary who finally prevailed on reversing years of injustice in the South African nation. Meredith, a Brit, has written extensively on the plight of the African continent - from the diamond mines to Zimbabwe, from Mugabe to the making of South Africa itself.

In "Mandela: A Biography", Meredith recounts the history of the man alongside the history of the nation. From tales of the nineteen-century Xhosa-speaking peoples, to the rise of African nationalism, to the development of Johannesburg, and the influence of the Communist party, the story of South Africa and the story of Mandela are inextricably intertwined. No detail is left out in following Mandela from life as a barrister to his emergence as an anti-apartheid revolutionary and the way in which his work went on even as he was exiled to a life sentence in prison through his supporters (and the Free Mandela movement) and his wife Winnie Mandela.

A rich combination of stories make up the chapters of Mandela's own story, from the work of the African Resistance Movement (ARM) to various trials and protests, the actual plight of the many victims of various apartheid laws and conditions and their effect on everything from migrant workers to black-owned businesses, the imprisonment of desenters, to the final settling of differences between the ANC and the government. Even through accusations of Mandela's own improprieties and the leader's own divorce, Meredith covers every significant turn with extensive research and attention to detail.

What emerges is a tale, not just of struggle, but of a revolutionary overturning of rampant injustice; the golden age of a `rainbow nation,' yet one that somehow still did not bring justice to all and over time created an opportunity for the emergence of a new black middle class, (as well as an ultimately re-corrupted ANC) while eventually - post-Mandela - reversing course through policies of self-enrichment that resulted in many of the most impoverished still left behind.

Based on both its breadth and research, as well as a very personalized portrait of the man himself, Meredith's `Mandela' is a well recommended read.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost too imformative. 6 Aug 2010
By Lance B. Hillsinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Martin Merdith's biography of Nelson Mandela is rich in details and is extensively documented. While most readers, have some basic understanding of Mandela's life story, Meredith gives us all the important details and then some.

For instance, we learn the particulars of Mandela's upbringing. An unbringing which undoubtedly shaped Mandela's world view. The early years are likely unknown to most readers, so this storytelling is particularly interesting.

However, mixed with the remarkable story, are many African phrases, place names, and the names of Mandela's many friends and rivals. These phrases, place names, and friends and rivals are unfamilar to most readers. This makes roughly the first third of the book a difficult narrative to read. In particular, especially in the beginning, this reviewer had difficulty with sorting out who was an important friend or rival and who played a bit part in Mandela's life. As the storyline and names and phrases became more familar, the reading became easier.

Even in the more familar part of Madela's story, the reader will learn much. A much richer account of the life Nelson Mandela's emerges. Mandela had some blind spots and Meredith lets us know what those blids spots were.

While some facts and details could have been omitted, this reviewer learned a great deal of important information about Nelson Mandela and the history of South Africa. For this reviewer, Meredith's biogrpahy of Nelson Mandela was certainly worth buying.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative biography of Mandela's life within the political context of the time 18 Jun 2010
By S. Lavoie-perusse - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I believe this biography is a very thorough, yet an easy to read biography about Mandela's life and his struggle to end the apartheid system in South Africa. Martin Meredith did a great work to synthesize the political conditions and events of the time with the life of this inspirational leader.

Before reading this book, I knew only little about Mandela's life and how he made an important impact on the future of South Africa. Furthermore, I was not familiar with the history of South Africa. But after reading this great biography, I can not only have a detailed picture about Mandela's life, but also a good understanding of how the laws and the government's leadership of the time have impacted the live of blacks and non-europeans.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone: From high school students to avid readers...Or just anyone who wish to learn about Nelson Mandela's amazing journey!!!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Key 20th Century Figure 7 July 2011
By Mike B - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A comprehensive biography of a great figure of the 20th century. Mr. Meredith paints a picture of a man with great dignity and intelligence. A man who rose above the narrow-mindedness of his surrounding society and transformed his country from apartheid to near greatness (admittedly South Africa has a way to go before it can be qualified as "great").

If one compares the South Africa of pre-1990 to today there are several obvious accomplishments and merits. The toppling of the white power infrastructure was done with a minimum of bloodshed - compare this with regime changes in other countries - Yugoslavia for instance. It is Mr. Mandela who deserves a lot of the credit for this. Mr. Meredith presents Nelson Mandela against the backdrop of a South Africa that was a racist police state which did not allow any people of "colour" to transgress its severe limitations. However one must acknowledge that its' judicial system at least gave a semblance of a trial - with publicity that permitted the outer world and eventually some white South Africans to bear witness to the evil within their society.

Mr. Meredith does portray Mr. Mandela as oblivious to the ways of his second wife Winnie; perhaps having spent twenty-five years incarcerated in prisons did not give him the best interpretations of what his family members were involved in.

This is truly a stunning portrait of a man of dignity overcoming the restrictions of a hateful state and still believing in the inherent goodness of all his fellow men - regardless of the colour of their skin. With this he was able to re-invent and remould his country into a far better place. This accomplishment is rarely seen particularly in developing countries. South Africa is one of the few countries since the end of the Second World War (aside from Japan and Germany) that has altered itself so successfully.

When apartheid started to disappear in the mid-80's this could easily have become another civil war in Africa, but instead it was an overall peaceful transition. Mr. Mandela was an essential key to this and always presented peaceful and rational solutions - much like Gandhi did in India. Hopefully Mr. Mandela's legacy will live on in South Africa.
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